Protecting me from myself

The notion of being true to yourself is a somewhat trite cliché. Closely related, however, is the virtue of self-awareness, an extremely valuable trait in fantasy baseball (among other aspects of life, to say the least). As one plays out more and more fantasy seasons, that manager aims to become more astute and deliberate in terms of applying strategy, but no less important are the lessons one may learn about him/herself. It is important for managers to understand their own tendencies, appetite for risk, behavior patterns, etc. and implement safeguards against those that repeatedly get them in trouble.

For example, I’ve realized that one of the tendencies that can hamstring me is my conservatism and reliance on track record. While I think these traits are generally sound principles, I’m aware that I can over-commit to them, so let me briefly describe how I have attempted to address them.

First, I think that “boring” veterans often make very cost-effective choices on draft day; solid but unspectacular known quantities are frequently undervalued. However, my dependence on these types of players sometimes leaves me short of break-out candidates, and while contending is often largely dependent on a solid core, you generally need a few break-out contributors to take home a title. The situation I’ve decided to try to avoid is having the second half of my roster cluttered with players who are just good enough to not want to drop, but devoid of the potential to be difference-makers. To address this potential paralysis, I’ve quite simply made a concerted effort to take a few more well-calculated risks on draft day.

As the other side to that same coin, I’m often reluctant to drop underperforming players with sound track records even when they are egregiously underperforming. Even in retrospect, it was important not to jump ship immediately on Garrett Atkins and Aubrey Huff, but I readily admit I held on to both of them for too long. Luckily, I didn’t absorb all of their ineptitude because I adapted another one of my beliefs to minimize the impact of holding on to Atkins. Normally, I favor using nearly my entire bench for pitching slots, which allows me to stockpile rate-helping middle relievers and potential future closers. My decision to keep an offensive bench this year allowed me to have other options and enabled me to hang on to Atkins until I was convinced he was done without having to play him regularly.

Certainly, the above accounts do not constitute any form of advanced strategy. But, it is important to note that no matter how accomplished we are as fantasy players, we are prone to do things that are somewhat irrational or counterproductive often because we hold too tightly to our own, otherwise sensible, principles. The more aware we are of our own potentially counterproductive tendencies, the more we can protect against them.

Sometimes these issues are not philosophical or strategic so much as practical. If you’re active on the wire perhaps you can go light on closers on draft day and take advantage of the inevitable shake-ups by finding closers on the wire and capitalizing on breaking news before your leaguemates. If circumstances dictate that you are rarely first to the wire, perhaps it makes more sense to bump up the top closers on draft day, as you are more dependent on reliable options than others.

These are just a few examples of how being aware of your own proclivities can help you evolve as a manager and prevent the repetition of mistakes. It is important to take a bit of time at season’s end to reflect and analyze where you may have erred throughout the season. Many of the tendencies that manifest throughout the course of running a fantasy baseball team are far from endemic to fantasy baseball, so it’s folly to think that you will cease to exhibit the same tendencies simply by virtue of experience. If patterns develop related to your shortcomings, then it’s time to make a conscious effort to protect yourself from yourself.

I invite readers to share the lessons they may have learned about their own behavior (specific to fantasy baseball or even beyond) through seasons of competing, and especially to share the conscious adjustments they’ve made to address them.

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  1. Derek Ambrosino said...

    Didn’t find a totally seemless way to weave this into the piece, but relating to conservatism…

    Some people are of the mindset that either you win or lose; second place is the same as last. I don’t adopt this philosophy at all (even ignoring the fact that some leagues pay out top 2, or 3 finishers. I draft a team to contend; and my teams almost always do.

    I guess this is something of an underlying question people need to ask themselves before assembling a team. Am I going for highest risk, highest reward, or do I just want to ensure I’m in a position to compete, and then try to tinker myself to a championship.

    I think those of us who are squarely in the strive to contend class a susceptible to overindulge in conservatism.

    By the way, you can probably tell a whole lot about how somebody plays fantasy baseball by watching them play poker. That might be a great idea for an article, especially if we have any really serious card players on staff here.

  2. Andrew said...

    “By the way, you can probably tell a whole lot about how somebody plays fantasy baseball by watching them play poker.”

    Wow, now that I think about it, that statement holds pretty true for my leaguemates. Pretty clever.

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