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I have some items on my plate that need to be cleared, so I'm going through a variety of topics in this week's journal entry for Fantasy Rounders. Some topics are directly related to DFS, some are related tangentially, and in at least one case, I'm just opening up the vent.

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Shandler tackles DFS

Ron Shandler is one of the most successful fantasy players of all-time, and his annual Baseball Forecaster is an awesome collection of stats and commentary. He has cut his teeth on seasonal fantasy leagues, but has recently taken the dive into DFS. Shandler wrote a recent article about his experiences, and the piece highlights some of the psychological challenges that the DFS gamer faces on a daily basis. I encourage the readers to take a look at his article, and I wanted to address a couple of aspects in particular:

*Checking scores in real-time: the desire to follow along with every event taking place is natural, and it can be fun to trace the real-time performance of the players on your roster. The more competitive among us are sure to get a rush out of the rollercoaster ride that is offered with every slate in DFS, but I have found that monitoring individual contests provides a lesson in frustration much more often than a rush of jubilation. Unless you're playing a single heads-up tournament (and I usually play about 10 contests a day of various size), then nearly everything that happens on an MLB diamond across the country will serve to hurt your standing. Quite often, your team will hold a certain standing with only a game or two left to finish, but if your players have all expired then that standing is at the mercy of any hits, walks, or runs that occur in the games that are still playing. I experienced this phenomenon last week, when a late Joc Pederson homer (in a Colorado game that was nearly canceled) took me out of the sweep zone and into one where I was nearly shutout. It happens all the time, and though I enjoy monitoring my lineup's point total throughout the day, I have enjoyed a more stable constitution by checking my contests only after all MLB games have finished. It's easy to get caught up in an especially strong or weak start, but all that really matters is the final score of your and your opponents at the end of the day's games.

*Woulda, coulda, shoulda: I wrote in a previous journal entry about the frustration of a decision gone wrong. A roster position comes down to an either/or situation all the time, so it's not unusual to make a late switch only to rue the results three hours later. I did this multiple times last week, including a switch off of Anthony Rizzo with less than five minutes to go til gametime, only to watch him knock a pair of bombs while my hitter put up three points. I can be maddening, and Shandler suggests that gamers avoid this issue by ignoring the performance of those players who just missed the cut for your DFS roster. However, I have found a more beneficial outlook by seeing those close calls as my being “on the right track” rather than feeling like I failed. This allows me to setup the next day's roster with a clear head, and my Baseballholism involves a daily check of box scores that simply won't allow me to ignore what woulda, coulda, or shoulda happened in an alternate universe.

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Join Doug in playing Baseball Prospectus Beat the Expert League on Draft Kings – click here for tournament lobby.

Details ($3 Entry):

  • Baseball Prospectus Private Daily Fantasy League
  • Starts tonight
  • Salary Cap Style Drafting. $50,000 to select 10: 8 fielders and 2 pitchers
  • Roster Format: 2 pitchers, 1 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS and 3 OF

Non-Arbitrary Endpoints

It has become commonplace in the analytical community to scoff at a writer's use of “arbitrary endpoints,” under the implication that a player's stats are carefully selected within a certain timeframe in order to support the argument being made. I can feel the collective eyeroll of readers every time that I utilize such bookends of time in my own writing, and though there is some legitimacy to the disdain for such convenient selections, I feel strongly that analytical opportunities are missed when these stats are swept under the rug.

Sometimes it's just random variation, without a doubt, and the possibility for such randomness is at the root of criticism, but sometimes there is a legitimate adjustment going on with a particular player that will be missed if ignored. One has to study the game films to better understand the veracity of a change, and the best way to lead such a search is to identify statistical outliers within a particular time window – enter the supposed “arbitrary” endpoints.

These endpoints are not really arbitrary at all (definition: Arbitrary (adj) – based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.), as they are chosen with absolute reason, but that's just my semantic criticism. My real frustration is with the holier-than-thou attitude that assumes there is nothing going on and that all statistical spikes are the result of randomness or regression, as if a player inevitably drifts toward an amorphous mean for his “true talent,” rather than appreciate the ebb-and-flow of a game that involves as much mental development as physical. The full-season gamer benefits from a patient approach that allows the player's performance to take shape over the long term, but the DFS player does not have that option, and it's not a coincidence that ballplayers who are particularly hot or cold have their salaries adjusted by Draft Kings while their ownership rates (especially among the pro gamers) reflect the recent performance.

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Effort

Aside from pitching a baseball, is there any other activity in which “effort” is considered a pejorative term? Draft coverage can be particularly nauseating in this regard, as the lack of information regarding amateur players brings out such descriptive terms in an attempt to paint a picture of these athletes. Effort is considered a positive when describing a player's defense, baserunning, or approach at the plate; but it is often used as a serious knock against a pitcher's delivery. This has always struck me as odd, given that no event on the baseball diamond requires more effort than hurtling spheres at 100 mph with pinpoint accuracy or devastating movement. Yet a pitcher who demonstrates “effort” – a nebulous term that can involve multiple mechanical facets with a definition that is particular to each evaluator – is often shamed or downgraded due to the intensity of his motion.

From a mechanical standpoint, the real frustration lies in the faulty assumption that pitchers with “effort” are at higher risk for injury, when the results of biomechanical motion analysis reveal the exact opposite. The most common impetus for the “high effort” label is a pitcher with big momentum, utilizing his lower half to generate kinetic energy with a strong burst toward the plate. Kinetic energy is necessary to throw a baseball, and if the pitcher maintains a slow pace that fails to reap the kinetic benefits from his legs, then he is ascribing more of the responsibility to his throwing arm – a pedestrian motion might appear to be calm to the eye, but failure to utilize the whole body to produce velocity essentially places a greater kinetic toll on the most vulnerable part of the pitcher's anatomy.