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September 4, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

A Behavioral Look at Lineup Setting

by Jeff Quinton


In leagues where we set weekly lineups, we do so every week of the season, but the most important lineups we will set (and certainly the ones we will most agonize over) are our playoff lineups. While the technical aspect of setting a lineup (clicking a mouse, typing, using an app etc.) is pretty much behaviorally neutral, there are many cognitive biases that are quite possibly affecting our sit/start decisions. We will take a look at the potential impact of these biases on our decisions and how we can navigate these biases to improve our decisions.

The Biases

1. Pseudocertainty Effect

Directly related to prospect theory, the pseudocertainty effect explains why we tend to take less risk when we expect a positive outcome and more risk when we expect a negative outcome. Consequently, whether we view ourselves as the favorite or underdog will impact our sit/start decisions. If we view ourselves as the favorite we will tend to start less risky players. If we view ourselves as the underdog we will tend to start riskier players. When choosing between two players whose projected production is equal, acting in accordance with the pseudocertainty effect makes sense. An issue arises, however, when the pseudocertainty effect tempts us to start an inferior player simply because of consistency or upside. Starting an inferior player decreases our team’s expected output and thus decreases our chances of winning. Only in the most extreme cases, where one team is likely to win should they underperform and their opponent overperforms, does decreasing one’s odds in order to alter one’s variability make sense (and this situation is almost unimaginable in a weekly fantasy baseball format).

2. Omission Bias

Omission bias is our tendency to view harmful action to be worse than equally harmful inaction. This makes us more likely to “stick with what got us there,” to “not fix what ain’t broke,” and to “not mess with success.” When we make decisions in this vein, we shift the goal away from trying to win and towards trying to be able to defend our decisions (usually to ourselves). Shifting our goal and focus from starting the team with the best odds of winning to something else could potentially lead to us starting a team that, believe it or not, does not have the best odds of winning.

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<< Previous Article
The Week in Quotes: Au... (09/04)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Dan... (09/03)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: The... (09/08)
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