All in all, this adds up to a lot of uncertainty at the position. Will Lindor and Correa be able to extend their elite production over a full season? Will Seager be able to translate his minor league prolificness to the major leagues as Lindor and Correa did? Will Boegarts be able to repeat or improve upon his first full season as a shortstop? And what do we do with Tulowitzki, Reyes, and Desmond? Should we expect further slides in production, a new normal, or a bounce back?
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The Rockies have done some things the past eight months. They did a thing a couple weeks ago. Like most of the things the Rockies have done lately, trading four years of Corey Dickerson for two years of Jake McGee has caused much head-scratching. The reaction to the trade was a combination of said head-scratching and “LOL Rockies” with a splash of “hey, McGee’s really good and his fastball-heavy approach might be a good fit for Coors.” The analyses of the trade all generally led to the conclusion that the Rockies do not really have a plan and that, if they do, it is simply a plan to try and be mediocre.
I do not think that this is likely. If the plan is to be mediocre or there is no plan, then why do anything at all? Why trade Troy Tulowitzki? Why sign an outfielder, just to trade another and add more payroll along the way? To me, these actions and the motivation to be mediocre do not jibe. That said, we can believe that these moves are unlikely to be successes, while having a different theory as to what is motivating this behavior.
How to avoid strategic errors when dealing with a position that has seen an influx of top talent.
Things have done changed a little bit at third base since last offseason. Josh Donaldson won an MVP and put up the sixth best fantasy season of any hitter last season. Manny Machado (35 HR and 20 SB) and Nolan Arenado (42 HR and 130 RBI) broke out in 2015, and were the ninth- and 11th-most valuable fantasy-baseball position players. And in case you have not heard, Kris Bryant was everything we hoped for—providing top-25 fantasy position-player production despite being held in the minors for the first eight games of the season.
Consequently, 2016 ADP looks a lot different than 2015 ADP when it comes to third basemen. Last season, Donaldson was the top third baseman being taken and that was happening at the 20th-overall pick on average. This year, though, Donaldson (five), Arenado (nine), Bryant (11), and Machado (15) are all going in the first or early-second round. Such a shift is warranted, so we should all give ourselves a pat on the back for making this year-to-year adjustment. That said, such shifts can cause decision-making and strategic errors elsewhere; and, as we know, we want to avoid those errors. We will take a look at these possible errors below and see how we can best avoid making them.
A look at the types of players who don't get swapped in fantasy leagues as often as they should be.
Note: while my articles during the offseason will generally coincide or touch on the baseball position of the week, they occasionally will not. This article is one that will not. It will, however, strive to be helpful.
We all value players differently, our teams all have various, differing needs at various times, and yet very few trades get made. If you have been reading The Quinton over the past year, then you know that little makes me sadder than trades that do not get made. Why does this make me sad? Because I want all of you all to improve your teams through trades as much as possible. In general, active teams tend to be the most successful teams, and while a lot of this has to do with effort being correlated to both trade activity and success, it also speaks to the productivity of trades. This is especially true in keeper and dynasty leagues, where trades are often the most impactful way to execute a strategy and change strategic course. So you get it (if not, please take my word for it for the sake of the article), trades matter. That said, players with a wide set of potential outcomes, particularly players with a very negative outcome (such as a player who may or may not be a starter, a player that may or may not sign in specific league for an only-league, players that might not make the opening day roster, etc.), often do not get traded. We will take a look at why this is so and what we can do to take advantage of this untapped market.
Why our idea of the typical, power-hitting first baseman may lead us to undervalue players who don't fit that mold.
When filling out our fantasy baseball rosters, we do not simply select the 23 best players available to us; instead, we select the 23 best players that fit at the positions required by the league rules. This likely means that we will be selecting a player for each infield position, 3-5 outfielders, and eight-or-so pitchers. Depending on the league, we might be selecting a second catcher, an extra corner and middle infielder, and/or a specific number of starting pitchers and relief pitchers.
When our decisions change from picking the best to picking the best for a specific role, our decision making process can be negatively affected. At this point we welcome back our old friend, the representativeness heuristic. As written previously:
The catcher position is seldom atop one's list of strategic bullet points, so flexible assumptions are key.
Catchers have the lowest positional number (2) of any non-pitchers and this makes catcher the obvious position to kick off the positional series. The odd part, for me at least, is that it is rare that anyone begins their offseason, draft, or auction planning by deciding what to do at catcher. It just does not start like that. In keeper leagues, we take a look at our weaknesses or take a look at the competitive landscape to decide if we are going for it, rebuilding, or something in between. Prior to drafts and auctions, we focus on what we are going to do first. We try to answer questions such as who is going to fall to us in round one and two, what hitter-pitcher mix do we want in the first five rounds, what players (and how many) should we bid over $30 on? What we tend not to do is decide our plan at catcher (especially in two-catcher leagues), or relief pitcher, or reserves for that matter. This is not a knock on our process (we have to start somewhere); rather, this is pointing out that the catcher position is not a highlighted bullet point on our strategic agenda because catcher is generally one of the least productive positions in fantasy baseball.
As a result, the catcher strategies we employ (if any) tend to be what we are going to call sub-strategies—strategies that compliment or fit with our larger overall strategy or primary strategies. Like any process or strategy or choice we employ, sub-strategies lend themselves to certain decision making errors. We will take a look at each of these and attempt to improve our process when setting these sub-strategies.
A couple of ways to ensure that we keep improving as fantasy players.
For the betterment of all of us, the positional series comes out next week. In my intro piece last year, we looked at the importance of focusing on the concepts used in the analysis being provided, just as closely or even more closely than the results of the analyses—the lists, valuations, sleepers, etc.—that we love so much. To summarize, with each league being different, it is important to be able to adapt our valuations and strategies to different contexts and we are best suited to do so when we understand the concepts and theories behind the rankings and strategies.
Examining why our nature leads us to improperly value players who are likely to underperform, and how to fix those decision-making flaws.
On their most recent podcast, the fine peoples of There Is No Offseason (TINO) discussed the values of Jeff Samardzija and Brett Lawrie. For the most part, these players have performed below expectations. It can be and often is said that many of us have been burned by these types of players (highly variable with considerable albeit low-likelihood upsides) failing to meet expectations. There is a flaw in that statement though. We are usually not burned by these players failing to meet expectations, but rather by our inaccurate expectations. The difference in these statements is the frame, and this is not unexpected given that we are people. People like to be right and, more than that, we like believe we are right most of the time. When we are wrong we need a way to cope with this intrapersonal conflict. A favorite of ours is to blame the situation or external factors. In this case, it is easier to blame the player than the decision-maker (us).
For the most part this solution works great: We get to feel better by blaming someone else and that someone else (a professional baseball player) never even knows that we blame them for a poor result for someone participating in fantasy baseball. Cool? It is probably not going to be cool. Why? Because in choosing to find nothing wrong with our process, we are more likely to make the same mistake again and again. Assuming we want to avoid making the same mistakes in the future, we will now take a look at how we can improve at forecasting production for players with considerable upside that will most likely continue to “disappoint.”