Welcome to the initial installment of The NFBC Zone, a weekly discussion of the National Fantasy Baseball Championship sponsored by your friends at Mastersball.com. This season, we are pleased to announce that in conjunction with Greg and Tom, we are going to supplement my numerish with frequent guest appearances by none other than you, the loyal NFBC enthusiast. With Greg and Tom’s help, we will give a platform for a bunch of you to get some well deserved exposure and allow you to share some of your thoughts and ideas with the rest of the NFBC family. Details will be provided in next week’s NFBC Zone as well as being posted on the NFBC forum.
Before we start inviting you to contribute, I have a little question: So, did y’all hit your targets? You know, after your draft, did you draft your target number of homers, steals, saves, etc.? I am guessing you did. But I have a little secret for you – so did everyone else. If you polled your league right after the draft, I will bet that everyone would have contended that they made their goals. Many would have been able to share the exact number of each they drafted. Now let me ask you another question: How many of you are going to win your league come April? Interesting – everyone made their target, but only one is going to be victorious.
If it is not sardonically obvious by now, I have soured on the concept of target drafting. Truth be told, there is some irony to this as humbly speaking, I was amongst if not the first in the industry to provide NFBC average standings with category totals in an NFBC Primer I prepared since the event’s inception. It is not so much that I feel target drafting is a bad idea, though I can envision an instance or two where it can indeed be detrimental. It is more that I no longer feel a successful draft is predicated on nailing one’s targets. There are several reasons for this.
First, considering you are using your own player projections and expectations to calculate your totals, you better darn well meet your targets, if not blow them away. Think about it, you are accumulating the stats of the players you favor while saddling your opponents with the numbers of the players lower in your rankings. To be completely honest, if you do not meet your goals, or at minimum lead your drafts, it is time to take a look at your drafting strategy.
Second, with the Friday transactions permitted for hitters, and a reserve list at your ready to help manage pitching, even if the impossible occurs and you do not incur a single injury, you will make alterations to your opening day lineup, meaning those targets you nailed are not representative of your eventual active lineups, they only reflect how your squad would fare if your opening day lineup remained healthy and was never altered all season.
This segues into the third and most important reason and that is on the average, ten of the thirty players you draft will spend time on the disabled list this season and will be replaced. Plus, some of your players will underperform and will be changed. In my not so humble opinion, the fact that there will be so much flux on your roster renders the concept of target drafting to be not nearly as useful as some presently perceive.
I will preface this next set of thoughts by stating I am all for doing something for the sole reason it affords you a comfort level. So ultimately, if you want to continue using target drafting because it puts your mind at ease, more power to you. That said, I fail to understand how one can draft a stronger team because they are drafting towards a target. It seems to me that the goal is to amass the greatest amount of statistics. The players should be picked in an effort to amass the most possible stats across all the categories and not to attain an arbitrary, static target. Now, I do understand that some may want to track power versus speed to attain balance, but even that is questionable since you will have to deal with injuries and will have 20-something weeks to manage your categories as necessary. In fact, the detrimental scenario I alluded to earlier is one in which you opt for a lesser player that happens to contribute to a weakness, solely for the ability to leave the draft table with ability to proclaim you made your targets, bypassing a more valuable player that contributes to other categories and not the one you think you are weak in before pitch is even thrown. In short, within reason, I personally believe the objective should be to leave the draft with as much talent as possible, setting yourself up to use your managerial skills for the next 26 weeks. There are occasions where this meant passing on Nyjer Morgan, perhaps falling short of your steals target, but having the well-rounded Marlon Byrd as your utility. Trust me; you will not fail to win the $100K because you took a speedy guy to make your steals target in lieu of a better all around player. You will have ample opportunity to find what you need in season, if it does not happen to already be on your roster.
What would a piece from me be without a little bit of numerish? What is missing from my argument is how well your opening day draft ultimately correlates to your season ending finish. The result of this will not speak towards the effectiveness of target drafting, but it is an interesting thought to investigate. I have conducted preliminary studies that suggest that you draft between 35 percent and 75 percent of your eventual totals. What I do not know is if you are more likely to win the more you originally draft. Intuitively, it makes sense that should be the case, but the disciples of numerish do not let a little intuition get in the way of a good study. And now that STATS Inc is back as the NFBC commissioner service, the necessary data will be readily available. So next spring, I will have a lot more to say on the subject. But, regardless of the findings, I will not be coming into my drafts next spring armed with category targets.
Before we call it a week, a couple months ago, I wrote an essay for Mastersball where I first publicly discussed the misconceptions of target drafting. Before composing this piece, I reviewed it and chuckled because of this little ditty I wrote:
“If you predict Willie Bloomquist to hit 25 HR and steal 35 bases, chances are you are going to meet your targets if you draft him.”