Monday, February 24, 2014

PP90 and finding undervalued players

I found some time to actually work with some data and do some analysis! This post will combine two ideas: PP90 and finding players who were underpriced based on last season’s production. PP90 is simply a player’s total points divided by the total minutes they played last season. I adjusted for players who had their position reclassified (e.g. removed clean sheet points for Mike Magee) and also added back points from Big Chances Fluffed. The data does not adjust for second assists, as I just don’t have time to manually enter that data (Valeri, who had the most second assists last season, saw his PP90 increase by less than 5%). All data is from the regular season, as I feel playoffs are such a crapshoot as teams play differently in the do-or-die situation.

Looking at undervalued players is the bulk of this post, as I believe it is more important than looking at raw PP90 because of salary cap restrictions. I ran a regression that looked to see what PP90 a player with a given price is expected to get (e.g a player priced at 11.0 should get about 6.25 PP90). The column labeled “difference between expected and actual” is the important one for these purposes. The larger the number, the more undervalued the player is.

There’s a catch. PP90 assumes that the player played every minute and that their rate of return remained the same. We know this is absolutely untrue for a few reasons: players get subbed in/out so don’t play 90 minutes, and maintaining a constant rate of return is basically so improbable that we know that assumption is wrong. However, this is the best way to compare players because it normalizes our measure of comparison so we are comparing apples to apples. We must couple this knowledge with our knowledge of who is starting (Keane), who is a backup that will get starts when someone else is injured or away on national team duty (Opara), and who comes on (Alhassan) and off (Rosales) as substitutes.

If a cell is highlighted in red, it is within the top 10% for all players for that category. So, Robbie Keane is in the top 10% for both PP90 and how undervalued he is, whereas Diego Valeri is only in the top 10% for PP90.

FIRST TIER – priced 10.5 to 11.0

This is where we want to start to build our team; the big guns who will often wear the captain’s armband. Even though these players are the most expensive in the game, many are still underpriced. Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan lead the charge, but shouldn’t lead many lines to start the season because LA have a couple bye weeks and a bunch of away games to start the season. 

Those of you who followed my blog last year know how much I value the consistency of bonus points over the more sporadic points from goals and assists. I recommended Higuain over and over again in the lead up to and throughout the season and will do so again, though he is more appropriately priced this year. Valeri and Zusi are the other players I highly recommend in the top tier. I’ve also had Brad Davis in and out of my lineup to start the season, mostly because of Houston’s favorable schedule to start the season.

SECOND TIER – priced 9.5 to 10.0

This is an interesting tier to pick from. A lot of the players have big reputations and are better players in real life than they are in the fantasy game. Olave, Collin, and Martins are the three players from this tier that I’ve considered for my team. I’ve gone with Martins for my team due to Seattle’s favorable schedule. Wondolowski is another interesting player because last season’s fantasy output was hampered by him playing on a broken foot most of the year. He’s a bit of a poacher and doesn’t produce a ton of bonus points, but I think he’s not as over-valued as these stats suggest.

THIRD TIER – priced 8.5 to 9.0
 There’s a lot of interesting options in this tier and most are pretty appropriate priced. Even with Wallace losing his clean sheet points because of his position reclassification, he is way undervalued. He is injured to start the season and Portland’s signings might see him left out of the 11 even if he were healthy. Le Toux and Futty are also possible victims of reworked rosters. I’m going with a strong backline this year with centerbacks who score goals and rack up CBIs. I have Chad Marshall and Matt Hedges in my team at the moment while Okugo and Bernardez have been in and out. I also am looking closely at Kenny Miller as I think he’ll play a bigger role with Camilo gone.

FOURTH TIER – priced 7.5 to 8.0

This is the tier you will either ignore completely or have a bunch of players on your roster depending on the general strategy you take: a bunch of solid players or several players from the first two tiers and a bunch of players from fifth tier or below. This is where you want to take a risk or two, in my opinion and many of these players have the potential for much higher returns than they saw last year. Salinas is one of the most underrated players in the league and his style of play is conducive to fantasy… if he can stay healthy. Lots of these players have changed teams (Rosales, Hurtado, Cooper, Beitashour) or have their minutes in danger due to new signings (Traore, Michel, Casey, Neagle). I like to avoid such situations until we can see who is the first choice and how their role looks to contribute in fantasy terms.

FIFTH TIER – priced 6.5 to 7.0

The budget starters. Don’t really want to start most of these guys, but don’t really have a choice. There’s a lot of potential value to be had in this group, if these guys can lock down minutes. Ike Opara is the obvious standout, but he isn’t a starter until Besler goes to the national team (at which point I’ll grab him). Barklage, Saad, Plata, Osorio, Duka all look like great plays this year if they get some serious minutes. Of those, Duka looks the most nailed on and is in my team. Saad is also in my team at the moment as my one risky player who might not start.

I want to make a point or two while discussing this tier, as most of these players are outside backs or defensive midfielders. Avoid them both. Defensive midfielders are almost always overvalued in the fantasy game and their ceiling simply isn’t high enough to warrant inclusion. 2-4 points is a pretty normal return for these guys, which doesn’t cut it for me. Outside backs also aren’t worth it when compared to center backs. Aside from clean sheets, goals and CBI had the highest correlation with PP90 for defenders, which are the categories center backs score higher in than outside backs.

SIXTH TIER – priced 6.0 and below

I did not include these players in this analysis because there are very few starters within this group. That said, there are always players in this group who will be starters for chunks of the season. A good way to keep up with these potential bargain basement finds is to read and participate on reddit.

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