Part 5: Building your lineups

In this 5-part series, you'll learn everything you need to know to build a winning MLB DFS process.

In this lesson, I'll walk you through how to put it all together and build winning lineups.


Now it’s time to use those adjustments and actually build our lineup for the contest that we’re playing. The first thing we want to do is load our entry file to determine how many different sets of lineups we need to build and just really how many lineups we’re building altogether. If you don’t already have the Entry Editor on your account, what you’ll see on this screen is just a prompt to start a free trial. Watch the rest of this video, but I highly recommend that you do this trial, even if you don’t plan to continue using the Entry Editor for the long run. Right now, your goal is to get down the basic process for beating DFS. You want to get rid of all the distractions and focus on where you can add value. Frankly, at the most basic level, the Entry Editor saves you a ton of time because you don’t have to manually edit a bunch of Excel files and figure out how all that works, get those files in, make sure you didn’t make a mistake, and all of that.

So this will just let you focus more where you can add value, which is the rest of the process. But beyond that, it also has a ton of places where you can get more edge specifically around Late Swap, which we’ll talk about in future videos, once you have that core process down. But for now, just to get this trial started, feel free to cancel it right away again. So we will not bill you. Just use this as a shortcut while you’re getting the basics down, and then decide if you want to stick around with it.

If you are already logged into DraftKings, all you have to do to get your entry file is just click this link here, and we’ll automatically download the right one for you based on the slate that you’re on. If you’re on FanDuel, we’ll have a link there. You just click that link. It’ll bring you to the right page, and you’ll just have to make a few clicks to get the file. But click this question mark, and we’ll show a video walking through the process for whatever site you’re on.

Once you have the file, just drag and drop that right here, and it’s going to pull in all of my entries and show my exposures over here, which really just tells me I have a horrible lineup that I need to swap out immediately. So on the right, what I’m going to do is I’m going to sort the contest by entries, and this’ll make it easier for me to determine how many entries, how many lineups I have at each entry limit. That’s what we’re going to use to determine the way we build the lineups.

So I have five entries in single-entry contests. I have nine in three max contests, 80 in 20 max, and 150 in the 150 max. If you don’t max out all the contests you’re playing, which is completely fine, you want to follow the process I laid out earlier, and that doesn’t always lead you to max everything out. This won’t work perfectly, but it will get you pretty close, and it’ll still be pretty easy to figure out, “Okay, how many entries do I have at each of these contests’ entry limits?” Then I just write it down in a notepad file, those numbers, and then this is what we’re going to use, again, to build our lineups.

So we get a lot of questions around this because of the way SaverSim works. It is different, and we’ve talked a lot about our simulation process and how that lets us automatically incorporate correlation and ownership aid and smart diversity into your lineups to build high upside lineups for the specific contests you’re playing. The way we do that is through these dropdowns, is where you’re going to tell us the contest that you’re playing. Then these sliders control how each of those variables is applied.

If you want more information on how this works behind the scenes, check out this video here or read the tool tips as well. But what I want you to know is that we are automatically adjusting this for you based on the contests that you’re putting in. We’re also changing these defaults for each sport. Even beyond that, we are looking at the size of the slate. So this one is a nine-game slate. This will have different default settings than a four-game slate, than a 15-game slate. We have invested a ton of resources into backtesting these settings and improving them, and we continue to look into ways to improve these.

So the short of it is this is not customizing this. Enabling manual mode and making some tweaks here is not a place where you’re going to add much value. If you do, again, want to really understand what’s happening, watch the video. There are places where it might make sense to make some slight tweaks. But what I want to stress is there are no perfect settings. There are no settings that are going to guarantee a win on any given night. This, again, is a long-term game, and what we have determined is that in the long run, the default settings are going to be your best bet. So this is a spot where you can feel comfortable not messing around with and, again, allocating your time to other parts of the process where you can add more value.

