An open letter to FPL…again.
Guest Post from Mr. FuzzyWarbles. Read, Enjoy..drop him a comment on Twitter
Editor’s Note: Fuzzy wanted to clarify that he is not calling for Bailly’s clean sheet to be taken away, that FPL rewarded him fairly based on their rules, but sees that the rule is flawed and should be re-evaluated for future seasons.
Dear FPL Towers,
So, we meet again.
I wrote to you last year to get clarification on how clean sheets are awarded in the FPL game, how there exists, in my view, an inherent flaw with the way players are credited for minutes played, and how these two issues can conflict with each other. The situation first came to light last season when Cedric was injured and removed from a match, crossing the touch line moments before the clock turned 60:00. So I emailed FPL for answers to some questions. Initially, I was given a response, albeit an automated one, that did not really answer the questions I had about, what would soon be referred to as over social media, “Cedric-gate”. Later, with the issue having gained attention, I was given a personal response from a member of your team, but I was still left with unanswered questions. This past weekend, a similar incident occurred and I want to make another attempt at bringing light to this matter for the purpose of integrity and improvement to the FPL game. Be forewarned – I am a bonafide nerd. Try to hang in there…
First, before I break down what I see as a flaw in your game and offer a solution to remedy it, I want to let it be known that I love the FPL game and think your team does a fantastic job. There is a reason why your game has been and continues to remain the standard by which all other fantasy Premier League formats are measured. I have been playing fantasy sports before FPL existed and, a bit embarrassing to divulge, before the term “fantasy” was even used. I grew up a fanatic with baseball and, like most baseball fanatics, there seems to be a universal personality trait shared between us – we love statistics and we love to measure our knowledge with our peers. Back in the day known as the 20th century, I used to play what was then known as rotisserie baseball. Before websites were creating fantasy leagues and calculating data, a small contingent of nerds like myself, scattered across the United States, formed our own leagues and compiled our own data. Needless to say it was a labor of love. What can be done now with a smartphone in the palm of your hand in seconds once required hours of record-keeping.
I provide a bit of backstory in the hopes that it will add weight to my inquiry. Give me a moment more….
Now, let’s turn the clock back nearly a decade ago, when I was first exposed to your game. Regardless of what you make of my remarks that follow, I want to praise you for creating such a fantastic game. Before, fantasy was about getting a few buddies together and playing in a league where you have a draft and no one owns the same player. At first, I wasn’t sure what the appeal would be for your format, where you are given a budget and you are playing against the world, in which a player could be owned, theoretically, by anyone or no one at all. It was a stroke of genius. What your format did and continues to do is to create a real community, a global community, of enthusiasts who share opinions, ideas, stories of success or failure…the game accomplished something new and exciting that none of its predecessors could boast. Eventually, my passion for this game led to me writing about it as an occupation. So please, if nothing else, I ask you not view my idea or my opinion as an attack on what you have created. I have been playing long enough to have witnessed that the FPL game is open to tinkering with its own rules in order to make it a better game. You have proven that, if it is in the best interests of the millions of players of your game, you are willing to adapt. Such has been the case with how bonus points are awarded in a match or what constitutes an assist, to name a couple of examples over the years. So, while the game is a beautiful one, it is by no means flawless, and I simply want to assist in bringing the game to as close as flawless as possible.
Right, so let me get to the issue at hand, which was given further light over the weekend when Eric Bailly was replaced around the hour mark after getting injured. At the core, this involves minutes played by a given player, and how that relates to the awarding of clean sheets. In your response to me last year regarding Cedric, you pointed out that a defender needs to complete 60 full minutes in order to qualify for a cleans sheet. You stressed the idea of “completed minutes”. I understand the rule. However, this concept of “completed minutes” has a flaw built straight into it. Unless a substitution occurs precisely on a minute with :00 seconds showing, then any substitution is going to add up to two players completing a total of 89 minutes, with one minute shared. But, with your system, the substitute is always awarded a completed minute that they did not complete.
Now, there are only two instances in a match where this can manipulate the score for a player, on the 30 minute mark and on the 60 minute mark. Let’s first examine how your current setup can be somewhat contradictory using the more frequently-occurring “60th minute” situation. As was the case with Cedric last year, the defender was injured and walked over the touchline around the 59:50 mark, to replaced by, if memory serves, Maya Yoshida. For that match, Cedric would be awarded 59 minutes played and Yoshida, 31 minutes. That seems to make sense if one doesn’t pause to think for a moment. It is the same for any starter/substitute replacement, whether it happens in the 23rd minute or the 78th minute, the starter will get credited with having played the number of minutes he completed. But you realize after consideration, if the notion that completed minutes is how a given player “earns” that minute, then how can one explain Yoshida being credited for 31 minutes? Stepping onto the playing field at 59:50, by my stopwatch, Yoshida has played only 30 full minutes with an additional 10 seconds.
Now, I can see an argument made that Yoshida getting credited for 31 minutes does not alter his score, so what’s the problem. Well, then I point out the issue if that the same injury/replacement scenario occurs between the 30th and 31st minute. With the setup the way it is, if Cedric leaves the match at 30:30, replaced by Yoshida, Cedric is awarded 30 minutes played and Yoshida, 60 minutes. Yoshida now qualifies for a potential clean sheet, despite the reality that he only actually played 59 full minutes. (59 minutes, 30 seconds in this example). Basically, what it comes down to, in my view, is that the game is set up in such a way so that everything adds to 90. If a starter plays the full match, simple, 90 minutes have been played. Any starter who is subbed, the two connected players’ minutes need to add up to 90. I can see how there might be an issue if minutes added up to only 89. (Though I swear looking back at a box score in FPL last year, I saw a case where two players’ times added up to 89.)
