Ask The Shark: Construction Types

The RotoWire soccer columnists do a great job of helping you to identify the “chalk” play of a slate versus those who could be considered more “contrarian” picks. While many who regularly play DFS soccer can come to a similar consensus, too much emphasis of this assessment is on the individual players and too little on the optimal way to piece them together.

Determining the “chalk” lineup construction is sometimes more important than the exact players you choose to roster for a particular slate. Does the texture of the slate call for playing a cheap goalkeeper? Does the player pool at forward scream for a high-priced/low-priced pair? Are there enough value plays in midfield that going cheap to pay up elsewhere is the most effective build? These are the pertinent type of questions to ask *before* getting down to selecting specific players.

For cash contests, determining the “chalk” lineup construction will reduce the competitive edge between you and your opponents, which is especially helpful if they’re better than you. If you’ve nailed the optimal approach, it will often come down to a 2 v. 2 matchup (meaning you share six of eight players) and results decided by the performance of which value midfielder, or which high-priced forward or which mid-tier defender you chose versus your opponent’s. This puts you in a better position to cash, as the lineup overlap eliminates much of the chance that a big mistake costs you placement in a double-up. Having a drastically different lineup construction from other opponents creates more points of failure (as there is less overlap) without any upside benefit because it’s a cash contest, not a GPP.

In GPPs, determining the “chalk” lineup construction is also highly beneficial. Knowing the likely price ranges of each positional slot that many opponents will gravitate toward allows you to predict ownership of specific players. From there, you can pivot to one or two high-upside plays within the scope of that popular lineup construction. You can also choose to deviate completely and build a lineup that is directly opposite the “chalk” construction. People are most likely paying down at defender? Then pay up there. People are most likely taking two high-priced studs? Then go balanced with all mid-tier players. The fact that you’re going contrarian with your construction means ownership on those players should be lower than usual, as their price ranges will likely not fit well into the more popular lineup build. On many occasions, this is the primary formula for success in GPPs.

As always, analyze the lineups of your opponents after lock, especially if you consider them to be superior players. When doing so, focus not as much on the specific picks in their lineups, but on the construction type as a whole. Why did they go in the direction they did? Asking yourself these questions may provide better insight into what you’re doing right or wrong and help refine your skills for future slates.

Onto this week’s question!

Read the rest of this column on RotoWire

Ask The Shark: Paying Up For Certainty

It has been well documented on my podcast and Twitter stream how much I despise playing high-priced, goal-dependent forwards in cash contests. It must have come as quite a shock then to many who saw a $10K Diego Costa sitting in one of my forward slots on this past Saturday’s Premier League slate. Did I have a change of heart? Did I hit the wrong button? Was I on drugs at the time?

The answer to all of these questions is “no.” The reason I chose Costa was because the texture of that specific slate allowed for that type of player selection to be reasonably safer than other options. While six-to-eight-game slates typically favor rostering “accumulators” over goal-dependent scorers (as opposed to small slates where this may not be the case), sometimes the player pool includes enough underpriced value and you can splurge on one of these forwards and still be in good shape even if he doesn’t score.

Be aware, though, that splurging for forwards with high goal-scoring odds in cash contests is not done to capitalize on the player’s upside, but rather as a probabilistic advantage, or what I call “paying up for certainty.” You’re essentially betting that this forward has more of a chance to earn 12 fantasy points with a goal than a similarly priced less goal-dependent player has to accumulate the same points via peripherals. On slates that don’t feature many top midfield options in positive matchups, this can end up being the case.

While this situation may not come up as often for larger slates as it regularly does for smaller ones, it’s definitely something to consider when there’s a slate with forwards at 60%+ goal-scoring odds, and especially when the player pool has several excellent value plays at other positions.

Onto this week’s question!

Read the rest of this column on RotoWire

Ask The Shark: Playing Satellites

It’s a common refrain in DFS that fading highly owned players in GPPs is a legitimate winning strategy. The concept being that when the “chalk” underperforms, you gain a significant boost in placement since the bulk of the field will have these players in their lineups. While this is absolutely true, many of those playing DFS apply this strategy too much in a vacuum. This can often lead to very suboptimal situations, and many will end up failing to do well in GPPs despite utilizing a completely viable strategy on a conceptual level.

Ownership only matters when a lower or similarly priced player can provide equal or better production than one who will be much higher owned. The simplest application of this is in the forward position: the high-priced striker in a heavily favorable matchup will likely have high ownership. Fading him for a forward on a weaker side with potential to score multiple goals is a great way to get similar production for half the price, and if the high-owned striker significantly underperforms, the combination can shoot you right to the top of a GPP.

