Thursday, August 4, 2011

Is offense the best defense?

In the recent Everton preview, I noted that I would stay away from Leighton Baines given the need for him to produce historic numbers to justify the lofty price tag. This statement was somewhat abstract and so I thought I should expand on a theory which I have long followed in fantasy football: don't pay for offensive defenders.

As with all overarching theories, the wording is too blunt and should really read, don't pay too much extra for last year's offensive defenders; but that isn't as catchy. Before we get too bogged down with words, let's get back on solid ground with some stats.

Goals
The below players have all had at least one season scoring 3 or more goals:

Player
08/09
09/10
10/11
Cahill
3
5
3
Samba
2
4
4
Vidic
4
1
5
Huth
0
3
6
Johnson G
3
3
2
Lescott
4
1
3
Baines
1
1
5
Hangeland
0
1
6
Nelsen
0
4
3
Ridgewell
0
3
4
Taylor S
4
-
3
Vermaelen
-
70
Alex
3
1
2
Craddock
0
5
1
Faye
3
2
1
Shawcross
3
2
1
Cole
1
4
0
Gallas
2
3
0
Scharner
1
4
0
Terry
0
2
3
Turner
4
1
0
Coleman
-
-
4
Collins
0
1
3
Ivanovic
0
0
4
Kaboul
0
3
1
Dunne
1
3
0
Boyce
0
3
0
Clark
0
0
3
Collison
3
0
0
Bardsley
0
0
3
Upson
0
3
0
Warnock
3
0
0

Only one player (Gary Cahill) has scored 3 goals or more in all three of the above season with nine players having two such seasons. Of the 31 three-goal seasons shown above, only 7 of them (23%) were preceded by another three-goal season. Vidic, Lescott, Taylor, Turner, Scharner, Cole and Craddock have all scored at least 4 goals one year, followed by one or less goals in the next. This suggests that while past success can indicate future gains, it is by no means a guarantee.

Assists

The below players have all had at least one season with 3 or more assists:

Player
08/09
09/10
10/11
Baines
6
9
11
Ivanovic
1
6
5
Cole
2
4
5
Johnson G
4
5
2
Evra
2
7
2
Sagna
1
5
3
Warnock
3
3
2
O'Shea
3
1
3
Corluka
3
2
2
Steinsson
5
2
0
Nelsen
1
2
3
Figueroa
2
1
3
Berra
0
4
1
Higginbotham
3
2
0
Jose Enrique
2
0
3
Huth
0
1
3
Baird
0
3
1
Heitinga
0
4
0
Shawcross
1
3
0
Coleman
0
0
4
Evatt
0
0
4
Olsson
0
0
3
Zubar
0
3
0
Walker
0
0
3
El-Mohamady
0
0
3


Again, only one player (Leighton Baines) has managed to notch 3 assists in all three seasons and only 7 have managed two such seasons. Of the 26 three-assist seasons shown above, only 7 of them (27%) were preceded by another three-assist season. Again, while past performance has some correlation to future success, it is by no means a guarantee. Big seasons from Johnson, Evra, Berra and Heitinga have all been followed by substantially reduced numbers.

The price of success
What is the price of a goal? Or, more precisely how much extra should we be willing to pay to secure the services of an offensive defender (if we accept the fact that such a player exists)?

Take the following fictitious example of Gary Cahill, the leading goalscorer over the past 3 seasons (P = appearance and defensive points, G = goal points, A = assist points, B = bonus points, T = total points):

Player
P
G
A
B
T
Cost
Knight
100
0
0
0
100
4.5m
0.614
Cahill
100
18
0
5
123
5.5m
0.612

Cahill needs 3 goals and extra bonus points (which aren't necessarily related based on the top scorers in last season's EA Sports Index) just to break even in terms of value, assuming Knight doesn't notch a single offensive point.

This situation gets more pronounced as you move onto more expensive players from better teams. Below is an example scenario for Everton:

Player
P
G
A
B
T
Cost
Distin
100
6
0
10
116
5.5m
0.555
Baines
100
24
30
15
169
8.0m
0.555

Based on their varying price tags, Baines will need to generate over 50 offensive points more than Distin just to break even in terms of P$.

