Variance – The Double Edge Sword

We’ve all done it. Do the research, hear a couple experts refer to the player you are pegged on as a sneaky play. You know this one player you build your lineup(s) around is about to go HAM!!

Then, the slate begins. Your player is a dud. 0 for 4 at the plate. 2 for 14 from the field. 18 carries for 22 yards and a fumble lost. 3 consecutive double bogeys on 16, 17, and 18 to miss the cut, spun out on the second lap and into the wall.

It is amazing how many people who have a bad night were “unlucky” and how many people who killed it on a night did their research the skillful way. I’m here to tell you that there’s no crystal ball. No magic formula that will tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that x player will get x amount of points.

I remember when Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol were out. Taj Gibson was going to be the man. As I envisioned 80 points and 40 rebounds, he twists an ankle. 80% owned Taj Gibson. I went to the forum and cried like a little girl. How could 20% not play Taj Gibson?! I couldn’t believe there were that many idiots in the forums. I challenged everyone that faded Gibson to play me heads up so I could learn from them. Well, it was really to take their monies, but still.

You look at the winner in the GPP you just had your dud in and there’s a clown with a single bullet that nailed the scrub that went 4 for 4 with 2 HRs and a steal, or had 3 catches for 26 yards and 2 TDs. The guy that no one was on. 0.6% owned. Your first thought is “That dummy got real lucky.” Yes, and that dummy got your money.

This is why variance is a double edged sword. Grinders should not be despising variance, but embracing it. Sure, luckbox moves work out sometimes. When variance occurs benefitting those it should not, remember that this is exactly what makes the poor player keep coming back. If the slates went as predicted every time, they would dry up quickly. 72 can beat pocket rockets, but the ones who play 72 a lot are the ones you want to play against. The guy who hits on a Center playing against Memphis, or a WR playing against Seattle, or a Ford in NASCAR will inevitably lose their winnings from those times variance worked in their favor. Variance is what makes the poor player keep coming back. Enough variance and they will believe these GPPs are like buying lottery tickets and anyone can win. A Chip and a chair. So, embrace that variance. Be happy when King Felix gives up 8 earned runs in less than an inning. King Felix will burn you less often than Chris Heston will burn them.

Finally, understand that you benefit from variance also. Sure, it may not be that supersleeper that blows up that no one in their right mind would be on. However, stacking Dodgers at Colorado which everyone is doing but you find yourself throwing Jimmy Rollins into the lineup even though he’s batting 8th. Sure, this means that you have to give up a Kendick or a Grandal and that is where variance comes into play. You pay up a little for Posey and then in the OF spot, you have to roll with Cuddyer. Rollins hits the HR, Grandal goes 0-4 at 40% owned and Posey hits a granny for the 15% that took him.

You did great research. You also benefitted from variance. That 2% ownership of Cuddyer who decided to hit for 4 RBIs and 2 doubles worked out well for you, but what really worked out well is that 90% that took Cuddyer stacked the contrarian Mets who scored 4 runs the whole game. You made top 10, congrats. Skill? Yes. Variance? Absolutely!

Research is not just about who will possibly do what. Research also includes who is everyone else going to be on that you can take advantage of. Embrace variance. Memphis is at the Lakers? Great, get Gasol in your lineup. But forgo Randolph, the chalk play. Don’t be afraid to throw in that Leuer guy who no one notices may get a ton of garbage time minutes. Imagine the what ifs and be prepared for them. You don’t need a perfect lineup. You just need to be beating the other tens of thousands in the field, many of whom did the same research you did. Many of whom landed on the same players you did. Many of whom won’t reach out for variance because their crystal ball of a spreadsheet or some expert site told them the way the slate will play out exactly and it can’t possibly be wrong for the 1,482nd time in a row, can it?

Variance. A curse and a blessing. Don’t believe the “I lose due to variance and I win due to skill,” crowd. Playing for variance is playing with skill and it is a skill that is much more difficult to master than coming up with the chalk plays from a crystal ball. Anyone can do that, and most do.

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  • crowntheirasses

    Excellent read. Made me laugh, nod my head and murmur to myself in agreement. I think it’s extremely important to recognize and separate mistakes from variance, especially in MLB. Easier said than done though, as one can appear as the other, but I hope with more experience the fine line between mistakes and variance becomes more clear. Let the learning continue.

  • crazypaul

    “Research is not just about who will possibly do what. Research also includes who is everyone else going to be on that you can take advantage of. Embrace variance.”

    A few nights ago this exact philosophy helped me get a nice night. The BlueJays were facing the Redsox & the red hot Eduardo Rodriguez. The rookie had been pretty much unhittable through his first 3 starts. The Bluejays have been great the last few weeks, but many people were avoiding them because of a 3 game sample out of a rookie. I took the plunge and stacked them but also went even further by stacking the cheaper jays like Goins & Valencia so I could fit Scherzer into my lineup. People were so afraid of this 3 start wonder that lefty killer Josh Donaldson was only 11% owned in the Moonshot. My 6 BlueJays combined for 95 FTPS including 50 from Goins & Valencia both were under 4% owned.

    Yes you can get lucky with “variance” when a guy like Goins scores 29 points on DK or unlucky when a guy like Trout goes 0-4, but if you work variance into your lineup building process it can help you build lineups that shoot to the top when you go against what everyone else is doing and it hits.

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