Lineup Strategies

Hey, I’ve been struggling with lineups lately and would be curious to hear other people’s strategies. For the first 6 weeks I pretty much just filled the lineup everyday without much thought to matchups, park factors, etc. My team was doing ok but I was way ahead of the 162 game pace in all of my positions.

(For context, I play in a FG points league.)

The past few weeks I’ve been trying to get more strategic about who I play and when I play them. I take into consideration:

For some reason, my PPG has actually gotten WORSE since deploying more strategic lineup management. I don’t get it :man_shrugging:

Does anyone want to weigh in on what I’m doing and maybe share their strategies?

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I play 5x5 but I prefer the pitcher list daily sp rankings for sit/start decisions

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I’'m only in H2H right now, but some of this might help.

Batting splits are my go to for daily decisions! I also use wOBA ( and now xwOBA!!!), ISO and wRC+ when building out my roster.

I typically look at the ERA+ and FIP+ for current performance when building a rotation. I factor health and who they are facing into start/sit decisions. IP is the most important.

Always bench your pitchers against the Giants, the (anchor)steam is building, Willie Mays plaza is going to be hosting some parties this fall!

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Some thoughts:

First, you absolutely should actively manage your lineups to play the more favorable matchups. But I would suggest possibly tweaking how you are assessing which matchups are most favorable. But it’s most important to hit the GS and IP caps, so be careful about choosing when to bench players who are in their teams’ starting lineups. Once you get off pace to hit those caps, it can be difficult to catch up after a certain point. So be very selective about when you bench a player who could start for you.

With that said, I honestly don’t think that L15 or whatever is any sort of meaningful measure if you’re trying to predict short-term future performance. To put it in statistical terms, reversion to the mean dominates recency bias both empirically and theoretically. For example, if you have a hitter with a .350 wOBA ROS projection who has a .200 wOBA L15, then his expected production for next week is .350 not .200 (i.e., you don’t expect the “slump” to continue). Unless there’s an injury or some other reason to expect performance to decline, I just treat L15 fluctuations as statistical noise.

I often refer to this article in terms of how large a sample needs to be before different baseball statistics “stabilize.” For example, K% stabilizes relatively quickly for hitters (60 PA) whereas BABIP requires a much larger sample (820 BIP–i.e., 2+ seasons worth of data). If a hitter averages 4.25 PA/G and plays 7 games a week, then he’s averaging a little less than 30 PA/week, which is below those thresholds.

Because of all that, with respect to L/R splits, I look at career wOBA splits, not 2021 wOBA splits because the former are far more reliable than the latter. For example, IIRC Hosmer has great wOBA vs LHP in 2021 whereas he’s been less effective against them over the course of his career. Whenever I can, I still bench him against LHP because I’m basing the lineup decision on what I expect him to do in upcoming games not what he’s recently done (and the latter is not predictive the former).

I don’t think ESPN’s pitching forecaster is all that helpful mostly because it seems to be heavily subjective by staff who aren’t that knowledgeable (full disclosure: I think all of ESPN fantasy products are complete crap based on the last time I sampled them, which would have been 2018). However, Pitcher List does a weekly 0-10 pitcher matchup rating, which is a similar idea and better executed. I sometimes will use that to decide when to start a SP. Also, I play a lot of 5x5 where SP wins are a big priority and so one of the other things that I look at is the SaberSim likelihood of a win (available of FG player pages). You could also perhaps extrapolate SaberSim projections to projected FGPts, although that would probably be a lot of data entry on your end as the projections aren’t CSV exportable.

So tldr version of my recommendations:

  • Continue to actively manage your lineups;
  • Be sure to hit your GS and IP caps;
  • Don’t use ESPN for any purpose;
  • Use ROS projections, not L15; and
  • Use career L/R splits, not YTD.

Thanks! This is a lot to digest but good info for sure.

Baseball Reference has a good career splits page that is very helpful. I look at home/road splits in addition to Left/Right splits. You have to be a little more careful with that because the hitter may not be playing in the same park for his career, but it’s a good thing to be aware of. Hitters that have good hitters parks (COLis obvious, but CIN, TOR, NYY are some other ones) sometimes have significant home road splits. Here is Jesse Winker’s BR career split page, for reference. He’s a great example of some extreme L/R and H/R splits. Although he’s hitting so well this year, I’m not sure you ever bench him. His Lefty Road splits might still be better than your 6th OF that you’d replace him with…

Thanks! This is really helpful :slight_smile:

Something that I have noticed from previous years is that players get more rest days in September. I always try to be ahead of my games played going into September. It is much worse to not hit all of you games started than to hit your target early.


Great point. I’d feel super dumb for sitting Arenado in June against a marginally good RHP if/when he gets benched in September for rest. Or if he’s injured next month, or something like that.

Interesting you say that because Winker has been pretty weak against lefties. Starting to think I’ll need to platoon him.

For a batter, is it worth it to make lineup considerations based on past performance vs the opposing starter? Trying to continually optimize my lineups…I end up referring to this thread frequently.

The issue is that you need a pretty large sample to distinguish noise from signal. And by the time they’ve accumulated a significant body of work (e.g., Pujols against Greinke, .790 OPS in 49 AB), either the batter and/or pitcher are not necessarily the same player as they were when they first started facing each other.

If you’re going to zero in on individual matchups, then use Stathead or something to confine the sample to the most recent 3-5 seasons and don’t rely on anything with fewer than 30 or so PA (note: this is going to restrict the analytic sample to a very small number of matchups). And even then, N=30 isn’t going to allow you to distinguish a .250 hitter from a .300 hitter (even assuming observations are i.i.d; if you consider effective sample size, then your power is significantly lower).

I also question the degree to which this information could actually impact lineup decisions. For example, Muncy has a 1.098 OPS versus Scherzer (4/11 with 1 HR) and is facing him on Friday. Is that really useful data? Would you not have started Muncy if he were 0/11 instead or are you going to bench Scherzer because of that? Would knowing that Scherzer has dominated Pollock, Pujols, and Bellinger really change the calculus as to whether to start him? I just don’t think that level of granularity is all that actionable/helpful in a practical sense, even if the statistical concerns were laid to rest.

So basically I think that career L/R splits and 5yr park factors are more meaningful factors to consider when evaluating matchups. Also weather, if available. To the best of my knowledge, those are the factors that models like SaberSim take into account when calculating expected production for players, not individual matchups, FWIW.

You are totally right…it’s easy to overthink things sometimes. Thanks for the detailed response! I’m now wondering how to automate this data collection without paying for a tool…

I look at two things: the points Steamer has projected for my players for the rest of the season, and ESPN’s forecaster for today’s matchup.

ESPN’s forecaster provides a nice short-hand approach to daily lineup consideration. It includes all of the detail I’d like to consider and presents it in terms that are easy to understand.