Examining the tacticts behind consummating a swap if you're in first place or dealing with the first-place team.
First, to clarify, by leader, we mean an entity that all others are trailing in a competition, not an entity that others follow in action.
Right now, and always, we are either leading, tied for the lead, or not leading; that’s fantasy baseball for ya. Here at The Quinton, we tend to have our discussions more in terms of teams that are focused on the short term (buyers) and teams that are focused on the long term (sellers) as opposed to teams currently in first and teams not currently in first. The reason for this is that, in theory, which team is in first place should not matter; each team should be focused making decisions that will most increase their odds of winning. As we have so often said, though, “in reality, this reality ain’t theory.” In this case, it does matter which team has the lead. It also matters whether the league is in a redraft or dynasty/keeper league. We will discuss each of those scenarios below, what behaviors those situations tend to cause, and what we can do take advantage or best deal with those behaviors. (Lastly, the scenario we are going to be discussing is when a team has clear lead.)
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Why do teams almost always wait until late July to make significant trades?
Evan Drellich’s article in Boston Herald this past Sunday quoted Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski as saying about potential trades:
“It’s still early. I can tell you I’ve done a great deal of work, there’s five clubs that are willing to talk about it. They’re the same five clubs that have been at it all year, so it’s still a little early for that type of situation. We’ll just see what happens. I think the thing you got to remember is, it takes two clubs to make a deal. And most clubs, as I’ve said all along—and it hasn’t changed whatsoever really—are not prepared to move towards 2017 and be in a position of where they’re willing to move.”
Why the moves you decide to make in-season can be a function of how you frame your team's problem.
It’s midseason and we all have some work to do to get our fantasy baseball teams to where they need to be if we are going to maximize our chances of winning. Luckily, we all know what to do: find our weaknesses and the areas where we can improve the most, figure out what we can afford to give up to improve, and then make it happen. We have spent a lot of time discussing why we so often cannot act optimally, why we cannot execute against our strategies or our goals, and how we can take advantage of the instances when our leaguemates fall victims to these obstacles. These discussions always come with some big assumptions: (i) that we are able to find the proper strategy and (ii) that the proper strategy at the point of the discussion will remain the proper strategy. Today we will take a look at these assumptions.
Before we get into process, strategy, and decision making, we should revisit an oft-told fable from my time growing up in this country. Luckily, it is short. It goes something like this,
Examining why we might've whiffed on the O's slugger's breakout, and how to best avoid similar misses going forward.
Mark Trumbo has been very good at baseball this season and, because fielding and base-running are not a part of fantasy baseball, he has been even better as a fantasy baseball player. Per the first edition of Mike Gianella’s in-season fantasy rankings, Trumbo was the 19th-most-valuable hitter in the American League as of June 1st. Since then, he has roto-slashed .425/3/9/9/0 (AVG/HR/R/RBI/SB). It is thus safe to say that his 2016 production to date is safely within the top 15 among AL hitters and that he is likely flirting with top-ten AL hitter value. Not too shabby for a player with an NFBC ADP of 164.52.
The reasons as to why Trumbo has been good are no mystery—he has been healthy, he is taking a lot of at-bats in Camden Yards, he is hitting in the Baltimore Orioles’ lineup, and, as pointed out by Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs yesterday, Trumbo is doing his usual crushing of baseballs, while hitting more flyballs and fewer groundballs. Will he stay healthy? Probably; putting aside 2014, he has played a minimum of 142 each season. Will he continue to hit more flyballs? Maybe. I’d imagine the league will make some adjustment, but I’d also imagine that some of these gains are here to stay as he showed improvements toward the end of last season.
Within an unusual and thought-provoking trend, there is an extremely unusual and extremely thought-provoking subtrend.
We, as an internet, have thoroughly discussed the player opt-out, but oversaturation and (a lack of) timeliness have never stopped us before here at Tools of Ignorance and they will not stop us now. In December, at the beginning of the height of player opt-out-mania, I wrote about why this contract structure might have increased in popularity. I hypothesized, among other things, that players might be valuing the opt-out and flexibility it brings more than teams valued it, or that players were just flat out overvaluing the opt-out, or both. It felt right; it felt like it made sense.
