Fantasy Football – The Moneyball Method.
Written by @TheSarjeant
Moneyball is a concept used in baseball that essentially focuses on identifying overlooked and undervalued players using statistical analysis and selling overrated and overvalued players. Using the Moneyball concept in Fantasy Football to help create your team or modify it during the season is a great way to help you achieve a good overall rank come the end of the season.
Finding good value players who are budget friendly is essential to creating a good Fantasy Football team; it enables you to include the more expensive players who tend to be consistent, explosive and score the most points – this makes them a better value pick over the cheaper players when choosing your captain. Creating the right balance of these two groups of players is key when selecting your team. Each season, there’s always a few great value players we can exploit at the cheaper end of the market. Sometimes, these players are obvious choices like Mahrez and Dele Alli last season, and Kane the season before. But sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to unearth these gems – and that’s where statistics come into play.
Scoring goals is the bread and butter of an attacking Fantasy asset as this brings in the most points – strikers receive 4 points for scoring a goal and midfielders get 5 points, whereas they both only receive 3 points for an assist. Couple that with bonus points and the Bonus Point System (BPS), for scoring a goal midfielders receive 18 BPS and forwards 24 BPS, as opposed to just 9 BPS for creating a goal. However, both positions will receive -3 BPS for missing a big chance, -1 BPS for a shot off target, 3 BPS for creating a big chance and 1 BPS for a key pass. Goal scorers are far more likely to rack up the points than the player who created the goal and this is why I look primarily at a players goal threat and their assist potential as an added extra.
Sometimes though, the chief creators cannot be ignored – like Mesut Özil in 2015/16 (19 assists) and Cesc Fàbregas in 2014/15 (18 assists), for example. The sheer volume of goals that they created make them hard to ignore.
When judging a players goal threat, we need to look at two key areas: their shot location and the accuracy of their shots. A player shooting from inside the box is far more likely to score than one who often tries his luck from range. So, in my opinion, the best two stats to look at are ‘shots inside the box’ and ‘shots on target’.
Peter Blake (@artemidorus_1) has written an excellent article on which underlying metrics to look at to maximise your points, which can be found here: https://mathematicallysafe.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/fantasy-premier-league-underlying-stats-201617-gameweeks-1-3
There are a further two factors to take into consideration when determining a players value. The first is what position they are classed as on the Fantasy Premier League game and what position they actually play in. A striker in the game who actually plays in midfield can be very problematic – their goal scoring opportunities are reduced by them playing in a deeper role. But, a midfielder in the game playing as a striker in real life can be golden.
The second factor to take into consideration is whether the player takes any set pieces. Penalty takers can be very valuable and the same applies to players who take direct free kicks, just as Dimitri Payet showed us last season. Players who take corners and indirect free kicks are appealing too, as they have the potential to create a goal.
Looking at underrated players and differentials (players with a low ownership) is a great way to potentially boost you up the rankings. Having a differential in your team that goes on a hot streak is invaluable – you get all the points and the majority of the managers playing the game won’t. Be careful though, having too many differentials can be risky and remember, some players have a low ownership for a reason.
Most weeks, the same 2-3 players will be the highest captained, so choosing a different player than those 2-3 can be a massive differential. In Gameweek 3, Agüero and Ibrahimovic were the two highest captained players and they both blanked. If you didn’t captain one of these and the player you did captain brought in some returns, then you would have gained a massive amount on your rivals. Sometimes it’s best to have a herd mentality when it comes to selecting your captain as you can easily be left behind by making the wrong choice. But, if you do your research and can make a strong case for captaining another player, then the rewards can be fruitful.
Having highly owned players in your team can also be a bit of a differential. If you have three players who are owned by 30% of managers individually, then this doesn’t mean a third of the game own them all. The collective ownership of these players could be around 1 in 10.
Clearing out overrated players (high ownership players who are under-performing) and overvalued players (expensive players who are under-performing) can gain you a huge edge as you won’t be stuck with a player highly owned or highly priced not scoring many points. Trying to stay ahead and knowing when to drop a player is always a hard thing to do, especially if they’ve been a good source of points earlier in the season. Managers tried to anticipate Leicester dropping off last season by offloading Mahrez and Vardy and that backfired hugely. But managers can sometimes keep too much faith in their players and they end up keeping a player who goes on a barren run for weeks.