Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Secrets of Sustained Success

posted by Jon Williams
Ron Shandler recently wrote a couple of articles devoted to uncovering the formula for consistent success in Fantasy Baseball. He broke fantasy success down to six variables and polled fans and his fellow experts to weigh the importance of each. I won't reveal all of Ron's conclusions. The articles were part of a free preview (I'm not certain if that is still available or not but here are the links):

The Formula for Consistent Success - Part One

The Formula for Consistent Success - Part Two

I find this to be an interesting topic for discussion. In leagues of relative equals (in baseball knowledge and fantasy tactics) any owner can win in a given season. The true challenge is winning year after year after year. This is about finding the key to that sustained success.

1. Better player projections: I do not believe that the difference between occasional success and consistent success has much, if anything, to do with the difference between most sets of projections. I am certain there are some horrible projections available. However, smart owners are probably choosing from the more established options. If you are using projections from Baseball HQ, RotoWorld, RotoWire, Mastersball, Yahoo, ESPN, The Sporting News, Fantasy Pros 911 or any of a dozen others, you are doing just fine.

The key here is to use a set of projections that you can familiarize yourself with well before your draft or auction. You should have at least a general idea of how the projections were generated. It could be a complex formula that incorporates dozens of performance indicators and multiple computer generated algorithms or it could be as simple as weighted three-year averages. As long as you know and understand the process enough to vary from it when it seems logical.

2. Better grasp of contextual elements that affected players: This is the variable that is most important to me. This is how you manage to draft Carlos Silva, Ben Zobrist, Ryan Ludwick, and so forth from year to year. This is also how you know that the Braves will go with Jason Heyward to start the season and that Mike Stanton will have to wait, regardless of their spring performances. This is how you understand that Brandon Wood will get an extended opportunity and Chris Davis will not.

Owners need to know managers and general managers and their tendencies. Every owner who hopes to have consistent success should understand how each team utilizes players on the major league roster and in the minors. You should know which players are likely to be traded and which are virtually untouchable and why. The best owners instinctively know what teams are planning to do in any given situation based on their history and trends.

3. Better sense of value: It is essential that owners know how much a player is worth in their individual league. But it goes beyond knowing that Albert Pujols is typically worth $45. You need to know the value your league places on him as well. If your league refuses to pay more than $40 for any player being willing to say $41 could be a monstrous advantage to you.

Every league has subtle differences in the players they value. My local leagues, the MPRL (American League Only) and CGRL (National League Only) tend to over value the top prospects and young players. They also pay top dollar for the studs, leaving the boring veterans in the middle as excellent bargains. If this is news to you go back to your leagues draft or auction and examine the record for trends you may be able to exploit next season.

4. Better in-draft strategy and tactics: Owners should go into every draft or auction with a plan. While it is not always a good idea to target certain players, many of the best owners I have known plan to acquire players within small groups of the similarly skilled. They also have back-up plans. They exactly what they will do if plan A is not working out. It may not surprise you that this is the area that Shandler's group of experts collectively assigned the most importance.

This is an area I need to strengthen in my own game. I am good at establishing a plan of action. I always have a well-worked plan. My weakness has always been adjusting when things do not go as planned. When plan-A fails I start to take too many chances. I tend to embrace so much risk that winning becomes almost impossible unless I am incredibly lucky. Fortunately, this doesn't happen to me often but it did happen to me in several drafts this season. Owners should always be prepared when things go awry. It happens to everyone.

5. Better in-season roster management: This encompasses FAAB bidding, trades, pick-ups, use of your reserve roster, activating minor leaguers, and replacing disabled players. If your league allows free pick-ups and the constant churning of your roster - this can become the most crucial element in winning. In contrast, if your league allows very little in the way of roster changes this is almost irrelevant and your draft becomes that much more important.

One of the best ways to keep up with your leagues is to set aside a regular block of time everyday to review your leagues. This can be quite quick if you are doing it everyday. I have the bad habit of skipping the review of teams I am less concerned about (no money involved usually). It typically starts with a time cruch and I put things off and a day becomes a week, becomes a month, and so on. I plan on doing better with this in the future by not being in quite so many leagues.

6. Better luck: Any idiot can get lucky and win a fantasy league. Luck plays a huge part in every league. Most of the time injuries, suspensions, slow starts, and off years are just bad luck. Or you might get lucky by picking up Livan Hernandez to ride his hot streak and finding that it lasts the entire season. but luck is not entirely random, you can create your own good or bad luck.

Drafting Mark Teixeira knowing he starts slow is one thing, drafting him, Grady Sizemore coming off an injury, Milton Bradley, Chris Davis, Brandon Wood and Ken Griffey Jr. onto the same team was just asking for trouble. You can often avoid massive amounts of bad luck by using your head in most cases. Know the injury history of your players and don't place too much risk onto one roster.

Good owners will also give themselves the chance to get lucky. Playing it safe will not usually result in a fantasy championship but it requires a smart balance. If you realized that Chris Davis would get the hook if he started slow, using a reserve pick on Justin Smoak is a great risk.

What do think is most important to consistent success?

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2 Comments:

OpenID jasonbybee said...

Good post. I think it's a combination of things, obviously. In my primary league, drafting well is pretty important. Drafting successfully requires a combination of baseball acumen, an understanding of the economics of our league (how much a stud goes for vs. a young prospect, etc.), and it's also a mini-exercise in psychology -- knowing the other owner's tendencies and strategies.

But I think if I had to pick one, I'd agree with you that having a back up plan is even more important. This year I was boxed out on some of the higher dollar players I had targeted; they all fit a particular profile, but the other owners were willing to pay far more than I was for their services. So I had to adapt kind of haphazardly. I wish I'd developed a more complete "Plan B". It would've kept me from bidding on some guys I regret rostering now.

Sunday, June 20, 2010 at 11:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Hey Jason, good point about knowing the tendencies and strategies of the individual owners in your league. I should have mentioned that, as it can provide a monstrous advantage if you can prey on their weaknesses.

I'm curious, do you win often or at least come close often?

Monday, June 21, 2010 at 1:14:00 AM EDT  

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