January 2, 2012
Resident Fantasy Genius
New Year's Resolutions
Happy New Year, everyone! This past year has a great one for Baseball Prospectus, and I couldn’t be more thankful to have joined the team and for the warm reception all of you have given me in my first year heading up BP’s fantasy department. I’m excited for the year to come, and I thank you all for reading and for your feedback. I try to make myself as available as possible, so if you haven’t yet reached out to me, don’t ever hesitate to do so if you have any questions or need advice. Between the comments section, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and our in-house live chats, there’s always a way to get in touch with me. Heck, some of you have my IM names.
Given that people tend to make New Year’s resolutions around this of year, I thought it would be a good idea to make some fantasy-specific ones for the coming year. If you have some of your own, feel free to let us know in the comments!
I resolve to not place too much emphasis on in-season stats
It happens every year that a player gets off to a hot or cold start, and everyone freaks out and assumes it will continue through the rest of the season. We need to chill out and realize that if a player has a track record of success but is off to a poor start, a bounceback is more likely than continued failure. I’m not just talking about guys who are receiving bad BABIP luck, either. Even if something more controllable—like a pitcher’s strikeout rate—plummets, we still shouldn’t ignore all the good they’ve done in previous years. Sure, if we have non-statistical evidence that indicates a player’s recent run might be legitimate, that needs to be taken into consideration, but otherwise, we need to be patient. Look at Dan Uggla, Javier Vazquez, and Edwin Encarnacion last year. They were dropped in many leagues—crap, Vazquez was dropped in the incredibly deep, 13-team, NL-only LABR league—but all bounced back for a strong second half.
I resolve to be aggressive on the waiver wire in April
In mixed leagues with several bench spots, it’s important to be very fluid in filling out the bottom of your roster through April. If a player is off to a hot start—I don’t care that the sample size is ridiculously small—it’s usually a good idea to grab him. Yes, some (or most) will wind up being more Sam Fuld than Asdrubal Cabrera, but it’s the guy who is lucky enough to grab Droobs that will be reaping huge value for the rest of the season. Yes, it’s kind of a crapshoot, but you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage if you’re not involved in the crapshoot with your leaguemates. If you don’t get involved, you’re conceding defeat right off the bat and guaranteeing that someone else winds up with the year’s unpredictable breakout players.
I resolve to temper expectations of 2011 breakouts
It’s easy to see a guy like Jacoby Ellsbury come out of nowhere to slug 30 home runs in addition to his usual 40-plus steals, get excited, and slot him into your first round. The thing is, though, one of the most fundamental statistical principles in fantasy baseball, regression to the mean, suggests this is a bad idea. Absent other information, a player who is above average one season should be expected to perform worse the following year. That’s not a guarantee that Ellsbury himself will falter in 2012 (I happen to think he will; I’m not buying the power), but the majority of the guys who had breakout 2011 seasons will fall back a bit in 2012.
I resolve to ignore whatever taboo is still attached to streaming pitchers
I know a lot of fantasy players hate owners who stream players (especially pitchers) in-season, but as long as your league allows it, there’s no reason not to. The difference between facing one of the league’s worst offenses and one of the league’s best is a roughly 30 percent improvement in ERA. That’s huge. For the game’s elite it won’t matter—they’re so good that they’re worth playing no matter what batters they’re up against—but don’t be afraid to bench a mediocre starter with a poor matchup or to pick up a lesser starter for a single favorable start. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t.
I resolve to win
Well, duh. This is the goal of every fantasy owner (save maybe those rebuilding in a keeper league), but I find it helpful to spell it out. My goal is to win. It’s not to try to be clever. It’s not to draw attention to myself by taking the year’s most-hyped rookie. It’s not to overpay for a player who I think is going to have a breakout year so I can brag about it later. It’s to win, taking whatever path I feel is best to reach that end goal is.
What are your New Year’s fantasy resolutions?