MLS Fantasy Golden Rules
In the MLS Fantasy Golden Rules series, we will be going over some basics for beginners and some refreshers for veterans. We are aiming to cover some of the broader questions that get brought up and clear up some common errors we see holding players back from their desired final rankings. With the change to unlimited transfers, these can be implemented right away and it’s still early enough in the season where mistakes are not game breaking.
Rule 2: Captain Selection (Aka Two Competing Ideologies)
Sometimes picking your fantasy captain is the easiest selection of the week. When Josef Martinez is playing the weakest defense in the league at home, it’s hard not to give him the armband. Other weeks you see the top names on the road with tough match-ups and have to decide who will give the best returns.
There are two basic strategies you can follow to ease this decision. Forward or Midfielder. This can be a hot debate every round, but always picking the same position has its merits.
Midfielders are known for being the most consistent point scorers in the game. When you pick the right ones for the round, they generally give you a steady return even if they don’t make the Best XI for the week. They also provide some of the best $/Point in fantasy which trumps a lot of forward options.
Pulling your captain from the midfield is the “safe” option. They tend to have a higher points floor at the expense of the potential points spike that round. Taking the safer option leads to better results long term as you limit your chances of missing and getting a 4-8 point score when doubled.
Forwards are known as the boom or bust position. You’ll get ranges of points from a 2 point 90 minute showing up to the 20+ point multi-goal shot filled game. When a forward has a great game, they often hit the Best XI charts for the round. Overall their $/Points tends to be worse, but those weeks they have a monster game, they tend to be near the top ROI of all players.
Selecting a forward as your captain is the riskier option with a potential 4 point bust on the doubled score. There is no worse feeling than your captain failing to register a goal or assist and only getting a handful of touches. On the weeks they hit though and you see a 40+ point score line, you feel like a genius and are generally near the top of the weekly standings.
Pick a Strategy and Stick to It
Here’s the real issue managers run in to, they keep flip flopping on their captain picks. If you are new to the game or have trouble predicting how players will do week in and week out, look at midfielders. There’s less risk each week.
Don’t take this as a hard and fast “never pick the other position” rule. There are times when the smart play is to pick the other position, but in general you should stick to one option
Author’s Note: I’m a sucker for a gutsy forward captain selection and I get burned often.
Why this Works
The real trick to either technique lies in the math. As a manager, you are playing the game of averages.
By sticking with midfielders, you raise your points floor each round and get a higher weekly score each round. This can be called risk management. As you progress through the rounds, you’ll notice you missed out on a few big captain games, but you won’t be lagging behind the pack too much. If you are consistently getting a 14-20 point doubled score, there’s not a lot to complain about. Sit back and watch the others suffer with their poor choices.
Consistently picking forwards is the riskier option, but you are bound to hit at some point. The occasional bust is easily offset by the monster score of 18-30 points when doubled. A single goal game still puts the forward in the 12-16 point range which is slightly lower than forwards with their bonus point advantage, but not enough to matter. Averaging a 4 point round and a 28 point round is still two 16 point rounds.
Author’s Note: We will revisit these strategies later in the season with more data on the current season.
Why This is a Golden Rule
This is a golden rule because breaking is can be devastating. Taking big risks isn’t the problem, otherwise it wouldn’t be so advisable to a forward your captain. The real issue is when you take risks some weeks and play it safe on others. It might sound logical to play it safe and not risk losing more ground, but the reality is you are lowering your captain points average throughout the season. When you take the 4 point captain week and never get a 30 point week to offset it, you miss out on points others are getting. In general, it’s better to play it safe all the time or risk it every time and let the law of averages work in your favor.
This rule is one of the least rigid in the game however. There will be times to break it when a single player’s match up is hands down better than all the rest. But keep this rule in mind when there are 4-5 quality options and you are struggling to pick your captain.
The Counter Argument
With proper knowledge and the ability to determine the best potential captain selections you can switch between forwards and midfielders and come out well ahead. This tends to be an advanced tactic for veteran players and those with the time to really dig in to the stats. When you are more familiar with every player in the league, their average passes, shots, dribbles per game and the defenses they are facing you can break from this line of thinking. The goal is to increase the average from your captain by knowing when the stats and matchup mitigate the risk and playing safer when the stats leave a lot up to chance.