Tweaking, Tinkering, and Why I'm Terrible at DFS (at least this week)

tweak (verb) – to improve (a mechanism or system) by making fine adjustments to it
tinker (verb) – to attempt to repair or improve something in a casual or desultory way, often to no useful effect

Over the past week, I’ve been absolutely terrible at DFS. I write this blog from deep in the abyss of the worst losing stretch I’ve ever experienced in my DFS career, which started last April with the 2015 MLB season. At FanDuel, I’ve lost my cash games in eight out of the last nine slates I’ve played (including twice on MLK day – two for the price of…two!). At Yahoo, I’ve done nearly as bad, shrinking my bankroll to a third of what it was a week ago. I’ve even expanded to other sites (“Of course! I just haven’t found the site that works for me!”), entering a few low-stakes 50/50s, and of course, trying my hand at the RotoGrinders $500 Bloggers Freeroll. As you can see, no fantasy site can contain my suckitude:

In case you’re thinking, “17th out of 100 isn’t that bad,” there’s this: there were only 17 entries into the tournament. Putting “17/150” is just Fantasy Aces trying to be nice (“I don’t need your pity, Aces!”). I’ll give you a second to scramble to pick up my head-to-heads.

On Monday’s late slate, I hit rock bottom. Faced with the choice between Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson or Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, I chose the former, who rewarded me with a combined 37.7 points at Yahoo. Paul and Redick fared a little better, combining for 109.4 Yahoo points. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Take a look at the following list of players (Paul and Redick not included), followed by their point totals at FanDuel:

Jimmy Butler, 1/14 – 76.0 points
John Wall, 1/16 – 73.9 points
Dwight Howard, 1/18 – 73.2 points
Kyle Lowry, 1/18 – 50.5 points
Hassan Whiteside, 1/18 – 49.1 points

What do these players have in common? Besides being some of the most productive daily fantasy scorers of the past seven days, there’s one other thing: each of them made the first cut of my cash game lineups at FanDuel and had been replaced by the time lineups locked. It’s hard to win when half the field has a 75-point head start.

When one is running this bad (and this isn’t normal running bad – this is like, Usain Bolt-level running bad, or Forrest Gump-level running bad), it’s impossible not to prescribe a thousand different causes, none of them (of course) ever having to do with one’s own decision-making process. It’s tempting to take solace in phrases like, “It’s just bad luck,” or, “It’s just variance,” or, “It’s just bad karma for leaving a bad tip for the Domino’s guy” (side note: you know you’re running bad when you start factoring your DFS losses into your tips). But ultimately, my recent losing streak is on me. I chose who didn’t perform as well as the players chosen by my competitors – it’s as simple as that. And while variance may play into it, it’s impossible not to be reflective, which has led me to realize there’s been a flaw in my decision-making process.

And here’s what I’ve come up with:

I’m a high school English teacher, and last week, I was out early every day for exams. I also had the entire day off Friday (for “Exam Makeup Day.” Nobody is ever absent for exams, and the kids who didn’t get the memo that they don’t have to show up are thrown in the auditorium, where they’re treated to Gandi, starring Ben Kingsley, twice. The film is almost four hours long. True story.). With Monday being the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, as well, I’ve had an unusual amount of time this week to tinker with my DFS lineups. Too much time, it occurs to me now.

Over the months I’ve played, I’ve refined my research process where I can get most everything I need to be competitive in a relatively short amount of time. In addition to being a teacher, I’m a dad, so it’s not unusual for me to get home, spend a bit of time with my family, feed my two-year-old son, and rush to get lineups in before lock. When I have a finite amount of time, I’m not tinkering, or making changes simply out of boredom. I’m tweaking my lineup, only making necessary adjustments as new information regarding injuries, starting lineups, etc. becomes available through Twitter, the RotoGrinders app, and GrindersLive.

This week has been different, though. This week, I’ve had nothing but time to digest as much information as I could get my hands on. All this extra time has, more often than not, led to me overthinking and making -EV decisions.

But of course it works both ways – had I had five more minutes before lineups locked, I might have put Dwight Howard and Chris Paul and John Wall back in my lineups, cashed easily, and had no reason to write this blog. This is confirmation bias at its finest – if you have enough time on your hands, and if you mess with your lineups as compulsively as I have this week, by the time lineups lock you’ve had just about every player in your lineup at some point, making it really easy to wonder what might’ve been had you only trusted yourself enough to keep him in your lineup. So at what point does the amount of information bring in diminished returns?

I’m not sure I know the answer to that question, but I DO think there is a definite point where tweaking, or fine-tuning your lineups based on new information, turns into tinkering, making changes out of boredom, or worse, entering more contests than your bankroll can manage out of boredom. Tinkering is what I’ve done this week, and even if I can’t say with certainty that it’s the cause of my recent rough patch, I can say the amount of tinkering I’ve done has caused me a good deal more frustration than if I’d just trusted my original research a bit more.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that “set it and forget it” is a viable strategy in DFS. Particularly not in NBA, when you might find out at the last minute that Nikola Jokic is starting and Darrell Arthur has been moved to the bench, or that with George Hill out, Monta Ellis will run the point, these last few minutes are critical in tweaking your lineup to maximize its potential, and you’d be a fool to not take advantage of new information. But when, just minutes before lineups locked, I subbed out Chris Paul and J.J. Redick (who I’d had locked in all day) for Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson, that was tinkering, and textbook example of it.

So what are you supposed to do with this information? Be a tweaker, not a tinkerer, I guess. And for God’s sake, don’t fade Jimmy Butler when Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose are out.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed it, click the green thumbs up in the upper right corner of the screen. And if you want to discuss DFS (maybe you faded Butler, too? Or was it just me?), leave a comment below.

Twitter: @joshuabcole

Be sure to check out my “10 Notes” blogs, which are posted (almost) every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the NBA season!

About the Author

  • Josh Cole (mewhitenoise)

  • Josh Cole (mewhitenoise) is a high school English teacher and contributor at RotoGrinders. You can find him on Twitter @joshuabcole.


  • FearinLoathin

    Jesus, I thought I was the only one on a cold streak. I find myself doing the exact same thing when it comes to swapping out players who put up insane numbers for players who leave the game after 12 minutes or put up 12 fantasy points in 36 minutes. It does all come to an end, though.

    Very entertaining read, and I really enjoy your 10 Notes pieces as well.

  • njsum

    If it makes you feel any better (and it probably won’t) Butler was questionable heading into his big game with an ankle or some other relevant ailmant, so fading him in a cash game wasnt a terrible decision as there was risk there. So just so happened he was fine and went off. howeever, judging by his performances since that game, he appears to be off a bit (even with everyone healthy).

  • mewhitenoise

    RG Contributor

    • Blogger of the Month

    Thanks for reading, FearinLoathin and njsum! Yeah, I’d forgotten that Butler’s ankle was one of the reasons I chose to swap him out. Kind of goes against what I was saying about using new information, I guess. Still, it’s just an example of how trigger-happy I’ve been with my lineups this past week – I should have realized that, even with a bum ankle, Butler was a great play because he was the only guy on Chicago who could score.

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