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.
As the fantasy staff prepares its bold predictions for the 2016 season, Jeff examines the biases that can underlie them.
The Baseball Prospectus Fantasy team, me included, will be rolling out (bold) predictions this week (and maybe next week). The esteemed and excellently named Wilson Karaman already released his bold predictions here. You love bold predictions, I love bold predictions, we all love bold predictions. There are a lot of reasons we like bold predictions. Per my best estimates, the main reasons we like bold predictions are as follows: (i) they are easy to digest (instead of the slog that is an article on, say, confirmation bias), (ii) they offer analysis and insight that is often a break from the consensus, and (iii) they can confirm our past decisions or current beliefs and if they do not, then they can easily be ignored.
Over here at The Quinton, we cannot let stand people finding happiness in things. It just wouldn’t be right. That said, while the first two reasons for liking bold predictions are, on their own, harmless, the last reason can be problematic in regards to our future decision making. We might not want to admit it, but the way we read bold predictions articles is to quickly scan through for anything that makes us feel good, for anything that confirms what we believe or want to believe. The person writing the article thinks the player I reached for is going to be awesome? Awesome, now I do not feel as bad about the decision I made. The person writing the article thinks the player I passed on even though it was a great price is going to be bad? Awesome, now I feel better about the decision I made.
Jeff shares a couple of lessons learned over the weekend in his -only league auctions.
On Saturday, I participated in my NL-only keeper-league auction. On Sunday, I participated in my AL-only keeper-league auction. Below are some takeaways from these auctions.
Spending with the Market
One way discounts come to be in an auction is when the market overvalues a particular player or type of player (for example, pitching), which then leaves owners without enough money to pay market price for players elsewhere (for example, hitting). It can be tempting to “spend with the market,” especially when we are being shut out of a position (for example, closers) or when we are weak in a particular area. My advice, especially in a keeper league, would be to pass on overpriced players, take the values elsewhere, and then trade those values (likely keepers) for whatever was going at a premium in the auction. Depending on your league’s trade activity (or lack of activity), this may or may not be possible, but I am still inclined to pass on certain areas and potentially dominate other areas rather than overspend. For one, this allows us to hold advantages elsewhere, but this also helps us on the waiver wire. Owners who overpay for certain players are likely to hold on to them too long and are also more likely to throw back usable players to fill in the gaps created by overspending.
You have to start somewhere and I started with the goal of getting good players. Really, this is exercise is the person assembling the roster (me) versus Mike Gianella (versus other contestants versus Gianella); this is unfortunate for me because I use Mike’s valuations as a starting point for my offseason process.
Identifying and understanding the flaws in the wisdom of the crowd can be hugely beneficial in fantasy leagues.
“Take the player with the most value.” “Take the value that the market or our leaguemates are offering us.” “Strategic agility allows us to capture the most value.” “X point in the draft (or auction) is where the best values are to be had.” And so on.
We talk a lot about value, but lots of times it’s a placeholder for telling people to make good decisions. Yes, we should always be trying to make good decisions. However, telling someone to make a good decision is not helpful advice. My brother used to have a basketball coach that would yell, “grab it,” in an attempt to help his players get rebounds. The players knew the goal was to try to get the rebound, just as readers of fantasy sports articles know that the goal is to make good decisions and to get the best values on draft day. “Take the best value” and “make a good decision” are pieces of advice no more useful in fantasy sports than “grab it” is in basketball.
Why the convenstional advice, "don't pay for saves," might not be a sound strategy.
In golf, there is a saying: drive for show, putt for dough. It is a catchy saying, it rhymes. If you have ever watched a professional golf tournament, there is a chance you have seen two players with completely different skill sets battling to win a tournament. One player—driving the ball straighter and farther and hitting better fairway shots—will seemingly be out-playing the other 90 percent of the time, but the other player will just keep scrambling and making putts while the other struggles to execute easier putts. This can be frustrating to watch because putting seems like a strange add-on to the game. When we think of great golfers, we do not think about the putting stroke; we think about tee shots and iron play. Because of this, less effort often gets put into the skill of putting, but try as some might to ignore it, putting always awaits them at the end of each hole.
Relievers, holds, and saves are the putting of the fantasy baseball world. They are the trickiest to assess and the most dissimilar (where role is often more important than skill) from other positions and categories. Making matters worse, these roles and categories come with the least amount to gain (a reliever generally impacts less categories or accumulates fewer points than a starting pitcher or hitter). As a consequence, we tend to focus less on relievers even though most winning teams tend to have productive relievers. “We” in this instance does not just include us as fantasy baseball participants, but also the fantasy baseball experts. Not only does reliever advice often get boiled down to either “don’t pay for saves” or “get one of these group of players or wait,” we also see many experts follow this advice in expert leagues where multiple teams will punt saves.
Three, four, maybe even five years ago, Jimmy Rollins took a healthy lead off second base. A teammate of Rollins was taking a lead off third base and another was leading off first. When watching Jimmy Rollins, or really any player, take a lead off second base with the bases loaded, I rarely take notice. This time was different though; this time I was thinking that Rollins should be taking a much smaller lead. I was screaming, internally. I considered tweeting.
Why was this lead different than almost all other leads? It was different because the Phillies were tied in the bottom half of an extra-inning game with two outs. Rollins’ lead would therefore only help if it helped avoid a force out at third base. At the time, I remember thinking that there was a bigger chance that this lead would backfire (Rollins could be picked off) than there was a chance it would make a difference for the better. A bunch of pitches later, John Mayberry Jr. hit a single up the middle, Rollins’ teammate on third scored, and the Phillies won.
How playing in leagues with different player-selection formats can make you a better overall fantasy player.
We have auctions and we have drafts. Some of you all might only do drafts and some of you all might only do auctions, while some do both. Of those of us who do both, most have a preference for a certain format. When I write here about fantasy baseball (which is almost always), I will sometimes write about a particular format and I will sometimes write about an idea that can or may be applied to drafts, auctions, keeper leagues, dynasty leagues, redrafts, etc.
Partaking in multiple formats can be a lot of work, but there are also benefits. Today we will discuss some of the benefits of preparing for both auctions and drafts. Mostly, it allows for a very nice sanity check.