Building a Winning MLB DFS Process
Part 3: Running a test build
In this 5-part series, you'll learn everything you need to know to build a winning MLB DFS process.In this lesson, you'll learn how to use a test build to narrow down your research and speed up your process.
All right. We’ve got the entries in, and we are ready to start building our lineup. Before we really dig into this, I just want to stress that regardless of how much time you have available, the overall DFS process that you’re building is going to stay the same. You’re not going to skip any steps. What will change is where you focus the extra time that you have, or where you pull away from if you don’t have as much time.
You want to always focus on the areas where you add the most value in automate, or just not literally automate, but be really efficient on those spots where you can add that much value. It all comes down to the 80/20 principle, which says that 80% of the results come from 20% of the efforts, and so what I’m going to do is lay out what those high-leverage areas are to focus on. What is the 20% that drives 80% of results? So you can focus your time there and not worry about the other parts of it.
The first part I talked about, actually picking the contest, drives a ton of results, but fortunately it doesn’t take that much time. So make sure you get that down, but don’t obsess over it because you don’t need to actually spend that much time to get the results. Now when we actually get into the research, this is where we have to be much more aware of that because we don’t have time to analyze every single player in game on the slate.
So what we’re going to do is what’s called a test build, and this will narrow down who we should focus our research on, and then when we get to that part, we’ll talk about how to expand or contract a research process based on how much time you have available. So the way SaberSim works is you tell us the contest that you’re building for, the entry limit, the number of entrants, all of that, and we’ll automatically adjust based on all of our research, these sliders that control correlation, ownership fade, and smart diversity, so that the lineups that you get are custom tailored for that contest, and then you can make some adjustments from there.
But what we’re trying to do is just get a feel for SaberSim’s stance views on the slate, so I’m just going to pick, yeah, just something kind of middle of the road, but I’m going to build 150 lineups and get a decent sampling of it. I’ll talk more about this specifically in just a few minutes, but for now, all we’re trying to do is just build a decently large set of lineups so that we can see who SaberSim likes and who SaberSim doesn’t. This is really what makes our tool different. Because we’re simulating every single game play by play thousands of times, we’re able to understand variants and correlations better than anyone else, and that allows us to automatically account for those factors as well as ownership when building lineups, and we can build high upside smart lineups specific to the contents that you’re playing.
If you were just going into a traditional optimizer and hitting build without doing anything, the lineups you would get would have no chance of winning a contest. You would just see, okay, these are the combinations that fit within the salary restrictions of the highest projected players. That’s interesting, but you care about how players perform together. You care about how the rest of the field values players. You care about a player’s individual ceiling, all these other factors that average projections ignore, but SaberSim doesn’t ignore it.
So we do give you the option to set your own rules and take control of the process, but you don’t have to do that, especially just to get a feel for SaberSim’s stance on a slate. This saves you so much time that other optimizers waste and right out of the box, you’re going to get strong lineups. We’ll talk a little bit more about this again, but didn’t put any stacking rules in, didn’t do anything else, and you already see that our lineups are filled with stacks. It’s because we understand what goes into good lineups and automatically account for that for you.
So let’s talk a little bit about what you’re going to do here. Your goal with SaberSim is to work with our tools rather than fight against them. In a traditional optimizer, because they’re giving you lineups without any understanding of upside lineups that are focused exclusively on the average projection, you have to force them to do what you want them to do. You have to fight them to get decent lineups because they’re not built for that whereas with SaberSim, again, we are built to give you high upside lineups. I’m not saying that these are perfect lineups that you want to just enter as is, but they are in the right direction, and this gives you a foundation that you can build on.
The easiest way is thinking of SaberSim as the architect, and you are the home buyer. You’re telling us what you want, and we’re going to use our experience to give it to you. You’re still going to have to make some tweaks along the way, but I can guarantee you that there is going to be a lot in there that we suggest that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own because we have so much more experience in data that we can get into this build and give you that foundation, which you’re going to go then take and make your own. For draftings, you do have to make at least two adjustments before you can see the lineups. But right now in the test build, we don’t care about that. We’re just trying to get a feel for where SaberSim’s at.