Then word came out that David Price did not want a player option, but rather that Dave Dombrowski insisted on including one. The future, it turns out, can be a real know-it-all.
Considering the sequence of a fantasy trade, from research to completion, can help us to avoid missing out on the best deals.
Trades are coming. We have discussed different types of trades, the importance of trades, and a lot of other things to do with trades. We have taken a look at the actual mechanics of trades here and there (we have discussed trading with different negotiation types, how we can use choice architecture when crafting trades, and so on), but we often overlook the supply chain of a trade. If, as the internet states, supply chain is “the sequence of processes involved in the production and distribution of a commodity,” then the supply chain of a fantasy baseball trade is the sequence of processes involved from the time a trade is conceptualized to the time it is agreed upon or disbanded.
The important (for this conversation) thing about supply chain, whether that of a fantasy baseball trade or that of a new-product launch, is that it is easy to overlook. It is easy to assume everything will just work out so long as we have the right idea and the right plan. This assumption, though, causes product launches to be delayed or less profitable, and it causes us to miss out on beneficial trades. Because we want to make as many beneficial trades as possible, we do not want to make this assumption—we do not want to overlook the supply chain of our trades. Maybe you do not overlook the supply chain of your trades. If so, well done. If not, or if you want to take read about the concept, then please find the below discussion around a critical concept of supply chain: lead time.
Identifying the two costs associated with each fantasy trade, and the best ways to ensure you make the optimal move.
The real baseball teams have been playing for over a month and, consequently, so too have our fantasy baseball teams. As always happens, our perfectly planned team has proven itself to be imperfect. Maybe our hitters are underperforming, maybe are starting pitchers have fallen victim to injury, maybe our closers are no longer closers. It happens. The lucky (and/or skilled) among us have been able to address these weaknesses via the waiver wire or early season trade, but most of are or will be in the position of looking to the trade market for an upgrade.
Groundbreaking stuff, I know. But a big thing we see in a lot of trades or trade discussions is improper framing of the decision being made. The most pervasive error in this regard is to simply look at what our team is missing and then trade from a strength or redundancy to improve that weakness. This is not inherently a mistake and this process might lead to optimal decision-making and strategy, but there are other factors we need to consider to improve our odds at getting to optimal that optimal choice.
Is the #process going to suffer the same fate as every other broadly embraced tactic?
The all-out, sell-it-if-it-ain’t-nailed-down, multi-year rebuild is totally in vogue. It seems to be working too. The Royals—whose rebuild appeared to have flopped by 2013—are coming off a World Series Championship and consecutive World Series appearances. The team the Royals defeated in last year’s World Series was none other than the fresh-out-of-a-rebuild (or at least just-not-spending-money) Mets. The Cubs, who lost to the Mets in the 2015 NLCS and who entered the 2016 season with the highest odds (per the odds makers) to win the World Series, appear to be perennial contenders after completely overhauling their roster upon the arrival of team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer in 2011. The Astros' drastic rebuild was well documented during their playoff run last year, as is that of the Braves. The Phillies’ rebuild even appears to be going better than planned.
You all, of course, already knew all this, but the point, as maybe unnecessary as it is, is made. It seems that all teams have to do is be diligent about providing a terrible major-league product for several years in order to enjoy success for many years thereafter. For those who have been paying attention, and especially for those who have frustratingly watched their teams stagnate in mediocrity (or worse) for years, the full-rebuild (as we will refer to it here) can appear to not only be a savior, but also optimal strategy.
A look at the obstacles to fantasy blockbusters and how we might overcome them.
Onward—always onward—the calendar tacitly mandates. Auctions and drafts are now the past. Closing in on us is the in-season trade market.
Most of the leagues in which I participate do not see heavy trade activity at this point of the season. The adjective “heavy” in this instance (when affected by the preceding “not”) describes both the volume of trades (minimal) and the magnitude of trades (minor). But, once every so often, maybe once a season, maybe even less frequently, a big trade gets made. If we expand our requirements to include the entire season, not just the beginnings of the trade season, then we will still usually only find a few big trades.