Lineup Optimizers are Obsolete (and what we’re doing about it)

DFS has changed

It’s not like the early days of DFS when even knowing what a stack was practically made you unbeatable. 

I’m not kidding, it really felt like this is what everybody else was doing back then…

Baby Throwing Money Away

What it takes to win today

If you could boil down what it takes to beat today’s games into a single phrase, it would be this: Maximize your upside.

But what does that actually mean? 

Upside means doing all the things it takes to separate yourself from the rest of the field and there are 3 keys to doing that:

  1. Finding the right stacks and value plays
  2. Picking good spots to fade the chalk
  3. Building lineups that capitalize on all of that 

The tools haven’t changed

The problem is that traditional DFS tools weren’t built to find upside so the process takes WAY longer than it needs to and gives you worse results.

Not exactly what you want, is it?

The two main problems with the old DFS process are tools we all know well; projections and optimizers. It’s not that those tools don’t work, it’s that the job they’re designed to do isn’t the job you actually need them to do.

I mean, there are 1000s of people making money using the traditional DFS process, but getting there takes a ton of time that most of us don’t have. And just because you can make it work, doesn’t mean it’s the best way.

You could also do this at the gym and maybe make some gains if you really stuck with it, but I don’t think anybody can argue it’s optimal…

Gym Fail

There’s a new way to play

I’m not here to tell you it doesn’t take work to beat DFS, because it does.

What I am saying is that the old way is broken and there is a new, less-complicated way for you to beat DFS even if you don’t have an unlimited bankroll or a ton of free time.

Why the old way is broken

When it comes down to it, the traditional DFS process is broken because of two fundamental, unavoidable flaws:

  1. First, traditional projections are averages and averages hide upside
  2. Second, optimizers are literally designed to ignore upside

Problem #1 – Average projections hide upside

Projections are the foundation of any DFS process. The trouble is we take those projections for granted and don’t actually think about what they’re telling us.

The projections you see everywhere are simply the scores somebody says each player will get on average. This seems reasonable at first, but to maximize upside you don’t care about a player’s average performance you care about their top performance and how often they get there.

…and averages do a horrible job of showing you that because they don’t represent the reality of sports.

Why averages don’t work in sports

Averages are useful when a range of outcomes is “normally distributed,” which just means the range of outcomes follows a bell curve, which looks like this:

Bell Curve

What it’s saying is that the average (the mean) is also the most common number (the mode) and the middle number (the median). It also says that numbers the same amount above and below the average occur with the same frequency.

According to that logic a batter with an average projection of 13 points is as likely to score 23 points as they are 3, because both numbers are 10 points away from the average.

If you’ve played any DFS baseball then you know that’s not at all true.

Here’s what reality looks like:

Mike Trout Distribution

I’ll tell you how we get this data later in the article, but what it’s showing you is that even the best hitters, like Mike Trout, are going to get 3 points about twice as often as they get 23 points.

Here’s where it gets even worse.

A bell curve also assumes they get -13 points as often as they get 33 points, but we KNOW this cannot be true because batters can’t get even get negative points.

That seems like a problem, doesn’t it?

Don’t build on a faulty foundation

You can spend all the time you want digging into stats, splits, recent performance, weather, vegas odds, whatever you think you need to supplement your projections but it won’t change the fact that you’re building on shaky ground.

This is why you’re always second guessing yourself as you submit your lineups…

“Did I pick the right stacks?” or “Is this guy a good value play or a trap?”

You constantly feel like you’re missing something and when you rely on incomplete data, you usually are.

When you use average projections, you dramatically underestimate the frequency of “below average” outcomes, while at the same time not properly accounting for a player’s true upside.

If you want to win, you need data that gives you a true look at what can happen in a given game and average projections can’t give you that.

Problem #2 – Optimizers ignore upside

When we talk about high upside lineups, we mean lineups that consistently perform better than their projections would have you believe.

The problem is that lineup optimizers, literally by definition, optimize exclusively on average projected scores with no consideration at all for any of the components of upside.