Where many go wrong with this GPP strategy is applying it without thought to “value plays” as well. The lower the price of a player, the less likely you will be able to find a similarly priced one who can put up at least the same number of points. A cheap midfielder who has been upgraded to a more prominent role in his team’s favorable matchup will likely have high ownership. However, unlike the previous example, fading this type of player is problematic even if you knew that at least 80 percent of the field will roster him.

Pivoting to a similar priced player with a limited floor or upside, while being low owned in comparison, doesn’t actually give you much, if any, advantage since “underperforming” in that price range is practically non-existent. If the high-owned value play produces three fantasy points versus your low-owned differential producing the same, what did ownership really matter? You didn’t gain anything regardless. On the other side, if the high-owned value play produces 12-15 points and you don’t have him, you practically have no shot at cashing.

Playing contrarian in GPPs and weighing ownership into your lineup construction is a winning strategy, just be wise when doing so. Understand that fading value plays, despite potentially being high owned, typically only has downside and rarely ever much upside.

Onto this week’s question!

Read the rest of this column on RotoWire

Ask The Shark: Spreading Your Volume

Statistics are the core of playing daily fantasy sports, and those not utilizing this data to the fullest extent possible are likely leaving money on the table. Goals and assists are obvious and at the forefront of one’s decision-making in DFS soccer, but it’s the peripheral stats that add context to situations that wouldn’t easily be seen by just looking at the scoresheet of a match.

The newly released soccer stats package here at RotoWire bridges this gap better than no other. Player game logs on DraftKings or FanDuel are definitely useful, but can’t be sorted, compared or put into context with the match as a whole. While the resources at WhoScored and FourFourTwo can get quite in-depth, they aren’t geared towards a DFS-playing audience and lack the ability to drill down to what really matters.

Raw data, in and of itself, is only helpful in a limited capacity when using it to predict future outcomes. A striker scored a hat-trick last game; a fullback has put in 14 crosses over the past four games; a midfielder has created seven chances over the past three games. What can you even really do with this information? Statistics mean nothing until they’re put into context. Away versus home; opponent strength; minutes played; formation used. There are a multitude of variables that need to be taken into account when weighing the performance of a player.

Sometimes the makeup of a team’s lineup can drastically affect the output of certain players. This is especially true when determining set-piece responsibilities in an upcoming match. Being able to view player statistics when X+Y are in the starting lineup versus X and Y individually can easily be the difference between going with heavy exposure for a given player or fading them completely. Looking at these player trends over the course of a full season, or just the past few games, or on a per 90-minute average can give your research much more needed context.

If you’re analyzing lineups of the “sharks” in your contests and wondering “why were so many on this player?” when he wasn’t even on your radar for that slate, maybe having a better view of the underlying statistics will shed some light on these picks. Definitely try out the new RotoWire soccer stats package and it just may help you find these smart player selections on a consistent basis. Onto this week’s question!

Read the rest of this column on RotoWire

Ask The Shark: Trusting Your Gut

As someone who focuses on cash games in DFS with a conservative-leaning playing style, I’m always a big proponent of rostering players based more on their propensity to accumulate peripheral points than their goal-scoring ability. Sometimes, however, the player pool, texture and size of the slate calls for “chasing goals” in order to remain competitively positioned in contests. Selecting the safest “floor” players across the board in your lineup may not cut it.

This strategic shift arises primarily in three situations: short slates, wildly uneven slates and/or a thin forward pool. Regular players of DFS soccer are very aware of the first, as short slates are a fairly common occurrence in the sport. When there are only four teams from which to select players (and only two favored or at home), it’s nearly impossible to avoid rostering one who is typically goal-dependent for points. For cash games on these slates, many times choosing the player with the highest goal-scoring odds is a completely viable strategy. Between just two games, not many goals will be scored overall, so the players who do earn those top-level points are definitely at a premium.

Wildly uneven slates are when there are one (and occasionally two) games that involve an extremely heavy favorite and/or a significantly higher goal total relative to the others. Since the greater proportion of that game’s total fantasy points are expected to come through goals and assists rather than peripherals, it may be imperative – even in cash contests – to increase your probability of attaining them. These games are prime targets for forwards to bag braces or hat tricks, and depending on their ownership percentage, it could completely knock you out of contention by not having them.

Lastly, there are sometimes slates, whether it’s due to the specific matchups, injuries, squad rotation, etc. in which there are simply a dearth of adequate “floor” players who are forward-eligible. You pretty much have no choice but to roster one or even two highly goal-dependent players in cash contests. In these situations, be more inclined to select those who provide the best value salary-wise when compared to their anytime scoring odds. This could lead you to the top-priced stud forward as much as a low-tier striker playing for a home underdog – but either way you have the solace that your opponents are stuck in the same strategic situation as well.

Of course, if you feel as if you’re “chasing goals” in cash contests way too often, then it may be your general approach to lineup construction that needs to be reassessed.

Onto this week’s question!

Read the rest of this column on RotoWire