Five mistakes even good fantasy baseball owners make

Five mistakes even good fantasy baseball owners make

We’re usually trying to target smart owners when we compose things at Roto Arcade. Anyone playing in a fantasy league loaded with donators hardly needs any advice. Just show up, pay attention, collect entry fees, clear off some mantle space. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. 

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But even in smarter leagues, the better owners are going to have blind spots. Good fantasy players are still prone to mistakes, and today we’ll go over some regular ones. 

Here are Five Mistakes Even Good Fantasy Owners Make. 

Thumb their noses up at projected standings 

In the middle of every Yahoo fantasy draft this spring is a set of projected standings. It’s a fun place to stop and look around, embrace the projected winner, sympathize with the projected cellar dweller. 

I know plenty of strong players who dismiss the exercise. Some claim they’d rather be projected last than first. “The worst you guys say I’ll do, the better I do” is a common rallying cry.  

Look, fantasy baseball is always going to be a crazy, difficult-to-predict game. No one disputes this. But I put some value in the projected standings for one simple reason: they give me an idea of my team’s strengths and weaknesses (from someone else’s opinions, at that), and they also give me an idea of where other teams might be strong and weak. 

I don’t need standings validation from the collective projections, though it doesn’t bother me when they say something nice about my team. Mostly, I want to see if I’m in categorical balance, get an idea of how the foundation looks. It’s a piece of independent evaluation. I’ll put a modest amount of stock into it. 

Refuse to be flexible on draft day 

When a golfer walks onto the course, he’s not locked into a club selection for the ninth hole. A poker player can’t tell you ahead of time, “I’m going to raise a lot in the third hour.” A tennis player wouldn’t commit to a third-set strategy before a single serve was struck. 

You need to see which way the wind is blowing, how the table is flowing, what shots are working and what shots aren’t in sync, what your opponents are up to. 

Fantasy baseball is the same way. 

With rare exceptions, I consider it a gross error to walk into an auction with rigid price structures or roster-construction ideas in mind. Your cheat sheet should be a rough guide, a set of suggestions, nothing more. A fantasy player has a theoretical worth before the game starts, but a fantasy draft is a dynamic thing, constantly changing, ebbing, flowing. If you’re not willing to adjust to the tide changes, you’re completely missing the point. 

Yes, you want to walk into the war room with the plan. But make sure that plan is written in pencil, and don’t shy away from the eraser. The best draft-day quarterbacks are ready to audible as needed. Be ready to take what the room is giving you. Be ready to change course if strange draft-day context demands it. 

Too reluctant to enter the free agent pool 

Every so often I’ll write about a funky, counterintuitive logic paradox known as the Monty Hall Problem. It’s a fun way to warp your mind for 30-60 minutes. Although it doesn’t seem to make initial sense, the contestant on Let’s Make A Deal benefits from making a midgame switch after one losing scenario has been revealed. 

What does this have to do with fake baseball? Simple. When we gather more information about something, we’re better informed to make new choices. Today’s picks should be more informed than last month’s picks. 

When it comes to fantasy baseball acquires, I turn it into a version of the Monty Hall Problem. I want the bottom chunk of my roster to be fluid most of the time, remembering that an in-season choice based on real-game information probably supersedes what I thought I knew a month ago. Don’t fall in love with the 25th man on your roster, a player who had theoretical upside on March 1. The player who’s actually showing you in-play upside is often a better choice.

The goal in a mixed league is to figure out the season before your opponents do. Sure, you’ll want to be patient with your big-name players, even when they get off to poor starts, but I implore you to be aggressive with the fringe players on your club. Get to the free stuff before the other guys do. 

Forget it’s a game about numbers more than anything else 

Look, I’m all for scouting, all for skill-based analysis. It’s a proven path to playing this game at an optimum level. But to truly master the fantasy racket, you have to recognize when skills-chasing isn’t the primary thing to look at. There's a gap between real-life value and fantasy value, and you need to recognize and appraise that gap. 

In some cases, there’s a very low barrier for roto relevance. The most valuable fantasy pitcher in most bullpens is the man who’s recording the saves - and often times that’s not the most talented real-life pitcher. Heck, when it comes to the saves chase, you can argue it’s more important to look roles over skills, not the other way around. Also remember that we're not just handicapping the players; we also need to watch the detectives, constantly evaluate and reevaluate the decision-makers. Teams don't always do the logical thing or use the best payer. 

There are some stolen-base collectors in the big leagues who don’t offer much of anything else. Hey, if you need bags, that’s fine. Not everyone needs to look like Paul Bunyan. Never forget the fundamental rule to all this: we’re just in it for the numbers. 

Won’t walk in the other owner’s shoes 

Fantasy trading is a game about relationships, about understanding the other team’s ranks, wants and needs. It’s not good enough to simply offer a proposal that seems equitable in a vacuum. If the other owner already has seven good outfielders, what good is it to offer him another one? 

If I’m going to start assembling a trade, I look for owners who seem to be notably overstaffed or understaffed at a specific position. You’re looking for motivation, and in a perfect world, you’re trying to get to a win-win. And in general, struggling fantasy teams are usually more willing to shake things up than a team near the top of the standings (though that isn't always the case).

Some fantasy players go into double-secret probation mode when constructing a deal, but it doesn’t have to work that way. Let’s say you need a starting pitcher and one of your buddies has eight good ones. Rather than guess who he favors and who he doesn’t, cut to the chase and ask him for a ranking list, 1-through-8. Soon you'll have a road map on how to proceed, and heck, you might even have an exploitable angle if you happen to think he’s misjudging his talent. 

It is, after all, a game of differing opinions. 

Bring on the real games. Let’s get this party started. If you're a commenting type, please share the common mistakes that you have observed over the years.