ALTERNATIVE: Applying HQ tools to daily contests - first results

We recently decided it was time to take our trusty HQ toolset and test-drive it against the latest growth area of the fantasy gaming industry: one-day games. In these formats, you pick a roster (against a salary cap) for one night's play only. Last week, we took advantage of a free promotion offered to HQ subscribers by DraftStreet.com, and used that opportunity to play our first one-day game.

How did we do? Not bad, for our first time: We finished 16th of 84 entries in this particular event. Let's look in a bit more detail at what went wrong and what went right:

Successes: the offense

C: Alex Avila (HQ: $4994; DS: $5205): 2-4, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R, 2 KO: 10 pts
1B: Albert Pujols (HQ: $18457;  DS: $5396): 1-3, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 GDP: 10 pts
2B: Kelly Johnson (HQ: $2497 ; DS: $6777): 1-3, 1 KO: 0.25 pts
3B: Todd Frazier (HQ: $-10708; DS: $4640): 1-3, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 KO: 4.25 pts
SS: JJ Hardy (HQ: $8307 ; DS: $7239): 2-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB: 8.25 pts
OF: BJ Upton (HQ: $8587,  DS: $3757 ): 0-5: 4.75 pts
OF: Shane Victorino (HQ: $13697 DS: $6958): 2-3, 2 2B, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 KO: 0 pts
OF Shin-Soo Choo (HQ: $6347 DS: $6202): 2-5, 1 R, 1 SB, 1 KO: 7 pts
UT: Trevor Plouffe (HQ:$1  DS: $5083 ): 1-1, 2 RBI: 5 pts
UT: Howie Kendrick (HQ: $4270  DS: $4695): 1-4, 1 2B, 2 R: 4 pts

Total: 13-35, 7 2B, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 9 R, 3 BB, 1 SB, 6 KO, 1 GDP: 53.50 pts

This was a solid performance from our offense. The contest winner scored 90.75 points. Allocating about 59% of our offense to hitting, we returned exactly 59% of the point total needed to win. In short, this lineup provided us with exactly what we needed. While this is only one contest's data point, it does offer some validation of our approach to building a lineup, which was:

  • Buy a balanced offense consisting of mid-tiered/mid-priced players, rather than taking a stars/scrubs approach.
  • Target poor opposing SPs, especially those with low strikeout rates (since hitter strikeouts are negative-point events). Absorbing only 6 K's in 38 AB in this game partially mitigated the team's doubles-not-homers power output.
  • Roster hot hitters whenever possible.

Failures: the pitchers

The hitters did their job. So by extension, the pitchers must have let us down. Indeed, that's where our maiden voyage hit the rocks:

Clayton Kershaw: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, Loss: 6.25 pts
Anthony Bass: 5.3 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, Loss: -0.4 pts
Russ Detwiler: 4.3 IP. 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K: 2.9 pts
Kenley Jansen: did not pitch

Total: 16.7 IP, 18 H, 11 ER, 10 BB, 15 K, 2 Losses: 8.75 pts

Kershaw's subpar outing was not the death knell for us. He almost became a non-factor because 40% of the teams rostered him, so his start was felt across the "league." And the winning team had Kershaw, but managed to pick the right pitchers to pair with him: Dillon Gee (11.6 pts), Rafael Soriano (5.05 pts) and Josh Johnson (1.8 pts).

What did we learn? Other strategic considerations

The example of Kershaw above proved telling: almost every night, there will be an elite starting pitching play, frequently with an appealing matchup. A wide cross-section of players may choose to roster that pitcher, which shouldn't discourage you from following suit. But it does put more pressure on your 2nd/3rd SP picks, at least one of whom likely needs to be a lower-budget option. The BHQ Probable Pitchers report failed us this time, but it still seems like a tool that is tailor-made for this particular game.

Offensively, we did see one common strategy emerge: "stacking" players. Basically, this takes our strategy of targeting weak SPs to an extreme, basically picking one or two SP you want to bet against, and doing so by purchasing the entire opposing lineup. As such, you don't care who does the damage against the pitcher, you just want to see the team score a lot of runs. If they do, you'll reap the rewards. For instance, at least one team bought the entire Tigers lineup against Anthony Swarzak, and supplemented with Adam Jones and Nick Markakis as their utility choices. Since the Tigers scored 10 runs, their offense surged. This could also have the benefit of being a quicker-to-implement strategy, rather than studying lineup choices at each position each day.

Overall impressions

The morning after the contest, Ron Shandler asked me:

"What did you think of the contest?  Entertaining challenge for those with short attention spans? Pure crapshoot gambling? Something valuable to build upon?"

I responded:

"Yes, I would say 'entertaining for those with short attention spans' is about right. I was entertained, for sure. I don't see how you could play these every day if you take them at all seriously... I probably spent an hour researching my lineup, who can do that every day? But they offer weekly contests too, those could be interesting. If my main fantasy team were having a bad year or rebuilding or something, this could be a replacement outlet. And on a Friday night when your wife is out, your kids are in bed, and you're home and watching games anyway (as I was last night)? Yeah, it's a good time.

Once I got into the site, I immediately realized what the analogy is: the site is laid out exactly like an online poker site (an area I have some experience in). They offer a pretty wide variety of games and price points, and had a surprising amount of activity in the chat area. There seemed to be a pretty decent-sized user base... although Fridays are probably a peak night.

As to the crapshoot element: there is some strategy being used. On the continuum of skill vs luck, this slides further down the 'luck' side than a full-season game; and any one night is probably a crapshoot. But if you played regularly and applied sound principles, I would think your results would eventually reflect it."

Our bottom line is this: With our first try at this format under our belts, we certainly enjoyed ourselves enough that we'll come back for more. Expect further updates as we get more reps under our belt.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.