Submitted by: Cary Mullen
You don’t know this, but I’m a big Star Wars fan. So I can’t help but think Alicia Rose DelGallo had a bit of an Obi-Wan Kenobi moment Saturday night. I imagine her staggering a bit and needing to steady herself while saying, “I felt a great disturbance in the fantasy Force, as if thousands of fantasy managers suddenly cried out.” If she did, she would have been right.
If you didn’t know, Alicia was the reporter who first tweeted out that Kaka was in Orlando at the Pride game and not in New York with the rest of the team. This revelation set off a small firestorm on Twitter and the Fantasy MLS subreddit about not knowing Kaka was not even travelling to New York before the roster lock just a few hours earlier. And of course the fallout is that Fantasy MLS podcasts and bloggers are reevaluating the mechanics of the game and if they’re fair in general and not punishing to new players.
The mechanics in question are: the lack of required injury reporting from teams, autosubs versus manual subs, and the locking of the transfer window at the kickoff of the first game. I submit that the solution to the problem doesn’t have to do with any of these issues, but rather with issues in the player market for Fantasy MLS. Let me explain.
Managers start the year with $120 budget and 16 roster slots to fill. Doing the math, that averages out to $7.5M available per roster slot. This average dictates to managers who they can choose for their team. Basically you’re being told by the makers of the game that for every player you buy above $7.5M you have to buy a different player that is equally below $7.5M. So if you buy a player for $8.5M, $1M over the average, you are also going to be buying a player for $6.5M, $1M under the average. When buying players, we want usable players on our teams. We want all the bang for our buck we can get. We’ll define useable players as those players with a PPG of at least 4. So far this season there are 87 useable players above $7.5M and 81 below $7.5M.
You may be thinking that that doesn’t sound bad and it’s really not. The average money per roster spot is right in the middle of the useable player pool with 87 above and 81 below. That makes it even, right? Well, not actually. The issue with the market here is that the highest starting player cost is $4M over our average, $11.5M-$7.5M, but the lowest starting player cost is only $3.5M under our budget average, $7.5M-$4. Who really wants to have fantasy scrub players that cost $4M on your bench? You’re never going to use them except in very rare cases. We have them because the game market forces us to choose them as a result of the budget and the pricing of players.
Honestly, is there any argument whatsoever for Guillen from Dallas to be 27.2% owned that doesn’t start with “I had to fill a roster spot and needed money to use elsewhere?” Or Mansaray in Seattle to be 11.5% owned? Or Steinberger in Houston to be 12.4% owned? The last two have played zero minutes and have zero points. There is zero reason to own them except for the fact that you need a scrub to take up a roster spot.
My point is this: the game’s player market, its starting budget and player prices, are designed in such a way that we’re forced to pick up players no one legitimately wants in order to make space in the budget. Now I’m all for making managers look past the star players on every team to fill out a roster. But essentially forcing managers to carry dead weight is ridiculous and not very fun. So what’s the solution? The starting salary should be increased by $8M.
Why $8M? Why not something nice and round like $10M? Adding $8M to the starting budget would increase the average money per roster slot by $.5M, bringing that number up from $7.5M to $8M. It doesn’t seem like that bump would make much difference, but it does. By making this increase, the average money per roster slot is now positioned in the middle of the player price range, $3.5M up to $11.5M and $3.5M down to $4.5M. I didn’t make it $4M because, honestly, other than Worra, there’s no reason any of these players should be on a team. They all have 0 points except Guillen who’s played one game and has 7. This makes it less of a hit to go after the higher priced players, which allows you to have more money for the lower priced players you buy.
Look at it like this: pull up your fantasy team right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Got it up? Good. Look at the players you have in the field. You like them, right? All set for the week, right? Now look at your bench. Wouldn’t it be great if you could add $2M to the cost of every field player on your bench? That zero-point scrub sitting in the four-hole suddenly becomes a $6M sleeper you feel could have a good game every now and again. That $5M defender you have because at least he plays most weeks if you need an autosub becomes a $7M defender you might actually consider playing this week.
What if, instead of asking who we should transfer in every week, we got to ask who should we start every week? How many times have you used a transfer because you felt you had to in order to clear out injured players? Wouldn’t it be nice to just use transfers to transfer out players you wanted to and not because you had to? How nice would it be to be okay with a surprise injury because you have a solid fantasy guy coming off your bench to replace the injured? How nice would that be?
That’s the world that comes with a simple $8M increase to the starting budget. It solves the problems that come with the lack of injury reporting by giving you the money to fill your bench with useable players. Having a bench of all useable players makes the game more fun and less frustrating for new players and experienced players alike.