LABR and Tout Wars are in the books, so all that is left are the high stakes competitions. This season, I will be representing the site in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship, known as the NFBC for short. In past years, I have provided an NFBC primer, but will not be doing that this time around. The two chief components of it that most desired were an ADP that I put together from some satellite drafts and the average standings which supply the category targets. Ironically, both of these deal with concepts that I have come out in opposition to this spring, but that is not why I am not supplying that information this season. ADPs are now readily available and provided by the NFBC for all its participants. And with the switch of NFBC ownership, the league data used to generate last season’s average standings vanished into cyberspace.
Instead, I will offer a series of thoughts concerning my preparation for the competition next weekend. Some of this will rehash a few of the concepts discussed in this space the past few months, but now it is specifically in context with the NFBC. That said, much of what I am about to discuss transcends the NFBC, with the caveat that the competition does not allow trading, so you need to draft a balanced squad. The other difference is you do not need to complete your active roster with your first 23 picks so long as you have a legal roster by the end of the 30 rounds.
Something I learned early on is gimmicks, in general, do not win the NFBC. Anything can work on occasion, but for the most part, playing it straight is the best means of putting together a competitive team. Taking Joe Mauer and Victor Martinez in the first and third rounds does not work. Waiting until the final two rounds for your receivers does not work either. Going heavy on pitching is not wise, but neither is waiting until the 10th round for your first arm. Using all relievers or bagging saves is not recommended. Punting steals or batting average or trying a Sweeney variation where you ignore power have had a little success, but in general, a team constructed to compete in all ten categories has the best chance to succeed.
To briefly review my rant against using category targets, I no longer feel the need to guide my picks in an effort to accrue a predetermined level of stats. From an abstract sense, while I will not argue with you if you contend that you want to be aware of your power versus speed balance, I do not see how drafting towards a target will impact your selection. It seems to me your objective should be to accrue as many stats as possible and I do not understand how you can draft more stats if you are aiming towards a goal. Though, I can see how you may use your totals to help decide whether to draft hitting or pitching, but if you opt for hitting to reach a hitting objective, you are doing it at the expense of your pitching. From a wiseacre sense, have you ever left a draft without having hit your targets? For that matter, have you ever left a draft where anyone in it failed to meet their target? It is funny how all 15 participants in an NFBC Main Event league all nail their targets, but yet only one wins. From a practical sense, I am going to conduct an extensive study on this for next spring, but with the limited data I have been able to garner, you pick up anywhere between 30 percent and 70 percent of your final stats during the draft. That is, if your projections say you drafted 280 homers, in actuality, you have only drafted between 84 and 196 dingers. The rest come from in-season management. Part of the research will attempt to elucidate trends between your drafted team’s totals and your final totals, but as alluded to above, the necessary NFBC data to conduct these studies was not available this off-season. But the take home point is I do not want to call a draft a success when there is so much in-season management involved. I do not want to win the draft, I want to win the league. My goal is to draft a team that I can manage into a champion.
With respect to ADP, I like to say remember, the A stands for average. Some approach an ADP with the mindset that so-and-so will be available at pick 50 because his ADP is 50. But what that means is about 50% of the time, the player will be available. If that is the average draft position, half the time the player went earlier, the other half he went later. I think an ADP can be of some use, but to use it to map out your draft, without having contingencies is dangerous.
Above, I mentioned how a possible use of drafting towards category targets may help decide if you should take a bat or an arm. While I admit that this is anti-establishment, my approach to this is the opposite. I have a certain level of pitching staff I want to leave the draft table with and will take my pitchers accordingly and then will fill in the hitters around the arms. My saying is “draft the pitcher, not the round.” There is a difference between drafting pitching cheap and drafting cheap pitching. You want to draft pitching cheap, or perhaps better said draft quality pitching cheaply. But the problem is that it is harder to do that now, as pitching is being evaluated better and more people are fishing for the undervalued hurlers, making it more difficult to assemble a quality staff with late round selections. So my theory is to map out a staff of the quality I feel necessary to compete, then time my draft picks in such a manner to put it together. I know this seems bass ackwards, as many will still preach to wait on pitching because you can cobble together pitching, but my contention is, especially in the high stakes arena, that you need to draft pitching and if necessary, cobble together your bats. Please do not misinterpret, I am not suggesting to overload with pitching, I am only saying you can no longer count on finding a staff ace in the eighth round, a second tier starter in the low teens or quality arms in the end game. The advanced means of pitching analysis has reduced the supply while the number of people familiar with these techniques has grown, spiking the demand.
I will wrap this up with a brief discussion on how I approach position scarcity in NFBC drafts. Ideally, based on the 2011 player pool, I would like to have a top-four third baseman: Evan Longoria, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Zimmerman. But I will not reach for one just to get one, specifically Zimmerman if I miss out on the big-three. I will break early ties by picking the third baseman or middle infielder over the outfielder or first baseman, but if the value of the outfielder or first baseman is significantly more than the other positions, I will not leave that on the table. There will be middle infielders available later.
Later in the week, I will unveil my actual plans for the 2011 NFBC.