Welcome to From The Upper Deck, my blog about RSL and soccer in general. I have a lot of passion for the beautiful game. I am just a fan that likes to sit in the upper deck and take it all in.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Fantasy Strategy

(Editors Note: This is the first in a new series of articles looking at fantasy soccer that will be written by Nic. I hope you enjoy it)

By Nic Shellabarger

Let me begin by explaining a few things. First, I’m fairly new to soccer. I’ve been a pretty big fan and avid follower for about 3 years now. Before that I played in AYSO. My experience is pretty limited. However, something about the beautiful game has caught my attention (obsession) and lately the hours spent thinking/reading/watching the game have started adding up.

This season I took my first stab at creating an MLS Fantasy Soccer team. I came into it with little knowledge of how fantasy soccer works and my team has suffered because of it.

I am now 7 weeks in. I’ve learned a few things and thought about many things that I need to learn more about. I’m ready to see if I can turn this team around.

The Situation
It’s week 8 and my fantasy team is down in every one of the 14 leagues I’m in. I’m down to 1,365th place overall. It’s time for a strategy change and even though I haven’t had a statistics class for over 15 years, I think it’s time to crunch some numbers.

In fantasy soccer there are four different positions to be filled: goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and forwards. My first task is to crunch some numbers to see which position offers the most value-per-dollar. To do this I have taken the average points earned of the top 30 players in each position (top 20 for goalkeepers) and divided that with the average cost (in millions) of a player in that position.

Goalkeepers                 5.08 pts/million
The goalkeeper is a bit of an exception to most considerations of fantasy soccer statistics. The cost of each goalkeeper is so similar, that I think it’s probably best to go with one that you are familiar with and who is performing well, and not worry too much more about it.

The average goalkeeper has a cost of $5.27, has earned 26.75 points across seven games, and has a point/cost ratio of 5.08 pts/million.

Forwards                      3.41 pts/million
The forwards are the stars. These are the guys that we see on the Goal of the Week videos, the league MVP’s, the Golden Boot winners. Their frequent appearances on the highlight reels make them a tempting purchase.

But, before you stack your front line, consider this. When they score or assist, they score big for your fantasy team. The problem is they don’t score often enough. Forwards don’t often get the attacking bonus that midfielders can, and they almost never get defending bonuses. Their points opportunities are limited and thus they have the lowest points to cost ratio of anyone on the fantasy field.

Yes, get yourself a good forward, but you probably shouldn't run a forward heavy formation on your team.
The average forward has a cost of $8.15, has earned 27.83 points across seven games, and has a point/cost ratio of 3.41 pts/million.

Midfielders                   4.1 pts/million
Like the media darlings on the front line, a good attacking midfielder will have the opportunity to make goals. They are, however, also more likely to rack up assists, key passes, crosses, and attacking bonuses. Defending mids also get in on these points to a lesser extent, but also capitalize on the defending bonuses.

This balance of opportunity makes the midfield possibly the best place to stack players as they have the highest point to cost ratio of any of the field players.

The average midfielder has a cost of $8.13, has earned 33.36 points across seven games, and has a point/cost ratio of 4.1 pts/million.

Defenders                    3.96 pts/million
The right defenders can be a serious boon to your weekly points. Defenders earn points for doing their job over and over again. No highlight reel worthy plays are necessary for a defender to earn points for your team, just good, consistent defending over the course of 90 minutes.

As an added bonus, look for some of the bigger, taller defenders like  Aurelien Collin or Matt Hedges who are likely to add to their points when they score on set pieces.
The average defender has a cost of $7.94, has earned 31.46 points across seven games, and has a point/cost ratio of 3.96 pts/million.

All of these statistics aside, there are going to be outliers. There will be players that consistently score high each week regardless of their position on the field. Get yourself some of these players. However, when you’re looking to fill out the depth of your team, your money is probably better spent creating a dynamic midfield or a solid back line. 

It looks like I have a couple of changes to make on my team!

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