With auctions, drafts, and trade deadlines now behind us, there is not much for us to do besides set lineups (which we covered here last season) and acquire free agents. Therefore, we will occasionally be doing what I am calling a process review on decisions or strategies I utilized throughout the year to (i) see how they turned out (the easy part) and (ii) see what we can learn from them (the hard part).

Untrained Eyeballs

Our inaugural process review starts with David Peralta. I liked what I saw of Peralta last season and I was fortunate to see him take a couple of at-bats in a spring training game (with some good peoples) this offseason. I was also fortunate enough to have Phil Rizzo (father of Mike Rizzo) and his excellent head of hair offer me his seat. Anyhow, I got to see Peralta sting a couple of balls to the opposite field off of a left-handed pitcher. It is important to note that I—growing up watching the likes of Paul O’Neill, Hideki Matsui, and Robinson Cano—am a sucker for left-handed hitters who can and occasionally do hit the ball hard to all fields. I also knew that I was a sucker for such players.

There is nothing wrong, from a fantasy-baseball-process standpoint, with liking the way a particular player plays baseball or particularly liking to watch a player or player-type play baseball. There is, in most cases, a problem with bringing these preferences into our valuations. Put differently, unless you are a scout (which I am not) or unless your ability to evaluate players through watching them gives you an advantage over your leaguemates (which is unlikely, unless you are a scout), bringing in your opinion based on the eye test for certain players is going to be a problem (we can call aspiring scouts a gray area as we all have to start somewhere).

For starters, if we are not scouts, then—no matter how many games we have watched—we have no track record. Sure, you might remember being right about some guys and wrong about others, but (i) our memories are far from accurate and (ii) we tend to remember our past decisions as better than they were (folks call this hindsight bias). More importantly, though, it is really only with a track record and with experience that we analyze our own process in order to improve it. While scouts have worked to do this (by improving their ability to spot illusions, sharpening their attention to detail, weeding out biases, and making mistakes), those who just watch baseball (like me) have not. The scouts’ eyeballs and brains are trained and learned and can therefore be an advantage. Conversely, the untrained eye is probably no better than any other untrained eye, and thus not an advantage. Bringing these untrained opinions into our valuation process is not only a non-value add, it is a disadvantage as we can be inviting additional bias into our process.


As with many of these recommendations, this is (i) obvious and (ii) easier said than done. Keeping our personal opinions of a player out of our evaluations is pretty much impossible. The more we can do so, however, the better our valuations will be and the better the decisions we make will be. The less obvious part of all this, though, is what we should do when our untrained eyeballs are correct. Back to David Peralta:

I ended up getting Peralta for $6 in my NL-only keeper league—one dollar below my valuation price of $7. I tried to leave my eyeball out of that valuation and $7 seemed to be right near industry standard once I factored in inflation, which we have a good deal of in this league. As you probably guessed, I am happy with Peralta’s .303/13/48/67/5 roto-slash through 400 plate appearances this season. He appears likely to be a keeper for next season.

The question we ask ourselves in situations like these is whether we should be giving our untrained eyes more credit and potentially a seat at the valuation table. We probably should not and the previously mentioned hindsight bias is the main reason why. When it comes to ourselves and especially our decisions, we are overconfident. This makes us happier people, but it does not make us better decision makers. Additionally, being right on a player is obvious and visible to our brains—the players we were right on usually remain on our team all season and we think of them throughout the season. We spend a lot more time thinking about the 8-23 players we acquired in the auction than we do about all the players on which we were outbid—the players we would have happily taken for a $1-2 less than they went in the auction. Thinking about our scouting acumen regarding a single player is therefore often an incomplete picture. We need to analyze a much larger sample (one that includes the many players we did not end up with) in order to do any meaningful analysis in determining whether our eyeballs are actually offer an advantage over our leaguemates.

Competitive Advantage

This is all to say that we would all like to have an advantage in player evaluation and, just as the majority of people consider themselves smarter than average or better drivers than average, we are tempted to find ways to consider ourselves better than average talent evaluators. Now we can certainly start attending 50-plus baseball games a year, keeping notes, and start trying to become scouts, but we are probably not going to do that. We need a different competitive advantage.

This is why we have been preaching strategic agility, checking our assumptions, and fighting our decision-making biases, because we can all do that, while using the expert opinions of the expert player evaluators (and even the experts at translating that info in fantasy valuations). Now if you have more fun just “getting your guys” then go get ‘em, but know that this strategy will probably not allow you to sustain success. If you are searching for sustained success, though, then working on process and strategy is probably a better bet. In fact, it was process, passing on guys that went above my price point, bidding on players up until that point, using the best valuations I could find, and adjusting for in-auction inflation or deflation that led to my acquisition of Peralta more than anything else. So let us keep improving our process and try to overconfidence (and its nephew, hindsight bias) away from the valuation table.

Thank you for reading

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you touch on this, but there's a big difference between the research/evaluation process at the point of auction/drafting and the process during the season. When you're prepping for an auction or draft, you will necessarily consider how you want to construct your team and who you want to target. Biases play a big part here but you've covered that ably plenty of times. It makes sense to just own biases to a degree, have a player "type" you prefer for sleeper/bench pieces, and make those they guys you throw the extra dollar in for to complete your auction. A healthy dose of self-awareness about biases isn't an excuse for them, but it can help downplay the role they take in decision making.

It DOESN'T make sense to only pay attention to those types of players during the season. Or to assume that the results justify the actions in an auction. If you had targeted, say, Chris Coughlan during the auction, he's probably not the player you thought you were getting even if he's returning more value than you expected.