Last week, our weekly journal for Fantasy Rounders was focused on an unheralded aspect of the DFS game: preparing for individual opponents. This week we turn the powers of perception onto a specific opponent who can wreak more havoc than any other: ourselves.
Each night I do my DFS research, digging through platoon splits, head-to-head matchups, recent performance, etc., in the quest to field the optimal lineup. I will find my value anchors, make decisions about the pitchers on each day's slate, and know which positions I might need to adjust as roster-lock approaches. It is a thought-out plan of attack that involves a good chunk of research before I find the roster that I think is ideal for each day's schedule. Then, with about 20 minutes to go until games begin, I throw a wrench into the whole thing.
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The last-minute tinker has become a problem, as the previous night's research is cast aside for quick decisions once rosters are announced. I have found myself ruining legit rosters by making these late adjustments, and though sometimes they work out, the psychology of the practice leaves one little recourse but frustration and disappointment. Last night it was Nick Castellanos, a player who I only use against southpaws and who had a cheap price tag ($2800) that fit well within my cost-conscious lineup (I spent a lot on my pitching staff yesterday). With about five minutes before lock, I second-guessed the presence of two Tigers in my lineup given that they were facing the tough Jon Lester, and pulled a switch when I saw that SS/2B Kelby Tomlinson was batting leadoff for the Giants for the minimum salary of $2000. I felt that the ability of Lester overshadowed the platoon splits of Castellanos and Jose Iglesias, and the change from Iglesias to Tomlinson allowed me to “upgrade” from Castellanos to Evan Longoria.
We all know how that turned out now. Lester got roughed up for seven runs, Castellanos had two homers and two doubles among his four hits and 44 fantasy points, and my DFS cash-game roster got shut out when all it took to sweep my contests was to leave in Castellanos. It was clearly a worst-case scenario, particularly given that Castellanos was less than two-percent owned in the big GPP tournament. My point of relating this story is not to complain about what could have been but rather to illustrate the perils of tinkering.
I should have learned my lesson from Rodney Ruxin, the character played by Nick Kroll on The League who constantly tinkers with his fantasy football lineup and whose friends have been known to let him beat himself by overthinking the roster. The problem with this strategy isn't the outcome so much as the psychology of the practice. It obviously makes little sense to let the short-term whims of pre-lock decisions override an entire evening of research, but this is also counterbalanced by the possibility of finding a Castellanos through last-minute tinkering that would not have been rostered otherwise.
The problem is that, with the exception of extreme cases of fortune like that provided by those who tinkered toward Castellanos last night, we are more likely to remember the late changes that worked poorly than ones that worked well. Perhaps this is a personal problem, as I don't expect that everyone is a tinkerer and I myself avoid the practice in season-long leagues for baseball and football, but DFS brings the Tinker out of me. I hardly notice the occasions where it works out to my benefit, but when a late switch extricates a huge performance from my roster it leaves a bitter taste that takes awhile to subside, as the ghosts of woulda-coulda-shoulda overwhelm logic and selective reasoning takes over my thought process.
Sticking with a roster is to make a commitment to the previous night's research, and how players perform has less of a chance to damage the ego if no changes are made, but the tinker effect leaves open the possibility of regret. There is no “what if I had left in player X” when rosters are preserved as they were originally designed, and the ego aspect of the practice leaves one disappointed in the results far more often than they are pleased, even if the last-minute alterations have a positive net effect to one's bottom line.
This isn't to say that rosters should be frozen the night before, and sometimes you have to make a change when a player is not penciled into the starting lineup. Perhaps a player is hitting in a different spot than expected, and with non-anchor players in particular this can get the tinker wheels turning, but I have learned that I need a damned good reason to over-ride the previous night's research in favor of a late change, as the meager value that I am trying to extract pales in comparison to the frustration felt when that tinker backfires.
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