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FanDuel Daily Fantasy Baseball: Stealing Your Way To Victory

One of the first things I noticed when starting out with Daily Fantasy Baseball on FanDuel was just how much a stolen base is worth. Relatively speaking, the two points you get for a stolen base is twice as much as a single or walk, and the same as a double. Unlike on DraftKings, there is no penalty for being caught stealing as well. Therefore, stolen bases are an incredibly valuable statistic, and learning how to predict them can help you make great daily fantasy baseball lineups.

High SB Players Scale Well With Matchup

One useful thing to understand about high base steal players is that favorable and unfavorable matchups have a large affect on their projected fantasy points for the day, moreso than typical hitters. High SB players like Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton are often the highest or poorest projected hitters on any given day.

To understand why this is true, all we have to do is look at how players typically score fantasy points.

The lowest fantasy point outcome besides an out is a walk or a single, which is worth one point on FanDuel. For the vast majority of hitters, the best they can hope for after this event is a run, which will happen only occasionally, and will only be worth one more point. However, for high SB players, a single or a walk is a far better event than for the average hitter. In a good stolen base matchup, they are highly likely to steal 2nd base or maybe even 3rd base, which makes scoring a run much more probable as well. When it’s all said and done, getting on first base for a high SB player can often be worth 4 points. There are very few low fantasy point events for a high SB hitter, and because of this, situations that are favorable to getting on base and stealing bases increase their fantasy point projection tremendously. Conversely, when a high SB player has a tough stolen base matchup, they are unlikely to steal bases and their fantasy point projection becomes minuscule.

Evaluating Stolen Base Matchups

Because high SB players scale so well with matchup, they are often some of the best plays of the day. But how do we know when we have a good stolen base matchup or a bad one?

In order for a stolen base to occur, two things must happen.

1. A player must be on first base or second base with the next base vacant.

2. A player must successfully steal the base without getting caught.

This means our model for predicting stolen bases should have two main factors. One will be how favorable a players matchup is to getting on base. The other is the ease of stealing a base against a given pitcher or catcher.

How often a player will get on base is mostly congruent with how we’d typically evaluate a matchup. Games with high over/unders, against a bad pitcher, and in a hitter friendly park will be favorable for any player getting on base. However, some pitchers give up more hits and walks than others, which would make them extra favorable against base stealers. You can gauge the amount of hits or walks a pitcher is expected to give up by looking at that players WHIP, walks and hits per inning pitcher, which you can find on Fangraphs. Some ballparks are also more favorable for singles, which can also be found on Fangraphs.

rSB

One way we can measure how good a pitcher or catcher is at preventing stolen bases is by looking at a statistic called rSB, which stands for runs saved from stolen bases. rSB is a good metric to determine who are favorable and unfavorable pitcher and catcher matchups from a stolen base perspective. High negative rSBs mean a pitcher or catcher who gives up a lot of stolen bases, while high positive rSBs mean players who prevent a lot of stolen bases. This is useful in determining great stolen base matchups, but also useful when determining when to stay away from a high SB guy in a bad stolen base matchup.

One issue with rSB is it requires a large sample to figure out if a player is good or bad against stolen bases. For young catchers, it’s a complete guessing game whether they are good or bad at preventing stolen bases. For young pitchers, there other ways aside from rSB to guess whether someone is going to be strong against stolen bases or not.

For one, left handed pitchers in general tend to be much better than right handed pitchers at preventing stolen bases. For anyone who watches baseball the reasons are quite obvious. Most simply, a left hander gets to face the first base bag before throwing, and therefore can hold the runner at first more easily than a right hander, who faces away from the first base bag.

The other statistic to use is a much more surprising one: You can guess how good a pitcher will be against stolen bases by looking at his height. We can illustrate this by looking at the worst pitchers against stolen bases the past several seasons.

John Lackey: -14 rSB, 6’6″

Chris Young: -22 rSB, 6’10”

Tommy Hanson: -14 rSB, 6’6″

A.J. Burnett: -21 rSB, 6’5″

Interestingly enough, nearly every pitcher 6’5″ or over has a negative rSB value, regardless if their right or left handed. Why is this true? As someone who has never played organized baseball, I don’t really know. My guess is taller players tend to have longer deliveries and are less athletically coordinated in general, allowing base stealers to get bigger leads and jumps to 2nd base. Regardless, be inclined to assume that a tall player will be poor against stolen bases.

 

Summary

  • Predicting when a high SB player will do well is much different than predicting other hitters success.
  • Players who steal a lot of bases will scale extremely well with matchup, because they will often turn singles and walks into stolen bases and runs. Everytime they get on first base is a potential 4 point opportunity.
  • The more a player gets on base, the more stolen base opportunities and subsequent stolen bases you can expect from them.
  • Some pitchers and catchers are much better at preventing stolen bases than others. We can evaluate these players abilities against stolen bases by looking at the rSB statistic. Tall pitchers are also extremely likely to be poor against stolen bases.

 

View all posts by Daniel Steinberg
Daniel Steinberg

About the Author

Daniel Steinberg Daniel Steinberg is a former bond trader at a multi-billion dollar proprietary trading firm in Chicago. He uses his knowledge of statistics and his creativity from his career as a poker professional to create the most advanced Daily Fantasy statistical analysis that you will find anywhere. Follow him on twitter @DanielSingerS

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