Fantasy Sports Strategy - Make Other Teams Beat You - Don't Do it For Them
by ja (orig: 09/26/2008 - modified: 01/27/2011)
In fantasy sports there are a lot of things that go into making a team a great team. They all come down to team management. This includes the preparation for and execution of the draft, the analysis that precedes and the "selling" involved in trading, the unwavering attention the other teams in league and the players available on the waiver wire, and, of course, the discipline and knowledge of current real life sporting events required for the proper setting of lineups. This article will focus on the discipline part. The others will be reserved for later articles.
Before I really got into writing this article I scoffed even at the concept of writing it. It almost seemed like a given. I mean, who needs to be told that setting their lineups is an important thing to do? The answer: most of us. I guess it's similar to asking "who needs to be told why it's a bad idea to run a red-ish yellow light or go faster than the speed limit?" People commit traffic violations all the time and 'the man' has classes devoted to traffic safety for all of those who need to be reminded (I've been reminded before...). The man gets paid our hard earned money to tell us something we already know. I'm giving you this one for free.
It's the same way in fantasy sports with setting lineups. How many owners manage to forget to set their lineups? In one of my leagues this year with 15 owners at least 60% of them forgot at least once about setting their lineups for a given day (to be fair it should be noted that I was one of them). Bad dogs! Do they just ignore the commonly known truth that not setting their lineup (even occasionally) hurts their chances of making the playoffs? The same is true for football in that one missed day can break an entire season. It's hard to remember every day, especially in basketball, but it's in your best interest to try. Here's why...
If you assume that on average 75% of teams who forget to set their lineup for a given day lose the fantasy game that includes that day then that it a staggering number of games given away! In the league I am using as a case study that would mean that atleast 7.5 games were given away (we'll call it eight) somewhere along the season. "Bah...", you say, "Eight games across an entire season... What does it matter? Why should I care?" Well, I'm glad you asked.
Let's take one of the guys who is always in my leagues as an example. To be nice, I'll hide his real name and call him... Kiley (like Wiley the Coyote - he's always trying hard and getting really close but doing something silly to trip himself up). Anyway, Kiley is a pretty good fantasy player. Great with numbers, a strong analytical mind, and a decent sports fan so he tends to do pretty well. By doing pretty well, I mean that he is generally a threat come playoff time each season. You wouldn't want to play him if you could avoid it. Our leagues have been like the western conference is this year (0.5 to 1.5 games separating 4th from 10th place), and he has ended up in 9th in both. He was the definition of a bubble team in both. If he would have won or another team would have lost he would have been in - or sometimes just the other team losing would have been enough.
Kiley does have one tragic flaw (aside from having been a "potato fluffer" at one point in his life) that explains why he has "gone fishing" rather than is playing in the playoffs. At least 2 or 3 times every basketball season he forgets to set his lineup. Effectively he gives away 2 or 3 games every single season. He just plain forgets. Last year the margin between "In the playoffs and out of the playoffs" in the Western Conference was basically one game. What if one team's coach didn't bother putting any players on the court a couple of games (or even quarters) this year? That's how Kiley's situation should be viewed. Coaching robbed him of a shot.
As I mentioned before, for the last two years he has missed the playoffs by the slimmest of margins (he tied for 8th place and lost the tie breaker to get knocked out). I mentioned to him after he got knocked out in the final game of the season that I was thinking about doing a post on this subject. To be a good sport he went back, analyzed the season and found that he had missed three days and that it cost him 2 of those three in wins. It also affected his average per game score by about 6.5 points. The average points turned out not to have mattered as it would not have been enough to get him in, but the two games certainly did. If he had set his lineup he actually would have been a 7th seed rather than a fisherman.
As fantasy owners we do a lot during the preseason and season to get ready for the fantasy playoffs. We need to be aware that little slipups along the way can do major damage to undermine all that work and effort. Set your lineups and put yourself in that other guy's shoes. Wouldn't you rather be the guy that tied Kiley for that last spot and made it into the playoffs instead of being Kiley who lost a tie breaker that didn't even have to happen?