Thursday was a natural selection when deciding on the best day for this weekly reflection in Fantasy Rounders, given that it's a scheduled travel day and therefore a thinner slate of games. Teams often schedule early games on Thursdays, as well – consider that there are only six out of 11 contests today that are scheduled night games, whereas 27 of the 29 games from Tuesday and Wednesday (not counting the D'backs-Rockies doubleheader) had later starts. This creates an interesting dynamic to the player pool on Draft Kings, as the different game options (Early, All Day, Standard, Late) provide vastly different scenarios and in some cases the player options are extremely limited.
So what effect does this have (if any) on strategy? The purpose is to get as many points as possible regardless of format, so in that sense the basic strategy doesn't change, but the volume of available players has an inverse relationship with the frequency of overlap – the fewer players there are available means a greater chance that any one player will be owned. In some game formats this is not as much of a concern, such as head-to-head or three-team leagues, as the performance of overlap players have little to no impact on the final outcome. However, ownership rate becomes a much bigger issue when playing in tournaments with more participants, such as 10-man, 50/50, multipliers, and the massive GPP tournaments.
It's fun to roster Mike Trout, massaging value out of the other positions in order to fit him in under the $50k cap, and then it's exciting when he goes off for 20-something points, but the excitement is quickly contained when one sees that he is 35-percent owned and those points merely kept pace with the Joneses rather than separate from the pack. The overlap at the top end is common, of course, but the issue is magnified as the supply of top-tier players dwindles and demand becomes concentrated on these few options.
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Last Saturday presented a perfect illustration of how this theoretical concept can have a practical impact on the bottom line. Saturdays always have a heavy slate of day games while at least half the clubs veer towards night games, so I often run a couple of different lineups. I built an “All Day” roster for this past Saturday in addition to an evening roster, so I had the full player pool from all 30 teams when designing the All Day squad but was limited to about half the player pool for the later set. I had some considerable overlap between the two rosters, with one of my pitchers and half of my hitters lined up for both teams.
My All Day team was a bit of a disappointment at 93 points, while my lineup for the evening set garnered 105, which is just a tick above my average this season. This wasn't particularly striking in a vacuum, as any five players can outperform any other five on any given day, but what threw me for a temporary loop was that the 93-point team with the wider swath of options nearly swept its competitions while the 105-point club got shutout of everything (even the big 50/50) despite the limited player pool. So what happened?
The answer is a reflection of supply and demand. David Price was the highest-priced pitcher of the day, coming in at $12000 for his start against the Royals Saturday night. There were several other intriguing options under $10k, most of whom were pitching in the afternoon, such as Corey Kluber, Jake Arrieta, and Cole Hamels. So owners had a tendency to save a couple thousand bucks of cap room and drifted away from Price, only to watch the other three aces get hit hard in their ballgames. The trend was so pervasive that it lowered the bar for profit in the All Day set, moving the “thin red line” down the Y axis. In the evening slate, Price stood head and shoulders above the other options, and suddenly the $12k price tag seemed worthwhile. The southpaw was heavily owned in the night set and he responded with an excellent outing that far-outpaced the performance of the earlier aces, raising the thin red line for that set of competitions.
Such is the reality of playing with a limited player pool, as the performance of individual players can have a bigger sway on the overall outlook of competition. I prefer to have as many options as possible to not only put more of my personal stamp on the roster but also to minimize the overlap with opposing lineups. For this reason, I lean toward the All Day contests on days with split slates, and this is particularly true on Thursdays when the player pool is already compromised.
There are a couple of considerations with the All Day format, such that it's not for everyone. First of all, there are fewer options in terms of available games, as multipliers, GPP's, and large-volume 50/50's are not available. Maybe Draft Kings will add these options as the All Day format becomes more popular (wink, nudge), but in the meantime we are left with head-to-head and league competitions. The other issue is the time disparity between the games, such that rosters for the late games have not been introduced when constructing lineups, so there is always the risk that a bat will be sitting. If you have access to make late lineup changes (the Draft Kings app is great for this), then part of the problem is already addressed, and there are also techniques that one can use to minimize the possibility of a late-game scratch that tampers with best intentions.
In order to avoid the potential pitfalls of a late-game benching, it's common for managers to lean heavily on early-game players when playing the All Day format. However, there are plenty of players that are basically everyday players and should not be avoided, so the best strategy that I have found revolves around one position: catchers. Backstops tend to be a low priority for me (unless Buster Posey is facing a lefty), and it is very common for catchers to receive the day off for a day game following a night game. Combined with the fact that many of the game's big catchers play late games on the west coast (Posey, Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt), I like to use the C-spot to roster a cheap backup that I know is in the lineup for the morning set. These guys are common for day games, and the strategy allows for more financial flexibility with the rest of the roster while dodging the greatest risk factor among All Day lineups.
My investment today is triggered toward a 90/10 split, with 90-percent of the funds devoted to an All-Day lineup and 10-percent for the evening. How do you like to handle short days?
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