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Mathematical Musings: Positional Value in the Official Fantasy Premier League Game

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As many fantasy players are switching over from Yahoo! to PremierLeague.com for the 2015-16 season, many may find a statistical analysis of the 2014-15 season's point scoring useful. What positions were the most and least valuable? How can this information be utilized toward building a strong fantasy team?

Hey, PremierLeague.com! I don't get no respect, I tell ya!
Hey, PremierLeague.com! I don't get no respect, I tell ya!
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

I don't know where you hang your hat. But if you live in an urban area other than Detroit, chances are that you're in the throes of a mind-bogglingly insane housing market. And not just buying, but rentals, too. Prices up 10% a year? If you're lucky!  Bidding wars, cash offers and lawsuits? You bet! You want to move? Well, good luck with that, pally.

The Yahoo Premier League fantasy game felt all too much like the crazy housing market. Don't get me wrong, I'll miss Yahoo, but I'll also definitely appreciate taking a break from the insane in-season and even in-game player price fluctuations.  How many times would a player score his first goal in two or three seasons and see his value skyrocket by 50% or more within half an hour of game's end?  How often would you feel like a player was forever out of reach just because you were a week or two too late in grabbing him?

The PremierLeague.com platform, by comparison, seems a bit dull. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. The word on the street is that prices barely fluctuate. Sure, you can't grab an Aaron Cresswell for 1.00 and see his price rise to double digits by the end of the season. But that also means that you don't have to worry about going away for the weekend and missing out on a Harry Kane or Sergio Aguero after they net hat tricks. No need to emulate Russell Crowe's character from A Beautiful Mind, obsessing by your computer, connecting spider-string pin-board charts on your wall and going off the rails. You can relax and enjoy the actual game action. What an unusual concept!

With limited in-season transfers (other than when you play your wild card), your first week team seems quite vital.  Make or break, baby!  No pressure, huh?  So how do you find value?  How do you prioritize?  In the 2014-15 season, this was the scoring breakdown by position:

PLAYERS' SCORE STRIKERS MIDFIELDERS DEFENDERS KEEPERS
175+ Points 2 3 2 0
150+ Points 3 10 2 1
125+ Points 11 20 12 5
100+ Points 15 31 24 12

What can we glean from the above chart?  Midfielders are the big scorers, and while defenders and strikers are fairly similar with respect to the number of 125, 150 and 175 point scorers, defenders have more depth, with a substantial advantage in the number of 100 point scorers. How about cost?

PLAYERS' COST STRIKERS MIDFIELDERS DEFENDERS KEEPERS
10+ 4 3 0 0
8+ 10 18 0 0
7+ 19 34 2 0
6+ 42 62 10 0

What the deuce?!  Rodney Dangerfield alert here, because defenders are getting absolutely no respect. It's difficult to argue with midfielders' pricing; however, despite defenders scoring only slightly fewer points than strikers, strikers cost significantly more than defenders.

In fact, strikers cost from a low of 4.5 all the way up to a high of 13.0, whereas defenders run from 4.0 to 7.0. The midfielders' price range of 5.5 to 11.5 makes sense, while keepers ranging from 4.0 to 5.5 seems peculiar along the lines of defenders. A back-up keeper unlikely to play costs only 1.5 units less than the top-priced keepers who are likely to score 120-160 points? Really? So the positional price insanity is pretty obvious, but how can we quantify it?

TOP 10 SCORERS BY POSITION AVG. PRICE AVG. SCORE PRICE PER POINT
Strikers 8.7 152 0.0570/point
Midfielders 8.9 176 0.0506/point
Defenders 6.1 145 0.0421/point
Keepers 5.1 132 0.0306/point

Not surprisingly, keepers and defenders give you the most bang for the buck followed by midfielders and with strikers by far the most costly per point.  Compared to strikers, you're getting a 26% discount for defenders.  And it's right there for the taking, you don't even have to haggle!

Now let's say your strategy was to load up on the top three scorers from last season either in attack, midfield or defense.  What would it get you and how much would it dent your budget?  The top three strikers (Aguero/Kane/Costa) would deliver 557 points at a cost of 33.5.  The top three midfielders (Hazard/Sanchez/Silva) scored an even more prolific 631 points and would cost slightly less, 32.5.  Meanwhile, the top three defenders (Ivanovic/Terry/Jagielka) put forth 498 points at a price of 19.0, slightly fewer points but what an astronomical discount in price!

So what can we glean from all of the above metrics?  It's hitting you over the head at each turn like a Mile Jedinak elbow, isn't it?  We've established that PremierLeague.com and Yahoo are just about 180 degrees apart in terms of price fluctuations, but this makes it clear that they're also nothing like each other in terms of positional valuations.  In PremierLeague.com, the value clearly comes in your defenders and keepers and most definitively not with strikers.

With Yahoo, I rarely paid premium for defenders, but I can see the logic of doing so on PremierLeague.com.  With Yahoo, my preferred line-up was almost always 3-4-3, loading up on as many strikers as possible.  With PremierLeague.com, I could definitely see going with 4-4-2, 3-5-2, 5-3-2, 5-4-1 or 4-5-1 in most weeks, depending on match-ups.

So easy breezy, this season should be more relaxing with the switch from Yahoo to PremierLeague.com.  Prices won't jump insanely and we won't be making many weekly squad changes, so take a deep breath, grab a pint and enjoy the action.