Daily Fantasy: You don't have to spend the entire salary cap

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

How many times this year have you built your DFS lineup, realized you had some salary cap left over and gone back to replace one of your players with a more expensive player in order to use the maximum amount of salary cap you’re allotted?

We are driven by two principles to use every last dollar. First, we’re taught from way back not to waste. It’s starts with being forced to finish all the food on our plates, right? If we’re fortunate enough to have something worthwhile, we had better not squander it. Second, to varying degrees, we strive for perfection. A perfectly balanced checkbook is an ideal for some money mongers. Pouring out the exact right number of tubes for an experiment is a small victory for some scientists. Eating a meal such that you’re left with exactly one bite of each food is satisfying, or even necessary to certain people. Everyone falls along this spectrum somewhere, ranging from “Oh wow, it worked out perfectly, how fun!” to full-on obsessive-compulsive disorder, where ordinary activities often become impossible due to their inability to meet such perfection demands.

Thus, some people will want or need to use more of their DFS salary cap than others. The fact is that there is no bonus for using the entire $50,000 on DraftKings. It’s really easy to do too, which plays right into our “do not waste” mantra. Side note: There used to be a site that was bought by DraftKings called DraftStreet, where each player’s salary was down to the dollar. So Todd Frazier might have been $11,249, Buster Posey $12,107, and so on. To zero out your salary cap on DraftStreet was not simple math; it was high art (aka luck). On these rare occasions when it happened -- I did it once or twice -- the more superstitious among us wouldn’t dare to change the lineup. To mess with perfection, well, it’s simply not something one did, despite the fact that zeroed-out lineups didn’t win any more than others. Consider the following examples, which I picked blindly (before looking at the numbers), because they’re moves I could see myself being tempted to make.

1. You have Adam Lind, facing a weak righty, rostered at first base for $3,800. You build the rest of your lineup and wind up with $1,300 left over. What a waste! You go back and see that you could fit Miguel Cabrera -- a much better baseball player -- for $5,000. You make the switch. These guys played on the same night five times over the two-week period I examined. Three of those five nights, Lind outscored Cabrera, and the other two games they were within two fantasy points of each other.

2. You have David Peralta in at $3,900, but again, wind up with a heap of extra cash after building your lineup. You scroll back through the list of outfielders and realize you could afford Jose Bautista -- a much better baseball player -- for $5,200. These guys both played on nine of 10 nights in the two-week period I looked at. Peralta outscored Bautista on five of those evenings.

The better baseball player will always cost more salary cap, and over the course of a season will score more fantasy points, but on any given night there is no guarantee that spending more money will yield more fantasy points.

I always encourage my readers and friends to build a mock lineup outside of their DFS site, before even looking at salaries. What does your ideal lineup look like, irrespective of salary? Who has the best combination of talent and matchup at each position? It’s not always Cabrera and Bautista; that’s for sure. Once you've done the research to arrive at whom you think the best plays are, you can start negotiating the salaries to build your best lineup. That’s the goal: to build the best lineup every night. If you have money left over, leave it. It doesn’t really matter if it’s $200 or $2,000 if you’re putting yourself in the best position to score fantasy points. It gets easier with practice, I promise.