Now, granted, at a certain point you need to focus on points rather than value but I would strongly argue that you should do this with premium forwards and midfielders rather than your mid level defenders given the potential gulf in points among the attacking players. Consider that the same 2.5m could be used to upgrade from Darren Fletcher to Nani or from Zamora to Hernandez and you see how Baines' price tag might be tough to justify.

Hopefully this will go some of the way to showing why I tend to shy away from the pricey defenders but feel free to post any comments/criticism below as the strategy is definitely arguable. Also a quick reminder that the team previews can be found here and be sure to check out @plfantasy for the latest news on Twitter.

16 comments:

Updog said...

- My current back line is Cole (7.5), Kompany (6.0), Enrique (5), O'Shea (5), and Gabbidon (4) with 1.0 in the bank.
Any thoughts?
Going off of your article, I'd probably downgrade Cole. But how far?

- A large number of teams have Danny Simpson as their 4.0 Defender. Can you tell me a bit about him?

musicshares said...

My rationale for picking Baines is that, compared to a lot of these other defenders, Baines goes forward a lot more and is a cornerstone for the Everton attack. That, plus his ability to take corners, free kicks and penalties for me makes him a lot consistent year by year. Given the fact that I would not be surprised if we (yes, I'm a fan. Maybe that's why I'm so adamant on Baines on my team) did not sign any this transfer period, its quite likely that Baines will remain in this very attacking fullback role.

That was an interesting analysis regardless, as I've come to be quite fond of attacking defenders after Coleman also gave me some good points last year (but alas that option is out of the question this year). I definitely will give some thought next time I want to get abother attacking defender though.

Exquisite said...

Great analysis, has really got me thinking now about having Cole, Baines and Kompany....

Do you think you could go more in-depth with this P$ stat.... maybe get the xP of some of the more popular players being chosen this season and giving them a P$ figure which could justify picking one over the other.

PS Cant believe I just found this blog... keep up the good work!

Frank said...

Please can you email me your contact details?

Simon G said...

I think what you have done there is really interesting, but it also highlights precisely why concentrating too hard on value for money.
I imagine the few examples you gave there could be replicated all over the park, perhaps even to the extent where one could say, generally speaking, that the best P$ (shouldn't that really be P£, anyway!?) is to be found with the dirt cheap players that had a half decent season.

While you should definitely have a few of these sorts of player sin your team, if you filled your team entirely with them, you wouldn't score many points at all.

Another thing that is not taken into account in the P$ score is that some players have a higher price tag because they represent a lower risk of being benched, not just because they score lots of points.

I'm sure there are many examples of cheap players that got the chance to play most games in the season (perhaps because a team regular was on long-term injury). These players are certainly not guarunteed to have the same position in the team this season, while our friend Mr Baines is likely to start every game he is fit for.

Please, please, keep up the good work though, this is an excellent blog you have here. I'm hanging on every word and tweaking my team accordingly!

Chris Glover said...

Updog - Cole is a tough one to call. I would pick him over Terry as his forward runs are more reliable than the odd Terry header from a corner, but I am fairly convinced Luiz is going to play most weeks who is a full 1.0m cheaper and should himself chip in with the odd goal. The potential strength of the Chelsea defense makes Cole more forecastable in my eyes than Baines where the premium is high, but I would still take Luiz. If of course you think Luiz will split time then Cole looks like a better pickup.

I'm not sure that Simpson will play. He got a decent amount of minutes last season and I think he is winning favor with managers as the 4.0m defender with the most prior year points. Wilkinson from Stoke has shown that he should get decent minutes (he started for Stoke in Europe already) and may be more consistent that Simpson.

Musicshares - Baines would have the been the exception to the rule given his amazing contributions over the years but the price makers knew this and 8.0m is just too much for me to justify. To clarify, I LOVE attacking defenders and will always try and pick those defenders who will score at both ends, I'm just suggesting that we don't pay a huge premium for prior year prodcution. Coleman last year was extremely cheap and attacking, the perfect combo.

