Sunday, 18 December 2011


I mentioned this in an earlier post but thought I'd explain in a little more detail. I've been using the "moneyball" Oakland A's approach to building my Fantasy Hockey team. I'm in a 10 team roto league where the owners agreed that they wanted to make this year more interesting by adding some role-player stats like blocks and hits as well as switch all of the percetage and average stats to their cumulative counterparts in order to better reward consistency -- average time on ice to cumulative time on ice, goals against average to cumulative goals against. Note that before this year and the return of the Jets, I had not even followed the game until playoffs most years and probably couldn't even name 3 players on each team.

Stats: Goals, Assists, +/-, PIM, TOI, Shots, Hits, Blocks, Powerplay Points, Wins, Goals Against, Saves

I immediately made several observations on the league rules:
  • Role player stats translate directly to defenceman stats. Stats like hits, blocked shots and cumulative TOI make defenceman vastly superior to forwards, especially offensive minded defenceman that can do it all, shooting, playing a ton on the powerplay etc.
  • Goalies are the least valuable and highest variance position given that they only account for 3 stats, the pace at which coaches change their mind about who the "starter" is and how much an injury can decimate your chances for doing well on a shallow roster of goalies. There is also a very obvious way to angle the goalie categories. We have a minimum 60 games out of 164 max started for goalie stats to qualify for points. If you're willing to concede the Wins category and ignore the volatile Saves category, you can easily take first in the goals against category by simply playing the minimum 60 games and then benching all your goalies.
  • The more stats being used the better for this system. Your competitors are still thinking about player value in terms of name recognition and standard offensive stats like points. A lot of equal value stats separates the true team playing stat-monster superstars (Chara, Getzlaf) from the one trick ponies (Sedin brothers).

I recently traded away Henrik Sedin for what was deemed a mediocre player. The league was ready to snap veto the trade thinking I was getting ripped off until I stepped in and said I actually initiated it at which point I was told I was an idiot. Quite simply he gets a ton of assists and above average +/- and people are in awe of a recognizable name on a 100 point pace, but that's all he does. In contrast the player I traded for still gets 2/3 the points but also had 2 to 3 times the number of shots, hits, blocks and TOI so I clearly came out the winner on the trade. My only mistake was I didn't go for an even better "mediocre" player. Players like Sedin are simply outliers in one stat but get recognition if it happens to be points while outliers like Brouwer (hits) and Downie (+/-) are deemed rather worthless. Believe it or not, Sedin was consistently the 4th worst player on my team.

Before the draft I simply created a spreadsheet that gave equal value to all stats and dumped the projected stats from espn into it giving each player a summed value based on each stat relative to the player pool. And then it got labor intensive as I had to readjust my draft order with players moving up to +/- 75 in the top 400.

My Team with Team Value Ratings

After the draft I converted my sheet into player ranking charts for each team giving me a good idea of how valuable the owner thinks they are versus reality. I can quickly see who I need to bench or who I need to play to make up for certain stats. It doesn't help to lead goals and assists by a 3 to 1 margin at the expense of everything else, but that is everyone else's strategy. I can easily dump potential acquisitions into my team to see if they'd be good contributors to the overall makeup of my team allowing me to see the sleepers coming a mile away.

League with Current Team Makeup Power Rankings

Needless to say I was obviously the most clueless dead money owner at the draft. I started Day 1 in first place with an 8 point margin and have remained there ever since. If you want to have some fun with a fantasy sports league I highly recommend joining a stat heavy roto league which provides a mistake rich environment. Take note of how the league rules dictate optimal strategy and how that compares to your opponents' obvious pyschological state as trained, ingrained fans rather than statisticians.

Current Standings - Crushing most stats
Note that I've played more games than anyone, but I'm only 1% ahead of pace.

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