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MLB GPP Strategy: Getting the Most Bang for Your Salary Cap Dollar
by Daveinchi,

"It's all relative!"

In my day job as a professor of ethics, this is the phrase and way of thinking that comes natural to my students - so natural, that my first duty toward my class is to break them of such thinking. Like Ivan Drago just before the big fight with the Eye-talian Stallion, I stand before my students on the first day of the class thinking, "I must break you," sans pseudo-Russian accent, of course. How else might I get them to understand that Kant's categorical imperative is a law that is not contingent upon the weather?

Yet, in daily fantasy gaming, the objectivity of statistics is taken for granted. We game under the assumption that our cherished statistical data is not all relative, because we need those stats to function as indicators of future performance. In this article, my goal will be to "break you" of your dogmatic devotion to the objectivity of statistics and introduce you to a way of thinking that my introductory Ethics students are all experts at - the relativity of value.

"It's all relative!"

Any daily fantasy gamer worth his or her respective salt knows the value of statistics. In more candid moments, those gamers will admit that no matter what statistical data they reference when making roster decisions on both hitters and pitchers, they are forced to relativize that data in determining the values of those players. All of the daily gaming sites employ statistical formulas that weigh various statistical indicators against each other in determining a given player's price for a given day. Ideally, we would have access to these formulas such that we could determine which stats we can safely ignore in determining whether or not pitcher X or hitter Y is a "good value" for that day's games, yet, like the dog in the Busch's Baked Beans commercials, "they're [he's] not telling!" So, how are we to determine whether or not a given player is a good value for the day, without knowing how that player's price was set? In short, we can only guess, but that guess can be an educated one if we "relativize" those players' respective values against each other - exactly what this means will become clear shortly.

Let's get clear on what it means to think "in relation" when we daily fantasy sports players start thinking through our various roster choices. The first thing to consider is our opponent(s). Let's consider a typical GPP (Guaranteed Prize Pool) lineup - our opponents are anywhere from 39 to 249 or more other gamers who (presumably) have all done their homework. They know which hitters hit which pitchers well. They know which ball parks are "hitter's parks" and which are "pitcher's parks". Never underestimate your opponents and think they do not do this sort of research as well - after all, they also play for "bread and meat." Yet, many of your GPP opponents think about the stats with which we all measure these players, objectively. Indeed, if I say to myself, "Bruce Chen sucks because his era is 5.00," then, I am making an objective claim about Bruce Chen based upon his statistics, but even Bruce Chen can pitch a good game and sometimes, it is possible to recognize that Bruce Chen is a good "value pick" prior to that rare Bruce Chen pitched good game. To say that a player is a good value pick is to say that his likely performance should exceed his price. Yet, this way of talking about a player's expected performance is far too simplistic, because in selecting our lineups, we have to make decisions between players who are priced at different prices and we must make those selections with a salary cap in mind.

"It's all relative!"

Say it, live it, breathe it, my friends. In daily fantasy baseball, everything is relative. Player Value is relative. Whether a hitter or a pitcher's stat-line is a good one, is relative. Stats which look good objectively suddenly lose their value when they are relativized to a given situation. So, now that we are thinking "in relation," let's apply this way of thinking to our game to make what is a typical decision in the construction of a GPP lineup - which SP's to select. In order to do this, we will consider the Relative Player Value (RPV) of a select group of pitchers without worrying too much about the specifics of what park the pitcher is pitching in, or the quality of the opposing lineup.

Suppose, our guy, Bruce Chen is priced at 8K for that night's game and comes into the game averaging 4.0 fantasy points per game. Suppose our other options are Jon Lester at 13K and 5.6 (avg points scored per game), Cole Hamels at 17K and 6.8, and Derek Lowe at 4K and 2.1. Which two pitchers should we take? Given that we have a salary cap, we need to get as many points per buck as possible. The RPV's on the above pitchers are:

Chen 0.50 per 1K
Lester 0.43 per 1K
Hamels 0.40 per 1K
Lowe 0.53 per 1K

By thinking "in relation," we have determined that Chen and Lowe are "better" picks than Hamels and Lester, despite the objective fact that Hamels and Lester are better pitchers than Chen and Lowe in terms of their average fantasy points scored. Sure, our 2 selections will likely score 6.3 fewer fantasy points than Hamels-Lester, but we have saved 18K on our pitching in this particular GPP lineup - 18K that we can use toward bettering our hitting, or getting a 3rd SP, or getting 2 ace closers, as opposed to 2 below average closers.

"It's all relative!"

Another thing to consider here is the ceilings and basements of pitchers in relation to hitters. Even a pitcher who throws a 7K no hitter will likely score fewer fantasy points than a hitter who homers twice (depending on how many times they strike out). Alternatively, a pitcher who gets bombed for 8 runs in 2 innings will score more negative points than a hitter who strikes out 3 times in 4 AB's with no hits. Yet, because we are playing in a GPP tournament, this is a consideration that we should ignore. Our pitcher selections need to be great or we will not win. So, if you are scared away from Derek Lowe because he is more likely than Cole Hamels to have a really BAD game, you aren't playing to win the gpp anyways - you are playing to finish in the middle of the pack. GPP's are not won by people who play it according to Hoyle - they are won by gamers who take calculated risks. They are won by gamers who think "in relation". If Derek Lowe has a good matchup and he has the best RPV out there - you take him. When he scores a measly 4.2 points to Cole Hamels' 6.8, you will know that you made the right decision - that 13K you saved is doing work for you elsewhere and you will be one of the few gamers in your gpp who had Derek Lowe or Bruce Chen's "good game".

Daveinchi, as always, bringing the pain!

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