It was over ten years ago. Jason Grey and I were enjoying a sandwich from Schlotzsky's before taking in that day’s Arizona Fall League contest. The now Tampa Ray scout offered some advice I adhere to this day, “put yourself in the position of a site reader and write what you would want to read.”
Sounds simple, right? But when you think about it, Jason was implying there is a body of information available elsewhere and he was challenging me to come up with something fresh, something not available elsewhere. I’d like to think that over the years, I have been ahead of the game when it comes to fantasy baseball game theory. And with your help, I would like to stay that way.
I am about to describe a body of data to which I have access. I will then suggest what I feel would be useful means to analyze said data. My request is that you supply additional suggestions in the comments section and perhaps we can discuss their feasibility. The end result will be proprietary advances in game theory available to you, the Mastersball reader.
The vast majority of this data emanates from the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC). Some can be culled from Tout Wars and LABR. Here is what is available for every single on these leagues:
Additionally, I have Excel programs that can easily calculate standings and category totals with a simple copy and paste of the necessary data.
The bulk of the NFBC leagues are 15-team and 12-team mixed snake drafts. There are also a handful of 15-team mixed auctions as well as a 12-team AL only, and a 13-team NL only auction. These leagues all utilize a 7-man reserve list and allow free movement of players between active and reserve every Monday as well as Friday moves just for hitters. There is no trading in the NFBC but there is a FAAB period every Sunday evening.
There is another subset of the NFBC consisting of what were termed Slow Draft Leagues. These are 15-team leagues but the catch is instead of employing a 30-man roster with weekly FAAB, you draft 50 players and hold them the entire season. The weekly moves are identical to the regular leagues, expect of course, there is no FAAB bidding.
With that as a backdrop, here are some studies I plan on undertaking, with game theory implications in mind. I realize only so much can be gleaned from 12 and 15 team mixed leagues, and that the results may not transcend into deeper single leagues, particularly leagues with trading and especially those of the keeper variety. I also realize there will be trends and situations unique to this season. For an example, look no further than the chaos associated with closers and the saves category thus far in 2012. But hopefully, some of the results will be actionable. Hey, at the very least, we should be able to produce a kick-ass NFBC Draft Guide for 2013.
The first study I want to conduct involves comparing teams’ standings as if they made no moves all season to the final standings. The idea here is to determine the relative importance of the draft versus in-season managing – or if there even is a discernible difference between the two. To be completely forthright, I want to consider these results in terms of the viability of “target drafting”, the process by which you draft your team with the intent of accruing present category targets.
Another area I wish to investigate is to examine if there are any consistent features with respect to the original construct of winning teams. Obviously, there are infinite ways to put together a winning team. However, it stands to reason a certain strategy may have had more success than others. For instance, where did the winning teams draft starting pitching? Where did the draft their closers? Were they stronger in any one area coming out of the draft? Again, there is not going to be a one-size-fits-all answer to this. But, if enough champions display similar characteristics, some strategies could be considered to have a better chance of being successful as compared to others.
Similarly, an analogous study can be done on the worst teams in the league to elucidate the weaker strategies. Just to reiterate, care will be taken not to draw any conclusions that were obviously influenced by events unique to the current season.
Something else I am curious about is just how poorly a team can do over a defined period and still have a chance to finish in the money. I know we keep saying it is early - not to look at the standings yet. Well, at least don’t lose any sleep over your early plight. But I want to know what the worst month (or whatever) a team can have and still win. This is not in an effort to identify when it is time to pack it in and start prepping for fantasy football, but rather to allow for an objective evaluation and perhaps rethinking present strategy.
While this may take a little more work and provide rather anecdotal data, it would be interesting to see how the champions approached FAAB bidding. Granted, again there will not be a completely common means, but if the majority of winners broached bidding in a like manner, a lesson or two can be learned.
Since the NFBC has a goodly number of auctions and snake draft leagues playing under the same rules, it could be interesting to observe any differences between the dynamics of the two formats. If I had to venture a guess, intuitively the categorical spread in auctions will be broader. That is, the leader in each category will be higher in auction leagues. At this point, I’m not sure if anything actionable will be elucidated, but that’s why you do the study.
Speaking of auctions, it will be intriguing to learn if any particular strategy demonstrated better or worse success than others. As opposed to drafts, auctions really lend themselves to diverse roster construction.