Sunday, March 12, 2017

Beware the Conventional Wisdom!

posted by Jon Williams

You might think that a guy like me who has written for a bunch of fantasy sports sites and keeps this sporadically updated blog active would recommend you read a lot of fantasy articles. You would be wrong. I read a ton of stuff but only a relatively small portion of it is actually about playing fantasy sports. Why not?

Fantasy articles as a whole (including this one) are about telling you who or what is good for your fantasy success and who or what is not. There is nothing wrong with that but as an owner you reach a level of knowledge and experience eventually where these articles (most of them) just start to confirm what you already think you know. The problem is most so-called experts (or analysts) are not spending a hell of a lot more time than the reader of a blog like this would spend researching and comparing and contrasting information to reach a conclusion. There are absolutely exceptions and those should be the relatively small percentage of fantasy articles you spend your precious time reading.

Instead you should spend a greater portion of your time studying the actual players and the skills they possess relative to other players and the context within which those skills are employed. You will want a passing familiarity with ADP and mass market values but no need to obsess or memorize them. The tougher your league the less these things will matter in your draft or auction. This is because the true experts when playing among other experts are not going to follow trends they will set new trends that their fans will then follow (even if the fans are just the other guys in your league).

Web sites such as Fangraghs.com, TheHardballtimes.com, Baseball-Reference.com, Statcorner.com, BrooksBaseball.net, are mostly free sites that you can draw a tremendous amount of data from in your study of players. Most of these also have a blog or publish articles about what their writers find in the data. When you get familiar with sites like this you are way ahead of the guys reading "Sleeper Starters By ADP". Baseball America.com, MinorLeagueBall.com (John Sickels) and Prospect361.com are my favorite sites for minor league info and scouting reports.

You also can win by having a greater understanding of the context in which players play than the other people in your leagues. I try to be in the heads of the major league GMs and the directors of player operations around MLB. I want to be the first one to understand what a move means not just for the player acquired or sent away but for all the players that will be impacted by that move. I know, I am a little crazy. Who has the time right? Technology is your friend.

Set-up an RSS reader for your baseball reading. I use Feedly - it has free and paid versions (the free version is great I promise). An RSS reader is great when you have limited time and lots of articles to potentially read. I use the reader to subscribe to one newspaper blog or writer that updates frequently and then a fan blog (I like to find the obsessive but high-functioning ones) and a minor league blog for each of the MLB teams. This is easier for some teams than others - the Mariners have a dozen great bloggers, the Rockies not so many. Reading this way I'm able to read through most of the stuff on my commute back and forth to work (most experts have day jobs) and at various moments throughout the day.

Which actual fantasy stuff do I read?

I glance at stuff on BaseballHQ.com but I spend more time in the subscriber forums than on the articles. Rotogrinders.com - these guys are putting their money on the line and you know they aren't just feeding stuff for google rankings. Scout.com has Shawn Childs and Adam Ronis and I read most of their stuff. I'll read whatever Ron Shandler and Todd Zola publish just because they are really smart guys with a logic to what they write that I really appreciate. And I buy Rotoman's Fantasy Magazine every year just because.

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