Self-flagellation

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Were you weak for Weeks?(Icon/SMI)

The fantasy postseason can be long, very long—especially if you, like me, are stuck listening to the Yankees’ postseason games on the radio. Their broadcasters have nothing more than shtick. If I had a TV right now (long story), I would prefer to listen to Joe Morgan; his wrong-headed theories only grate when I actually pay attention to them. John Sterling doesn’t even work as background noise. The Mets’ performance on the field may have been low comedy, but at least their radio and TV announcers gave us something closer to high art.

A more satisfying baseball fix is to start readying for next year’s fantasy season. Even if you are planning on following your lifestyle guru’s advice and taking a few weeks or months off from baseball, there are a few things that may be best to do right now to help you for next season. Even if you won your league, there’s always room for improvement, and looking back at your past is as important as scouting for the future. Next spring, the foregone trades and free agents that you avoided may not be as fresh in your mind. Here are some steps for self-assessment.

1. What strategies did you use?

Try to recall why you did what you did during the draft or auction. (I’ll just call this “the draft” from here on.) Did you decide to not pay for saves this year or perhaps not draft pitchers until the late rounds? Did you only draft players with androgynous names like Sidney or Drew?

Try to personalize the strategy a bit. If you didn’t “pay for saves” during the draft, were you active on the waiver wire throughout the season? Were the other players in your league equally active?

2. Separate bad luck from bad strategy.

This is the hardest part—whole volumes could be written about it. No strategy is luck-proof—which means that even the very best strategies will fail to win the league, probably more often than not. It would be excessively capricious to simply throw out a sound strategy because you didn’t win or you even finished last.

Distinguishing after the season what you should have known before the season started versus unforeseeable luck is incredibly tough. Using some very basic statistical analysis can help quite a bit. For instance, if you developed a valuation system or used someone else’s, compare the predicted values that you had at the beginning of the season with their resulting values at the end. Don’t just use the players you drafted; try to use as many fantasy-relevant players as possible.

Ask different questions from these before versus after comparisons: How well did your system do on average? How well did it do by position? Did it project the, say, top 40 players well? What about late-round ($5-$10) players? Of course, much of the difficulty here lies in determining what “well” and “poorly” mean. How many projected top-40 players have to stink for a system to fail? There will always be some.
Often times, though, the least sound part of your strategy will be glaring and you won’t need to do much mathematical heavy-lifting to fix the largest mistakes. For instance, were you focusing too much on high-upside players during parts of the draft when there were still good value players available? Look at your league’s draft. Maybe shortly after you took Lastings Milledge, one of your competitors took Jim Thome. Trying your best to not use the benefit of hindsight, try to recall why you didn’t take Thome when you had the chance. Perhaps he just wasn’t on your radar then, in which case you should make sure that next year you have a list of late-round value players with you.

A dirty, little secret of the fantasy world is that virtually no one sticks strictly to his valuation system. Our regressions may say that stolen bases are worth 1.2 times as much as a home run. Still, we can’t help adjust values a bit based on factors that we didn’t put in our system, like newly developing injury concerns or tips from a psychic hotline. Try to recall the adjustments you may have made. What types were helpful? Maybe your hunches about injuries (like the one to Ervin Santana) were better than the ones about blossoming players (Rickie Weeks, anyone?).

3. It’s strictly business, kinda.

Your strategies aren’t your favorite stuffed animals from your childhood. Don’t let raggedy strategies with no stuffing left in them clutter your fantasy team. Some strategies are fine as they are, some need a bit of improving, but some belong in the rubbish or at least at a rest stop. If some of yours performed marginally, don’t be afraid to experiment in different ways next year. Granted a season’s a long time to be stuck with a lemon of a strategy, but even the best experts have taken ages to craft their philosophies. That’s part of the fun.

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Comments

  1. Greg Simons said...

    Nice article, Jonathan.  One of my weaknesses is not going for top-dollar players.  Most of the time my most-expensive player cost less than just about anyone else’s most-expensive player.  This hurt me this season as I had 10% of my budget left over when the auction was done.  I need to consider spending more for the best players, because inflation has pushed my league more toward a stars-n-scrubs setup.

    Also, closers have become nearly worthless in our league.  A few years ago one owner refused to pay for saves at all, punting the category and spending his money elsewhere.  The rest of the league has adapted to this, to the point where top closers go for maybe $20, whereas several years ago they would top $30, and the lower-tier guys can be had for $1-$5.

    I’m not sure if I should exploit this inefficiency by grabbing the best closers for relatively cheap prices or join the crowd and spend the money elsewhere.  Thoughts?

  2. Jonathan said...

    Greg –
    It really depends on the value of closers in your league.  Most valuation systems value players independently (in some sense) from what other players in your league are doing.  So if that value is >$20, then you should buy…

  3. Greg Simons said...

    Yeah, I was leaning that way – especially since I had all that money to burn.  I could have three top closers cheap, which would give me a big leg up in saves and allow me to make deals as the season goes along.

    We’ll see what happens next spring.

  4. Sal Paradise said...

    If you shift some of your budget for starters to reliable high-talent closers, then you can afford to spend less on the starters because the best relievers will significantly help your rate stats. If closers are going at a discount, and starters aren’t, then feel free to grab the second tier of starters so long as you have first-tier closers.

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