Monday, February 10, 2014

Why looking at just overall points from last season is a terrible strategy.

Every year around this time I see people getting into the discussions of player X over player Y. People try to use stats to back up their claims (rightly so) but don’t understand why some stats are better and more valuable than others. So, I’m just going to bluntly say this: total points is a garbage stat to use.
Let me make the disclaimer that this article is aimed at people who will take an active managing their teams and are willing to look a bit deeper at some stats. Why? Because we need to look at multiple stats and factors about why a player is worth owning. 

Here’s the first three questions we need to answer to start narrowing down our list of potential players for our fantasy teams.

1.       Is this player a starter?
2.       What was this player’s PP90 or PPG?
3.       Did this player change positions in real life or as classified in the fantasy game?

“Is the player a starter?” is the most important question to ask. If the player isn’t a starter, they won’t be earning points. Not only do they miss out on the basic points from just playing in a game or at least 60 minutes, but they are also missing out on opportunities to score points in any other way that requires them to actually be playing. Last year I took some risks with my lineup to start the season and ended up with a couple players who ended up not being starters, had weak scores the first couple weeks, and was forced to use my wildcard way too early in the season.

“What was this player’s PP90 or PPG?” is the meat and potatoes of player analysis. Why is this better than looking at a player’s total points? Because it takes into account time lost due to international duty and injuries (yes I know that some players have perpetual injury issues). As an example, we’ll look at similarly priced Austin Berry (144 points, 3060 minutes played) and Jermaine Taylor (120 points, 2142 minutes played). Yes, Austin Berry earned 22 points more, but he played almost 1,000 minutes more over the season. If we just look at last year’s regular season PPG, Austin Berry scored 0.4 fewer PPG. If we extrapolate that over the season, it is 13 points lower score than what Jermaine Taylor would have scored (assuming his production per game stayed the same). If we do that same analysis while looking at PP90 instead of PPG, the difference is twice as large. 

Now, we have to pay attention to which measure to use. Some players almost always are subbed out of the game, so it doesn’t make sense to use PP90 for those players. Last year, Mauro Rosales was a perfect example of this as his PP90 was a whopping 1.7 points higher than his PPG. However, I don’t think he lasted a full 90 minutes in any game all season long. So, we know that it makes more sense to utilize his PPG instead of his PP90.

“Did this player change positions in real life or as classified in the fantasy game?” is another important question to ask and the answer can either hurt or help a player’s fantasy production. Amobi Okugo was classified as a midfielder last year but actually played as a center back. Because of that, he missed out on 33 points he would have earned if classified as a defender, as he is this year. On the flip side, Rodney Wallace was classified as a defender but played as a midfielder and earned 30 clean sheet points that he won’t have the potential to earn this year. These position reclassifications (as well as changes to the scoring system) are taken into account in my upcoming tables that show PP90. There are also cases of players who will play a different position this year than they did last year. Landon Donovan looks like he will be one of them, as The Bruce said that Donovan will likely be pushed back into midfield this year. It is impossible to quantify how that might change his fantasy production, but I’m willing to bet it will be worse this year than last year, simply because of the actual position change.


  1. How do you find out their Points Per Game? I am setting up my team for 2014 and I cannot seem to find the amount of games my players have played last season.

  2. Are there any good starters for cheap? Because it seems hard to get big-point-earners (which I'd imagine is a good strategy) and have 18 starters.

    Is there a trick like "Players A and B will most likely start and they're both only $4.5" or is it okay to have a few non-starters to fill out the 18?

  3. Finding cheap starters is always a tough endeavor. I've taken risks in that department and been burned in the past, so am trying to be much more careful this year by simply selecting more expensive players who I KNOW will start.

    I currently have 3 players on my squad who will play zero minutes (or close to it) this year, They cost $4.0 and allow me to upgrade my other players. I've been toying with the idea of having 4 of those players and have Dylan Remick on my team ($4.0) who is tentatively starting for Seattle the first week due to Leo Gonzalez being injured.