In many ways, it's the age of enlightenment for fantasy sports. Information is everywhere, advice is everywhere, stats are everywhere. In most of the leagues I play in and observe, there's less of a gap between the proven contenders and the second-division teams.
But that doesn't mean fantasy owners don't make mistakes. Even the consistent players aren't immune to a misstep here or there. Let's shine a light on some of those errors, five mistakes even good fantasy owners make.
-- Declaring some players untouchable
Every so often you hear the call in your fantasy league: a competitor is putting this player or that player on the block. One way to start a conversation, I guess. Often it's a slumping, disappointing player getting pushed into the showroom.
It's time to take a different angle to this. Why not put your good players on the trading block? Heck, why not have everyone on your team available at any time?
Understand that I'm not saying you should start trading away Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera willy-nilly. They're blue chippers for a reason. But that doesn't mean someone can't meet (or exceed) the hefty price you would put on them. If nothing else, give them the invitation to try. You can always say no.
That's the first primary reason to consider anyone tradable: someone might pony up a silly price to land them. No one's likely to overpay you for Torii Hunter or Clay Buchholz, but you show them Paul Goldschmidt, maybe they start loading up the truck (you gotta love the sound of a truck backing up).
In deeper leagues, often it can make sense to shop a marquee star if your depth is a mess. Everyone knows that two 5s don't equal a 10 in the fantasy world, but maybe several 7s could be worth that 10 in trade. It's all about margin analysis, a sense of where you're upgrading, what holes you're patching up. Try to keep an open mind to all this.
-- Locking in opinions
Baseball is the ultimate sport when it comes to snapshot observation, especially when you consider the one-on-one nature of the game. We have so many wonderful ways to be descriptive of the past, to explain why one player couldn't hit and another couldn't pitch.
But be careful with the conclusions you draw from the past, especially with younger commodities. Players can and do improve. Pitchers tweak their arsenal, add a pitch, drop a pitch, suffer injuries and overcome injuries. Players can change their body type, alter their approach. And sometimes it's just a matter of acquiring some experience and confidence after a bad run of early results.
Maybe the light is going on for Dee Gordon this season after two horrendous years. Maybe Oakland's respected coaching staff has turned journeyman Jesse Chavez into a worthwhile starter. Maybe Pittsburgh guru Ray Searage can fix any pitcher you throw his way, even Edinson Volquez. We have to leave the door open to one simple fact in this fake-baseball racket: our previous opinions on players are going to be turned upside down a number of times in every new season.
-- Waiting for proof
It astounds me to see some fantasy players (and writers) dead set against April activity. Let the season breathe, they might say. Come back to me in June for a trade, I've heard that one before.
In a competitive mixed league, that's a losing mindset. Many other owners will be aggressive in trying to figure out the new season, and someone's going to hit with their guesses.
The case of Gordon once again is a perfect example. Sure, you'd like to wait a couple of months to see if his fast start is the real thing. We'd all like more data, more video, more of a sample. I get it. But if you need 6-8 weeks before accepting any breakout player, you ain't getting no Coke. Someone's going to beat you to the punch.
In most of my mixers, I consider the back 10-20 percent of my roster to be fungible, ready to cycle. I'm going to spend FAAB early and often (remember FAAB usually isn't as critical in the late months, when some owners check out). I'm going to try to figure out the season before the other guy, and I'm going to take my share of intelligent guesses. Some will hit, some will fail – and yes, some will fail miserably. But if you're afraid to make a mistake in this game, you're not much of a threat to win.
-- One-stop shopping on a trade
I don't know about you but it happens to me several times a year – I see an interesting player dealt in a league of mine and I think "I would have offered more than that." And yes, that could be my fault, not realizing a buying opportunity at play. But it also speaks to the other owner failing to let everyone know what was possible, who was available.
If you have something to move, especially a high-profile player, get the word out. Create some competition. Field multiple offers if you can. I'm not suggesting you want to hold other owners hostage and become a pain in the neck to negotiate with, but there's no reason you have to settle for the first good opportunity that shows. Let everyone in on the secret.
-- Falling in love with one stat
I could give you a lengthy treatise on this theme, but my friend Gene McCaffrey summed it up brilliantly a few years back. Here's a clip from his 2011 annual:
Ten years ago nobody ever heard of BABIP, now it's as if nothing else matters. But this is good for us, because it locks otherwise intelligent people into not thinking things through.
Hey, I'm all for the stat revolution too, but you need to keep these things in context. No number is meant to exist on its own. We're not supposed to draft by strict formulas. It's all relative, amigos.
The smarter your league, the more someone is likely making this mistake. WAR is a nifty tool, but it's just one bottom-line number. I've seen plenty of people trip themselves up with xFIP or BABIP. Put into a context of other numbers, they're useful tools. But you can't take any one stat and rule the world with it. Our game isn't that simple.