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March 14, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Know Your Enemy

by Bill Baer

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SB Nation's The Good Phight, one of the most popular Phillies blogs around, recently posted the results of their fantasy baseball draft. There were 25 rounds with 18 players each, for a total of 450 players selected -- clearly one of the deeper leagues around. I was interested in comparing TGP's draft results, particularly those involving the Phillies, to the ESPN averages.

I went through and picked every Phillie out of TGP's draft and logged their place in the draft, and compared it to ESPN. Almost across the board, Phillies were taken more quickly than compared to drafts across ESPN's vast array of leagues. The following chart illustrates the matter concisely. (Click to enlarge)

I have said a few times in my columns here that there is more to success in fantasy baseball leagues than knowing the numbers. You need to know your opponents as well. Just as in Texas hold'em poker, you can understand the odds better than anybody, but the player who picks up on tells can have just as much, if not more success.

TGP's draft clearly shows a Phillies bias. Only three of 11 Phillies with an ESPN draft average were drafted later than the ESPN average: Ryan Howard (-3), Roy Oswalt (-19), and Brad Lidge (-30). Seven Phillies did not have an ESPN draft average (read: they are not popular), but were drafted in the TGP league: Ryan Madson (194 overall), Domonic Brown (229), Joe Blanton (233), Raul Ibanez (246), Jamie Moyer (301, still befuddling), and John Mayberry (420). Obviously, at least the latter three picks have more to do with the deepness of the league than bias, but it is still interesting to note.

Additionally, one player ("The Phrozen") drafted seven of the 18 Phillies, or nearly 40 percent. Identifying these biases can not only help you make decisions on draft day, but it can also help you complete favorable trades during the season. The biases can extend beyond team allegiances as well. If you play in a league full of Saberists, players like J.A. Happ are going to be underrated while players like Mike Minor will be overrated -- generally speaking.

Be observant on draft day and take notes. It can pay off manyfold during the season!

Full listing of Phillies drafted and their ESPN averages:

Player

TGP

ESPN avg.

Halladay

1

6

Lee

6

18

Utley

13

40

Hamels

24

58

Howard

28

25

Rollins

55

62

Victorino

58

79

Ruiz

60

255

Oswalt

91

72

Polanco

161

193

Lidge

193

163

Madson

194

N/A

Brown

229

N/A

Blanton

233

N/A

Ibanez

246

N/A

Francisco

269

N/A

Moyer

301

N/A

Mayberry

420

N/A

Bill Baer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bill's other articles. You can contact Bill by clicking here

9 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

CMcGillicuddy

Thanks for noticing and thanks for thinking about and critiquing the draft. The record needs some additional information to be better fleshed out, though.

1. Comparing this league to most roto 5x5 leagues is inaccurate, since you would have to compare it to a league (and draft) that uses the same statistical categories.

2. You need to allow for the fact that a number of teams had auto-pick set at times during the draft, and you would need to back out those picks.

3. You would also need to adjust for variances in rankings between ESPN and CBS (especially where autopicks were concerned).

Returning to point 1, the stat categories in this league were not traditional 5x5 roto stats, so comparing draft results from predominantly traditional 5x5 roto leagues to this specific draft is a very flawed approach.

TGP Baseba'al League Roto Categories:

Hitting stats:

OBP, SLG, SB-CS, HR, RBI (and it was a struggle to decide to keep RBI)

Pitching:

FIP, K, BB allowed, Bullpennery (S - BS + HD), QS

For some specific picks:

Moyer was a mistake pick, and the drafter was roundly mocked.

Madson was likely selected because of the use of a "bullpennery" statistic (S - BS + HD plus he has an excellent K/BB ratio and FIP). In most 5x5 leagues, he would probably be ignored.

Blanton likewise tends to have a FIP that outperforms his ERA. This league uses FIP, not ERA. QS are used instead of wins, so Blanton (master of 6 good innings followed by a crappy 7th -- if only Charlie would learn...) could turn out to be a good later round contributor.

Francisco and Mayberry are good sleeper picks in deep leagues because of the Dom Brown uncertainty and the fact that Ibanez is nearly 2,000 years old. And no, I did not draft either Benny Fresh or Mayberry.

Yes, there was some homerism, but not excessively so. The people in this league want to win -- the wager made was "the immortal soul" of each entrant. If they failed to see that in the fine print, well, too bad.

Some folks specifically drafted Braves and Mets (and to a lesser extent, the Yankees), noting that some competitors found the cognitive dissonance overwhelming where cheering for "the enemy" would be needed for roto success.

Even in SABR world, there are market inefficiencies. And some players were smart enough to jump on them.