When it comes down to building lineups, we often get a question of, “Do I just do a separate bill for every contest I play?” If you had an infinite amount of time, you could do that. But the differences between the builds are going to be pretty small. If you did a separate one for each single entry, most of them are going to be in the same range, but even 20 max, where I might have some in this range and one in the 10,000 to 50,000, I’m not going to get massive differences between those two builds, so it doesn’t make sense to spend the extra time, add the extra complexity when I’m not getting that much back.

So what we recommend doing is a separate build for each entry limit and building a unique lineup for each of your entries. So what this will do is take advantage of the fact that a single-entry contest will play very differently than a 150 max. So you’re going to be able to capitalize that on the lineups that you build. But also by building a unique lineup for every entry you have, you are going to have more shots at one of those top prizes. That’s really what we’re optimizing for. We’re trying to spread out our risk, but we’re also just trying to get as many opportunities as we can to win a big prize. This is how we do it.

You actually want to start building lineups for the entry limit that has the most entries in it. So for us, that’s that 150 max, and I believe it is around this size. The reason for starting here is that this is going to give us the quickest look at whether or not our adjustments actually worked out the way we wanted them to. This will give us the biggest sample of lineups. If we’re just building the single entries, we only see five, and so the exposures, everything that we’d see wouldn’t be too representative of all of those adjustments we made. But when we’re building 150 right here, we’ll get a pretty quick look at, say, “Okay, we made some tweaks to a few players, a couple teams. Did those have the intended outcome?” If they didn’t, that’s fine. We can go back to the home screen, do some more tweaks, and get back here. But let’s first check all of that.

What we’re really trying to do at this step is you see it right here, dial in the exposures. We often refer to this as quality you control. You’re trying to see if the lineups that we’re getting, if the exposures that we’re getting reflect the opinions that we have on the slate, reflect those adjustments that we made, and it’s never going to be absolutely perfect. That’s where the dialing in comes in. You’re trying to make some tweaks to get this just the way you want it. But if you have to make major changes, that’s a sign that maybe your adjustments didn’t work the way you wanted to and you should go back to the home screen and do some more tweaking there, because, again, we want the foundation that comes out of this to match our overall plan, our overall view of what we’re trying to build.

So let me just check here on those adjustments. We didn’t do anything for them Dodgers, because, again, it seemed as though if we were off in any direction, it was to put them too low, as far as a projection standpoint goes. So what we can do here is to just look at the filters. If you click this, what it will do is it will then show us our exposures when a lineup has a Dodgers stack. So what I’m trying to find here is what lets us do this. Is it because the Dodgers are underpriced? It seems like they might be, but honestly, there’s a lot of expensive players on them, so I don’t think that’s really the case. What it looks like, the cause of such a high percent of Dodgers stacks is simply because there’s a lot of good value pitchers in here, so we have the budget to spend on them. So I’m less concerned about that after seeing that, but I still don’t really want that high of exposure, especially in 150 lineups, to a single hitting stack.

This isn’t me disagreeing with the projections, disagreeing with anything. It’s just saying from a risk standpoint, hitters are some of the highest variance players in all of DFS sports. If you look at just the variance that they can have, even the best players can go four over five several games in a row. Even the best teams can get shut out. So this isn’t like basketball, where there is some value plays that you just have to hammer in as many of your lineups as you can. You do want to be cautious. So I don’t have hard and fast rules for this, because it really depends on the situation. This is something that you’ll get a better feel for as you play more and just based on your own risk tolerance.

So 80% of a single stack seems high to me, but I do want a lot of exposure to them, because I think they’re playing at cores. They’re a great team, obviously. So this is something where they really could go off, but they’re probably going to be higher owned than we might even be accounting for, and, again, they might do nothing. So what I’m going to do is cap them at 60%. that’s still a good amount. I still have a lot of exposure to them, but I’m not really going all in on them.

