Meta-Gabeing: Making The Percentage Play October 26, 2012  |  Crazy Gabey

Welcome back to another week of Meta-Gabeing. If you haven’t read last week’s article yet, I highly recommend doing so before proceeding. The concept we’ll discuss today builds directly upon the foundation we laid last week, and will give contextualization to the topic. You can find it here.

I’d also like put an offer out to anyone who finds themselves in a sub-optimal situation. Post a link to your league’s main page (if the league is publicly viewable of course.)  Or copy/paste your roster, the roster of each of your leaguemates, and any notable players on your waiver wire. I’ll do my best to help as many people as possible, and I’ll select one scenario to feature each week as a way of practically applying the topics we discuss. I’ve always believed hands-on learning to be a vital component of strategy-based gaming, and I think we could all benefit, myself included, in getting our hands dirty.

With that out-of-the-way, let’s move along.

Making The Percentage Play

A distinct aspect of all strategy based gaming is that percentages are in a constant state of ebb and flow, and can be used to help us differentiate lines of play from one another. Sometimes the percentages are prominent, as is the case in poker. Often though, it is a subtle, unconscious evaluation arrived at through a mix of recall (which we’ll discuss in detail next week) and current information. For example, you might have known off the top of your head, that after week 2 trading for Wes Welker was a good idea. Current trends showed he and Julian Edelman were splitting time, and that Gronkowski and Hernandez were becoming offensive focal points. Recall told us that Welker is a top-10 talent in an explosive offense, and that given his previous body of work, if the Patriots wanted to win they would quickly change tunes in regard to his playing time. By weighing the two against each other, you knew that buying low on Welker was less risk/reward and more of a sure-fire return on investment.

In poker, there are times when a certain play is clearly preferable, and almost obligatory given the odds the pot is offering, how an opponent is playing, and so on. If there is $100 in a pot at the end of a hand you are almost obligated to call a $20 bet if you are holding any strength at all. Of course you may choose to raise depending on the opponent, but the point is you aren’t giving up on a pot like that if there is a reasonable chance you may be holding the best hand. In fact, this situation is so favorable to you that you only need to win 21% of the time to show a profit. To cast it in a different light, you can actually lose 79% of the time and still be a winner! We’re planning on winning more often than the bare minimum, so you can easily see why this sort of opportunity is the kind professional poker players make their rent off of.

Fantasy sports are clearly more fluid and situational, but the basic tenets apply. One of the most overwhelming tasks for a novice is trading. There’s a certain fear grounded in the enormity of it all, and it becomes extremely difficult to accurately evaluate a trade offer. One of the best ways to nullify this is to assign percentages to the pieces you are dealing with. It’s obviously impossible to assign a “hard” percentage to something with as much variance as living, breathing human being, but it’s helpful in making sure you get the deal you want.

For example, let’s say you have Arian Foster, a few solid mid-round guys, and little else in the way of studs. You’ve been decimated by injuries, a few high draft picks haven’t panned out, and you’re currently sitting at 3-4; very close to fading out of the playoff hunt. You clearly need to make a move, but where do you start? The obvious answer is to find an owner with a surplus in your areas of need who conversely needs whatever you might have in abundance. This is the optimal scenario but it often won’t align that way. Instead you’ll need to look for some players to buy low on, an owner who overvalues getting a guy like Foster, or someone who can afford to lose value in order to upgrade their RB corp.

Now comes the fun part.

