March 2, 1999
Fire Up that Laptop!
Reason 1: They put method in your madness.
Regardless of how you forecast player statistics, you have to convert those statistics - even if they're just thoughts in your head - into dollar values. You need to calculate what those statistics are likely going to be worth over the course of a season, so that you know what you're willing to bid on each player. A well-constructed valuation system can do exactly that.
While the dollar values in your spreadsheet will only be as good as the forecast data behind them, the same can be said of more arbitrary valuation systems, and at least the spreadsheet takes care of the heavy lifting for you.
Reason 2: They allow sensitivity analyses.
Sensitivity analyses are important for two reasons. First, you may be unsure of the accuracy of some of your forecasted player stats. Say that you're not sure whether Carlos Febles will steal 20 or 40 bases this year. His value will change drastically between the two scenarios, as will the values of other basestealers in the AL. By altering his value in the spreadsheet and recalculating all the dollar values, you'll quickly and easily take changes into account. Doing so by hand would be tedious, and not necessarily worth the effort.
The second benefit is that you can quickly account for players who are traded out of the league or who suffer major injuries before Draft Day. Those who drafted in April last year had to revisit many of their values after Dave Burba was traded out of the NL. Again, recalculating values is a breeze if you have an automated system.
Reason 3: Self-discipline.
Last week, I discussed the merits of real-time valuations: changing bid values during the course of an auction. For some fantasy players, that can spell disaster, because panic or complacency can swing values too far in one direction or another. The apparent rigidity of values from a computer-based valuation system can prevent those players from straying too far from their original plan of action.
Obviously, there's no absolutely right or absolutely wrong answer. Valuation systems are right for some people, but not for everyone. The most important task in deciding whether or not to use or develop a valuation system is to evaluate your own tendencies, and decide which of the reasons presented last week and this week matter most to you. For the record, I don't use valuation systems myself, mostly because I second-guess them to the point of rendering them useless.
Keith Law is the Baseball Prospectus fantasy editor. Feel free to drop him a line at email@example.com.