National League DH
The biggest overall change to the rules in MLB this season is the addition of the DH to National League rosters. This is going to balance out the leagues a bit in terms of scoring, lowering the value of NL starters compared to AL. Perhaps this gives the occasional extra inning to an NL starter that doesn’t need to get pinch-hit for, but that’s not the type of thing I’ll be chasing one way or another.
What this really does overall in DFS is gives a little more merit to stacking towards the bottom of the lineup and using wrap-around stacks with NL teams. It’s always been tough to use #8 hitters in the NL knowing they’d just get walked if they come up with runners in scoring position and an open base, and knowing they are likely to be stranded on base if they reach with two outs.
While we will still have plenty of pinch-hitting going on, the combination of the DH, along with the three-batter minimum for relief pitchers should help keep those Joc Pederson-type lefties in the lineup a little more often. We’ll talk through these spots case by case in season, but in general, it’s a positive for NL batters who typically often have pinch-hit risk.
Extra Innings = Extra Runner
In an effort to keep games shorter, MLB is implementing a new rule for extra-inning games, starting the inning with a runner on second base. As far as doing daily research and building rosters, this is a completely irrelevant rule one way or the other for DFS. But, as for the actual playing out of contests, I see it as a slight decrease to variance. What will likely happen, is we’ll see a lot of bunting the runner to third and trying to score that one run on a sac fly. This will mean shorter and lower scoring extra-inning games, which sometimes shift contest in an annoying and tilting way. We really shouldn’t be trying to project a game to go to extra innings, and with this new rule, the points scored in extra-inning games should be minimized.
Relievers – Three-Batter Minimum
This is a new rule that was set prior to the original opening to the season. This rule will have a big effect on real-life baseball, but not quite as much for our purposes. Pitchers will be required to either face a minimum of three batters, or to pitch until the end of an inning. The main thing this changes is that relievers cannot be brought in to face one batter (unless it’s the 3rd out after replacing a starter or multi-inning reliever) and then be taken out. This also means that when we see an opener, they do have to pitch at least one full inning, though that is almost always the case already anyway. As mentioned above, this might occasionally help a left-handed batter who may have been pinch-hit for in the past being able to stay in the game, and it may occasionally get the starting pitcher a few extra batters faced. Essentially, I have no change to my DFS lineup building process because of this rule.
Going back to what I said about the pitchers, I think we’re going to see a season that starts off as wild as we expect but fairly quickly ends up being essentially business as usual for DFS purposes. The new roster limits play into that theory. To open the season, teams will have a 30-man active roster. In past seasons, the active roster has been at 25 players. This will allow teams an extra bat or two on the bench along with several extra bullpen arms to help those starting pitchers build up stamina. After two weeks, the rosters will be trimmed to 28, and two weeks after that, they’ll be cut by another two, leaving it at a 26-man active roster. So by the time we get through August, rosters are only one player bigger than usual, but this all gives teams that flexibility to have extra bullpen arms early in the season. Again, pitcher workload is one of the main things we’ll discuss here on a daily basis, but as a general rule of thumb, I’m expecting a lot of short outings that are not worth paying for early in the season.
Schedules and Sample Sizes
For real-life baseball and season-long fantasy, analyzing the teams abbreviated schedules changes a lot of things. Some teams have easier opponents or better ballparks, some have worse. But, this is DFS, and we will only have to look at one day at a time. The only thing that could change a little based on these schedules is how the already unpredictable small sample size stats for the current season will be hard to decipher. In a regular season, in the first 60 games, I am relying almost entirely on the previous season’s stats, as we just don’t have enough at-bats or innings pitched to give us meaningful data. There is going to be a lot of disagreement (and freaking out) from people wanting to read into 2020 small sample size numbers and playing hot streaks and cold streaks.
Just know going in that I am going to basing my analysis heavily on historical stats, and while I’ll talk through who has started off hot or cold or otherwise.
As long as we all understand what data we’re using to have the opinions we have, we can come to different conclusions. It is going to be a fun and interesting ride without having the usual six months for everything to even out. You are allowed to chase hot streaks, high BABIP’s, or HR/FB%, but my @Fontaines5 will always be focused more on the long-term underlying skill sets of the players.
I also want to start off the season by letting you know that @ Fontaines 5 we are going to be taking on a slightly different form this season, to do my best to be as useful as possible for the short season. The pitching section will look about the same as you’re used to, where I’ll sort through different tiers of pitchers, looking at where the cash game builds are bringing me, where we can find cheaper value for tournaments, potential risks, etc. But on the hitting side, I’m going to try and be much more focused on the lineup building process. I will still walk through some favorite stacks and batters on every slate, but I am going to spend less time trying to talk about every viable play, and more time talking about different ways to construct lineups on that given slate for different types of contests. We’ll see how it goes, and I’m always here for feedback and to answer questions.