THIS is why you have to tweak so many settings to get optimizers to give you lineups that have any shot of winning– you need to fight what they were built to do in order to get stacks, ownership plays, and the right diversity.

Let’s dig into these points a bit more to see why they’re so important…

Correlations (aka stacking)

While there are going to be lineups made of individual players with higher projections than ones with stacks, the problem is that the performances of each of those individual players is independent of the others. So if you want to win, then you need each one of them to have that amazing game at the same time.

You’re basically rolling a die for each player and hoping each of the dice come up with a high number.

By taking advantage of correlations and stacks and rostering positively correlated players, it’s like only needing to roll one die because if any of those players do well, it directly boosts the performance of the others.

It’s hard enough to win, don’t make it any harder.


If the name of the game in DFS was just to beat a specific score, then you wouldn’t care who else had your players in their lineups. But you aren’t playing against the house in DFS…you’re playing against everybody else in your contests and to win, you need to beat all of their scores.

This doesn’t mean you should just blindly ignore the highest projected players, but if everybody else has those same plays, then it doesn’t do you any good when they go off because your opponents all benefit as well.

But say you faded a 50% owned player and they had a bad night, that means half the field is now at a huge disadvantage to you.

To maximize upside, you need to separate yourself from the field, and you do that by leveraging ownership.

I think you get the point…

If you want to win at DFS today, you need to make lineups with high upside and to do that…

  • You need projections that give you more than an average
  • And you need to account for correlations and ownership

If that’s what it takes to win, and I think we all agree on that, then how nuts is it that we have to wade through a sea of numbers to do our research only to have to struggle with an optimizer that makes us tweak and re-tweak dozens of settings just to get those kind of lineups?

It’s insane…but when you’re using a tool that was built when a score that would win a tournament then sometimes wouldn’t even cash now, what can you expect?

Those glory days of DFS are long gone, so stop using the tools built for them. It’s time to use SaberSim, the only toolkit built for what it takes to win at DFS today.

Why SaberSim is better

Working with some of the top names in DFS, like giantsquid and nomoreiloveyous, we’ve built and refined a one-of-a-kind simulator that takes dozens of performance predictors and uses them to simulate every single game, play-by-play, thousands of times. This gives us incredibly detailed and accurate projections that go way beyond averages.

Rather than giving you a single average number, our unique projections show you a player’s true range of possible outcomes for a game like we showed you before. This lets you quickly narrow down the top plays and make informed decisions without hours of research.

Mike Trout Distribution

We combine those detailed projections with our powerful lineup builder that lets you decide how much weight you want to give to correlations and ownership and how diverse you want your lineups to be.

Adjusting Upside Settings

Then in just a few clicks, we give you a pool of strong lineups that you can tweak on the fly, dialing in your exposures exactly the way you want them, without having to start from scratch over and over again.

Adjusting Exposures

Nobody else can do this, or frankly even come close.

It’s time to upgrade your game

Sure, you could keep doing what you’ve been doing just like you could also play golf with wooden clubs or only shoot 2-pointers in basketball. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that and if you don’t care about winning, then more power to you.

But if you’ve been struggling to consistently win or you want to compete at a higher level, then you need to use the right tools for the job.

You need SaberSim.

Your next step

You’ve already taken the first step and started a free trial, now you just need to get in there and play around with it. 

If you’re reading this and haven’t started your trial yet, then start your free 3-day trial now.

It’s completely free to try and if you don’t love it, you can cancel your account in seconds and you won’t be charged a cent.

SaberSim works differently than other tools, and after reading this I hope you understand why, but we’ve tried to make it all as intuitive as possible.

If you want to get a quick overview of the product itself, you can check out the demo I put together walking through how it all works:

Don’t get left behind

The games are getting harder every season so if you want to stay ahead of the curve, you’re in the right place. 

We’ve made it as easy as possible to build high upside lineups, now it’s time to get into SaberSim and actually do it.

If you have any questions at all along the way, just shoot us an email at [email protected] and we’ll be happy to help.

Thanks and good luck!

Andy Baldacci


Start building better lineups right now!

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