Let’s start by assessing your current status. All things being equal and realistic, you might have a 15% chance of finishing 1st or 2nd this season. The top teams will be sitting at a significantly higher percentage than this. Your goal is to get as close as possible to those teams, and pass them if you can. If you sit still, hope your guys step up, and ride Foster until the end, sure, you may win once out of 20 times with a couple 2nd places, but this is a long-term losing proposition and an example of playing to not lose. So find that guy who really wants Foster and maybe even overvalues him a bit, if that’s possible. Let’s say he’s got Darren McFadden, Julio Jones, another stud or two, and some mid-range guys. What are the chances DMC starts clicking in the second half? Every owner will have a different answer, but what’s important is that you come to an informed number based off your research, instinct, and recall. Personally, I’d say 40%. He’s shown elite level talent, but has a porous offensive line and a surrounding cast that just can’t seem to click and avoid injuries. What are the chances Julio Jones maintains his current level? Exceeds it? Regresses? I’d give him maybe 15% to “go off” in the second half, 70% to maintain, and maybe 15% that his numbers dip. Let’s say you load the back end of this deal with someone like Mikel Leshoure, giving away Josh Gordon and Steven Jackson. I’d say Gordon has a long shot at continuing his torrid pace, maybe 15%, and I’d reasonably trust Leshoure, say 65%, to continue his solid, albeit uninspiring production. On the surface Foster/Gordon/Jackson for McFadden/Jones/Leshoure seems like a fairly even proposition, but it’s a deal loaded with upside for you. If things work out in your favor, Julio stays consistent, Leshoure continues to be workhorse-like, and DMC turns things around, you’ve probably just increased your chances of placing to something like 30%. If an injury occurs or your guys underperform, take solace in knowing your chances of placing weren’t much worse than if you had sat idle. On the flip side, what if DMC turns his game around and Jones or Leshoure get hot? You’ve probably now increased your chances of placing to something along the lines of 50%, representing a significant upgrade.

To emphasize, let’s take a standard 10-team league with a $10 “participation” fee from each of the members. Assuming a standard payout of 30 Monopoly bucks to 2nd and 70 Monopoly bucks to 1st, let’s see where your fake profit margin lies. We’ll say 15% of the time you’ll place. Given twenty entries you’ll pay $200 in “participation” fees. This means that you’ll make 1st and 2nd approximately 1.5 times apiece for a grand total of 150 Monopoly bucks or a net loss of 50.

Now let’s look at the same scenario given twenty $10 entries and the same prize structure with our team after the trade. We’ll say that 60% of the time our chances remain at 15% due to DMC continuing to disappoint, a key injury, etc. Our profit stays the same in those 12 contests, so $150x.6=$90. We’ll then say 30% of the time we have a 30% chance of placing 1st or 2nd when DMC turns it on. This means that 30% of the time we will have three 1st and three 2nd place finishes so $300x.3=$90. Then we’ll take the final scenario in which the stars align and the upside shines through, giving you a 10% chance of making 1st or 2nd 50% of the time. This means five 1st and five 2nd places 10% of the time so $500x.1=$50. A total return of $230 from our $200 investment.

As you can see it adds up over time, literally. Notice we were still at a $20 loss before adding in the small percentage that represents the upside of our best case scenario, and therein lies the specific reason we must play to win by making bold moves with high risk upside potential. The 10% of the time where it all comes together is the key to turning losing situations into long term winners. Conducting business as usual will never put you in a position where you can be rewarded by a windfall of upside. It’s how you can continue to play to win even when the cards don’t fall your way.

A few last things I’d like to talk about as we wrap up our talk on percentages.

If you have multiple options for your last few roster spots each week, percentages can be very useful in setting your lineup. What chance do you have of defeating your opponent? Is his team significantly better than yours? If so you can increase your percentage of winning the matchup by playing “home run” guys like Vincent Jackson or Michael Vick over other, safer options. The times they don’t “go off” are eased by the fact that you probably weren’t winning even if you had chosen your more consistent players. Conversely, if you know your team is better than your opponents by a fair margin, it’s probably better to play it safe and take your 8-12 points from Steven Jackson than it is to start Shonn Greene and hope for another anomaly.

Finally, I’d like to note that shopping around with trade offers for all the buy low targets is almost always the correct percentage play. I mentioned earlier in the article that unlike poker, fantasy sports are a much more fluid and unpredictable endeavor. This makes for very few instances where there are cut and dry “correct” plays because so much of a player’s value is an inference drawn by the individual owner. Buy low guys are different because you never know just how low an owner is willing to go when he’s frustrated with a Jeremy Maclin after week 5. Perhaps he sells for dimes on the dollar and even if Maclin doesn’t pan out you’re barely worse for wear. I’m not advocating that you acquire every underperformer, but throwing out some feelers is a safe way to improve your team.

