Back in the spring when I went public with my intention of making this fantasy baseball stuff my living and not just my obsessive hobby, I was very happy that The Fantasy Alarm was one of the first to court me. I thought there could be a lot of synergy between what I do and what they do. Now that it’s what we do, I think we can do a lot.
When I made the decision to forego my previous career in biotechnology, many asked me, “What took you so long?” I offered the same reply given to everyone that has asked me a similar question over the years – I love my science career and I love my hobby and am afraid if I made fantasy baseball my career, I would end up loathing both my career and hobby.
However, there was another reason which I kept to myself. I was afraid that my style and philosophy might not play well enough to make a living out of this. I have no doubt that I appeal to a niche audience but was worried it might not be accepted by the mainstream. Well, at least to the extent I would cull together ample paying gigs to sate my creditors. After all, Ray Flowers already has the good ones (I keed, I keed).
Here’s the deal. I have enough trouble managing my own teams. No disrespect intended, but I don’t want to manage yours. On the other hand, I’m more than willing to help you understand how you need to go about making decisions. I still get a kick out of a post on the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) forums that was intended to put me down but was actually a great compliment. It was something like “Don’t even bother replying to a Zola post, all he wants to do is teach you something.” Oh the horror!
Fortunately, Ray didn’t scoop up all the gigs and I’ve been able to piece enough together so that I may actually be able to make this work. Don’t get me wrong, part of what I do is answer hundreds of e-mails a month, mostly asking me to manage their team. But, I am finding it palatable largely because the rest of the time I get to do what I do best – provide and encourage original thinking. You know, teach you something.
I realize time is short and sometimes managing your squad is low on the priority totem pole but trust me, it is so much more satisfying to make your own decisions. That said, there is nothing wrong with gathering the opinions of those you trust, but instead of focusing on the answer, focus on the reason. Eventually, you’re going to find a philosophy or line of thinking you favor and can employ when making future decisions. To me, that’s the most compelling aspect of fantasy sports – the art of making cogent decisions.
Yes, player evaluation is paramount, but it’s only half the battle. What to do with the player is just as important. I’m not talking about benching Clayton Richard when he’s in Coors and starting him when he’s in PETCO, that’s common sense, not skill or strategy. Too much of what is considered skill or strategy is just keeping up with current events and using common sense but that’s a rant for another day. I’m talking about game theory that puts the puzzle pieces together (the players) in a manner to maximize points.
However, I know some of you want some help managing your teams so here goes. I’m not going to speculate on what might happen to the twenty implicated in the latest PED scandal, but I will suggest what to do if you own one, especially Ryan Braun. Quite simply, treat him like you would an injury prone star player like Carlos Gonzalez or Troy Tulowitzki. CarGo and Tulo are risks to be shelved for 50 games at any point of the season. Would you rack up some stats then deal them for a more stable but less talented commodity going forward? If yes, then deal Braun. If no, then man up and deal with the potential consequences. Similarly, if your team is scuffling and you’d accept Gonzalez or Tulowitzki in a trade in the hopes they stay healthy, then make a play for Braun and hope the process delays a possible suspension.
Let’s jump back to the theme of focusing on the reason and not solely the answer. One of the more common questions involves trusting a pitcher for a given match-up. This is also apropos to those playing in daily contests. While there always are exceptions, my first filter is using a pitcher at home. If a guy is not match-up proof, I only want him on my roster if I am comfortable deploying him at home. The reason is pitchers sport much better peripherals at home than on the road which results in a better ERA and more wins. To wit, league ERA at home last season was 3.83 as compared to 4.22 on the road. Winning percentage at home was .533. A pitcher’s home K/9 was 7.7 but 7.3 away. The home BB/9 was 2.9 while it was 3.2 on the road. Fewer homers were surrendered at home and BABIP was lower. For the record, the same pattern holds true for previous seasons. As such, if I am looking at a spot-start or a cheap play in a daily game, I focus on those taking the bump for the local nine.
Speaking of the daily game, part of what I do now is dabbling in that format. I’ll save the soapbox diatribe for another time and another place, but I will say this. Before you rely on historical hitter versus pitching matchups and riding streaks to identify strong plays, do yourself a favor and research if those are actually predictive. You may be surprised at what you find. I’ll give you a hint – they’re not. I’d come right and say it, but you wouldn’t believe me so the best advice I can offer is it’s your nickel, you owe it to yourself to do the due diligence and not blindly trust what is popularly perceived to be gospel. Facts trump intuition.
For those interested, my filter for hitters in daily games is again focusing on home hitters as well as honing in on guys facing a hurler of the opposite handedness. Here’s the reason, check out the following list of OPS.
LHB versus RHP - .754
RHB versus LHP - .748
RHB versus RHP - .704
LHB versus LHP - .648
Daily sites set prices based on the total picture. Gaming splits is a great way to gain an edge.
Sorry to be all over the place this week. I’ll be coming to you from Chicago next time, fresh off drafting a fantasy football squad in the Fantasy Sports Trade Association B League but I promise to keep my attention on the diamond and not all on the gridiron.
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