When we build your lineups, I haven’t mentioned this before, I don’t think, but when we build your lineups, rather than building the exact number of lineups you request, we build a pool of lineups much larger than that so that when you are on this dialing-in phase, you can make your adjustments and instantly get a new set of lineups that match those exposures that you put in. You don’t have to start a new build over again and keep doing that and repeating that process over and over. You can just put in your adjustments here, and we will then sort through your pool and find the best 150 or however many lineups you’re looking for that match this exposure.

So I also had increased Minnesota and Milwaukee, and I’m getting them a bit more. I’m not getting them a ton, and that’s fine. It wasn’t as though I wanted to force them into all my lineups, but it did seem like SaberSim was a bit lower on them than we could have been. So I wanted to make sure I was at least accounting for that. So we’re seeing them a bit more, and now let me check out the players that we tweaked individually. So we adjusted … If you check this box, it’ll show all the players, even the ones that aren’t actually in your lineups.

All right. So we adjusted Cedric Mullins, not as much as the others, because, again, if he is leading off, this is going to be a good opportunity. So yeah, you can see we project him to be 3.5% owned. We have him in about 5% of our lineups. So we’re a little over the field, but nothing to be concerned about. So that adjustment seemed to work. Austin Hayes, this is one where we made a bigger adjustment and we have him less than the field now. So we think the field will have him 7% of the time. We’ve gone 2%. David Dull, same thing there, where coming back from an injury, not quite sure what to think. We still want some exposure, at least don’t want to completely exclude him, but we now have him less than the field.

So this worked out quite well, where the two players we were least confident about, we still have, but we have less than the field. The player where on some research we actually felt okay about getting him, Cedric Mullins, we do have him a bit more than the field. Depending on how many adjustments you make, you just want to quickly go through and say, “Okay, does this all line up?” You can maybe do a bit more digging, see if there’s any cheap players that are showing up more than you expected. So I can just look at that quickly. I’ll actually look at the batters.

All right. So if this was a player, if I find cheap players that are part of my main stacks, I’m probably not going to mess with them too much, but if it’s the one-offs, then I’ll be a little bit more cautious. This is not something you need to do, but it’s a way to just dial in the risk tolerance, dial in your exposures around your risk tolerance. So if you just say, “Okay, I don’t really want to take a stand on Tucker Barnhart. The field we think we’ll have him three and a half percent. I’ve got him almost 17%. I don’t want to just completely remove him, because I do trust SaberSim to at least point me in the right direction, but this is a bit much.” So what I’ll usually do is cap it, cap these players at around two to three times the field exposure. So let’s just put him at 10, and I’ll just kind of quickly go through and see if there’s anyone else that jumps out at me.

Another way of doing that is also looking at the batting order. The people at the bottom of the order, it’s not necessarily that they don’t have upside potential, but they can be a bit streakier. So those are ones you might want to adjust. Again, we’re not that far over them, so I’m not that concerned. For this, maybe I’ll just go down a little bit to five.

Again, nothing really jumps out at me. I’m pretty happy with this. I do want to stress that this isn’t a science. What I’m doing now, the first part of it is really taking what we’ve already done and just making sure it works the way we expected it to. Then we’re looking at a risk tolerance and saying, “Are there any players that we still … Even if we don’t disagree with the inputs, based on what we know about the variance of the game, based on what we know about our own risk tolerance, am I overexposed to anyone? Are there any plays where I might be taking too big of a stance?” This becomes more and more important in a game like baseball, where the variance is just so hot.

So these look good to me. Once I’m ready, I’m just going to hit Save. They’ll get added up here. Also, actually, I’ll change this to 150 max so that it’s easier for me to know what’s what. But now we just jump into the next one. As we go through this, it’s going to get quicker and quicker. The more lives that we’re doing in a single build, the more we really care about the exposures. When I’m getting down to the single entry with only five lineups, we’re going to see a lot of concentration. We don’t want to force in too much diversity. But yeah, this is why also it’s helpful to start with the biggest one first, because that’s where most of the work is going to go.