Mar 14, 2011 12:26 PM
rating: 4
 
GoTribe06

I disagree with you on every point. It is not necessary to compare to average draft rankings only for drafts that use the same categories, unless the Phillies have some innate characteristic which enhances them relative to everyone else for a specific statistic. The examples given do not show that (it is clear why Madson's was picked much higher, but not Halladay, Lee, Utley, Hamels, Victorino, Rollins, or Ruiz). 2.) Players taken by autopick are either ordered by the owner (would indicate bias) or by a known, pre-draft rank, which could perhaps be more favorable to Philadelphia players, but would go hand-in-hand with knowing your enemy (or your enemy's default-ordered list). 3.) If you knew that someone WAS working with the CBS rankings, having a measure of the differences in valuation (either by position or perhaps statistic) could be useful, but more often than not someone who was working off an ESPN list would not care about the variance between their list and a list they were not using.

I appreciate you providing some more details about this league, I think that adds to the article. But the article pretty clearly proves that there is some favoritism here, and a good owner would try to exploit it. I think that ESPN rankings were used is somewhat irrelevant.

I would also be interested in some theories for exploiting this knowledge (since this is a snake and not an auction draft). I am somehow sure that this information would only end up hurting my draft.

Mar 14, 2011 13:51 PM
rating: 2
 
CMcGillicuddy

"It is not necessary to compare to average draft rankings only for drafts that use the same categories, unless the Phillies have some innate characteristic which enhances them relative to everyone else for a specific statistic."

Cliff Lee: FIP instead of ERA, BB allowed. Compared to a league using ERA and WHIP, does it make sense that he went higher?

Rollins: This league uses base stealing efficiency (SB - CS), does it make sense that this would bump Rollins up a bit?

Keep in mind here that no league draft anywhere will match ESPN perfectly. In this case, for ranked players, there were 11 examples, and Victorino was a pure autopick by the default CBS mechanism and not the result of a conscious choice by the team owner. Of remaining "owner choice" picks, that leaves 10. 3 deviated downwards from the ESPN ranking. 7 went the other way. Two pretty good justifications are offered above for moving Rollins and Cliff Lee up a bit.

A normal distribution curve would suggest that going in opposite directions from the median, a normal draft would have about 5 on one side and 5 on the other. This draft shows a "shift", if you will, of 2. If you accept the explanations for Rollins and Lee, then the distribution is 5/5, and there is no "homerism" evident.

Nonetheless, I nominate Ruiz, Utley, and Hamels as possible error picks. Utley perhaps went higher on the theory his injury will work out -- a healthy Utley is certainly better than the 40th pick. If he plays most of the year at a typical Utley level, he was a steal. Elite catchers and 2B went pretty fast, as you would expect, and perhaps there was an element of panic. Ruiz may have been a pick to lock down a decent option -- certainly not a Brian McCann or Buster Posey, but serviceable, if inefficient. Hamels may have been overdrafted, but he's just so dreamy. I mean, who wouldn't want him on their team?

Every other Phillies player, even if "over drafted" seems like they are in the right neighborhood.

If there are 2 or 3 bad "homer" picks in an amateur, no money, "for fun" 5 x 5 roto league with 18 owners, that's pretty good, and hardly an indictment of the collective choices made, especially in the context of the league's specific statistical make up and the Utley injury uncertainty.

Mar 14, 2011 15:54 PM
rating: 1
 
evo34
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Your scoring system should penalize Phils' starting pitchers, if anything (no wins). But I have to say this seems like a pretty random, borderline useless BP article (trying to show that one draft has a home team bias)...

Mar 14, 2011 17:27 PM
rating: -6
 
BP staff member Bill Baer
BP staff

Not sure how it's useless. There's no reason not to identify these trends -- they can only help you. All human beings are biased in one way or another.

Mar 15, 2011 00:26 AM
 
evo34

How exactly would a person not in your league use this info.? Presumably he already knows what the hometown bias is is in his own draft, so glancing at what that bias looked like in some random Phillies draft is not really going help.

Jul 25, 2012 01:46 AM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

I live in NY and play in a fantasy league with mostly NY to Boston fans. I make a conscious effort to avoid NY and Boston players, unless they really fall in drafts, because:
a) I don't trust my own biases towards players I see play regularly
b) I believe most of my opponents will over-rate players from these teams, giving me a small advantage to get value with players from other teams.

Mar 14, 2011 14:29 PM
rating: 3
 
divcoman

I do exactly the same thing in my draft here in the Hartford, CT area. Many guys in the league are either Sox or Yanks fans and they have at least a small preference for one or the other. More importantly, they've heard so much more about the players on both teams that they almost default to them after we get to the middle rounds. This extends to the whole American League. New England fans just don't see a lot of games with NL players and so they tend to devalue them a bit. A savvy fantasy player can often turn this to his advantage at the draft.

Mar 14, 2011 15:23 PM
rating: 0
 
worldtour

I love the dreamy comment about Hamels. If there was any question about bias before...objectively speaking, we all know it's Curtis Granderson who's the most dreamy player in the league...

Mar 15, 2011 02:15 AM
rating: 1
 
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