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Mock as Laboratory PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 28 January 2012 00:00

A number of years back, my late friend Jim Vail organized a sort of roto league amongst a cluster of friends.

This league was a simple one, designed with the minimum of effort, for in it we each simply picked the three batters we thought would hit the most home runs in the coming year. Entry to the league was a meager $10.

The year was 2000, when both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were the big hitters, and while I did pick Sammy, I also went with Barry Bonds and Vladimir Guerrero. That was unlike everyone else in the league, each of whom took McGwire and Sosa, but all took Bonds as well.

Well, Vlady hit 12 more dingers than Big Mac that year, so needless to say, I won. In fact I remember telling Jim to keep the money, and we used it to have a great Chinese dinner when I visisted Phoenix the following spring.

Over the course of talking that winter, Jim did ask me why I took Vlady instead of McGwire, like everyone else. I answered I did not really know why Vlady of all hitters, but that I had a feeling McGwire would have a tougher year, and that Guerrero was that good. But, mostly I did it because I was pretty sure all the other players would not take him and that meant either I would win, or not. But, at least there would not be a potential ten-way tie making the season good for nothing.

When I said that Jim paused and thought for a moment, and then looked at me and said, "so, playing the game out is really kind of like a big laboratory for you then?"

I thought about it for a moment--for no one had ever suggested such a thing to me before--and nodded, saying "yes, that I guess it was."

Well, in the course of the pretty fun and wonderfully paced (its slowwwwwwwww) MLB.com experts draft, I got into a fun exchange with my bud Cory Schwartz from MLB.com. Cory took Eric Hosmer pretty early (third round) and also took Desmond Jennings in the fourth, Madison Bumgarner in the eighth, and Jason Kipnis in the tenth, after bagging Troy Tulowitzki with the fourth overall selection of the Mock.

Now, I will admit that all of these picks might have been early in the world of ADP, but I thought a couple of things.

First, these are all guys I would be happy to have on my roster at one point or another. They are all young. They are all good. And, they all likely have improvement ahead of them, and if Cory plays a roster with these guys and one or two of them have a break out, he has a seriously dangerous team.

In fact, Cory plays percentages a couple of ways by taking so many up-and-comers, the first being these are all touted young players, the second being that the more guys he gives a chance to, the greater the odds he will indeed hit the break out nail on the head.

Because, as we all know, there will indeed be break out players this year. And, we also know that if say Bumgarner, Tulo, and Hosmer simply repeat last year, should Kipnis and Jennings bust it out, that is indeed what makes his team look like a winner.

I sent a note to Cory telling him how much I liked his picks and team, and he did reply back a couple of things. One was that these were some of "his guys" which I understood meant he had been tracking them and maybe even drafting them as ultra picks for a few years, and he was watching his choices grow into full blown major league players and enjoying the rewards of both powers of observation and his faith in them.

I also asked Cory how much differently he drafted in a mock as opposed to the real deal, however, and he replied "I do things a little bit differently in mocks because I want to experiment, but it’s also a chance to practice my gameplan so I don’t go off the reservation **too much**. For instance, in a typical draft I would not take as my first three players a trio of guys who might combined for maybe 20-25 steals, tops. But, it’s a worthy exercise to see how that plays out over the full draft."

Ture enough.  Of course the risk in taking Kipnis say over Neil Walker is that Kipnis could turn into Gordon Beckham (who himself had better become Alex Gordon or his career will be in jeopardy) hitting .240-10-50 or so, while Walker goes a steadier .285-12-70 on an unfortunately dull team.  Cory said, the reason he did take Kipnis was "...in any case I’d rather reach a little here for Kipnis’ power/speed upside, acknowledging the average risk, than to take the known mediocrity of a Neil Walker."

True enough. 

 

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Comments  

 
# TheRunner77 2012-01-28 14:39
So much for extrapolating from these industry drafts.

Sadly, the greatest lab rat experiment is not constituted of those players Cory Schwartz would never select in his "real" drafts, but of those naive extrapolators who typically assume that all industry draft participants are using their best "expert" strategies in order to try and outperform their peers.
 
