Monday, March 21, 2011

Step 3: You will draft value, not specific players

It's the time of year when everyone is asking, and attempting to answer, the question of who to take during the draft. Sure you can make reasonable guesses on where a guy will go in the draft based on ADP or a reliable set of dollar values, but can you really answer this question until you are actually in the draft. For example, Hanley Ramirez is an absolute must at $25, but at $45, I'll pass. The point of course is the decision of whether or not you should target a player in the draft is almost entirely dependent on the cost of acquiring that player on draft day.

Now, this seems painfully obvious right? Well, sort of...but too many owners come into drafts with unrealistic expectations of getting a certain list of players and to fulfill their expectations they either blow their entire budget on those players, making it impossible to fill out a competitive team, or they panic and draft guys way too early in their drafts. unnecessarily losing the opportunity to build a better team.

Consider this: Would you trade Mark Teixiera and Ryan Zimmerman for Albert Pujols and Freddy Sanchez? I wouldn't, but maybe you like Pujols so much you would. Regardless, understand that you might be making this very call when you decide whether or not to bid $50 for Pujols? You love Mike Stanton, think he's going to blow you take him in the 3rd round of a ten team snake draft instead of the 5th round where he sits on the ADP (average draft position) list because that's where you think he'll finish the year. Well, on its own that seems reasonable, but by not waiting until the 4th did you inadvertently trade Shin Soo Choo (take Choo in the 3rd and Stanton in the 4th) for Hunter Pence (Stanton in the 3rd, Pence in the 4th)?

In any event, the fundamental concept to understand in any type of draft is that every pick has ramifications beyond just the player you draft. That's why value is so important to consider on draft day. Look...everyone...i mean your snake and or auction draft realizes that there are only two top tier SS available in this year's draft or that SP is really deep this year (btw...SP is deep every year). In fact, with the internet (thank you Al Gore), there are rarely any "sleepers" that aren't known, and being targeted, by at least half the other owners in your league. So how do you compete? You compete by targeting value on draft day rather than players.

Now, I'm not suggesting you don't pay the extra buck on the guy you really love in an auction draft or that you don't bump a guy up a few spots on your draft board, but a balanced team requires an emphasis on value. Especially in deep leagues.

A great exercise I recommend to anyone looking to reverse their fantasy fortunes is to create Mock rosters before the draft. Take a highlighter and highlight the guys you like, sleepers, or players you think are undervalued. Now make a list of each position required in your league (standard 23 players, 3 bench). For auction drafts, take your most reliable list of auction values and draft your team. Assume you get whoever you want, but always pay full value according to your list. Inevitably you'll learn one of two things. Either you can't possibly get all the guys you want, OR you might be surprised that you can afford 1 or 2 more expensive players and still fill out your roster. Now, make a second roster making changes based on what you learned from the first mock roster. Continue this exercise until you have a roster totalling the budget for your league and what you'd consider the best roster you can create. This final roster is a great tool to enter the draft with. This final roster is your "best case scenarios." (Just assume guys will go for more than you think on draft day). During the draft you can look to this roster to understand when you are ahead or behind your best case budget and make adjustments as necessary. For example, if you pay extra for your top two players, you might have to reassess how much you spend on a couple other positions. In any event, you'll be keenly aware of what you can spend throughout the draft.

For snake drafts, take an ADP list close to the date of your draft. If you don't know your draft position, make three blank rosters and draft your team from the first, middle, and end draft positions. (If you know, just use your draft position). For each pick, only allow yourself to take players within a couple of spots from your pick. You can move a player up 5 spots in the first 50 picks, 10 spots from 50-100, 15 spots from 100-150, and 20 spots from 150 to 200. After you create your roster, look to see where you'd like to improve. If you took a 2b at pick 100 instead of a SP, could you get a comparable SP down at 170 where you selected a 2b. Would your team be better if you take a guy you really like two rounds earlier? Or is taking the C you have to have making it difficult for you to fill your MI. In any event, the exercise will help you discover where value lies in the draft and it is certain to help you form a better game plan going into the draft.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Step 2: You will (almost) never make a trade where you get more players than you give.

This should be pretty obvious, but I watch the same teams year after year agree to two for one or three for two trades. If you get more players than you traded, 19 times out of 20, you are a sucker. Understand? If you aren't willing to take this step for yourself, do it for your league...making these trades just encourages the guy who sends lousy trade offers every week to keep doing it (oh wait that's me...nevermind). Actually, the leagues I'm in are very competitive and it's been fun watching owners wise up to bad trade offers. You only see one or so a year that make you cringe.

In theory, you can make 2 for 1 trades that are balanced, but what owners perceive as "balanced" is often skewed because they forget to, or incorrectly, value the open roster spot. You see, the owner getting the "one" player in the deal is getting much more than that, they are getting, at a minimum, the best player on the waiver wire in addition. But that just scratches the surface. Open roster spots are valuable, owners can be aggressive picking up speculative save opportunities or a hitter on a hot streak just to see if he turns into this years Jose Bautista or John Axford. Think about it, how many times have you struggled with whether to drop a guy who is struggling for a hot week sitting on the waiver wait b/c you don't want to give up on a guy, and before you know it the hot waiver wire pickup is gone.

