When ADP belies

Knowing the ADP of players is an important tool for fantasy owners to help them maximize value during a draft. If you can, for example, strongly suspect that a player will likely still be available in the next round because of his ADP, then you can maximize value by drafting a different player in the current round while still getting the original player you waited on in the next.

Waiting too much is risky and reaching too often is wasteful. The trick, as you might presume, is to find the balance between waiting and reaching, which, although it is certainly important, will not be the focus of this article. Instead I will reveal the times when—or rather the players for which—ADP can be slightly misleading. And to help illustrate my point, I would like to point our collective attention to an anecdote describing the 1989 New York City mayoral election found in the book Freakonomics:

In New York City’s 1989 mayoral race between David Dinkins (a black candidate) and Rudolph Giuliani (who is white), Dinkins won by only a few points. Although Dinkins became the city’s first black mayor, his slender margin of victory came as a surprise, for the pre-election polls showed Dinkins winning by nearly 15 points.

The conclusion of the authors is that a decent amount of voters must have lied in the pre-election polls, saying they were going to vote for Dinkins so as to not seem racist, meanwhile actually voting for Giuliani when the vote counted.

The way I intend to parallel this episode to fantasy baseball is not through the issue of race—I would argue baseball fans are relatively color blind when evaluating players, considering baseball does not have the same circumstance with any particular race that, for instance, football does with non-quarterbacking white players or hockey with black ones. Instead I would like you to think of the pre-election poll as a mock draft and then the actual balloting as a real draft. Clearly in the political landscape voters could not be trusted to tell the truth and knowing this, how confident can we be that the results of mock drafts will best reflect what will actually happen in our real drafts?

I would answer that we should be very confident and that ADP values from mock drafts is by far the best estimator we have of when a player will be drafted in a league before most fantasy providers start holding drafts. And once real drafts begin, the results of those are even more applicable to your league. The biggest problem with sites like Mock Draft Central, which by the way is a tremendous resource, is that their ADP values come along with a tremendous bias based on the order the players are listed in their draft window. If every site used the same order then this bias would not exist but unfortunately it does.

So far I’ve only talked about players on a macro scale. The next question to ask is whether there is any specific subset of players that can be expected to have larger discrepancies than normal in their mock draft ADPs and actual draft ADPs. Inspired by reader Jimbo’s comment on this article over at Fangraphs, I would answer yes. Jimbo disclosed in the comment:

Guys like Soto, and even Cantu, are the sort that tend to fall below preseason ADP. At least in my league/experience. Mocks are one thing, but on draft day they’re among the first players teams wait on “that one extra round” while value pitchers or upside OF are taken. Relievers and catchers go much later than average, and so on.

Couldn’t agree more. Although it is hard to get the hard data necessary to prove it is true that closers and catchers are drafted more aggressively in mock drafts than real ones because of the aforementioned bias inherent in ADP values, my personal experiences lead me to believe it is true.

First off, Mock Draft Central forces your mock roster to conform to norms, meaning you have to draft exactly one or two catchers and also the exact number of required pitchers. It does not require for a specific number of your pitchers to be relievers, however, people seem to have conservative approaches to mock drafts and take a standard two or three closers by default—a standard they may forgo in their actual draft. It is also common for people to finish a real draft without a catcher, opting instead to hold one more of their deep sleepers on the bench.

It is this forced roster conformity during mock drafts and also a greater sense of desperation to extract maximum value during real drafts (leading to more waiting as opposed to reaching) that leads to catchers and closers getting drafted slightly later than their ADP numbers would indicate.

I am not sure whether this theory has a practical application beyond simply adding a plus five or plus 10 (or whatever you think it should be) to closers’ and catchers’ ADP numbers, but what compelled me to write a full article on the subject is more the innovative thought process that goes into finding out small inefficiencies like this one than practical application. That is not to say though, that combined with the xADP model introduced in this article, one day we might be able to generate numbers significantly more accurate than standard ADP data of when players will most likely be drafted, which would be something rather significant.

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Comments

  1. Mike said...

    This is great, Paul.  I actually started gathering data last week to find the players that are the exceptions to MDC’s draft window rankings by comparing ADP ranks to draft window ranks.  For me, it’s a much more accurate way of finding the most reached-for (i.e. Andrus & Brett Anderson) and most passed-on (i.e. Loney & Snider) players than just looking at ADPs.

  2. Jim said...

    After the season begins, not much time is spent reviewing AvgDP vs ActualDP…but there is knowledge to be had. By reviewing previous draft results (ActualDP) vs preseason ADP one can find trends that will impact next year’s draft prep. I’m not sure how much would translate from league to league however.

    Year-to-year movement in player ADP gets magnified on draft day in my league.

    Josh Hamilton and BJ Upton have higher ADP than Nelson Cruz, yet based on their ‘09-‘10 slide in draft price, trends suggest Cruz will be first of them drafted. If I want Cruz I’ll need to account for that. If I like Hamilton, I shouldn’t reach. Even Andrew McCutchen might get drafted before Upton, and their ADP is three rounds apart (BJ in 5th, AMC in 8th)!

    Sophomore slumps, down years, injuries, or prospect ‘tarnish’ can tank prior year ADP and make for the better sleepers in mid-to-late rounds.