 
# Todd Zola 2012-01-28 15:46
Runner - you are forgetting one very important factor. In this case Cory, in other cases other people, are doing exactly the same thing as people in your real draft would do. I PROMISE you that there will be someone in your real league that has an affinity for minor leaguers. Cory is playing the part of the practice squad QB who is assigned to emulate Tim Tebow.

Someone else is taking closers early or a huge proponent of positional scarcity or someone that takes best player available.

All of these are scenarios you encounter in your real drafts so having someone (purposely or not) play the part in these industry mocks should be viewed as a positive.
 
 
# lawr 2012-01-28 18:49
runner-

thx for writing, and i do have a couple of thoughts.

first, cory might not draft all the guys in a regular draft, but, possibly some combo, and then the question is when?

so, simply as an exercise, that is good for him to see, and as a player, for you to witness as well, no? at least it does not hurt anything, right?

second, in my experience, this is a game, and the objective is to figure out how to win. so, in that sense, it is all an experiment. ideally any player has a strategy: the question is will this combo of players work or not?

when it does you are brilliant, when it does not you are a failure. but, that also means coming second place can be that failure.

then, especially in a mock, what better time to experiment?

and, finally, just because i might be experimenting, be it during the season, or in a mock, it certainly does not mean i am not trying.

i always play to win (and i know cory well enough to know that he does, too). that said, i also know i will not always win simply because no on ever does. even larry schechter.

but, i also know coming out of a draft i want a team to be competitive at the break so i can then make the moves i need to win in the end.

i guess what i am saying here is there is a lot of uncertainty built into the whole fantasy baseball thing as it is, that some experimentation not only does not detract, but it is essential to win.

draft safe always and you will always finish fourth. which year-to-year might look good, but ten years of fourth place finishes is as boring as having neil walker at second every year, is it not?
 
 
# TheRunner77 2012-01-29 16:57
Quoting lawr:
draft safe always and you will always finish fourth.


Hi Lawr,

Thanks for taking the time to respond.

Have been reading you for years in several publications, feels odd to finally interact with you here. I even remember you as a cartoon rendition, sporting a beard, if memory serves.

Your words above hit home for me. I do want to see some industry drafters go off the beaten track -- call them calculated risks, timely reaches, situational.

However, as you state in your article, Cory admits that he would not be picking the same players in a "real" draft -- esp. his first 3 picks.

Perhaps my idea of a mock is skewed. Mock + industry participants = greater weight ascribed to selections by reader. A mock with your friends in a private setting doesn't involve the same level of scrutiny.
 
 
# TheRunner77 2012-01-29 16:47
Point taken, Funklord. However, the guys who do this in my drafts are putzes. I don't expect an industry guy like Cory to act like one -- and not that he is, but you get my point -- we're looking for the best to be at their best against their industry peers -- that means putting their name behind each selection. Just sayin'. No disrespect meant.

I love and respect all industry guys -- it's a tough place to carve out real estate for oneself.

Point is -- all of you have earned the right to speak in a public voice -- damn shame to to see it used in this fashion.

You have to remember that part of your audience will be thinking that new value tiers are being created, not that one or several of you are hamming it up or not playing as you normally would.
 
 
# Todd Zola 2012-01-29 17:44
Quoting TheRunner77:
Point is -- all of you have earned the right to speak in a public voice -- damn shame to to see it used in this fashion.

You have to remember that part of your audience will be thinking that new value tiers are being created, not that one or several of you are hamming it up or not playing as you normally would.


I think you are completely missing the point. No one is picking all players whose last names end in a vowel -- there is absolutely no hamming it up. Everyone is trying to put together the absolute best team they can. Sometimes you have no way of telling if you are putting together the best team possible unless you try something different. One of my main beefs with my fellow industry brethren is all they do is early season magazine mocks, using the same (predictable) strategy year after year and they have no idea if that would work in a real league because they do not play drafts of this nature out -- they "assume" it will work.

Cory is one of the exceptions, he plays (and has kicked ass in) the NFBC amongst other public leagues. He is not hamming it up, he is putting his normal draft strategy to the test, to see if there is a better method out there.

Honestly, I take offense to the tone of "damn shame to see it used in this fashion".

I think Cory, and others have every right to use it in this fashion.
 
 
# TheRunner77 2012-01-30 07:57
Quoting Todd Zola:
I think you are completely missing the point. No one is picking all players whose last names end in a vowel -- there is absolutely no hamming it up.


