Catchers have the lowest positional number (2) of any non-pitchers and this makes catcher the obvious position to kick off the positional series. The odd part, for me at least, is that it is rare that anyone begins their offseason, draft, or auction planning by deciding what to do at catcher. It just does not start like that. In keeper leagues, we take a look at our weaknesses or take a look at the competitive landscape to decide if we are going for it, rebuilding, or something in between. Prior to drafts and auctions, we focus on what we are going to do first. We try to answer questions such as who is going to fall to us in round one and two, what hitter-pitcher mix do we want in the first five rounds, what players (and how many) should we bid over $30 on? What we tend not to do is decide our plan at catcher (especially in two-catcher leagues), or relief pitcher, or reserves for that matter. This is not a knock on our process (we have to start somewhere); rather, this is pointing out that the catcher position is not a highlighted bullet point on our strategic agenda because catcher is generally one of the least productive positions in fantasy baseball.

As a result, the catcher strategies we employ (if any) tend to be what we are going to call sub-strategies—strategies that compliment or fit with our larger overall strategy or primary strategies. Like any process or strategy or choice we employ, sub-strategies lend themselves to certain decision making errors. We will take a look at each of these and attempt to improve our process when setting these sub-strategies.

Rigid Plans

As we have discussed before, the first thing we do when faced with murkier decisions (such as decisions that are dependent on several other decisions) is to take short cuts. Our ambiguity detesting minds thusly favor options that are more certain. This is why strategies such as “wait on catcher,” “grab a catcher from Tier X,” “grab a top catcher and a $1 catcher,” and the like so seductive—they take something uncertain and make them more certain. Any of these strategies might end up being great, even optimal. The issue with these strategies, however, is that our leaguemates are probably reading the same articles, reading the same recommended strategies, and seeing them same “values” as we are reading and seeing. This is an issue because if we all follow the same recommended mixed-league strategy in the wonderful J.P. Breen’s wonderful State of The Position—that we should “Either pay up to nab Buster Posey or Kyle Schwarber, or simply wait”—then we are all going to either pay a premium for the top guys or miss out on some nice discounts on the mid-tier catchers. While this may be a bit of overstatement to make a point, it is important to note that being ill-prepared for certain outcomes (by being locked into a particular strategy) makes us far less likely to be able to take advantage of unexpected opportunities.

No Plans

If the opportunities of which we hope to take advantage are difficult to predict, should we then have no strategy at all and simply react to the decisions of our leaguemates? In theory, maybe yes. But this strategy, or lack thereof, also comes with its own set of issues. Mostly, such a strategy often involves less rigorous and/or encompassing analysis, which often leads to over reliance on biases and other decision making shortcuts. By now we know the greatest hits: chasing past results, defensive decision making, over-reliance on default settings, ignoring contextual/league-specific factors, etc. Consequently, we select players we “trust”, we make decisions we can defend if they go wrong, and we hastily pull up rankings articles while often ignoring inflation or league-specific rules among other things.

So what to do? How do we balance the positives and negatives of each of the above strategies? To try and answer these questions, there are more words below.

Recommendation for Sub-Strategies

My recommendation is to devise a strategy (so as to make sure your analysis is as thorough as it should be), but to make sure to not set it in stone (so as not to miss out on unexpected opportunities). Developing the strategy is the easy part; avoiding rigidity is more difficult. For this we come back to two, related old staples: Know your assumptions and check your assumptions. Any sub-strategy (or strategy) is going to be based on certain assumptions (like, for example, that top-tier catchers will be overvalued), the keys are then to (i) be able to test these assumptions mid-offseason, mid-draft, and mid-auction and (ii) be able to adjust should those assumptions prove incorrect.

Whether we should develop extensive backup plans is really about what works for the individual. In my experience, I find the cost of such planning to not be worth it considering predicting the relatively unexpected is often a crapshoot. In other words, we know the not-assumed will occur, but if we knew the details, it would be assumed. I have found that experience is the most helpful thing in being able to avoid strategic rigidity with these sub-strategies. It is often the fear of the unknown that comes with deviating from our plan that prevents us from doing so; consequently, the more times we have seen drafts and auctions play out, the more confidence we will have when pivoting, because we know there are multiple routes to success. If we do not have the necessary experience, then I recommend doing some mock drafts and auctions in order expedite the acquisition of experience.

Like most of our recommendations, these require some additional effort, but the potential rewards are worth working for. Good luck and we will discuss again next week.

Thank you for reading

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