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).
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.