Reductio ad absurdum. You’re putting words (and a heavy boot) in my mouth. Easy.

Quote:
Everyone is trying to put together the absolute best team they can.


I’ve never assumed that everyone isn’t.

Cory made selections that he admitted were not consistent with his “real” valuative system in this one draft. My comments only apply to this draft, not to some other context where he may draft differently.

(text too long, continued separately)
 
 
# TheRunner77 2012-01-30 07:57
Quote:
One of my main beefs with my fellow industry brethren is all they do is early season magazine mocks, using the same (predictable) strategy year after year and they have no idea if that would work in a real league because they do not play drafts of this nature out -- they "assume" it will work.


Boring and predictable is good where boring and predictable works. I don’t really have a problem with that.

What I don’t enjoy are experiments that come without an advisory. Plus, don’t you already have set-ups intended for experimentation like LABR?

(continued in a follow-up comment)
 
 
# TheRunner77 2012-01-30 08:04
Quoting Todd Zola:
Cory is one of the exceptions, he plays (and has kicked ass in) the NFBC amongst other public leagues. He is not hamming it up, he is putting his normal draft strategy to the test, to see if there is a better method out there.


Clearly, you missed my point. This is not about Cory. It’s about any industry drafter who does not bring his real game to the table when playing against his peers and the results are made public.

Quote:
Honestly, I take offense to the tone of "damn shame to see it used in this fashion".


Calling a spade a spade. Nothing personal. Ultimately, we're all in it for the advancement of the game. None of it was intended to offend. It's just an exchange of ideas and I'd like to leave it at that level, if you don't mind.
 
 
# TheRunner77 2012-01-30 08:05
Quoting Todd Zola:
I think Cory, and others have every right to use it in this fashion.


Cory has a right to draft in whatever manner he sees fit. As a consumer of fantasy baseball products for several years, I am merely voicing my displeasure at the type of drafting approach he chose to employ. None of it is meant as a judgment against Cory personally, Cory as your friend, Cory as a competitive player, Cory in another context.
 
 
# Jeff Erickson 2012-01-30 02:07
I think there's an imperative to use Mock Drafts as a choose-your-own-adventure. It's an imperative to try out different strategies, in order to see the end-result and see if it's a viable method once we hit a draft that counts.

Lawr et al are right - the most successful draft plans/strategies work best when they work alone. And because snake drafts are a function of combinations, you need to figure out how the puzzle pieces fit as best as possible in advance. What better opportunity to do it in a pool of drafters that at the very least know the player pool up-and-down and won't let players "slip," giving you a false positive that your plan might work?

For instance, my thesis for this slow draft is that good starting pitching is available late, and in this era of the pitcher, one needs to put a higher value on bats in each slot. I have one solid anchor in Halladay and two closers - my decision to wait on other starters was by design.
 
 
# Jeff Erickson 2012-01-30 02:09
Also, for whatever little it's worth, neither Bumgarner nor Kipnis were reaches, at least according to how I rank them. I would have taken Kipnis three picks later, and Bumgarner's ADP is higher than where he went here. I've also seen Jennings taken by Gene McCaffrey at #31 in a separate 15-team mixed league draft.
 
 
# Todd Zola 2012-01-30 08:18
Quoting TheRunner77:
Cory made selections that he admitted were not consistent with his “real” valuative system in this one draft. My comments only apply to this draft, not to some other context where he may draft differently.


I think the disconnect is he is deploying a different strategy amidst an inventory he values the same. We all get to a point where there are a bunch of players of equal potential at our pick, but we choose the one that fits our strategy. All Cory is doing is choosing a different one that fits a different strategy.

That said, as we have discussed in other instances, the intrinsic value of a player may differ according to the strategy, but that's all part of playing the game.
 
