In this edition of Scott’s Shot, Scott shares what he learned in his relegation-worthy 2018/19 FPL season and how he will attempt to improve for the upcoming 2019/20 season.
If you prefer to read a transcript of what Scott has to say, you can find that by scrolling down below the Soundcloud insert.
Fantasy sports are designed to enhance a fan's following of a sports league -- a way to participate with the league that he or she wants to watch. When it comes to Fantasy Premier League, the participation seems more real. The length of the season is grueling; it really is a mental grind.
That was never more real for me than this past season. In the 2017/18 season, I had the season of my life. I'm still pretty new to FPL, and I've never really been great at fantasy sports in general, but I finished in the top 0.4% of all players that season. Nothing was hard. All of my decisions came out right. It was a little magical.
However, leading into the 2018/19 season, that magical feeling was a little misleading. I mistook the magic for skill. I'm no longer sure that's what it was.
I got off to a horrible start. I thought I had a good team for the first few weeks of the season, but I was wrong. I played my first half wildcard during the first international break. Not a problem, I assured myself...and you, if you were listening to our podcast at that time. I can right the ship with the wildcard and then use my free transfers to replenish my team as needed for the rest of the way.
The wildcard didn't work either. It was a classic case of having the right players at the wrong time. Leroy Sane seemed like a no-brainer to own at the start, but then he barely played for the first four matches. I transferred him out in my flurry of wildcard moves, and he immediately scored a goal.
This is when I believe I started to make my first major mistakes. I broke my rules. I took a few -4s to try to get my team where I needed it to be. I had no anchors in my squad -- guys who I would stick with all season long because, in the end, their overall points would justify it. I started to use matchups to try to hit the lottery with my transfers. It never worked.
I felt for the first time what a relegation-threatened club feels. I mean, I think I did. There's a negativity that creeps into everything you do. You doubt all of your decisions. When clubs seemingly overreact and sack their managers early in the season, I get that now, too. The relegation zone is like quicksand. Once you get sucked down, it's hard to get yourself out.
Meanwhile, as the season progresses and nothing is going right, Dave is succeeding with this new strategy of his. He's using team value to guide his decisions. His theory is that a higher team value will give him the money he needs to get better players and win at the end of the season.
This is where I demonstrate to you just how terrible of a person I am. I like to think that I'm a pretty smart person. But here's Dave, using statistics to try to get better while I'm having the worst season of my life. It felt...wrong. It sent my already awful season into full-on tailspin mode. Was last season just a fluke? Is this an accurate reflection of my FPL skill? Is this what Burnley feels like right now?
It made me think about baseball. Baseball is in the midst of an evolution right before our eyes. Infield and outfield shifts, closers starting games, and statistics like exit velocity are changing the way the game is played. What started with Moneyball many years ago has turned into a total statistical-based evolution of the game.
Any time there's progress, the proponents of the old system who are unwilling to adapt with the times are left behind. Old-school baseball scouts, for instance, are mostly unemployed. Was this me? Did I use any strategy when I won in 17/18? Or was it just dumb luck?
Is Dave's strategy right? As last season progressed, I constantly felt shackled by the team's value. I couldn't make the moves others could because my team value stayed stagnant. Was this why I won in 17/18, and I had no idea?
Probably. At least a little bit. We are now halfway through the summer, and my thoughts on this are still pretty unclear. Do I willingly fall down the FPL statistical rabbit hole? Is that the future? Is that a progressive approach? Am I just a stodgy old white dude unwilling to change with the times who will eventually be left behind?
I don't know. Here's something I did learn last year, though. The season builds on itself. The longer you go into the season, the more influence it has on the final outcome for you. I know that sounds obvious, but when you are at the bottom of your mini-league, it becomes painfully -- yes, painfully -- apparent.
It's really easy for us to zoom in on one week, but every year, we find ourselves surprised at some of the players who were rarely spectacular but always consistent throughout the season and ended up with more points than most. If we can remember that, however, and keep those guys all year long -- barring injury or benching -- we will make our jobs a lot easier.
Everyone plays everybody else twice. The only variable is timing. If we can remember that, too, then maybe we will stop trying to win the lottery based on matchups so much.
After that, team value is important. You need money to make moves. Dave and I still vary as to how we'll handle value. I won't sell my anchor players if they are going to experience temporary drops in value, unless I have a bigger reason to do so (benching, injury, etc.).
I have always waited until Friday to make my free transfer. I figure that, with more time in the week, I will be armed with more information about who I want to send in and out. However, that feels like an old-school approach. I think I need to be more flexible about that. Value changes are important when it comes to free transfers. Since the values change throughout the week and not just on Friday, I need to be willing to make changes sooner.
I'm sticking with my anchors this season. And I'm not taking -4s anymore. I won't panic, but I will evolve as I need to. That's my plan for 2019/20 season. I hope it works. It certainly can't get any worse than last season.