Thanks again for reading folks! There’s so much more that could be said on this subject so if anyone has questions I’d love to hash it out in the comments. Come back next week when we discuss how to appropriately use recall memory when dealing with information overload.

Follow me on Twitter @CrazyGabey.

13 Responses

  1. Crazy Gabey says:


    It looks as though you might have had some misfortune in regards to matchups each week to be sitting on that team and be 3-4?

    I honestly think you’re at or near championship caliber already. I would absolutely be dealing RG3 right now. Stafford is coming to life and will be a top 8 QB the rest of the way, personally I think top 6. RG3 is uber talented but a ticking injury bomb. It might happen, it might not. Let some other owner deal with it if it does. I would target every top 5 RB and WR with 1 for 1 deals. If you grab any of those guys to be your flex, and move Stafford into the lineup you’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

  2. Crazy Gabey says:


    With your second league I think you’re right on the money. I like the deal where you swing McCoy. If you’re starting Julio, ADP, and McCoy each week you’re doing something right! Maclin is a little bit of a drop off from where I have Colston at, but the difference between McCoy and Richardson is much wider.

  3. Crazy Gabey says:


    Is this PPR? I’ll be writing this reply with the assumption that it’s a standard scoring league.

    I actually don’t think you’re as bad off as you think at RB2. I actually have Jennings ranked as a top 20 guy from here on out. That being said, if Jones-Drew comes back around the fantasy playoffs then you will be in a world of hurt. I honestly wouldn’t be trying to run DMC out of town. I don’t like the DMC/Nicks for McCoy deal. I simply think you’d be giving up too much. One of the best ways to lose a stranglehold on a league is by thinning your bench to the point where a couple of injuries force you to start waiver wire fodder. The guy I’d be looking to move here is Jordy Nelson. I’d probably be doing the same thing as the reply above. Sending out a 1 for 1 for every RB ranked 6-15 and the additional guys I listed. Be willing to throw in someone like Britt if you need to seal the deal. If that happens try and get a guy like Chris Givens or Ryan Broyles as a throw in for yourself.

  4. Crazy Gabey says:

    Hey guys, thanks for the feedback! I wanted to let you know that due to my schedule (and having two kids) Monday or Tuesday will generally be the earliest I can get back to everyone in the comments. Since this isn’t a start/sit type weekly I’m hoping that will be okay with everyone.

    Now for your questions!


    I agree with you completely on the assessment of who your league is likely to value, it’s actually going to be one of the topics in a future article. Relative “unknowns” who “breakout” are generally much slower to climb to stud valuation in most people’s eyes, even when they’ve produced consistently for 4 or 5 weeks straight. Case in point was Victor Cruz last year. He was clearly the #1 in NY after his 3rd or 4th start but from the trade probes I sent out it was clear most owners valued Nicks higher or some reason.

    I think at TE you’re just going to ride the matchup play for the rest of the season. Unless Rudolph heats up again there’s just not much value there.

    I would really be trying to deal Bryant in this spot, and I would do it fast. With his attitude problems, inconsistent play, poor route running, and the Cowboys everything, it’s quite possible his value is as high as it will be all this season. Don’t get me wrong, he has the talent to maintain his average from the last 4 games, but I don’t trust it. You’re not going to get anyone to trade you a top 5 RB for him, but I would start by offering him in a one for one with all the RB’s ranked 6-15. There’s even some guys outside the top 15 like DMC, CJ2K, and Ryan Mathews that I would put an offer out for. A good rule of thumb this season is if you’re trading a WR for a RB of relatively equal value then you got the better end. WR is super deep this season while RB is weak outside the top 20. Also, be flexible enough to follow up with an offer that includes a throw-in like Vick Ballard if your first offer gets turned down. With Donald Brown back I see him fading back to obscurity as soon as next week.

    I’m also not shipping McGahee out of town for anything less than a solid 2 for 1. He’s a workhorse this year, ride him until he breaks. I doubt anyone would be willing to give you a good 2 for 1 so I’d sit tight.

