The One Man Wolf Pack is taking you on a tour through the Vegas Sports Books to see what they have to offer in terms of fantasy strategy, and how you can use them to help you win your league. I'm an enormous advocate of using any and all resources that you have available to you in order to gain a competitive advantage. There was a time when most casual players were only reading the pieces written by their fantasy providers, while those who ventured out into the terrifying internet, and came across places such as this, were at a distinct advantage, being privy to different opinions, early breaking news and speculation and suggestions regarding handcuffs, prospects, and the like. As the fantasy sports market continued to boom, the market exploded and now even some of the most casual fans and players find their very own place to get their news and information, so that advantage has all but disappeared, largely. I can even recall Cafe members griping and complaining about the big fantasy providers 'spoiling' their advantage by writing about real sleepers, justified boom and bust potential players, guys to stash coming off the DL, etc. As far as I'm concerned, if you're the only guy in your league putting forth the time and effort to read and learn and study, and have access and knowledge of places like the Fantasy Baseball Cafe, you're in the wrong league brother. That isn't to say you shouldn't still be searching for any other way to gain additional or other information that may help you; because you should. This is where the Vegas Sports Books can help.
Certainly not designed traditionally to be a fantasy resource, that may be why it's one of my favorites. For years now, I have been using Vegas Sports Books to help me pick spot starters using a method that is far from rocket science. What I do is quite simple, really. If I'm in need of a spot start, or simply perusing to see if there's any potential big time value looming in Free Agency, I'll check out my favorite online Sports Book (Bovada, 5 Dimes, even Sports Book Review) to see the following day's starters (lines are generally put out between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. EST, with West Coast games generally being listed later; so if you're in a 'Next Day' Transactions league, you may need to stay up passed your bed time). I'll check out the lines, and see if there's any favorites who may be unowned in my league. So let's say a guy like Bud Norris (only owned in 2.3% of ESPN Leagues) is (hypothetically) coming off as a -155 favorite against the Toronto Blue Jays in his upcoming start on April 10th. Now, you'll see the Clayton Kershaws and Max Scherzers of the world have -300 lines thrown at them, but for a guy puttering around your Waiver Wire, -155 is a beautiful sight. Even -125 can be potential gold. Innings Pitched is a dwindling resource in Rotisserie, so picking somebody who odds makers say has a good chance at picking up a Win (his team at least), is already putting you at an advantage. Is Vegas always right? Of course not. But as a long-time, former degenerate gambler, you'd be unbelievably surprised just how frequently they're right on the money.
It's not just about getting the Win, though. Having your spot starter allow 7 Earned Runs and pick up the Win is like being told you're allowed to drink a beer to wash down the crap sandwich you just ate. You want a decent pitching performance. So I also check the Total Run Line (TRL) Over/Under. A Low Total Run Line indicates Vegas believes the game will be low scoring, which, compounded with their belief that the team that your spot starter pitches for is going to win, benefits you. An average TRL ranges between 7 and 8, but I've seen them as high as 12 or 13, and as low as 5.5, maybe even lower. If you're under 7.5, you should feel pretty good, and the lower, the better.
Lastly, check out the Player Prop Bets, if possible. There will be an Over/Under for number of strikeouts for your spot starter. Assume he will hit that number right on the head. Will he? Who knows, but the guys who break this down and cap it for a living have determined that that is the breaking point number, so who am I to go against the grain? Now, are these measures guaranteed to land you a diamond in the rough spot start? Of course not, but it's data that you have at your disposal that you can choose to use, or ignore. I can say I've been (or at the very least, felt) successful using it as a tool to help guide me for several years now, and feel that I boom much more frequently than I bust.
In Daily Fantasy Leagues, this method could also be used to try and find good value. You can check out a good resource on the Cafe Daily Fantasy Forums, called Using Vegas to Narrow Down Picks, for further information on how to apply this to your Daily Fantasy Roster. Or you can simply pick anyone who is facing the Braves or Rays. Wouldn't fault you for that, either. As always, you can catch up with me on the forums at bigh0rt, where I'm open to discussing any Fantasy University piece past or present, and taking suggestions for what to write about in the future. Dismissed.