    Jorge Cantu is a quality hitter based on peripherals. He’s fallen from a 13th round ADP in 09 to a 16th round ADP this year. On the upswing after 2008, he was drafted 20 spots ahead of his preseason average. If the past is predictive, he’s likely to be available after the 16th this year. Shows how fluid perception is from year to year…much more fluid than actual production I’d guess.

    Should I miss the 3B studs, I’m fine planning him into my draft with a 12th-15th range in mind. (He still earned 12th round value last year despite big drop in HR and runs).

    In middle rounds, I prefer value targets I can be patient with vs upside targets you have to pull a muscle to reach for. (I noticed the higher the gain in ADP, the more risk of letdown/bust.)

  3. Paul Singman said...

    Matt—I just checked on Wikipedia and Dinkins did win the 1989 election… perhaps you are confusing the year?

    Mike—Good job in looking deeper into the numbers since the draft window order does clutter things up. When I save the ADP data from this year’s drafts I’m going to make sure I also get the order the players were listed.

    Finn—Notice how I covered myself by only saying there is less of that aversive racism in baseball than specific positions in other sports, not that there is none of it at all in baseball. Of course it exists to an extent…

    Jim—Good for you in spending the time to review these sorts of things, just make sure you don’t make over-reaching generalizations based on past situations that may end up being isolated incidents.

  4. Paul Singman said...

    Scott—Haha thanks for pointing that out…now that I realize the Elaine he mentioned is Elaine, well, I feel stupid.

    The default ranking is public from MDC, you just have to enter one of their drafts (assuming it doesn’t change throughout the offseason. The annoying thing might be having to copy transfer the order manually.

  5. JMB said...

    I was actually just talking the other day to a friend about the influence a site’s preset rankings have on draft order.  To add to the notion that ADP is often misleading, how many of us have done a mock draft and actually avoided drafting players we would normally target just to see how far they will fall?  Maybe when the sheer number of drafts and law of averages kicks in then it doesn’t make a difference, but when looking at a particular mock draft, it’s something to think about.

  6. Gary Yeend said...

    I began drafting on MDC to experiment on different strategies. After a few poor showings on the projections link, i found myself trying to win the mock draft. While it was fun, it was becoming a game of it’s own instead of a practice tool. Now, i don’t look during the draft (usually)as my projections are different from the site’s.

  7. Paul said...

    It’s especially frustrating if you practice on MDC and then actually participate in a Yahoo! league. For instance MDC reports Troy Tulowitzki going 16th on average, whereas with Yahoo, he’s preranked at #7 overall, Yovani Gallardo is going 85th overall according to MDC where at Yahoo, he’s preranked at 58th overall. Lastly, Justin Morneau is going at pick 37 according to MDC where at Yahoo, he’s preranked at #53.

    I was totally looking forward to getting Gallardo in the 7th round or so…oh well.

  8. Joel C. said...

    The Seinfeld yogurt episode is accurate (at least in the date and election result)

    Elaine cost Dinkins in his re-election bid against Giuliani in 1993. The episode came out in 1995 or maybe even later.

  9. B. Nice said...

    Pre-Draft rankings defintely play a part in actual draft position.  In my league I can count on 2 – 3 guys going solely off the Yahoo rankings alone.  We are a competitive league, so we also get 1 – 2 guys who try different strategies which throw a wrench in the entire draft.  For example we had one guy who used his first 6 picks on pitchers.  ADP cannot account for human strategy (or human error in this case).  They key is to remain flexible and to have a general idea on who is dropping in value as you go, because there is no prediction for who will be taken before their ADP (A. Gordon in the 4th last year, ouch!).
    Most of all you should construct your own top 150 or 200 list to use when drafting and also break them down into teirs.  This strategy can help you determine whether or not you can “wait” to take players of similiar status and determine who you like better when the clock is running.  And also it helps you to remain focused when/if someone decides to go off the board in your draft.
    For some this is basic information, but it’s been helpful for me to finish in the top 3 for the last 3 out of 4 years.  Draft day is 50% of your success for the year and should be accounted for accordingly.
    Any ideas from you all on how to deal with unexpected drafters and drafting decsions would be interesting to hear.  If you don’t take advantage of such anomolies then you are asking to finish in 5th or 6th, ‘cause I guarantee no one else will see them coming.  The guys that can deal with them finish at the top.

  10. B. Nice said...

    Keeping track of others draft picks is another good habit to have.  For example, if you have the 9th pick and you know that the 10th, 11th, and 12th all have an SS, you can wait to take that player in the 10th, and go for that big upside outfielder.  Again, basic information for some, but not something I hear a lot about in the blogosphere.

  11. B N said...

    Though this is somewhat tangential, the Freakonomics interpretation is only one of the possible ways one can look at that election.  A secondary and equally possible view is that people thought Dinkins was such a slam dunk to win that they didn’t show up at the polls.

    I think that is another lesson for when to pick players vs their ADP.  Don’t get too confident that a player will be available just because his ADP is higher.  In general, if you’re going to skip on the guy who you think is the best player on the board- you had better think that his ADP is at least 5 or 6 spots beyond your next pick.  Otherwise, he’s easily within the reach-variance of anybody before you.

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