Some days during the MLB season, you get an alignment of aces. Take today’s slate of games for example – Kershaw, Archer, Felix, Ross, Kluber, Liriano, Tanaka, Lester, McCullers, and on. On DraftKings, one-third of the pitchers are $9,000 or more, and many of those guys are their team’s number-one guy.
This makes Kershaw today an interesting study – his salary of $15,000 is ridiculously high; the highest of the last two years, in fact. On a slate with so many other great pitchers, you can’t justify paying up $3,000 or more just to get up to Kershaw over, say Archer, can you?
I think the place to start is to find out whether or not Kershaw can even hit value on that salary.
Here’s a list of players in the last two years who have been priced at $14,000 or higher and how they performed:
Only Kershaw and Scherzer have gotten to that level, and their total Plus/Minus at that salary range in the last two years is +5.52. If we look at just Kershaw, that Plus/Minus jumps up to +9.05 in 12 games that he’s been priced at $14,000 or more. Yes, that’s correct — Kershaw has exceeded value by 9.05 fantasy points when priced at $14,000 or higher. That’s ridiculous. And it feels weird saying that those 12 games are a large enough sample size to be meaningful, but in Kershaw’s case, I think it is.
I think part of not wanting to roster Kershaw is just the sticker shock – no one gets that high, so it must be impossible to hit value. But if we look at what the expected points are for a $15,000 player, it’s not as high as we might think: 25.63 fantasy points. Here’s a log of Kershaw’s recent games.
I think it’s fairly safe to project that Kershaw can indeed hit 26 fantasy points in any given game. Of course, the argument to not roster him is our dear friend opportunity cost. In a salary cap format, every dollar you’re spending on one player you aren’t spending on another. Kershaw can hit value, but it makes it harder to roster either another top pitcher or good hitters.
This is where judging fantasy potential based on probabilities as opposed to fragile dollar-per-point models can help. Kershaw obviously has 45 fantasy point upside; how many other pitchers do? Is it more than how many catchers can go deep? Is the difference between Kershaw and Archer’s upside bigger than the difference (in terms of probability to hit their upside) between Russell Martin and Matt Wieters?
That’s the fun part of DFS – you have to make those decisions on a daily basis. But make sure you’re making sound decisions based on data. If you fade Kershaw tonight because of the opportunity cost and you want to roster top batters, that’s a sound process. But if you fade Kershaw because of the perceived inability to hit value at a high salary level like $15,000, that might be a mistake.