  5. y4rivera says:

    Nice articles. I’m 3-4 in a 10 team ESPN standard league. What should I do with this team?
    Starting roster: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, W/R/T
    RG3, Stafford
    DMC, Lynch, Murray, Dwyer, D.Rich
    Jordy, Wallace, Britt, Cobb, Hartline

  6. Vk says:

    Nice entertaining read!!

    I am in 12 team league loaded at WRs with Percy, nicks, jordy, Torrey and britt. I have DMC and rashad Jennings as my RB. I have sent several feelers such as DMC+ nicks for McCoy. Or torrey for j stew or DMC, nicks and Torrey for demaryius and McCoy.. I am currently comfortable at 7-0 but I am weak at RB2 and I won’t win championships with that RB2. Suggestions?

    In another league, I am 4-3, I want to trade Trent and colston for McCoy and maclin, I have Julio, colston and hartline as my rcvr and ADP, Trent and mendy as RBs. This is a 3 player keeper league so if I can fetch McCoy, sending away Trent, it is still a good deal. Thoughts?

  7. Alex says:

    Hey Bud,

    I’m in a 14 team standard scoring league and pretty stacked at WR. I’ve got Roddy White, Dez Bryant, Randall Cobb, Kenny Britt and Chris Givens. At RB I have Willis McGahee, Jonathan Stewart, Vick Ballard, Jacquizz Rodgers and William Powell. At those positions we start 3 WR, 2 RB and a Flex. My QB is Brady and my TEs are Rudolph/Celek.The way I see it, I’ll probably be starting my top 4 WRs each week, with one at Flex I could either run with that or try to upgrade at RB by trading Roddy White or Dez Bryant and McGahee. Knowing the people in my league, I don’t think the value Britt, Cobb or Stewart. Do you have any suggestions? What caliber RB would you target?

    Many thanks,

  8. CrazyGabey says:

    Hey there Dan, glad you enjoyed the article.

    I think you’re right on target with your assessment here, but if you’re looking for a “home run” guy I don’t know that Stewart is the pick. Don’t get me wrong, if I NEEDED an RB I would scoop Stewart in a heartbeat. Same goes for Williams if I needed a WR. I actually think I’m taking a flier on Young or Richardson here if I’m looking for someone who might blow up in the next month or so. Hankerson is a fine choice as well so I’d go with whichever of those three you feel best about.

    If it was me it would be too close to call on Young or Richardson but Young would probably win out. Better (potentially) offense, a stud that absorbs double and triple teams so he’ll see lots of man coverage, and he has more of a proven track record dating back to last season.

  9. Dan says:

    Hi there, like the articles. I’m currently 6-1 in my 8 team money league. Just suffered my first loss last week. I’m pretty deep at WR and RB, especially at RB. I’m looking to add a guy who has the highest breakout/stud potential. My options are j-stew, l. Hankerson, t. Young, Martellus Bennett, j. Dwyer, G. Olsen, d. Brown, crabtree, D. Richardson, p. Thomas, and m. Williams. I’m actually leaning j-stew right now even though I’m loaded at rb, I like Hankerson ( not convinced garçon is a certainty to return this ear) and Titus young but I’m not sure. It’s PPR. I’m really just looking to hit a possible home run since I already have solid depth. Thoughts? Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Fantasy Football Strategy

Fantasy Football Start/Sit Week 16

  Week 16 is upon us, which means you are reading this article for one of three reasons: You’ve made it to the championship, congratulations! After tireless weeks of working the waiver wire, starting the right players, and dominating your friends you now have a chance to claim the coveted title of ...


Fantasy Football Start/Sit Week 15

  Should we have expected anything less from the first week of the fantasy playoffs? We saw ankle-deep snow in Buffalo, a top quarterback go down for the year in Los Angeles, and even Jay Cutler outplay Tom Brady. Week 15 promises to bring surprises of its own, but through careful ...


Fantasy Football Start/Sit Week 14

  Week 14 is the bittersweet beginning of the end. If your league is like most, the fantasy playoffs start this week and although this is where the real fun begins, it also means that the season will be ending soon. So let’s enjoy this ride while it lasts. If you ...