So here is my first point. Why, in these situations, should the benefit of the doubt, or any extra credit automatically go to the substitute? If completed minutes is a sacred concept, then the current arrangement is flawed.
I have a solution but I want to offer another example of something that can happen to unfairly reward or punish fantasy managers, and it was Bailly’s injury on Sunday that shed more light. Let’s say a defender who started and has yet to concede, suffers a nasty injury in the 50th minute. (This is only an example, I hope it’s obvious I wish no serious injury to anyone for any reason) Let us then say the injury is of a sensitive nature that requires slow movement of a player, a stretcher, and when all is said and done, it takes 10 minutes to physically remove the player from the field. Let’s say at 60:05, the injured player crosses the touchline, his replacement running on. Here, we have a situation where the defender was actively playing for 50 minutes and still qualifying for a clean sheet. Does he deserve it? I think you would agree with me that, despite feeling bad for the injured chap, no, he does not deserve credit.
So, while I support the concept of “minutes completed”, I think there are situations where it can unfairly cost fantasy managers. Here is the solution I proposed last year and will do so again. Round off the minute of a given substitution, and credit it to the starter or the substitute depending on the timing within that minute.
In other words, when it comes to the controversial 60th minute – Starter is removed between 59:00-59:29 – the substitute earns that minute, because he played more of it. From 59:30 to 59:59, the starter earns the minute, because he played most of it. What this would require is a member of your team dedicated to monitoring these substitutions closely. While I have no earthly idea as to the size of your staff, considering how timely and correctly other scoring is addressed, or an injury flag appears/disappears on your FPL page, it would lead me to believe that you have a dedicated staff around the clock doing all sorts of tasks. This would be a task worth adding. And I will volunteer myself to do this task if you need an extra hand.
The other idea, which could improve the current setup and addresses further that example I gave earlier about a player who is injured on 50 minutes and is not off the pitch for another 10 minutes getting a clean sheet, is this:
Anytime there is a stoppage of play because a player is injured and requires medical treatment, the playing time for that player should be immediately paused by whoever is monitoring the match for your site, and noted. If the injury turns out not to force the player off, you can bin the time stamp of when play stopped to attend to him and add his completed minutes up as one normally would.
However, if a player’s injury stops the action and the injury results in the removal of that player, that moment when play is stopped is the moment that player has completed his action, not when the player is eventually crossing the touchline. This makes complete sense to me, in terms of fairness. Again, using the example of a player seriously injured on 50 minutes, call it 50:10, and not crossing the touchline until, say 60:10….in this situation, the referee will eventually add the 10 minutes of stoppage time to the end of 90 minutes. So, the substitute, even if coming on at 60:10, should actually be credited for 40 minutes played, not 30, even though, counting backwards, that has him coming on at 50:10. While physically not present on the pitch when the clock reads 50:10, the substitute, in effect, is playing 39 minutes and 50 seconds because, it will be 29 minutes of action from when he is introduced plus an additional 10 minutes of stoppage time. Stoppage time that the sub is playing, not the injured player. Who deserves more credit? A player that is injured and is granted 10 minutes of “playing time” when those 10 minutes are spent on the ground surrounded by a medical team? Or does that player’s replacement deserve those 10 minutes? With Bailly on Sunday, the lad very slowly made his way off the pitch.
For a solution, again — when a player gets an injury that stops the action, make a mental note of the clock when the play stops. If the player continues, nevermind that note. If the player cannot, that moment play stopped is the moment where his time ends and his replacement’s time begins. Even in the event a manager has used all three of his subs then an injury happens to force a player off, that players’ minutes should cease being awarded the moment he is down and out for good.
Occasionally, a player might go down hurt, play stops, the player gets back into the action in an attempt to play on, then goes to ground again, this time for good, and comes off. In that situation, follow the same logic – when the player stops play the first time around, make a note of the time. If the player is back in the action, erase the note. The same player then fails in his attempt to go on, goes down again and play stops. Pause the clock again. Now the player is being subbed after a minute or two down. You measure his time removed from the game only when the action is stopped AND the player is done for the day.
What I propose to you in this letter is all in the matter of integrity and fairness. It is not an attempt to gain a personal advantage and, as a Tottenham fan who witnessed an end to a tradition known as St. Totteringham’s Day this past weekend, which had hung over me like a storm cloud for over two decades, believe me when I tell you – this matter isn’t ruining my day. However, as mentioned earlier, I am a passionate player of your game. Every day, I am talking fantasy PL with people all over the world via social media. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am having a blast while simultaneously experiencing nervous breakdowns because this guy didn’t start when I thought he would or that guy missed a pen, or that other guy got a cheap assist after diving (yeah you, Marcus Rashford). Point being, it is the stat nerd and lover of sport in me that pens letters like this. There is no venom here. I think you folks do a great job.
I should be credited for spending an hour writing this up, but in fairness, I only worked on this for 59 completed minutes 😉