 
# TheRunner77 2012-01-30 10:22
To quote Pablo Francisco, this all happens cause "they put it out there".
 
 
# lawr 2012-01-30 10:54
well, i think there is one other aspect to consider, and that is for better or worse cory and todd and jeff et al and i are friends, and for the most part, we all "mock" together for the bulk of january-february, and they we draft against one another in earnest in march and play it out.

in other words for use, this stuff is as close to a home league as we get.

and, again, just because we are friends, does not mean we don't want to win or are not trying.

but, we also know one another and our habits, just like any league becomes familiar.

although, as an example of different paths, jeff correctly noted pitching is so much deeper these days.

so, i could wait for a good basic rotation. that said, i could not let timmy or feliz go when my spot came up. it does mean i have to scrounge for a little more power late, but, it also makes me so strong in whip and era and whiffs.

but, that is a very different path for me in any draft.

and, who knows what will happen in a real draft?
 
 
# deansdaddy 2012-01-30 11:31
One thing to clear up here is that Cory took Hosmer in the 5th rd - not the third as Lawr wrote. Getting Hosmer at THAT point was right at MDC's ADP (which is where this mock is being run) and actually great value IMO. Just this fact change anyone's thinking? Jennings has an ADP of 55. So while Cory moves him up to get him - in order to roster both players - one HAD to be moved up to the 4th.

Bumgarner came in with an ADP of 74. Cory gets him in the 8th rd. Much later than ADP (actually 13 teams has pitching lasting longer in this draft which makes sense).

Kipnis gets a big bump up from his ADP of 161 - but seems more of a reaction to to the market in this draft as Kipnis was the 12th 2B drafted. (J Weeks went a couple picks later).

Actually - I think Cory has one of the better teams drafted here- but that's me.
I don't think it's shocking for someone to admit they are willing to take risks in a mock that they might not in a money league.
 
 
# deansdaddy 2012-01-30 11:47
Also - it should be noted that since this "Mock" was run on MDC - the default ADP of the draft room WILL have some effect on the flow of the player pool especially in the opening rounds. One example here for me is Justin Upton. MDC has him at #7 on their list. He went #8 in this draft ahead of Ellsbury and Carlos Gonzalez. I haven't seen him go that high in any drafts or Mocks I have done. His NFBC ADP is 12. So there is one obvious example of MDC affecting the flow of the draft.

I have participated in two "real" drafts that Perry has been writing about. We are doing these drafts via email - so I personally really enjoy these drafts as the flow of players seems more pure. Even more interesting is starting the second draft with many of the same owners immediately after the first draft is over. One of the things I have always disliked about mocking online is the effect the draft room player list has on a draft. I much prefer a setting where everyone enters with their own rankings and lists and drafts accordingly. BUT, if you are going to be in a draft room - and want to get "your" guys - you will be forced to be aggressive sometimes - it's just a reality.
 
 
# Jeff Erickson 2012-01-30 14:59
I agree, there's definitely a default bias whenever you're drafting with an online tool like MDC, or if you're drafting on the league manager's draft software.
 
 
# lawr 2012-01-30 12:26
ryan-

thx for the correction. and carlos santana was hidden: he was cory's #3 guy.

but, i don't really believe in ADP. it only impacts the draft to the degree that the drafter allows it to (hmm, is that existential enough?).
 
 
# deansdaddy 2012-01-30 13:57
I agree with you on ADP - my point is that when you use a service like MDC's you can't ignore the ADP that exists in the draft room. Believe in it or not - It's there right in your face and everyone sees it. At a draft table you work off your sheets and will be more likely to take a wider view of the player pool. In the draft room - the view invariably gets narrowed down with those players "in view" being the ones you think about first.
 
 
# lawr 2012-01-30 14:51
as Z will verify (and you probably saw from the NFBC draft we did) i don't even use sheets. i just like a magazine to be able to double check stuff (age, walks, whiffs, generally, and position sometimes) and so i don't forget anyone.

but, it is true, ADP is there in one's face. but, it also is relative to what i am looking for. now i am looking to fill out catcher and pitching, so the overall ADP does not really matter.
 
 
# Todd Zola 2012-01-30 15:34
Even though I touched on it last week, I think the whole ADP concept deserves more attention and I will address it for tomorrow's column

and Runner -- little did you know your comments would be the subject of much of the discussion on Jeff and Chris's show today. Nice job.
 
 
# TheRunner77 2012-02-01 16:13
Quoting Todd Zola:
and Runner -- little did you know your comments would be the subject of much of the discussion on Jeff and Chris's show today. Nice job.


I'm definitely not worthy. Credit goes out to you guys.
 

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