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August 28, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

Analyzing the Competitive Landscape

by Jeff Quinton


“Analyze process, not results.” With our most important strategic decisions behind us for this season, right now is a perfectly good time to take a look at our process. A part of “The Process” that often gets overlooked—that I know I have overlooked—is projecting the competitive landscape of our leagues. In a lot of articles, I discuss buyers and sellers, but in order to determine whether we are or will be a buyer or a seller, we first need to know where we currently and will stand. This seems pretty easy: take a look at the standings, see which teams have underperformed, overperformed, and performed as expected, take a guess at what they will do in the future, and there you have it. If it is a head to head league, you can take a look at future matchups, and if it is a rotisserie league you can take a look at the categories. Done and done.

The above was nearly my exact process for analyzing and projecting my leagues’ competitive landscapes. I would pay more attention to specific rankings if I was in the race for a title or playoff berth, but that was really it. As you guessed, this process did not work out very well. While it may seem harmless, the consequences of improperly projecting the competitive landscape can be very negative, especially in keeper leagues. This can cause us to sell when we actually had a chance to compete and buy when we really had no chances of winning. We know the consequences of poor projection, so let us take a look at the causes and what we can do to improve.

Causes for Subpar Competitive Landscape Projection:

1. Uncertainty
Our minds tend to underestimate the amount of uncertainty that the future holds. On the other side of the coin, certainty makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. It helps us overcome the fear of decision-making. It also leads to bad decisions about probabilistic futures. I have been a culprit of underestimating uncertainty in many of my leagues. I have made strategic decisions based on thoughts such as “Team Z should be rebuilding, they have no shot,” “Team Y is a lock to finish in the money,” and “no way can Team X catch team Team W.” Often these outcomes, which I feel confident will not happen, do happen. That would be fine, except that they happen more than I forecast them to happen. Given the above, my errors are not surprising. In order to improve our projections, we need to better understand and account for just how much uncertainty there is in our game.

2. Limited Resources
A real baseball team has an analytics department and projection systems to help project the competitive landscape. These projections are the starting point for almost every decision a baseball team makes. How much additional production do we need in order to win the division (with 90 percent certainty)? What is the cheapest way for me to add that production given my current players? Can I afford to trade away this prospect to a division rival? The answer to all these questions starts with projecting your players’ and your team’s future performance. The answers to these questions also depend on your projections for your competitors’ performances. Because we do not have the luxury of quant-jock interns and intricate computer program projections as fantasy owners, we are tempted to take a less rigorous than needed approach to such projections.

3. Too narrow a scope
Because of our limited resources, we make concessions. The concession we tend to make is to only focus on our own team. While we will not completely ignore our competitors, we tend to do a less than thorough job when projecting their performance. By only doing our due diligence on one team, we will have a poor estimation of what the future holds for our leagues.

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