So let’s do the 20 max. I do think there’s one in this range, but I think most … Actually, let me just check. It’s going to be a little bit harder. Yeah, so we’ve got the 20 entry, 37, the dime time. Okay. So, actually, this is going to be a mix where those low-cost ones, the dime time are much smaller number ventures, according to [inaudible 00:15:53]. Actually, that’s a good number. Okay. So that was helpful.

So the dime time, there’s two of them. They fall in this range. My two bigger 20 max fall in this range. Don’t obsess over picking the exact right setting, because the difference is between 1,000 and 10,000 and 10,000 to 50,000. It’s not massive. These just go right, I think, one or two clicks. That will make a difference, but not massively so. So I typically try to pick … You can go with an average, figure out something that’s roughly in the middle, or in my case, two of the contests that were bigger in terms of number of entrants also were higher-dollar contests. So I’m just going to prioritize those over the lower ones and pick this contest. Even though it’s not the perfect fit for the dime time, there’s still going to be good lineups. I’m not too concerned about that. So don’t stress over this. Don’t obsess over it. Pick whatever’s close and move on again. Focus on everything else in this process. So we’re going to build 80 lineups.

All right. So let’s jump over to team stacks. Yeah, as we build fewer and fewer lineups, we’re going to get more and more of the Dodgers, because they are just clumped up in those top lineups. This is where we will want to be cautious with it. I had capped them at 60 for the 150 lineups. We don’t have as many lineups here, so I’m less concerned about having a higher percent, but I still don’t want this much. Let’s just go. Again, this is relatively arbitrary. Don’t stress with this, but let’s go 65.

Actually, this just made me realize … First let me rename this. I didn’t actually check the pitchers on the 150 max. That was an oversight just because we didn’t make any major adjustments there, but it will be good to just see how those exposures shake out. Okay. So we actually have a wide variety of pictures. No one’s over 35%. in pitchers, I’m fine going higher exposure on. They’re lower variance than the hitters. So this is no cause for concern. As far as exposures go, let’s just kind of compare them to the field to make sure there’s not someone we’re way over on.

Twice a field, [inaudible 00:18:39], but that’s fine. These lower-price pitchers are really what will let us get so much of the Dodgers, which we want, assuming they’re good values, which they seem to be. You just want to make sure that there’s not some super low-end player that we have 30% of, something crazy like that. But nothing jumps out at me. So I did want to double-check, but yeah, everything looks good. I’m not going to make any changes there.

So at this point, because we’ve already gone through that bigger build and can tell that the adjustments work the way we want it to, I’ll still do a quick double-check, but I’m not as concerned about that. Now I’m really just focused on making some exposure adjustments faster. So team stacks. Yeah, we’ve got them, capped that. Come back over to players.

Again, for the players in the cores stack, I’m not going to mess with their exposures too much. If the Dodgers don’t do well, I probably won’t do that well, but I still have plenty of other stacks that there that I could. Bu, I am taking a bit of a stand on them, and that’s fine. So this is expected to be high on them. I’m really looking at the one-offs. I’ll check the pictures first, actually. We’ve got a good amount of Kyle Gibson, so I could see lowering that a little bit. He’s just super cheap, and so he doesn’t have to do that well to be worth it, but that’s where I’m going to try to be closer to the field. Again, still want some leverage on the field if this is a good spot, which SaberSim suggests it is, but I’m not trying to go too crazy there. Everything else again seems reasonable. Jump over to the batters. (silence).

