Mar 26, 2010

Fantasy Baseball Musings: Wisdom is so Conventional

I'm on the cusp on fantasy baseball weekend in my world. I have a draft in a really large and competitive league (16 teams!) on Saturday morning and another draft in my first ever keeper league on Sunday morning (run by the esteemed proprietor of Goose Joak.

I've been preparing my rankings, and there are a few ideas and aspects of the rankings itself that seem to make themselves apparent.

In this modern, technological decade (unlike during the less modern decade that was around during 2003), there are fantasy baseball pundits everywhere. You can hold the words in your fist, shake them out, throw the bones on the board.....and you get very similar results. Why are the results so similar? There are probably a few reasons for this.

One is the emergence of easily accessible projection systems (i.e. PECOTA, CHONE, Marcel, etc). Notice that these are not prediction systems. They usually take into account past performance, age, present career path, ballpark environment, team situation, and a host of other things to give the most probable statistical output for that player for 2010. For fantasy, this is all that matters. Plug the statistics into your team and there are the projected standings.

The other is the proliferation of fantasy pundits. I mean, there are literally a ton of websites to qualify and quantify thoughts about fantasy performance, how to build a team, how to maintain a team, how to conduct trades, and for most people, most importantly when and where to draft players.

These articles and sites are everywhere; we are inundated with who's a sleeper, who's a bust, who's going to injure themselves while running after an ice cream truck. If you want to know anything from practically any style, the information is available to you. Whether you like the cerebral or instinctual approach to constructing your team, you can find that too. This is the good news.

The bad news and what is troubling to me is that even with all this information and all these different styles, drafts end up being virtually the same. The reasons are threefold: mock drafts since the day last season ended establish pre-conceived notions about players, the amalgation of draft data provides average draft position (ADP) data create a fear of risk draft environment, and there is a lot of groupthink in drafts (i.e. position runs or following the online ranking system only).

The biggest culprit is the ADP phenomena. Say you want one of your sleepers (let's call him Outfielder Awesome). His ADP is 150. You can possibly wait for the ADP round to take him, but others in the league may want him around the same point (because of the ADP) or you can reach a couple rounds earlier, sacrificing some potential value for the pick. At some point, the player isn't a sleeper anymore. He won't slip through the radar, especially if many teams need outfielders, so you have to decide.

The most incredible part about studying for a draft is how much what you read influences your thinking. You'd think we're all independent players here, but in reality, all players already have a perceived value according to the pundits, and we're just living in their world, trying to swim with the tide.


Dave said...

Just a phenomenal post. I had yet to see anyone articulate this thought. But I totally agree.

Dave said...

What then makes things interesting, though, is coming up with your own rankings outside of CW. For instance, in my other league (with standard stats), I think Jason Bay is a top 12 player. Yahoo has him at 57. So I took him comfortably in the third round, easily confident that I was getting value for the pick. As you were saying, yeah you do have to reach above ADP sometimes, but a lot of times the value still merits doing so.

Dave said...

Other surprise guys in that league: Mike Napoli as a top 24 player. Nelson Cruz higher than Mark Teixeira and Carl Crawford. At least, those are my perceptions based on how I calculate league specific VORP. In all the two biggest misalignments between ADP and my system are 1B and C. Catchers are way underrated and 1B is way overrated by traditional ADP.

Dave said...

And to polish it off, I agree about how perceptions get formed by the ADP. For instance, Tulo in the first round gaining momentum and becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. I would not have conceptualized that on my own instinct. That said, the VORP creation I'm using actually bears that out a little. Surprised me. But there are many cases to the contrary.

Dan said...

I agree that 1B is overrated (and yet I fell victim to it in our league by keeping Fielder) because I kind of wanted him on my team, and I knew he would be drafted before my 1st pick. It's the deepest position, you can find 30 HR/power sources practically all over the league.

As for C, I think that they're a little more complicated to rate. A typical C only plays 120 games per season because of the wear and tear of the position.

Therefore,it doesn't occur to many people that a two catcher system to maximize the stats from the position slot would be the way to go (I've never done this though). You just have to be diligent.

Because of the undercounting of games played, most catchers are thrown into the "all the same" boat. I do this constantly because...they're just not being drafted (except for the top guys). It pays to wait when you always have your choice on the board.

After our draft, I'd be interested in seeing your system. I'm actually not surprised by the high rating of Cruz (power/speed combo with decent avg). Similar to Abreu, Green, and Ordonez of recent vintage. Mike Napoli, though? Is this because of his high OBP?

Good luck tomorrow!