Exquisite - sounds like a good idea. Now I finally figured out how to write a table in HTML, I can start putting larger amounts of data onto the site. As I said, value for money isn't everything as at a certain point you just want to accrue as many points as possible, but I do find it useful to try and gauge how much to spend on a particular skill set.

Simon - excellent points. Leaning too heavily on value for money is indeed a potential trap, and one I have fallen into before. I tried to be fair to Baines and Cahill by comparing them to players who will almost certainly play every week rather than an obscure gem that emerges in the season.

If Baines can lock in another season like last year then he possibly is worth 8m as he's one of a handful of players who could even touch that kind of production. However, his upside beyond last year's numbers is minimal while the downside has been shown by players like Evra and Cole who've had 2 assist, 0 goal seasons in the past.

Finally, it absolutely should be P£ but I live in Canada now and my keyboard only has the dollar sign on it. I'm too lazy to insert a symbol every time so I'm afraid the blog has been Americanised!

Thanks for the comments guys

Steven said...

@Chris - This site still logs everything using GMT, not EST :)

boumavilla said...

I hope you aren't forgetting Martin Laursen, who scored 6 goals in the 07/08 season before Christmas! :D

btw, come and join my fantasy football league everybody! I need to get some more names on the board!

http://fantasy.premierleague.com/

league code: 132296-48437

MerryMichaelW said...

Errr - based on your own fine work on the new bonus system, you might feel the need to revisit this article.

In the meantime, have a look at this ... :

https://spreadsheets.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Atwq4Ph6mY6JdDVlLUNlQjZQWXdMSHBOODI2SWNmb0E&hl=en_GB&pli=1#gid=14

Great stuff this season - thank you,
Michael

Chris Glover said...

MerryMichael - how does this contradict the new bonus system? I still think you'll get a few points as a defender scoring goals but the presence of players like Kompany on the list suggests to me they are awarded for tackles blocks etc rather than purely goals. Is that what you meant?

Frank - send me a tweet and I'll follow you so you can DM me

The Hat Machine said...

This is exactly the sort of thing I used to calculate when I had more time. Love it!

I was with you until you said "Consider that the same 2.5m could be used to upgrade from Darren Fletcher to Nani or from Zamora to Hernandez".

No-one's picking Fletcher.

I generally have expensive defenders because the difference between the premium players and the value players is much less than for midfielders and forwards.

I would consider Etherington, Barton, N'Zogbia, Moses, Brunt, Eagles and Murphy to be the value in midfield (assuming Etherington isn't injured and Barton plays nicely with the other kids in the sandpit). I haven't done the math this season but I'd be surprised if you spend an extra 2.5m on top of any of that lot that you'd get better value than Baines.

Having said that I think the value in the Everton defence is Jagielka!

Pure Olivia - FFS

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TD Ocho said...

John Terry is an offensive defender, but in a different context.

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

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Chris Glover said...

Hat Machine - more people have Fletcher than Gerrard or Fabregas but I take your point. It was an extreme example to prove a point.

2.5m more than N'Zogbia gives you Nani, the best fantasy player last season who showed a 250 point pace. Zamora is the 17th most selected forward. I would very much argue that the difference there is highly likely to be (a) higher than between Baines and Jagielka/Distin and (b) is more likely to be higher as the chance of Nani not scoring goals/assists is surely lower than Baines doing the same?

Baines probably isn't the best example as I rate him very highly (in real life) and believe he can have success again, but the general point is that paying for past success is a bad idea in this particular area.

We can make stats prove either point which is why I try not to give too much advice on here rather than point out facts and suggest how they could be used.

Megaan - thanks for posting, the blog looks good

TD - well played , Sir

fogard said...

"We can make stats prove either point which is why I try not to give too much advice on here rather than point out facts and suggest how they could be used."

Well said Sir. Keep up the good work!