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Scott Pianowski

Tip Drill: Know your room, know your opponent

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

After the runaway success begrudging reader acceptance of the Tip Drill series last summer, we've decided to bring it back for the baseball draft season. Look for a couple of TDs every week, and as always your intelligent disagreement is most welcome.

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There are so many things to think about as we get ready for another season of fantasy baseball. We spend our springs crunching stat projections, working and re-working lists, scouting rookies, making draft plans, formulating an endless and ever-changing collection of opinions through our eyes. And in the middle of all that, sometime we forget to consider the most important thing out there.

What are the other guys doing?

Any good poker player knows how important it is to have a read on the rest of the table, and the same principle applies to any fantasy sports draft or auction. Knowing what they're trying to do and where they're coming from is a gigantic part of your path to success. I suspect many of you already give a passing consideration to what the opposition is up to, but I'm urging you to take it up a level this year.

Here's a list of things to consider about your opponents before you step into that war room:

Who won this league last year? What strategy did they use? How did they assemble their roster?

What sources do my opponents trust? Who are the "buzz players" mentioned on the site most frequented by my opponents? Who do they listen to? Laugh all you want, but I'd subscribe to the weakest rag in the industry if I knew half of my longtime-keeper league took it seriously. And it's not that hard to collect some "sure to be overrated" players if you know what your opponents are devouring.

What positions are elevated in importance in this league? Does pitching go early or late? How do the other owners handle closers? How do the other owners feel about rookies? (Normally I've found the more sophisticated the league, the more people fall all over themselves for rookies. Everyone wants to think they're a scout. But your mileage, of course, will vary.)

What stat biases are in play in this league? Are home runs and RBIs given far too much importance? (Don't laugh, the RBI is the glorified stat in just about every MVP balloting). How is batting average valued? What's the going price for stolen bases? Does last year's win total get blown out of proportion?

How much trading can I expect in this league? What type of player generally holds the most trade value in season? Never forget that the league-perceived value of a player if part of his worth when you're drafting or trading, especially in transaction-heavy leagues.

Are there any team biases in the room? Do your opponents fall in love with the home-town players, or gravitate to the big-market teams? It's amazing how much of an advantage you can have year-in and year-out in most leagues merely by knowing the Pirates and Royals better than everyone else. You laugh now, but go see how the Nate McLouth team did in your league last year.

Time to open the floor. Let's share ideas on how to scout the opponents, and how to get a leg up. How do you scout your room, and opponents, before the big throwdown?

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