I say the following a lot: “analyze process, not results.” It is succinct and catchy. It almost reads like it should have lucky numbers on the back. But what does analyzing process actually look like? The offseason is the perfect time to analyze our processes and make improvements. In preparation, let us start by looking at one of my processes that lead to a poor result. Let us see if the poor result was a result of bad process or a possible outcome that was a part of a satisfactory or even optimal process. More importantly, let us see if there is an opportunity to improve my process.

Warning 1: What follows is not my usual application of a strategy, decision-making, or behavioral concept to fantasy baseball. Instead, what follows is an example from one of my fantasy baseball leagues that allows us to view the process of analyzing process.

Warning 2: What follows is meant to show how we should be looking at and analyzing process. I will not, however, be doing any of the actual detailed analysis (that we can do that at home).

The Process:
My plan was to buy two or three $1 or $2 pitchers with the full intention of dropping them for pitchers who emerged early. My thought was that if these $1 or $2 pitchers work out, then they will be good keepers and if they do not work out, then I will grab some pitchers cheaply in the beginning of the year. I liked and chose this strategy because free agents tend to be cheap in the beginning of the season and because there are always a couple of un-owned pitchers that emerge every season. This would also allow me to spend more of my auction budget on better players that are more likely to carry more trade value.

The Situation:
(Note: the situation matters because our processes should take context into account)

To put it briefly, I was playing for 2015. To put it less briefly, in January of 2014 another owner and I became first-time owners in an NL-only, rotisserie, 5×5, keeper league. We took part in an expansion (more of an entrance) draft; choosing between players from two vacated teams. Thinking that I had no shot of winning in 2014, I selected a team that I thought could compete in 2015 and beyond.

The Result:

I bought Brandon McCarthy ($2), Randall Delgado ($1), and Yusmeiro Petit ($1). I also bought a $21 Cole Hamels and kept a $15 Matt Harvey who were both on the DL at the time; thus, I selected Edwin Jackson and Eric Stults in our supplemental draft (which happens after the auction). I kept McCarthy (praying he would sign with an NL team), but I dropped all the others. In dropping Stults, Petit, Delgado, and Jackson, I respectively picked up Franklin Morales ($7), Aaron Harang ($7), Jason Hammel ($8), and Tom Koehler ($8). Note that there is a $5 minimum bid.

I was able to use Hammel as a major chip in a trade for Oscar Taveras. Harang was a throw-in piece in a trade for Noah Syndergaard, but I am not so certain a deal could have been made if I only had Petit, Delgado, Jackson, or Stults to throw in (all were pitching terribly at the time). I have kept Koehler, who I admittedly have a strange liking for, and who could potentially be a keeper next year. The only dud of the group was Morales. In total, I went three for four regarding my acquisitions. I also went three for four regarding the guys I dropped; I would like to still have Petit on my roster.

My belief is that the bad result here is Petit. This is a bad result because releasing Petit—he who no longer unintentionally walks batters—currently looks like a pretty nice keeper at $1. It took me a while, but if you hung in there, we will ask again: Was this a good process with a bad result or was this a bad process? Now that we have a little more background we can better answer this question.

As mentioned previously, the process yielded several successes in McCarthy, trade chips, and Koehler. The process yielded a miss in the release of Petit. Overall, the process yielded more plusses than minuses, but ending our analysis there would be a bad idea. As always, we need to look at opportunity cost, we need to look at what the alternatives would have yielded. That said; let us take a look at the possible alternatives.

First alternative:
I could have spread my money around more. I could have bought two mid-tier pitchers, instead of a $24 Homer Bailey (who I luckily traded before his injury) and $1 pitcher like Delgado or Petit. The mid-tier pitchers ($14-$10) ranged from good values such as Tim Hudson, Kyle Lohse, Ian Kennedy, and LaTroy Hawkins to bad values such as Josh Johnson, Dan Haren, Tim Lincecum, and Jose Veras. If I had gone the mid-tier route, I probably would have had one good value and one bad value. Moreover, I would not have dropped my bad value until later in the season, when all of the early season free agent values were long gone. Given all of this, I am going to chalk this up to a slight advantage to my current process.

Second alternative:
I could have held on to my cheap pitchers longer. This would have meant holding onto Petit and now having him as a $1 keeper. This would have taken a lot of patience, as Petit was so bad that his next three owners all released him (he is now a free agent because he did not get hot until after our FAAB deadline). Holding onto these pitchers longer would have also meant reducing the chances of grabbing a valuable pitcher from the free agent pool. Ultimately, I think the early-season free agents were more likely to turn into trade bait than lottery tickets like Petit and Delgado.

