Rethinking one man's assessment of the Padres' offseason brilliance.
In the offseason, I wrote an article titled How the Padres Won the Offseason. That article was written shortly after the James Shields signing and, therefore, less shortly after the acquisitions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and others. I praised the Padres because they seemed to be acquiring discounted talent wherever they could, regardless of fit, and were thus doing so relatively cheaply. The end product of these moves was the construction of a team that seemed potentially competitive, and at the very least improved, for a price below what anyone would have guessed it would cost to do so. As to what the Padres would do going forward, I wrote the following:
Is it worth striking up negotiations less than two weeks into the 2015 campaign?
It is early in the 2015 baseball season. Any article about baseball at this time must at least try to mention this in good faith. We know the usual early-season fantasy baseball topics: small sample size, overreactions, regression, buying low, selling high, patience, it being cold outside, injuries, etc. We also know the usual, often good advice: Be patient, but not overly patient, check to see if skills have changed not just results, etc. Because trades happen infrequently in the beginning of the season, they are rarely discussed outside of the previously mentioned buy low, sell high framework. However, it probably behooves us to take a step back and view early season trades as they relate to strategy and human behavior in general. The interesting part of early season trades is that the influencing factors do not align; thus, we cannot responsibly advise that anyone seek or avoid early season trades without exception. Rather, it depends on the situation. We will now take a look at the reasons that make these trades potentially beneficial and those that make them potentially detrimental.
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A few lessons Jeff learned from his auctions this spring.
Having completed an AL only auction last Saturday and an NL only auction two Saturdays ago, I have three takeaways/learnings to discuss to help us (read: me) in future auctions. They are not big enough to be their own article, but their weak connection is strong enough to form an article. Please find these three takeaways below:
Are clubs getting the most out of their extension opportunities?
Wade Miley, Brian Dozier, Juan Lagares and Christian Yelich are among the most recent round of players to get extensions that cover their arbitration years and not much more. We think we mostly know why these deals happen: teams want to lock in players at below market cost and players want to lock in moneys. The discussion on the benefit to teams mainly centers on the fact that players—being people—are risk averse and overfocused on negative, small-probability outcomes, such as a career-ending injury or becoming terrible. As a theoretical consequence, players accept below-market deals in order to guarantee income.
However, the four extensions listed above did not receive the pro-team praise/anti-labor outrage that past extensions have received. Is this a coincidence? Maybe. Is this just agents and players getting smarter? Maybe. Is this a reaction to an overreaction to the Jon Singleton extension? Maybe (though the author notes that this would be a gross oversimplification of the Singleton situation). Another possibility is that such extensions lend themselves to decision-making errors for teams just as they do for players. More specifically, teams might be overweighting certainty, small-probability outcomes, and positive trends in handing out such extensions.
Jeff starts by taking the players he likes more than our bid values, then fills out his roster with the money left over.
Last year, I got caught in the trap of wanting an impact player in each position-player slot, which led to me taking a lot of lower-probability, upside plays that did not pan out. The problem here was not with risk, but rather with framing my decisions through something other than value. This year, my strategy was to first take all the players I like more than Mike Gianella (the creator of the values) and then tweak my roster if needed in order to avoid any category deficiencies.
How being conscious of others' opinions can impact what you do on draft day.
In scouring the strategy and decision-making side of fantasy baseball for potential areas of improvement, we have now arrived in the land of draft setting. In making this definition up in order to fit the points I am trying to make in the rest of the article, we can break draft setting into two parts: draft medium (in-person or online) and competition (familiars or strangers). The draft setting matters, particularly how we view and know our competition, because the way in which we perceive our decisions will be perceived by others will often influence the decisions we make. As we have mentioned about other decisions, these factors should not matter when we make decisions in an auction or draft, but, alas, they do.
This is not something that only happens to your average fantasy baseball participant, such as me, this is something that happens to the experts too. In discussing the results of his NL Tout auction, Mike Gianella messaged me the following:
Brian Cashman plays the hand forced on him by ownership.
Every day until Opening Day, Baseball Prospectus authors will preview two teams—one from the AL, one from the NL—identifying strategies those teams employ to gain an advantage. Today: the front offices of New York (Yankees), New York (Mets).
How our inherent biases might affect the fantasy backups we choose.
With the positional series now over (may its soul find peace in the afterlife and archives), we will now write about other things. More specifically, we should and will discuss the back end of drafts and auctions. While the decisions we make at these junctures will not be the most impactful decisions we make in a draft/auction, they are decisions in which we often leave value on the table. When it comes to choosing final roster spots, particularly bench players, we often hear about drafting/buying “insurance for our closer” or “risky Player X insurance,” which makes sense (at first blush) regarding the imperfection of our ability to forecast player production. The issue is that what we choose to insure is not always derived from (good) reason. Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes in Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets,
“As a derivatives trader I noticed that people do not like to insure against something abstract; the risk that merits their attention is always something vivid.” (Pg. 37)
Applying this behavioral economics concept to fantasy baseball.
As players get injured and as auctions, drafts, and keeper deadlines approach, this tends to be a busy trade time for many a keeper league. We have talked about framing team needs, looking for trade partners, and honing negotiation tactics, but today we are going to look at how we can optimally structure our trade offers. Why? Because the way we engage in trade talk and the way we structure our trade offers impact how successful we are at (i) making trades and (ii) getting the most out of trades. What follows is a slide from behavioral economics class on choice: