How to WIN at Salary Cap Leagues and GPP's
by John of RotoPicks.com
Editor's Note: This article was written in 2012. Some MLB player's names are mentioned. Please improvise when you come to these points in the article as you may be reading this years later and these players may no longer be active in MLB.
Nothing in the daily fantasy sports realm is as exciting as winning a GPP! It's a familiar setting... It's after midnight eastern time and you're watching some 2-1 game playing out west in a ballpark larger than the Grand Canyon. The early beer buzz has worn off, your team's homer parade ended a couple hours ago and you're desperately hoping Clayton Richard can grab a win tonight and perhaps even strike a few guys in the process. Your team has hung around the top 3 of a guaranteed prize pool tournament all night. You know you're going to place in the money, but you might even win the thing! As you scan the leader board nervously, a paralyzing thought strikes you......someone might have Huston Street! A glance at the top 10 reveals that Street was indeed too expensive and you know it is your tourney to win if Richard can just bring it home.
Yes, a GPP can lead to some sleepless nights. Many times the top 5 of a GPP can be separated by fractions of a point. It is during these times that we wish, perhaps, that we did not take the homer potential of Chris Davis (thanks for the Ks Crush) over safer bats. I will tell you right now that you need to take on some risk to win a GPP. Lots of it.
You're going to need to mix some cheap free-swinging sluggers with a couple of stud bats who are sure to get on base and drive in some runs while they're at it.
You might need to take that cheaper pitcher on the road who has a decent K rate and cross your fingers that he doesn't turn into a human pinata the second time through the order. It is this right mix of safe plays with risky ones that can lead to a great GPP salary cap squad and a good payday for its owner.
How do you assemble a winning GPP team? The first 3 things to do are research, research and research. Baseball is a numbers game. I like to spend an hour or two a day looking at baseball lines, weather, BvP stats and the last few starts by the starting pitchers of that night. Somewhere in there comes lefty/righty splits and batting average and power over past week. I analyze which teams I think will score a bunch that night and which hitters are hot from those teams. I especially like to look at the meat of their batting lineup....guys batting 3rd through 5th are usually the power guys and are going to be coming up with men on base.
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BvP stats can be important and I do look at them.....I just feel they're overvalued. Does it matter to me right now if Adrian Gonzalez has poor numbers lifetime vs. Roy Oswalt? Not at all. One of these players has seen better days, and they probably faced each other in Petco quite a bit in the past compared to Arlington now.
What is more important to me than BvP is the HOT factor. A lot of success in this game, hitting or pitching, comes from confidence. When a player is hot they can go on streaks of over a month long. Are they hot against lefties or all pitching in general? Can you trust a streaking pitcher on the road? To make my final list of favorable players for the night a player must hit on several different points.
Pricing of players is also very critical. Each night you're going to have to pick 2 or 3 hitters solely based on their their price (salary). Heck, I have been known to ride Clint Barmes for most of a week because he is usually cheap and plays a typically non-powerful position. You need these types of guys to afford the Brauns and Kemps of the world.....guys that can almost single-handedly carry your team to a top 10 finish in a large GPP.
For large tournaments, you need to decide which cheap players could provide some power. Yes, they're more likely to strikeout a time or two (see Mark Reynolds) but they might just pop one out also. You usually need several home runs to win a GPP. Get your big bats in there. In a GPP a guy like Dayan Viciedo is probably better to play than Coco Crisp, despite the latter's awesome name because Tank is more likely to go deep. The fact that he is 0 for the last century just drives his price tag lower. If he is at home and facing a southpaw....yes please.
For some reason I have a crush on lefty sluggers facing poor right handers. I very seldom ever take a lefty hitter facing a lefty pitcher, the numbers rarely support such a move. There are several big league parks around the country that seem to favor left handed power hitters and this plays a big role in who I like on any given night. Conversely there are several big right handed bats around the league that crush left handed pitching. Guys like Paul Goldschmidt are gonna make my list if they are at home facing a lefty. Stats usually tell the truth.