As mentioned earlier, there is much more rigor needed to complete this analysis. My hope is that this serves as a helpful walkthrough to provide some insights on how we should be looking at our processes and results. My plan is to dive much deeper into this this offseason—adding in human behavior and strategy—in order to improve our processes for 2015.

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Jeff, this is a very good concept for a piece or series. Though the basic take was pretty clear (process worked ok, alternatives not significantly better), I think it would still help to have a clear "Summary" to that effect at bottom.
I agree. Part of the reason a summary was not included, is that right now it really would be: The process I used helped me meet my goal, but I am not yet sure that it was the optimal process to use. More on that to come.
To me, process is the analysis that gives rise to a strategy. I'd suggest that your analysis of pitcher costs and future value led to the strategy. Your description of actual pitcher valuations and outcomes also supported the analysis. Your strategy had you playing "pitcher roulette" with low cost pitchers. This basically worked out OK, though you did drop Petit who ultimately proved to be a "winning bet". I would couch a critique in terms of evaluating the correctness of the pitcher cost vs value analysis AND the expected value to be gained from "pitcher roulette" (the strategy you adopted based on the analysis). My view of the past season (omitting any rigorous math) is that the analysis and strategy were both sound.
Yes, I think you nailed it, my analysis dictated led to my strategy/process. What I've mentioned it in a previous article, and something I should have definitely mentioned in this article, is that "good" strategy is always building on itself, always giving itself feedback, and tinkering. The next piece will be determining how this dictates my process going forward and how I would tackle this situation if I faced it again.
One thing that may be helpful in setting up an analysis like this is the idea of creating clear criteria for the decision tree you are setting up. It will be inherently difficult to judge "I will get the 3 best cheap guys I can find at the end of the draft, then swap them if they struggle or someone better comes along." That's tough to judge because "struggle" and "someone better" are loosely defined. I did a similar type of analysis, regarding my plan to invest heavily in relievers in my keeper points league's auction draft. There's obviously a ton of opportunity costs involved: I could have spent that same money on hitters or starters, either spreading it around or dumping it into a single player, and hoping to get some great pickups at RP. The approach I took to evaluating the players I could have had was: 1. Identify all players who might have fit a distinct strategy (who are the mid-range guys I could have afforded? who are the breakout guys I could have picked up? etc). 2. Figure out what those players produced *while actually on a roster this year* 3. Figure out the average production per game I could have cobbled together assuming that I didn't have any better knowledge of breakouts than the people who did roster the players 4. Compare that to the average value of all RPs at the top end of the price range 5. Choose a contending team that spent very little on RP in the draft, and calculate how many points that team got from RPs 6. Compare the marginal points-per-dollar I got from my RPs relative to his to the marginal points-per-dollar I could have had by upgrading my hitters or starters to one of the scenarios I identified. The important points here, I think, are 1. I didn't just look at the guys I did select (since that's a separate process than the general one of "spend money on RPs"), I also looked at guys that other people selected, and 2. I didn't compare to the best-possible guys I could have picked up, or to the average undrafted RP, or any other artificial construct, I compared to the actual guys actually picked up by others who needed them and the performance they had while on a team (Yahoo makes this easy, since the Team Logs show performance while actively slotted) - this accounts for injuries and guys who got hot, were picked up, and then got cold or who got cold, were dropped, and then got hot. So perhaps one of the articles of your series could focus on the process behind evaluating process ;)
Definitely. This (what you have outlined) is great stuff. And I definitely have more to dig into on my end, but that's what the offseason will be for. Two things I try to add into my analysis is uncertainty and forecast accuracy. I fall victim to saying (and I think a lot of people do), "I should have done X instead of Y." But, if I had tried to do something at the time, I would not have gone with route Y, probably something completely different in fact. So then it becomes, how do we implement a process to put us in a better position to choose the best route/players more frequently.
The problem with your "win" is presumably you could have drafted the guys you picked up and FAABed the guys you drafted resulting in a net loss. I'd like to know how many teams you have in your league that let Harang and Hammel slide through an entire draft when it was obvious they were going to start at the beginning of the season. Morales (Col.) and Koehler (potentially terrible Florida team) slid through my league's 11-team, 40-man roster draft.
It's an 11 team keeper. The league norm is that some bottom tier SPs get passed over every year as people grab top relievers or ones they think they will get a shot at starting. This is the nature for a lot of drafts/auction I've participated in (esp. keeper leagues); low upside, short term pieces get passed up for lottery ticket types. Having a hunch about this, and also thinking that there is so much uncertainty (we are not great at knowing the future), is why I chose the above process. I too would not call this a "win". I'd say I was able to meet my goal, but more research is needed to determine if this was the best way to do so or if my goals should have been different.
Also, your question regarding league size is important as this probably would not have worked and definitely would have been less effective with more teams (less talent in the waiver pool). Then situation helped determine the strategy.