Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fantasy Football - 5: When To Play Your Wildcard

Lab Record Type Section


This post is part 5 of a series of number crunching posts I intend on doing on some EPL Fantasy Football data I have. I focus on the timing of playing your wildcard in this one.

Part 1 has the main introduction and some other relevant details and assumptions and things like that. It also has the Dream Team of the Year and Weekly Dream Teams which I shall be referring to frequently.

Relevant Summary of Earlier Parts

I have ignored weekly transfers and wildcards for the most part. This post shall attempt to do justice.

The focus should not solely be on points. The money is also important which allows you to afford more points in the remaining gameweeks.

A Tale of Two Wildcards

One is highly useful, the other is a nice-to-have. The nice-to-have can only be used during the winter transfer window and a week after. It will help you make changes en masse and add to your points tally but things have already been underway for a few months and everyone more or less knows whom to hitch their wagons to as well so there's little to gain over your competition. In other words, unless you've been playing like crap, it's not really going to help you much and even then, at best, you will keep the gap from widening much more and try and not finish in last place just like the actual teams towards the lower ends of the table.

The Value of the Nice-To-Have Wildcard

I want to get this out of the way. Let's play it safe and play the wildcard after week 23, so that we can include any transfers that might have happened during January which were worth including. These are the two teams that would get selected to play until week 23 (Pre WC) and week 24 onwards (Post WC)-

Inclusion Team Name Position Team Total Points GW 23 Points GW 24 to 37 Points GW 01 Price GW 23 Price GW 37 Price
Both Gnegneri Yaya Touré Midfielder MCI 235 142 93 8.50 10.10 10.30
Both Luis Suárez Forward LIV 293 193 100 11.00 13.40 13.20
Pre WC Tim Howard Goalkeeper EVE 153 94 59 5.50 5.90 6.10
Pre WC Per Mertesacker Defender ARS 157 107 50 5.50 6.60 6.20
Pre WC John Terry Defender CHE 172 108 64 6.00 6.70 6.80
Pre WC Seamus Coleman Defender EVE 174 120 54 5.00 6.70 6.80
Pre WC Aaron Ramsey Midfielder ARS 136 113 23 5.50 7.10 7.50
Pre WC Adam Lallana Midfielder SOU 176 114 62 6.00 7.60 7.90
Pre WC Eden Hazard Midfielder CHE 200 138 62 9.50 10.60 10.30
Pre WC Sergio Agüero Forward MCI 155 131 24 11.00 12.40 12.80
Pre WC Olivier Giroud Forward ARS 182 114 68 8.50 8.70 8.50
Post WC Julian Speroni Goalkeeper CRY 144 79 65 4.50 4.50 4.80
Post WC Martín Demichelis Defender MCI 113 43 70 6.00 5.90 6.10
Post WC Gary Cahill Defender CHE 147 78 69 6.00 5.80 6.30
Post WC Branislav Ivanovic Defender CHE 157 69 88 6.50 6.00 6.70
Post WC Leighton Baines Defender EVE 163 91 72 7.50 7.40 7.60
Post WC Juan Mata Midfielder MUN 115 36 79 10.50 9.50 9.90
Post WC Steven Gerrard Midfielder LIV 194 102 92 9.00 8.80 9.60
Post WC Rickie Lambert Forward SOU 170 89 81 7.50 7.00 7.50
Post WC Daniel Sturridge Forward LIV 189 106 83 9.00 9.40 9.90

Here is a summary of the points tally for these teams -

Inclusion Team Total Points GW 23 Points GW 24 to 37 Points
Both 528 335 193
Pre WC 1505 1039 466
Post WC 1392 693 699

I'm mildly surprised that there are only 2 players common to both halves of the season, Yaya Toure and Suarez.

For comparison's sake, recall that the Dream Team managed 2110. If you had stuck to the best team pre-WC and played with it the entire season, you would have racked up 1505 + 528 = 2033 points. The post-WC team, which plays lesser matches that the pre-WC team, doesn't do such a good job with 1392 + 505 = 1897. With the help of the wildcard, you could up your tally to 335 + 193 + 1039 + 699 = 2266 which is 156 points more than what the Dream Team managed.

The jersey colour also seem related to the team composition in the weeks after the wildcard has been played but I wouldn't read too much into that.

The Timing of the Useful Wildcard

This is the more interesting part. The other wildcard can be played across the season and I have a feeling that the best timing will probably vary from season to season but hopefully we should still be able to get out some broad guidelines, which has been the idea all along.

