Bewildered, you look over the team sheet. Just as you thought you were making progress in the fantasy competition, disaster has struck. You rest your head in your hands as you examine the red icons of missing players before you. The prize recruit talked up all pre-season; ‘the Jaeger Bomb’ O’Meara has indeed bombed – missing again. Despite officials from the club assuring you that he’s just been rested for soreness he seems no closer to his return. Right at the time you should be cashing in on “break evened” rookies you’re forced to trade just to field a team. Options, options… you swallow the lump rising in your throat as you consider playing a rookie, Teia Miles, named on the extended bench on Sundays game. Surely with Jaeger out he’s a shoe-in for another game… right?

The Bargin Bin

We’re all familiar with this scenario – scrambling to avoid the dreaded donut when we should be improving our team. As AFL Fantasy gets more and more competitive each year everyone is looking for a way to get ahead of the pack. The first place coaches look at are the less-durable players; the list of injury discounted and massively under-priced players – the bargain bin.

Most good coaches have little depth in their squad all in the name of maximizing scores trying to get that edge. It’s conventional wisdom in AFL Fantasy folk-law; “Don’t leave money on the bench” – which is a common criticism of teams who leave high-value players in the substitution spots. And it makes sense; the goal of AFL Fantasy is to maximize points which go to waste on the pine. This is why in my article on Team Structure, in last years optimum team the bench is largely stacked with basement priced rookies. And with injury, it is an area where luck plays a part in AFL Fantasy. All the same, a wise coach will look to leave as little to lady-luck as possible and seek to reduce risk to managable levels. And part of this is managing the risk and reward of less durable players.

Getting a Kick

What is the risk of picking up players with a spotty history on getting out on the park? The obvious is whether they will get a game. However, another factor is how does it affect their scoring when they do play.

The following chart displays the correlation between the number of games a player has played in a year, and the average Fantasy score for those games:

Games Played v DT Mean

Is there a correlation between Games Played and Mean score?

As we can see from this chart players who play the most games tend to have the highest averages. Of course there are many reasons a player may have missed games – not just injury. For example; suspension, poor form, an established player coming back in, or even a coaches whim could affect a players chance of playing. And this chart does not take into account why a player missed – it merely measures games played. All the same, the chart shows the importance of job security in the game and how it may affect your AFL Fantasy scores. And particularly of interest to me is that players who play in excess of 21 games have a significant boost over the rest of the pack.

Gazing the Crystal Ball

“That’s all well and good” you may say, as you eye-ball the 2018 season, “except without a crystal ball, how do we know how many games a player may play?”
As any good financial advisor should tell you, past performance does not guarantee future performance. All the same, it is one of the most useful indicators we have available to us:

Games a player played the previous year vs Games a player played the following year

There appears to be a strong correlation between the games a player played in the previous season, and how many they played in the following season. Although we can almost certainly think of exceptions to this, statistically the correlation is there. Interestingly, if a player reaches the 10 game mark the previous season, they on average will play the same number of games the following year. Players who play less than this tend fo fare a bit better, but statistically they are unlikely to play the majority of games.

In Summary

  • ‘Player Durability’ isn’t a Myth: previous games missed is a strong indication of future games missed
  • There is a correlation between the number of games a player will play, and their AFL Fantasy average

At the very least it is clear that if you stock up on players without a good track record, you need to have good backup in place. And personal experience tells me players seem to blow up at the worst possible time; even the best laid “Bye-Round” plans can be thrown into turmoil by injuries during these rounds. And more to the point – these kinds of players on average don’t score as well as their more durable counter-parts.

Still, for every AFL Fantasy coach, the juicy discounts given in the ‘bargain bin’ of previously injured players is an opportunity too good to pass up. Afterall, fortune favours the brave… Right???
In my next article in this series, Buyers Beware – Part 2, I’m going to go examine just this: are these discounted players really worthwhile? So please stay tuned.

Leave a comment below. Are you going to dive deep into the ‘bargain bin’ of discounted players? And which ones do you think may buck the trend?