Yep. So this is a similar thing here. Cedric Moser, a little over twice as much as the field. So we’re still going a little bit more than field on him, but not going too crazy, because we do understand that, yeah, there is some variance involved in that. Yeah, when we get down into single-digit percents for exposures, like single-digit lineups out of 80, some people, if you have a lot of time, spend some time really digging into this, but that’s, again, not where you’re adding a ton of value. Focus on the biggest changes. Focus on where you have most of the players. Make sure you’re happy with those splits, and move on. Again, you want to focus on the biggest thing so that if you have time left, go back in and keep doing some tweaks. Keep looking. Look at maybe some of the specific stack types. Look into a little bit more of the detail, but don’t obsess over it at first.

So I’m happy with these. I just saved them. We’re going to do the three max, and I believe … So the single entries were all pretty small, but I don’t remember the three max. This probably would’ve been helpful for me to kind of just note down as I was registering. All right. [inaudible 00:22:24] thousand. Okay. Yeah. So they’re all relatively small. So we’re going to go with this one. Again, make sure we have the nine lineups as how many entries I have.

GPPs are inherently higher variance in cash games, because the payouts are much greater, so you’re not going to get them as frequently. That’s why spacing out our entries into unique lineups for all of them helps reduce that a bit, and it just gives us more and more chances at getting one of those big scores. Like I said, when you’re building a few number of lineups, you’re going to get more concentration of the players. I don’t obsess too much over this, simply because all the other lineups, we have I guess 230 other lineups in 20 max and 150 max where we’ve toned down the exposures on the Dodgers. So just adding another nine lineups then doesn’t really make that much of a difference in my overall exposures.

But if you do want to still just cap it regardless for this set of contests, you can. But just don’t go crazy. You’re not trying to the exposures to match exactly what you had in those other builds. Because it is so just few lineups, you’re going to be relatively heavily concentrated. You want to have your best lineups in these contests with your entries and view all those extra entries in the 20 max and 150 max that don’t have the Dodgers, view those as our hedge, where in these kind of concentrated contests, we’re going to go relatively heavy. But if you still want to lower it, that’s fine. Just don’t go too nuts. So I’ll go 85%, and that’s a maximum. So it’s not going to guarantee that I get 85%. It’s going to just get as close to that as we can. That added in a few other teams to kind of spread things out a bit.

So this is one where … All right. Let’s get him in. So just be careful the numbers you choose, because you want to make sure that’s at least one lineup. So I’ll go with 15. I’m just checking these to see if anyone went too crazy. (silence).

Okay. I’m not going to nitpick beyond that. I think this is good enough. Again, I’m just not that concerned about the people in one lineup. Double-check the pitchers. We’re good. Save. Again, rename it. Then let’s do the single entry. Those were really all in this range. There are five of them, and you can see how adding these extra builds goes back to the 80/20 stuff we talked about. Most of the work is going to be done on that biggest build. So when you do that first, doing these other ones really doesn’t add that much time. If you have almost no time, just do one build, pick something in the middle of it all, and build enough lineups to cover all of your entries. That’s okay. But even if you just have an extra five minutes, that’s enough to get a little bit more specific with your builds, which will add to the edge. So it’s something that I always recommend, because it really just doesn’t take that much time.

All right. So pitchers look fine. All right. So let’s check out the team stacks. We’ve got 100% of the Dodgers. I’m fine having 100% of them in just five of my single entries, but I don’t think it’s horrible to just have some diversity in the single entries. But just be aware that now we’re getting other stacks, there’s going to be some more one-offs that show up that might be hard to manage exposure to them. That’s fine, but these exposures are going to look a lot different than, say, the 20 max and 150 max contests.

I’m really not making any tweaks here. We have a good amount of exposure to some of these low [inaudible 00:27:13] people, but we can’t have 3.1% of a player at the lowest, because we only have five lineups. So the lowest we can have is 20%. So this isn’t actually saying that we’re that much over the field. You either have them. Let’s say you have 20%, or you don’t. You have at least 20%. I’m just not stressing about this. Pitchers seem fine. Save, and we’re good. I’ll now show you how to actually fill your entries with these new lineups and get them back into the site.