Pitching is the hardest decision of making your salary cap team. I personally rarely ever take 2 relievers on my team. There is a good chance that neither reliever is used and taking two zeroes is pretty tough to overcome, especially in GPP's. I like to build my team around pitching. To me, it's the most predictable part of your team. Your stud hitter is not gonna come cheap and probably gets 4 at bats to make something happen. Their batting average suggests that they will get on base usually once or twice per night, so your hope is that they happen to hit a home run or at least come up with guys in scoring position.
Good pitchers are usually reliable in the right matchup and are going to be easier to count on for consistent scoring. I like using 3 starters (as mentioned before) so my daily challenge is finding one or two midrange or cheap pitchers that can fit with my stud SP. The goal here is to provide you 3 guys that have decent K ratios, great matchups and preferrably big stadiums to pitch in. I am a sucker for west coast parks with my starters. A guy pitching in Safeco will get the nod every time for me over someone pitching in the Great American Ballpark.
After my pitching is set, I like to take at least 3 of my big hitters that are on my list from above. If I can keep the pitching costs down you might even get 4 hitters that you're in love with. After these guys fill their slots, I am left working in a few mid-range salaried power guys and then adding your "fillers" as mentioned with Barmes before. Guys like C John Buck might have an embarrasing batting average but look like the prom queen if you need to snag a cheap catcher. Hey, he does hit a bomb every two weeks or so last I checked!
To win a GPP, you need a couple cheaper players to go off.
There are many guys that like to stack their teams in GPP's. I am not one of them. Call me old school but it just doesn't seem much like fantasy sports to me. It can be a very profitable strategy.....it's just when I look at stacking a team, there are always a couple guys in the lineup that I would never consider playing or have too high of salaries, so the stack is broken.
I'm a however, a believer in a mini-stack if I want to fade a certain pitcher. If you take the 3-6 hitters of a team that you are sure will score some runs, you can double up your runs and rbi's for sure.
I've won GPP's taking 3-4 hitters from each team playing in Coors that night. The game ended something like 12-7. Yummy! Sometimes you have pitchers who might really struggle vs. lefties (paging Mr. Masterson) so you could stack 3 lefties against him on that night. Once again stats usually do not lie.
To beat the many stacks out there, you're going to need a well-balanced team with solid pitching and probably several home runs. I always make sure my cheap guys at least have a decent chance of scoring some points. When you only have 10 hitters, you need at least 9 of them to come through on most nights to win a GPP. No, they do not all need to hit a home run, but solid production (3-5 pts) for most is necessary. It's important to look for lineup changes also. Just the other night a middle of the road seconde baseman was moved from 9th to leadoff due to injuries and he was the 1st hitter I added for only 4K of my 100K cap. This player hit a homerun and got on base two other times that night to provide excellent value. If a guy is moved up in the order he could be hitting just ahead or behind the best hitters on the team. If their price tag is low, I'm usually a buyer!
After my hitters join my staff and complete my team, several questions need to be answered. Does the team have enough power? Are my pitchers too risky? You need some pitching risk to win a GPP, but to me, two questionable pitchers is one too many. Almost all guaranteed prize pool tourney's are won with great hitting that night, but your pitching does need to be solid as well. A negative number in an SP slot can be a death sentence on most nights.
Last but not least, you need to have some luck. There is a 7 point difference between a fly ball to the fence and one just over it. Many times a hitter gets one good pitch to drive in an at bat. If you do your homework and have favorable hitting matchups, you just need to hope your guys can make solid contact on that pitch.
In creating your GPP or salary cap team you need to aim high. Most nights you need to approach 80-90 points to win the tourney. If you cannot visualize your lineup going off, make the changes before the roster locks that give you a more powerful team.
I spend a great deal of time just looking at the lineup to try and improve on any positions I am not sold on, and can then live with the results later.
The best thing about winning a GPP (other than the cash of course) is getting up the next morning and starting it all over again! Just like the players, you as a fantasy baseball player can get hot also. I can't wait to fire up the laptop in the morning when I am on a good run. I try to find out what I did wrong when I lose and continue good patterns when I win.
When you have the chance of winning 50x or better your entry fee, you simply cannot beat the thrill of a GPP. Put some thought and creativity into your team and you may also find yourself glued to the leader boards and watching the MLB package into the wee hours of the night. I look forward to competing with you in them soon!
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