What we’re looking for, in short order, is just players or teams that stand out as having surprisingly high or low exposures, and this is something that maybe you play DFS all the time. Maybe you’re a diehard of the sport, and you just have a good feel for where you think things should be at. Being led by your gut is fine, but if you need more specifics, if you don’t have a strong opinion, what I recommend doing is focus on players where we have significantly more or less of them than the field. So by the field, I just mean the projected ownership. This is saying, in the average contest, we expect 15.1% of lineups to have Will Smith, but our exposure, meaning our lineups, 84% of them have Will Smith in them. So this is a spot where we have way more of really the Dodgers than the field.
The other area to look at is players who have a low salary and typically a high value because those are spots where it’s possible that there’s a couple of ways this can go one. One, we don’t have enough data to be to confident in our projections, and so you might want to be a little bit more cautious with it. But two, it could just be the case that DraftKings or FanDuel dramatically under-prices player, and maybe they’re not an all star, but like at a mid salary, they can be good enough where you really have to consider playing them, so you got to figure that out. I’ll talk about how to figure that out and what we’re looking for, but this is really the basics.
I’m going to go through that in a second, but once you get all this down, check out our video, the Six Secrets to Beating MLB DFS. That video is really like the advanced chapter to this one where once you have these basics down, and you want to expand your process, you want to find ways to add more value, that video is going to show you how to do it. But for now, we’re just going to focus on the basics and again, because we made sure to be very deliberate about the contests that we’re playing, we don’t have to get that complicated to get a real edge on the field, and that’s why it’s so important to just keep things simple, and get the basic process down before messing with it.
So let me actually just look at this and give you some more specifics on what do I actually do here? So, all right, yeah. It’s just obvious we’re getting a ton of the Dodgers, but let’s look at team stacks. This is an easier way to just see what teams you have a lot of. Yeah. We have a Dodgers stack in 99.3% of our lineups, which means every lineup except for one has at least two Dodgers hitters in it. So definitely, going to look into that game and see if maybe we’re just over projecting the Dodgers. I’ll show you a couple ways we can check that out.
But honestly, none of the other games or teams really jump out too significantly at me, so I’m really just going to take a note off screen, just focus on the Dodgers, and I also look at the individual players. So we’re going to be more comfortable taking, having a higher exposure percent to pitchers and to hitters because they’re just lower variants. If you see a ton of low-salary pitchers really high up there, maybe look into that. Maybe Sandy Alcantara is up there, but I’m not too concerned about that. He doesn’t have crazy out of whack value. It is on the high end, but not insane, but nothing I’m too concerned about there. But it’s like looking at the batters, yes, the Dodgers, and then same game.
But don’t worry. We got Cedric Mullins and Austin Hayes are both basically mid-salary players who have about 5% field ownership. We have nearly 30, so I think that’s something to look into. Then David Dahl is similar to that and the more time you have available, the more players I would look into, the deeper I would go. But I’m trying to just cover enough to get you started, so you feel comfortable running with this because again, what is important to understand is that your DFS process itself isn’t going to change your guts of how much time you have available. The steps are always going to be followed, but what will change is how much time you devote to the different steps, and it’s really important that you spend more time on the higher value steps where you can add more value instead of just spreading the time out evenly.
So for now, I just want to show you the process that you should look at, but yeah, if this was a full slate, I would look at the spots where maybe ownership is higher. In baseball, you’re not going to see a crazy amount of shifts, but ownership’s higher, and we have almost none of that player. Is that something I want to look into? I’d probably look a bit down, further the down the list at some of the other, cheaper, higher value players and just dig into more. But I’m not changing what I’m doing, I’m just doing more of it. So we’ve got notes on that. Now we want to go back to the home screen and make some adjustments, so that from here we can get a foundation that’s much closer in line to our opinions, our assumptions, our research, so that we’re not fighting it to get the result that we’re looking for.