Five mistakes even good fantasy owners make

You do a lot of smart things, fantasy gamer. You stay up on the news. You read everything you can. You do your scouting, run your stats, keep up with Twitter. You play on Yahoo.

This doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes as well, and I’m going to try to help you iron them out of your game. If you want to read past versions of this column, click here and here.

Grab a red pen and let’s see what we’re doing wrong. Here are five mistakes even good fantasy owners make.

Too optimistic with injury timetables

The first thing to remember is that teams and players have zero incentive to tell us the truth with respect to injuries, rehab, and comeback timetables. Most players tend to be overly optimistic for one of two reasons — they’ve been superheroes their entire life, so they don’t know how to properly calibrate injury adversity at the pro level; or they’re trying to mark their territory and their starting position, not wanting to give the employer any reason to suspect they need to be replaced.

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And once a player hits his return day, it’s not like all problems vanish into mid air. It can take a while to kick off the rust, get back into flow and form — heck, it might even take a while to reclaim a full-time position.

For most of my fantasy career, I’ve shorted the majority of name players when they come into major injuries, knowing that optimism is too prevalent in fantasy circles. Look around, you can usually find someone willing to invest in the best-case scenario. I’m not going to play like that. And on draft day, I’ll use injuries as a tie-breaker of sorts — when in doubt, pick away from the nicked-up player. You’re going to have a roster of hurt guys soon enough, why go out of your way to meet those problems?

Too reluctant to enter free-agent pool

Another case of optimism messing with you. It’s easy to fall in love with the upside of the bench you assemble in March, but recognize that any free-agent move you consider in April is a choice tied to additional information — actual game results. It’s another spin on the Monty Hall Problem — once you can make a more informed choice, it’s probably best to make the switch if it’s offered to you.

The Paradox of Choice is also part of the problem — I know many smart people who would rather stand pat rather than face the intimidating nature of a choice. The fear of being wrong will paralyze many of us. But go back and look at the past winners in your fantasy leagues; the champions are usually players who are not afraid to take chances, make roster adjustments, consider unproven players because they see the plausible upside.

Cavalier nature with respect to league and park differences

I get some pushback for my AL East stances, but let’s face facts — it’s the easiest place to find offense in the majors. Four of the clubs in that division can rake, and they all play in favorable hitting environments (only Tampa Bay goes against this trend).

Take a step back and look at the situation more globally. Eight of the nine leading offenses from the last three years play in the American League — only Colorado (thanks, thin air) breaks the trend. The four worst-scoring clubs are from the National League.

Nothing about this entry is splitting the atom, but I’m forever astounded by how often otherwise-smart owners want to make excuses for AL pitchers (especially in the East; think Kevin Gausman or Marcus Stroman) or NL batters tied to weak offenses and the wrong context (think Freddie Freeman).

Conversely, it’s so easy to pooh-pooh ordinary bats doing great things in an extreme context (think D.J. LeMahieu), and that’s missing the point. We’re not trying to identify the best players, necessarily — we just want the best stats. Run downhill whenever you can. And unless you’re getting a major discount, don’t run uphill if you don’t need to.

Fail to maximize draft-room resources

The first thing any fantasy owner should do when he lands into the snappy Yahoo Fantasy Baseball Draft Applet is start filling the queue — your personal assortment of players, tailored to your liking. This will ensure you’re always looking at the right names at the right time, it will protect you if (heaven forbid) you get disconnected from the draft, and it will keep undercover ADP sleepers from getting overlooked.

You do have the option to put your own rankings into the main part of the applet, of course, but I think that’s going too far. I consider it an advantage to leave the room’s initial rankings alone, so you know the snapshot other owners are aware of at all times. There’s a value in that.

One of the sneakiest draft-day resources isn’t actually found inside the draft room. The powerful player search command center from your Yahoo league’s homepage will update in real time as your league is drafting. There are some interesting and important searches you can do in that area that aren’t available in the applet; don’t forget to bounce over there if you need to run a dynamic query.

Many rotoheads will scoff at the projected standings tab, but I like to eyeball them from time to time, just to see if I’m getting far out of balance with my stat collecting. Mind you, the goal of any draft is to acquire as much value as possible, not being too obsessed with balance — but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to at least consider the shape of your roster, and what others seem to be doing.

The player news tab is always an invaluable tool, especially on players already injured. You don’t have to hunt down the current news, we’ve included it inside the game. Do your diligence.

Overvalue Tomorrow, Underrate Today

This one goes out specifically to the keeper-league crowd. It’s cute to start compiling your roster so it can dominate in 2018 or 2020, but how well can we really project that far in advance? If you need some evidence to how fluid fantasy views are, look at any pre-draft resource that’s a year or two old — marvel (or mock) at all the misguided notions you come across. (Heck, at one point in time, the smartest minds on the planet thought the earth was flat. Fantasy is the same way. They laughed at Charlie Blackmon two years ago.)

Even in keeper leagues, I manage my team with the goal to win right now, with the understanding that the future will include all kinds of crazy reshuffling that no one can foresee. That’s especially true in Fantasy Football, but I also apply it to Fantasy Baseball. And are you even sure your keeper league will exist in a few years down the road? Play for Today, amigos. It’s the clearest picture we have.