In other words, an open roster spot gives you the opportunity to "try out" guys. If you like to pick up SP based on matchups it's great for that too. Roster spots are valuable, and the best owners know that even if the waiver wire looks bleak this week, there undoubtedly will be someone they want...soon. On countless occassions I've picked up someone that is comparable if not better than one of the two guys I just traded. It's a great feeling. There are exceptions...particularly later in the year if you find your team way back in saves, steals, starts, is conceivable you'd trade one pretty good starter, for example, for two closers or vice versa. It doesn't happen often, and if you aren't sure don't do it.

Want to stop being a fantasy loser? Get quality over quantity in your trades and don't receive more players than you trade away.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fantasy Guys: 7 steps to avoid being a Fantasy Loser this year

Fantasy Guys: 7 steps to avoid being a Fantasy Loser this year: "Are you tired of being a fantasy loser? The guy that plays and pays every year all for a participation ribbon? Did you celebrate finally f..."

Step 1...You will ignore the so-called "experts" and you will value reliable closers. (Written by Jim Colling)

You've heard it a million times from the "experts" (who seemingly just regurgitate each others fantasy insight). "Don't pay for saves." They say it so you'd have to be an idiot to pay for saves. Truly, I am grateful for each and every one of these experts, because without them, I'd be a lot poorer. Here's the truth. Think of closers as the antithesis of cars, which immediately lose value when they leave the lot. Unlike cars, Closers tend to be at their lowest value on draft day...and that's why you'll go to the bank everyday to pay full price for them. Closers are perceived as one-trick ponies on draft day, much like the Juan Pierres of the world, so it seems odd to take them too high. Accordingly, they drop....every year...especially in snake drafts. Notably, even top closers (I've got 7-9 I'd put on that list right now with Bailey's elbow a concern) really aren't that expensive. A top closer can be had between picks 100-150 in snake drafts and often for right around $10 -- $15 in most auctions.

"But you can get cheap saves late in the draft and on the waiver wire" they tell you. can get cheap everything late in the draft and on the waiver wire, especially starting pitching. Sure, everybody can get a cheap closer or two near the end of the draft, but it's the owners that have reliable closers to combo with those speculative saves that end up winning Saves, ERA and WHIP. In fact, if you've ever been in leagues of 14 teams or more you know that FAAB budgets are burned up with owners scrambling for the newly named closers and you have to be awake at 3am to be the first one to grab the guy in FA/waiver wire leagues. Everyone is going to need the new closer when he's announced, trust me. So, when is the best time to get your legitimate closer(s)? When they are at their lowest value, the draft.

Don't believe me, take a look at ESPN's 2010 Player'll be amazed at how high closers are rated, much higher than their draft position. My recollection is there were 3 or 4 in the top 50. You won't see one go that high in a snake draft this year. Why the discrepancy? In reality, top closers are valuable in at least three categories and actually are strong in FOUR categories in shallower leagues if you use your roster positions wisely. I consider a top closer to generally be a guy that I feel is pretty much locked into the role barring an injury or trade (Right now I'd include Bell, Wilson, Rivera, K-Rod, Soria, C. Perez, Marmol, Valverde, and Papelbon). You can make pretty good arguments for about 3 or 4 others. These guys get you saves, a great ERA and generally a great WHIP. In shallow leagues with innings pitched limits ,Closers are actually money in K's as well. Why? because they get you more K's per inning than a starter would. So, if you meet the innings pitched limit, you'll be hard pressed not to be in contention for K's. Hell, Marmol got more K's last year than many Starting Pitchers period.

A perfect draft for me ends with having 1 more closer than the league avg. For example in a 10-team league you'd expect each team to have 3 closers (30 mlb teams). I want 4. In a 12-team league avg is just shy of 2.5, I want 3. 15-team, I want 3 closers. Even if successful, I am still constantly looking to add additional closers throughout the year. After all, how often can you really find three category contributors, let alone 4 on the waiver wire. More than half of SP's will actually hurt you in ERA, WHIP or K's (due to the low k per inning rate) and finding a power guy that hits for avg. and/or gets runs on the waiver wire, is tough.

One last plug for closers...if you really want to play the game (make trades, use the waiver wire) there is no commodity easier to trade than a closer. It is abundantly obvious when a team needs saves, and there are only a few guys that can provide saves. I regularly trade closers for starters and hitters that get drafted 50 spots higher than my closers.

So, if you've been an annual loser and want to change that trend, go ahead and pay for saves.

7 steps to avoid being a Fantasy Loser this year

Are you tired of being a fantasy loser? The guy that plays and pays every year all for a participation ribbon? Did you celebrate finally finishing in the top .500 even though you still won nothing?

Well, that's pathetic. It reminds me of when I asked my college roommate about the girl he hooked up with the night before and he said, "well, she wasn't unattractive." Stop being a loser. Make this article your first step in changing your losing ways. Over the next week I'll cover the following 7 basic steps you can take to make sure you are competitive this year.

7 steps to recovery from being a fantasy loser.

1. You will ignore the so-called "experts" and you will value reliable closers.

2. You will never make a trade where you get more players than you give.

3. You will draft value, not specific players

4. You will not panic...until Memorial Day

5. You will be a leader not a follower, be it draft or auction

6. You will be adequately prepared

7. You''ll believe the hype, you just won't pay for it.