Behind the Numbers: MLS Fantasy Week 4

Behind the Numbers

Week 3 Recap

Week 3 had a bit of bad luck and a bit of trying to be too smart for the Behind the Numbers Team. The team scored a fairly pitiful 78 points putting us at 251 on the season, dropping to OR 369. If you’re a newer player and you scored in that ballpark, you’re doing great! If you’re a pundit who gives advice, then you let your readers down with that score. Additionally, we only added $3.7 to the budget for a total of $109.9. Not awful, but really not excellent in either the points or the budget gain. The next few weeks will really determine the ceiling for the spring season. The top 100 cutoff right now stands at 267 points and the top ten at 287 points. Average of team value on reddit is $109.8.

The bad luck came with Valot going out injured and then to add insult Muyl who replaced him bagged two goals. Good analysis, bad luck. I tried to get a little too smart with my selection of away players, something I never do. Also, picking the higher averages in Ofori and Leerdam rather than the better pure pick in Smith was a lesson I seem to have to relearn each season. Yes, team value is important, but the goal is to score points. Sounds obvious but I know I’ve been guilty of trying to play the price game a little too much. As we engineers say, “keep it simple stupid”

If you’d like to follow me on twitter, I’m @MLSFB_BTN. I typically post my updated lineup on Friday nights before the games start to show if my thinking has changed since this column went up.

Fantasy philosophy

With only 5 games this week, and hence only 5 home teams to target, this is the first week when the new only 3 players per team rule will really come into play. Some hard choices will have to be made in terms of whether to focus on attack or defense with the same teams high in the offense and defense rankings. There’s also a good chance that there could be template teams this week, with many players choosing the same core group of players. How you can differentiate yourself will be key to making up ground this week.

This is also the first week where the 3 for 2 autoroo can be executed with all 3 coming from the midfield and forward slots. From the strategy side, there are two other strategies I’m weighing this. One option is to have the 3 autoroo players play early in the weekend. If they’re great, then you can keep the autoroo in place. If they’re not, then you can use that extra budget to take another swing. An alternative strategy is actually to do a 3 for 1 autoroo, and add an extra player, like Sauro this week, simply for the budget gain.

Week 4 Offense Rankings

Total Budget this Week: $109.9

Typically I build my teams back to front, trying to minimizing the spending on keeper and defense to maximize spending on the midfield and forwards. This week I don’t think the limiting scarcity is money. This week the limits are the three players per team rule and trying to get the best attackers on the roster.

Midfielders/Forwards

Budget Target: 64% – 68% of Budget (8 starters)

Top Offenses for Week 3

The top offenses this week are clearly LAFC and NYRB, with FCD close behind. With that in Mind, I’m looking for two attackers from each in my lineup.

Vela ($11.8) is the clear and obvious Captain this week. He’s 2nd in options this week (for players with more than 70 min played) with a 1.02 xG + xA/96 and playing a terrible and depleted (by red cards and international duty) RSL team.

The second option is less clear, with Diomande ($9.8) and Rossi ($9.1) offer big budget star power and Blessing ($6.9) coming off an impressive outing last week. Thankfully, Diomande has a great 1.56 xG + xA/96 this season and no Ramirez to split time with. That’s 5 times higher than any of the other options. Fire him up. If you’re looking for a differential I’m thinking Nyguen is your bet with RSL’s CB Silva out with a red card.

From NYRB, we just don’t have a ton of data to go on yet. With that in mind, we’re left with the historical high achievers. BWP ($10.8), Royer ($8) and Rzatkowski ($7.5) are where to look. All three produced bonus points last week and should be heavily involved. My guess is Royer and BWP will be the template, while Rzatkowski offers probably the highest floor.

FCD continues to offer good value, if not remarkable production. Pomykal ($6.7) should continue to play both due to recent good showings and international duty. Barrios ($7.6) has traditionally been a darling of the xG community even if he doesn’t always convert his chances. When he pops up though, he goes off big. A good candidate for the autoroo.

For differentials, Mosquera and Aranguiz are bigger names that have yet to really come good yet, but Colorado is a good get healthy game.

Behind the Numbers

From the remainder of the home teams, there are a couple of obvious options who’ve been scoring well and making the xG guys happy. Fabian ($9) leads the league with an INSANE 1.91 xG + xA/96. Philadelphia, in general, is doing really well on xG, but their finishing continues to be woeful. Carles Gil ($9.7) has been playing OOP as a striker early in the year and showing his class. Cincinnati will be without some of its core starters for international duty which should reduce the cohesion of the defense and offer some space for Gil to work.

The under the radar pick would be Fagundez ($6.8) if he plays. He hasn’t got a lot of run out this season, but when he has he’s got a 1.30 xG + xA/96 and has been a good performer in years past. Keep an eye on Sunday lineups if you need a last minute differential.

Personally, I’m staying away from away teams, because as we learned last week, I’m just not that smart. If you’re more clever and brave than I am, then you can look at Higuain or Nani for solid bonus point potential.

Week 4 Defense Rankings

Defenders

Budget Target: 26%-30% (three starters + two $4 scrub, maybe a price rise guy if you can swing it)

Unfortunately, the top offensive teams are also the top defensive options this week. This combined with the only 3 players per team rule is going to lead to hard choices between on defenders and goalkeepers. If you’ve built your team as I have with two attackers from each of FCD, NYRB, and LAFC then you’ve only got one spot left for a defender or a goalkeeper from those teams. Because I’ll be doing the Keeperoo and the attack-minded autoroo, I want the most solid defenders I can, which is why I’m burning my last player from each of these three teams on my defenders.

Thankfully, there are both budget and premium options for each of these teams worth considering.

From FCD Ziegler ($6.7) and Hollingshead ($5.8) are near the top for attacking potential from these teams and both should get the start.

NYRB are thin this week along the backline but Duncan ($5.2) has been a solid BP contributor and Tarek ($4.8)(if he plays) has solid xG numbers. If you’re looking for the safer high budget option, Tim Parker ($6.3) is off to a slow start but has historically been useful.

From LAFC, no one really stands out from an attacking potential, so you’re looking at Zimmerman ($7.3) or Segura ($5.6) get to face off an RSL team who will have to start an entirely back up front four this week.

Beyond these core teams, I’m not sure who else to look at. Any of the teams not in the FCD, NYRB, or LAFC games could be good plays this week. Players like Sauro could be good cash grabs as well. My advice is to look for your differentials in the attack where they can fit into the switcheroo to abate some risk and go safe on the backline.

Goalkeepers

Budget Target: 8%-10%

Woof. Goalkeeper this week is an absolute mess. I could be persuaded that that reason alone could make Luis Robles or Tyler Miller the must-haves for the week. However, with the Keeperoo, you can take a couple of cheap shots and hope you get lucky. As described above, its harder to take shots at DEF.

Coronel ($4.5, PHI), Knighton ($4.7, NER), Maurer ($4.5, FCD), and Kempin/Bendik ($4.5, CLB) all figure to get the start for dirt cheap. Last year when I did the correlations, the xG predications were best correlated to the defense and GK, so I’ll be sticking with my boring boring home choices.

2019 Week 4 BTN Team

Here’s my first draft based on the discussion above.

About Kyle Mcelhinny

Scientist by day, soccer fan by night. Nerd always. Using stats to overcome my lack of knowledge about the beautiful game.

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