Why getting to know how your leaguemates' operate is critical come trade season.
Following last week’s in-season trade primer “Trade Season: What Matters,” commenter DanDaMan asked:
“the problem I always have is other owners who either don't respond at all to requests or flat out reject a trade without any comment. [It is tough] to get any dialogue going in either case. How do you counteract that?”
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A rundown of the ingredients needed to make the most of your fantasy wheeling and dealing this summer.
In most fantasy baseball leagues, it is officially trade season. Early-season fluctuations have showed themselves as such, injuries and call-ups have re-arranged the talent pool, and most leagues’ competitive landscapes have come into focus. As we have discussed many a time, making a trade is far from making an offer to a leaguemate that makes sense for their team. Furthermore, making a trade is not even making an offer to a leaguemate that makes the most sense for their team. Hence, a reasonable question to ask at this point is, “well, then what matters to be successful in making productive trades?”
The answer is that a lot of things matter. We have looked at trades from all different angles, from markets to effort to league norms to negotiation styles. We have looked at trades at the broad, strategic level and we have looked at the granular, actionable level. All that said, and given the time of the year, I thought it would be helpful to put all of these important principles in one place. While I will not touch on any subject in depth, I will link to articles where you can find a more in-depth look at the particular subject.
How to maintain a sound process when making choices during the fantasy season.
Not sure if you all have noticed yet, but I am pretty fascinated, maybe even obsessed, with how we choose to make the decisions we make. Writing about fantasy baseball works great for me because participants are forced to make numerous “meaningful” decisions about an uncertain future. The interesting part about this point of the season is that while the decisions being made are certainly less impactful than those made in the offseason (when selecting the players for our teams), there are fewer relevant tools owners can use to aid their decision making right now. Whereas projection systems, rankings lists, chatrooms, and software tools can be used and adapted for offseason drafts, auctions, keeper decisions, and trades, the in-season projections and ranking are often less easily adapted to the decisions we face at this point of the season. They are less easily adapted or all-in-all unhelpful because (i) we are weighing far more variables (promotion dates, injury return dates, category rankings, playoff considerations, etc.) when making these decisions and (ii) league structure and dynamics are so varied at this point of the year that the availability (be it through trade or free agency) and market cost of a particular player will range greatly across leagues. Consequently, we are often left to our own accord to make these roster decisions. Put differently, in season—more than any other time of the year—is a time when we must make decisions using our own forecasts.
This is the fun part, but it is also the terrifying part. This is also the part that makes us most likely to cast sound process and analysis aside, thus allowing intuition (and thus biases) to creep into our decision-making. Luckily, some smart people have written about ways we can improve our decision making when facing an uncertain future. An excellent article titled “Outsmart Your Own Biases” in the May 2015 edition of the Harvard Business Review, takes a look at many things regarding our biases, but the part we will take a look at in this article is how we choose to employ our intuition (as opposed to a more structured process) and ways we can help correct such sub-optimal decision making. The first two paragraphs from the article are below and they explain why leaning on our intuition too often is not just a mistake, but a mistake in logic:
If these players are available, they might be worth a look, depending on the format of your league.
Welcome to Week Nine of The Free Agent Watch, Baseball Prospectus’ weekly free agent answer to Dear Abby. This column is designed to offer a brief glimpse into the top free agents in 12-team mixed, 15-team mixed, and AL- and NL-only formats, with the idea being that while we can’t address every unique free agent situation in your league, we can guide you through the waters and help with the broader strokes of the decision making process.
Examining the three factors that should guide your choice of which players to grab off the waiver wire.
Whether it is because of injury, underperformance, or opportunity, we often look to acquire available players. Figuring out which available player will perform best is a very difficult task. Figuring out which player will be able to provide the most value to our team in a keeper league is even more difficult. At any given time, the combination of our goals, the trade market, and league norms can greatly alter the players we should be acquiring from the available-players pool. We will take a look at each of these factors and hopefully find the best ways to approach them in order to make the best decisions we can.
Examining buyers' trade decision-making through a behavioral economics lens.
While we usually think of teams playing for a championship this season as buyers and teams playing for the future as sellers, the obvious truth is that both teams are selling something. One of my favorite parts about keeper leagues (at least the ones in which I participate) is that there are different types of assets to trade. Teams can trade major leaguers, minor leaguers, and future minor-league draft picks. For sellers, anything that does not have future value, such as players on expiring or overly expensive contracts, will be on the trade block so long as the return is worth the cost (whatever that might be). Sellers might also try to trade assets with future value for assets with more future value. This part is pretty straightforward.
The more interesting part is probably what buyers choose to and do sell. Everyone tries to hold onto their top prospects, while selling more marginal pieces. Then, when buyers are up against the trade deadline, they might sell their more valuable pieces to take a shot at a championship. We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of preempting the normal trade cycle here, so it now behooves us to take a look at the decision-making factors that come into play when trading each of the previously mentioned assets as buyers.
How to improve fantasy decision-making amid variations in player performance.
At any point in time, players perform well, poorly, and somewhere in between. Their performance fluctuates from at-bat to at-bat, game to game, week to week, month to month, and even year to year. As fantasy baseball participants, we are not really interested in fluctuations and we are certainly not interested in past fluctuations. We are, however, interested in future production. The issue we face is that how we react to such fluctuations, particularly negative fluctuations, can cause us to make sub-optimal decisions. As always, we will take a look at the decision-making obstacle and see if there is anything we can do avoid it.
First off, I would like to say that the best part about writing at Baseball Prospectus is the community and audience that I get to write for. The enthusiasm and intelligence of the readership (at least what I can tell from the commenters) is outstanding. Smart and insightful comments are often the inspiration for my articles and often allow me to better understand the concepts and ideas I am/was writing about. Now they are not all pearls of wisdom, but there ain’t no sweet without the sour.
Anyhow, the three comments from my article two weeks ago, In-Season Advocacy Effect and Managing Multiple Leagues, all brought up interesting points and I figured responding to these questions/points would make for a helpful article (I also apologize for the delay). I figured that if one person is thinking something or asking something, then there are probably others with the same thoughts and questions. At the very least, responding to these comments should help us improve our understanding of these concepts and topics.
Why pinching pennies early in the year might not be the way to go.
I believe something about FAAB spending and waiver-wire activity. I believe that people do not spend their FAAB quickly enough and that they are not active enough on the waiver wire, especially early in the season. So, more accurately, I believe a bunch of things. Around this time last year, we took a look at two behavioral factors that contribute to fantasy baseball participants not being as liberal with their FAAB spending or as active in the waiver pool as is optimal. In my biased opinion, I think the entire article is worth a read, but we can get the gist from the following quote from the article:
Two things about people: (1) We overvalue the things we own and (2) we are afraid of making mistakes that result in loss more than we are enticed by taking action that result in gains. These are the result of the endowment effect and loss aversion, respectively. Both of these factors make us less likely to drop one of our players for a better available player.
How your decisions in one league might suboptimally impact your moves in another.
Many of us play in multiple fantasy baseball leagues. I am sure some of you play in strange, interconnected leagues, but 99.9% of leagues are wholly independent of one another. Consequently, any decision made should be made without consideration of any other leagues. This is all fine and dandy in theory, but as we have seen time and time again, this does not hold in practice. Because we are more concerned with the latter (practice) than the former (theory), we will now take a look at the factors that can lead us astray when managing multiple leagues and then take a look at how we can guard against those factors. More specifically, we will look at why we often end up with the same players on multiple teams, why that is an issue, and what we can do to avoid that fate going forward.