MLB DFS picks and strategies for FanDuel & DraftKings single game DFS contests in the 2021 world series
The 2021 major league baseball season culminates with our world series finale, with the Astros and Braves doing battle to determine the league’s top team.
It’s always fun to get a little FanDuel or DraftKings Showdown action going while enjoying the game on TV, so we wanted to help give you some stats and strategies to consider as we head into lineup construction mode.
Single Game Strategy
On FanDuel, it’s 100% about the hitters. You choose your MVP whose stats count for 2x, a STAR whose stats count at a 1.5x multiplier, and 3 more bats (UTIL) at the normal stat-accruing rate (1x or no multiplier). Every hitter comes at the same price point regardless of MVP/STAR/UTIL positions. On FanDuel, you’re looking for the top bats that you think will score the most points. Then, you need to make sure you get all the permutations and combinations that you feel will allow you to “box” your potential outcomes, so that your MVPs and STARs are given a chance to lead the way in different lineup combinations. It’s pretty straightforward and simple at the end of the day, and if you’re a casual DFS player that wants a little side contest action while enjoying a game – this is definitely the simpler platform to play on.
On DraftKings, we have a couple main differences. There is a CPTN slot, where the price of those players is 1.5x that of the FLEX salary, and their stats count for 1.5x more. You’re not necessarily looking for the guy you think will score the highest points overall and just slotting him into the CPTN slot regardless of price. Salary plays such a critical role, because the cost of your CPTN scales according to their FLEX price.
We also have the option to roster pitchers on DraftKings. Both the starting arms but also the relief pitchers at $6,000 apiece. You don’t generally see too many managers or winning lineups seeing success with rostering relievers, but it’s certainly a way to get contrarian – especially with the potential of a late-inning arm getting a win or a save, with a handful of Ks as well. Ryan Pressly for example, could be intriguing in some games where you think the Astros have the edge but are expecting it to be close from start to finish.
There are some very talented pitchers taking the hill for their respective teams in the world series this year. But, we don’t necessarily have the most lights-out and dominant arms in this series with the likes of Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw missing their chance to advance when the Braves eliminated the Dodgers. The same story goes for what could have been pretty amazing if Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff were to have advanced as well. Just about each of the starters in this series could go 3-4 innings with 3-4 runs allowed per start, but some of them could find a way to get their team 7-8 elite innings if they’re rocking and rolling. But I do feel we’ll see plenty of bullpen usage on both sides from beginning to end in this series overall.
The Astros are without one of their best pitchers for this series, Lance McCullers Jr. It’s a huge blow to their rotation, especially given he was having a great second half with a 10.5 K/9, 60% groundball rate and 3.30 xFIP in 14 starts. His presence will be sorely missed, but they’ll try to replace him with the likes of Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier and even the ageless wonder, Zack Greinke.
That leaves Max Fried and Charlie Morton as your two best arms for this series, when it comes to how each have performed in the second half of the season. Fried’s xFIP of 3.08 and 2.8 WAR with an elite 58% ground ball rate makes him arguably the ace of this series, with Morton not too far behind thanks to a 2.5 WAR, 3.18 xFIP and series-best 10.6 K/9. As a pretty heavy 1-2 punch for the Braves with a high ground ball tendency, they have a great opportunity to lead the charge for the Braves and make things tough on Astros bats early on in games 1 and 2.
This season, Fried’s been even more effective against RHBs (.269 wOBA) than LHBs (.304 wOBA). So that’s one reverse split tendency to keep in mind this series. Morton’s been a reverse split guy as well in 2021, with a .271 wOBA vs RHBs and a .255 wOBA vs LHBs. He continues to be one of the league’s most reliable and solid arms, and should see 2 or even perhaps 3 starts (if short rest and game 7 becomes a thing) for ATL.
Meanwhile for the Astros, Luis Garcia and Framber Valdez are the two healthy and more dominant arms that we should mention for the Astros. Garcia’s second half xFIP of 3.76 is nothing to scoff at – especially with his dominant performance against the Red Sox to close out the ALCS. Valdez is as tantalizing of a ground ball arm as you’ll find in the game, rocking a 70% ground ball rate and 3.70 xFIP in his final 13 starts of the year – not to mention his 8 inning gem in the ALCS, too. Garcia’s weakness is certainly LHBs, where a .348 wOBA and .474 SLG stand tall as a major split to exploit with the likes of Freddie Freeman and Eddie Rosario for example (Joc Pederson as well).
