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June 26, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

Weaknesses, Decision Framing, and Trades

by Jeff Quinton


Narrow or incorrect decision framing will lead to bad decisions. This is nothing new. I even did a primer, an overview one could say, on decision framing (here). In short, by taking too narrow a view of a particular decision, we may miss out on less obvious, more optimal options. Today, we will be bringing this conversation on decision framing down to a more specific level; that level being how we go about trading to improve our team. For this article, I will keep the conversation to redraft leagues; however, the concepts can certainly be applied to any league.

When looking to improve our team, the first thing we tend to do is look to improve our biggest weaknesses. Brief example: if our pitchers are terrible and our hitters are good, then we look to trade hitting for pitching. The “fix your weaknesses” strategy is not exclusive to fantasy baseball either. In business we use resources to grow in markets where we are underrepresented, we perform the most analysis on how to improve our weakest brands, and we take the most time to make decision about our least profitable products. In baseball, we ask if a prolific minor leaguer would be able to handle a position switch in order to replace our least prolific major leaguer, we ask if we are better off finding a platoon partner for a hitter who is really struggling against lefties, etc. Our obsession with weaknesses seems innate.

One could argue that it is the organismic norm created by a hardwiring to survive in order to have our genetics passed on. One could argue that it is a creation of a society and an education system that incentivizes being good enough rather than exceptional. One could argue that the fact that “the self is more motivated to avoid bad self-definitions than to pursue good ones,” makes us focus on improving or protecting against our weaknesses. Whatever it is, when we are sitting at a strategic planning meeting or staring at our fantasy baseball rosters, we tend to go right to the weakness. That is the narrow decision frame we need to be wary of this time of year. By focusing solely on how to improve our weaknesses, we will miss opportunities to improve elsewhere. Moreover, we may be able to improve our team more by improving our perceived strengths rather than by improving our weaknesses. To get even more tangible, let us take a look at how narrowly framing our strategic decisions through our weaknesses can negatively impact us in both head-to-head points leagues and rotisserie leagues.

Head-to-Head Points Leagues
One of the more common Bat Signal questions we get goes a little something like this: “[number of teams] team league, head to head, points league. I am [near the top] in [hitting] and [near the bottom] in [pitching]. My [outfield] consists of [four great outfielders]. I have a standing offer of [one of my outfielders] for [another team’s pitcher]. My [pitching staff] consists of…”

You get the gist of the trade. Trading an outfielder for a pitcher might be the best way to improve your team, but it might not be. In a head-to-head points league (and this goes for any fantasy sport), the value of a trade should always be measured in the new level of output for your team. In other words, in a points league, it does not matter how you get points, it matters how many points you get. While pitching seems like the obvious place for your team to improve because your current pitching output is low, there is still a chance that someone is willing to trade a redundant third baseman that would be a bigger net upgrade to you than a better pitcher would be. In other words, we should always be asking, “by how many points does this trade improve my team?” We should always be asking, “What is the net gain of this trade?”

To answer these questions, we need to sum how much production we are losing based on what we are giving up plus how much production we are gaining based on what we are getting back. Crude example: If our hitter always gets 20 points and our pitcher always gets five points, then trading those players for a hitter that always gets 10 points and a pitcher that always gets 16 points improves our team by one point a week. The goal is thus to make the trade the trade that will improve your team by the most points per week (or per week in the playoffs if you already locked up a spot). While this seems obvious, the fact that we can become so focused on our weaknesses, that we can become somewhat blinded by a narrow frame, means that this is a mistake that we too often make.

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<< Previous Article
Top GM Candidates (06/25)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Che... (06/25)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Vet... (06/27)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article Deep Impact: Week 12 (06/26)

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