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June 5, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

Keeper League Purgatory

by Jeff Quinton


After taking the last week off, it is good to be back. Today we are talking in-season keeper league strategy (we will get #behavioral next week). More specifically, we will be talking about being in the curious position of being neither a buyer nor a seller—of being in keeper league purgatory. This position does not occur in each league every year. In leagues where half the teams have a shot at a title and the other half clearly do not, every owner is either a buyer or a seller. We have not gathered here today to talk about those leagues because those leagues have no purgatory. No, we are here in this very moment to talk about leagues where first place and, potentially, other top finishes have seemingly been decided, leaving the teams battling for lesser payouts and higher minor league draft picks (or some other similar payout/finish structure) disincentivized to be buyers.

First question of the article: why are these teams disincentivized to be buyers? They are disincentivized because no matter what they buy they are unlikely to meaningfully improve their position. Second question: what do I mean by meaningfully improve their position? Almost a fortnight of Sundays ago I wrote about the fantasy win curve, which denotes the value of an increase in the standings. If the value difference between, let us say, third and seventh is not meaningful, and first and second place are not attainable, then teams likely to finish in the 3-7 range will not be incentivized to sell long term assets for assets that will help them win this year. On top of that, if third-to-seventh-place finishes hold monetary (cash) or long-term (higher picks) value, then these teams will not be incentivize to sell short term assets for long term assets either. Essentially, these teams are incentivized to do nothing; they are in keeper league purgatory.

Standing pat can very well be the correct strategy in order to optimize gains in both the long and short term; however, there are some common negative consequences of standing pat and they are below:

  • Misevaluating your competitive position: assuming that you cannot win and that you cannot fall when either or both is possible (not actually in purgatory).
  • Missing opportunities to improve your team: “staying the course” can make you complacent and lazy; consequently, you miss trades that you did not anticipate.
  • Allowing the top teams to stand pat: if the top teams do not need to trade future production for current production, then the top teams can look toward next season (this, on top of excellent ownership, is how dynasties happen).

If you find yourself in keeper league purgatory, then you need to battle the previously listed follies. An investigation of these follies and a look at how to battle them is below:

Mistake: Misevaluating your competitive position
Corrective Action: Make sure you are actually in purgatory

As per usual, I am going to do a little homo sapiens bashing. Two things: (i) people are bad at forecasting, especially when it comes to themselves, and (ii) people like to view the world in certainties (people do not want to hear there is a 20 percent chance of rain; rather, they want to hear if it will rain or if it will not rain). This means that knowing how the rest of the season will play out, whether that means we will be a buyer, seller or purgatory resident, is going to appeal to our certainty-seeking minds. If you have ever sold or bought too early, then you know the consequences of this behavior. Similarly, if you have ever stood pat only to realize that going for it could have meant flying a flag or not falling out of the money, then you too know the consequences of this behavior.

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Related Content:  Fantasy,  Dynasty Leagues,  Keeper Leagues

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