Meanwhile, Valdez has more reverse split struggles with a .320 wOBA vs LHBs this year and a .281 wOBA against RHBs. It’s not uncommon for sinker ball pitchers to struggle more with hitters of the same side, and that’s exactly what we have with Morton, Fried and Valdez. Don’t overlook that.
When it comes to the bottom of the rotations for each team, things get a lot dicier. Urquidy, Anderson, Javier and Greinke each have xFIPs in the second half over 4.60 – and pretty minimal Ks to show for themselves aside from Javier, who is a total wildcard (12.6 K/9 vs 5.5 BB/9 in his last 29.1 innings). I expect the games that each of those pitchers start to be more of a 1-2x through the order (if lucky) and plenty of bullpen action behind it.
The Braves are without arguably their most well-rounded bat this series (Ronald Acuna Jr., which is not only a major shame but also a testament to how well they were able to rebuild their lineup after losing him to his season ending injury. He remains their best bat vs LHP (175 wRC+ on the year).
However, Ozzie Albies (144 wRC+), Travis d’Arnaud (127 wRC+) and Jorge Soler (127 wRC+) remain very strong options in the split vs LHP for the Braves. Freddie Freeman (103 wRC+) needs to be in lineups against Framber Valdez given the pure upside, but even Austin Riley and Adam Duvall excel far more vs RHP and should be deployed accordingly.
Riley rocks a 146 wRC+ on the season against RHP, while Duvall holds a 121 wRC+ mark in the split. Eddie Rosario (144) and Freddie Freeman (148) round out the top 3 bats in terms of weight runs created+ for the squad. Soler’s 134 wRC+ mark and .237 ISO are nothing to scoff at, while Pederson can go deep anytime, and Dansby Swanson remaining a lineup fixture even with very average hitting abilities when you boil the numbers down.
You can argue that the Astros are an even deeper hitting club, with plenty of bats in both splits with well above-average skills.
Starting with the LHP split, we have the lefty-crusher Yuli Gurriel and his 151 wRC+ leading the way for Houston – not to mention his 8.2% K% in the split across 208 PA this year. Kyle Tucker’s 144 wRC+ is next best among lineup regulars, and Yordan Alvarez/Carlos Correa/Alex Bregman are not far behind (140, 138 and 131 wRC+ respectively). Even Jose Altuve is very much in play with his 116 wRC+ mark on the year, despite pretty minimal power numbers (.176 ISO). He continues to do a great job getting on base and striking out just 13% of the time vs LHP.
Michael Brantley jumps all the way from worst on the team vs LHP to best on the team against RHP. His 158 wRC+ on the year is electric (7.6% BB% and 8.8% K%). Jason Castro had a monster 2021 vs RHP (152 wRC+), while Kyle Tucker, Alvarez, Altuve, and Correa are all excellent against RHPs as well (149, 137, 136, 133 wRC+ respectively). Yuli Gurriel and Alex Bregman hold their own in the split (125 and 107 wRC+), rounding out the regulars that you’ll likely find yourself going after exposure with when you want to heavy-up your Houston numbers.
Game by Game Strategy
It’s hard to write the playbook before the series starts, but here are some running narratives in my head that I think we should be building our lineups around.
- Selective reverse-split HOU exposure when Fried and Morton start for ATL. That brings Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez high on my list vs Fried, and the likes of Altuve, Correa, Gurriel and Bregman up the list vs Morton. But just 1-2 HOU bats in those ones, as I expect ATL to have the greater offensive success.
- Plenty of ATL bats when Morton and Fried are starting. They are clearly the two most talented arms in this series. Freeman and Soler are the more well-rounded bats for the Braves, and can be started in just about any matchup. Meanwhile, Rosario, Duvall and Riley get major boosts vs RHP (sit them against Valdez), while Albies jumps up your list against LHP.
- When we have the likes of Urquidy, Anderson and Greinke taking the hill – I’m not touching any of those names in my DK lineup builds and instead, will be heavying up hitting exposure. They’re likely to have short outings overall and can’t really be trusted.