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Advanced MLB DFS: xFIP

We continue our breakdown of the basics for MLB DFS. In this section, we look at xFIP, with definitions and some basic strategy.

Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals delivers a pitch during the spring training game against the Houston Astros at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 22, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

If you have reached this level, you’ve likely been playing some form of fantasy baseball for a while now. We might think about fundamentals as applicable to beginners, but there are fundamentals even an expert level player can learn — or at least brush up on. For DFS, that means understanding how the batted ball profile statistics can help you build your lineups.

xFIP

Definition

xFIP, or Expected Field Independent Pitching, is a pitching stat that is based on outcomes that do not involve defensive play. xFIP uses strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches and fly balls allowed to approximate a pitcher’s ERA by assuming league average results on balls in play.

Strategy

With many statistics that try to show how lucky or unlucky a player has been, we need to compare their career averages to recent play. With xFIP, the statistic tries to show how well a pitcher is pitching if you brought his statistics, based on luck, back to average.

xFIP is a good predictor of how a pitcher will pitch as his luck evens out on balls put into play and is a much truer look at ERA. Comparing it to a pitcher’s actual ERA is useful to see how unlucky they’ve been, but just comparing xFIP across a slate of starting pitchers is also a good way to see who the best pitcher has been recently and with less luck clutter.

GPP vs. Cash

xFIP numbers are useful across the board but if you want to win a GPP contest, you must have good strikeout numbers. xFIP is a good predictive statistic for overall pitching ability long term, which means it is the best to use when evaluating pitchers for total ability versus just strikeout ability. If you are playing in a GPP matchup, I’d use this statistic to see how well the pitcher has been throwing, but I would also make strikeout numbers a big part of the equation. In cash, I would defer to xFIP, as it helps us decide less risky options.

Splits

We can’t be assured that a pitcher will face a certain number of lefties or righties in any matchup, but we can see how many lefties vs. righties each team sends out in their average lineup. Some teams are going to be stronger against one side of the plate than the other and if your pitcher matches up well against a lineup based on splits, you are in business.