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Beat the Computer: The Daily Fantasy Team takes to the Diamond

The faith-based holy boys of fantasy football are taking on the baseball diamond. Can they beat the computer algorithm?

Coors Field by Alex Juel is licensed under CC 2.0

Beat the Computer: The Daily Fantasy Team takes to the Diamond


Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes

This past year, the best and brightest here at the Turf conducted a very smart, very scientific study to see how well humans fared against computers when picking DFS lineups for an entire NFL season.

TL;DR: We got smoked on a regular basis by our robot overlords.

Alas, we were bested. But we are far from undeterred. With the 2021 Baseball Season upon us, we thought there would be no better way to get revenge on the machines than through the same contest, but in another sport. Mano a mano. Our brains versus a computer algorithm, round three.

Background: Here at the Turf, we have attempted to use a combination of reasoning, statistics, and gut feelings to find success in daily fantasy football. To put it simply, we thought we knew our stuff. But we aren’t going to take our own word for it, and neither should you. Therefore, we propose to measure our DFS prowess through a rigorous, scientifically sound experiment, and answer a question that has baffled fantasy-sports scientists for decades: when it comes to daily fantasy sports, does the human element provide any advantage over computers?

Methods: The Turf staff will conduct a randomized control trial. Each week or so, our most brilliant DFS minds will create a classic lineup in DraftKings that we think will go to the moon and beyond. We will compare that lineup’s score to that of a lineup randomly generated by a computer, and see who comes out on top. To prevent the introduction of bias, or the ability to “gameplan”, we will choose our lineup prior to the creation of the randomly generated lineup.

Endpoints: The primary endpoint of this trial will be the head-to-head season record of weekly matchups between the study lineup (the Turf’s), and the control lineup (random generation). A secondary endpoint will be the total points accumulated across all 17 weeks for both the study and control lineups.

TL;DR: Three of us are trying to see if we can beat a computer at Daily Fantasy Sports, specifically Daily Fantasy Baseball on DraftKings.


The Lineups


Turf Team Study Lineup

P: Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs – Kyle Hendricks against the Pirates? All-day. Not only is Hendricks a surgeon on the bump, but he’s also crafty with his offspeed stuff. With the majority of this Pirates lineup being born after 1990, look for Hendricks to dominate at Wrigley Field on Opening Day.

P: Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies – To be clear, this is a smart pick. I understand the offensive firepower on the Atlanta roster, but have you seen Aaron Nola pitch? Not only that, the guy has been absolutely lights-out this spring. Aaron Nola is the pick today. You heard it here first.

C: Steven Vogt/Carson Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks – Here’s an odd one for ya, right off the bat. Steven Vogt has fantastic numbers against Yu Darvish in his career, and while he’s a risk, I’m ready for the reward. And if the D-Backs opt to go with Bumgarner’s normal battery mate in Carson Kelly, the pricepoint allows us flexibility, with losing the play.

1B: Carlos Santana, Kansas City Royals – An under-the-radar offseason move, and frankly, I love it. Carlos Santana is a big bat in an already potentially potent lineup. This was a no-brainer at his price point.

2B: Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks – I like this pick because it’s solid on the surface, but the numbers aren’t totally there. Marte is by far the Diamondbacks’ most valuable asset, and you’ve gotta like his bat and his speed on the basepaths. With a lot of players opting to take Darvish in a Padres stack, I’ll take Marte going against that.

3B: Alec Bohm, Philadelphia Phillies – This kid RAKES. Seriously. Bohm’s coming off an “almost Rookie of the Year season” in the shortened 2020 campaign, and I don’t think he’s going to slow down too much. If this Phillies team is going to live up to expectations, Bohm has to continue his rise. I’m banking on that.

SS: Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres – WHY WOULD YOU NOT TAKE TATIS, JR. IF YOU HAVE THE MONEY? WHY?

OF: Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals – Whit’s lit and, as I’ve stated this offseason, I like what the Royals have done. I’m not expecting Merrifield to slow down this season, and especially not in Texas on Opening Day.

OF: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers – It’s Mookie Betts. He’s incredible. Also, Coors game. It’s simple.

OF: Joc Pederson, Chicago Cubs – Joc Pederson was on another level this spring, as he makes his home in Chicago. Look for big things from Joc as he’s ready to turn on the gas in 2021.


The Computer-Generated Optimized Lineup

P: Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays – I thought about this pick for our study lineup, but opted to roll a different way. The Marlins can be tricky and while Glasnow has the stuff, this matchup could turn quickly. The Marlins are trying to prove that their 2020 wasn’t a fluke.

P: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers – The Colorado Rockies are not going to be the team they were a few years ago, as the front office and management do not know how to run a successful team. That being said… I don’t know if I love the pick of Kershaw at Coors Field. That’s a high-risk/high-reward play.

C: Austin Barnes, Los Angeles Dodgers – Game at Coors Field? Sure, that works for everyone. The only thing I don’t love about the Dodgers stack in this lineup is the starting pitcher they’re facing. Yes, the Rockies are a trash heap right now, but German Marquez is the best thing going for this organization. I wouldn’t sleep on him as hard as this lineup does.

1B: Carlos Santana, Kansas City Royals – An inadvertent duplicate pick. Must mean we’re doing something right! Or it means that the Royals are about to absolutely smash the Rangers.

2B: Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers – A solid pick. Lots of upside if he can pull it together for the Dodgers in Colorado.

3B: David Bote, Chicago Cubs – A nice play against the awful Pirates. Saving cap space where you can.

SS: Fernando Tatis, Jr. – Same as us.

OF: Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals – Soler blew up in 2019 for KC but fell back to Earth in 2020. If he can find his swing again, the sky’s the limit.

OF: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers – Same as us.

OF: Kyle Isbel, Kansas City Royals – So, this took me by surprise. Had no idea what this pick was, and then I looked closer. While the computer is going to give us Coors-heavy lineups, they’ll also be digging up some serious sleepers. This is one of them.


Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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