If you go back to part 4, you will notice the importance of money. The money is what allows you to afford higher point tallies in the future. Therefore there are two ways to use the wildcard -
  • Maximise your monetary value until the WC, and then go into hyper-drive by scoring buckets of points from that week onwards
  • Concentrate on getting the points, and the money should come to you anyway
There are also two types of teams you can pick at the start -
  • A good team
  • A bad team
If you have a bad team then it makes sense to use your wildcard as soon as possible. Looking at the charts on changes in player value in part 4, I would suggest you take the hit for an extra week and wait for week 4 to get over and then play your wildcard.

If you you start with a decent team, the chart below hopes to offer a bit of an answer. The logic behind this is that you could play you wildcard at any of the gameweeks, and you could pick a team that either maximised your value by that time, or maximised your points by that time. After that you play your wildcard, and pick a team that maximises your points over the remaining gameweeks but you pick this team based on the budget you have now after playing with the Pre-WC for these weeks. Then you compile the points at the end of the year. The mode of operation until the WC are encoded as MaxMoney and MaxPts, and the time period before and after the wild card are encoded as UntilWC and AfterWC.

Part 1 shows the points captured in the post-WC or the pre-WC period with the WC played between GWs 2 and 36
Part 2 shows the total points at the end of the year, with the WC played between GWs 2 and 36

Apart from the observations about timing, there are other things to note from these charts:
  • Maximising your points until playing the wildcard offers somewhere between 50-100 extra points as compared to maximising your team's value until the wildcard
  • Most of the gain comes from the gameweeks before you played the wildcard. There is very little difference in the points tally from the gameweeks after the WC. The extra revenue doesn't really help thaaat much.
  • The revenue gain by operating in revenue maximisation mode is not that high except for the period just after gameweek 10 and towards the end of the season. Each extra pound is worth roughly 10-12 points and this low difference partly explains why maximising money seems to not be helping that much. Of course, weekly transfers could push this gap a little more but you would expect that to help with both modes of operation so it cancels each other out a little bit.
What it tells about the timing is also interesting. Around gameweek 20 seems to be the best time to play the wildcard and, strangely, around gameweek 25 seems to be the worst time to play it. There are high points early in the season around week 5, but the signings weren't that significant or influential to merit this. There is another high towards the end which is probably to do with the fight for relegation and top 4 spots intensifying.

Maybe the high around week 20 is something to do with the intensive December playing schedule which included 7 gameweeks. Two other things, that I could check for, were whether it could be a result of the 5-6 managerial changes that happened around that period, or whether this was to do with Ramsey's injury (gw 19) and the end of Suarez's purple patch after his return from suspensions (somewhere in that time period). I ran these two scenarios and the results are as below -

WO MGR CHANGE = teams with managerial change around Dec 13 are excluded - CRY, FUL, CAR, WBA, SUN, TOT

Without Suarez and Ramsey, there's a marked decline for the week 5 peak, which is when Suarez returned from suspensions, and week 19 is still pretty strong. The drop in week 5 indicates that the summer transfer window didn't change things drastically. Without the teams that had managerial changes, there is no significant change in the general trend.

I get the feeling that either one season of data is not enough to answer this, or that this varies from season to season.

Maybe we should ask a different question.

How Likely Are You To Get Your Team Wrong

We know that you are very likely to get your transfers wrong. Again, refer to part 4.

Is it likely to get your whole team wrong? Yes. Very much.

I randomly created teams within the constraints that we have to adhere to, using only players that played at least 45 minutes on average across the 37 gameweeks,  The expected tally is about 50-60% of the optimal across all the gameweeks, the best is about 75% or so.

If you're doing between 75% and 100% of the optimal, I suppose you should carry on. You're probably doing well, it's pretty hard to do better. If you're doing lesser than 75%, use your wildcard.


If you're doing between 75% and 100% of the optimal, I suppose you should carry on. You're probably doing well, it's pretty hard to do better. If you're doing lesser than 75%, use your wildcard.

Other Posts in the Series

Part 1: General Team Composition
Part 2: Picking the Goalkeeper
Post 3: Picking the Defensive Line
Part 4: The Value of Money
> Part 5: The Value of Wildcards
Part 6:  Getting Ready for 2014-15
Part 7: How Much Does the Opposition Matter?

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