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Tuesday 22nd Aug 2017

These days, within the industry, it is pretty common knowledge that Larry Schechter is the best fantasy baseball player around. 

That is because Larry has won at pretty much every level, including CDM and Challenge Leagues, as well as LABR, and between the Mixed and American League Tout Wars Leagues, he has six titles.

In his recently published book, Winning Fantasy Baseball, Schechter plots out his methodologies for success in a fairly straightforward--much like Larry himself--manner that is generally easy for the reader to grasp.

As an insider who has played in leagues against Larry for the best part of the last decade, I have always wondered what his real secret to success has been, and the real bottom line is that, for better or worse, he works harder at it than I.

Not that I mean to dismiss Larry's judiciousness. Rather, as a student of British Literature in graduate school, I ran from math classes and formulas with as much haste as possible.

However, there are two points in that notion of my educational background that should provide comfort to most fantasy players.

The first is that Larry was not a mathematician either. The second--and this is conjecture on my behalf--is that like me, Larry finds simply looking at and thinking about the numbers associated with the game of baseball not just fascinating, but as the source of some kind of secret to a number of riddles we encounter in life. 

The truth is I have never been one to go that much into stats beyond righty/lefty splits, OBP, walks-to-strikeouts for both pitchers and batters, WHIP, and in younger players a percentage of extra-base hits to hits.

BABIP, ball park factors, minor league equivalencies, and a number of other stats the Schechter discusses--and sometimes debunks rather logically--never really mattered to me.

Rather, I have always tried to look at career statistical means, age, the previous season, and most important, what is needed to win a respective league relative to the format. That is, the approach one would take to win a head-to-head competition would be different than to win an American League-only 5x5 league.

Well, certainly Larry digs into all of the above, and for the most part sticks with the baseline of statistics that I embrace, and validates my thoughts. But, Larry is also a hard worker, and he does dive deep beneath the numbers to show us how he can use those statistics to confirm the players he likes and wishes to target, or even dismiss players who he believes are over-rated as he prepares for his drafts and auctions.

The real bottom line where Larry and I are on exactly the same page is that winning in fantasy is exclusively about turning over a profit with as many players on your roster as you can. Meaning if you buy Joey Votto for $45 in a National League-only setup, it will be a loftier goal to break even with the investment than it will to turn a profit on a $1 Hector Sanchez simply because Sanchez hitting .275-4-25 will return $3. On the other hand, Votto will have to have a .320-35-120 year to return the $45, and that is no easy row to hoe for any hitter.

The conundrum is that you cannot win without at least a couple of Vottos on your team, so Larry probes the numeric depths of how to identify those players at both ends of the player pool specturm who will indeed give you the best shot at a profitable return in the coming season.

I must say though, if you read carefully, the real subtext of what Larry presents is both simple and easy to grasp: Use common sense.

As in it is unlikely that Sanchez will hit ten homers because he is not the starter and will not get the opportunity. And, even if he did play every day, only once since 2007, when he became a professional, has Sanchez belted more than ten big flies over the course of a season.

Larry does spend a fair amount of time drilling down into how to create projections, and again to couple with that common sense he regularly reminds us to simply be realistic, which is again, a path I have always followed. In fact, rarely do I project a player to provide more than say a .290-25-85 line for a hitter, or 14 wins, a 3.00 ERA, 150 strikeouts and a 1.28 WHIP for a pitcher who will toil 200 innings. Not that there will not be a cluster of players who will exceed these numbers, but I try to factor conservatively, purchase as much on the low end of the bidding spectrum as I can, and let the chips fall.

And again, for the most part, Larry does the same. The difference is that he really goes through the process of crunching the numbers and theoretical values for all the players in preparation for each season, while I simply write profiles and for the most part can remember who each player is and in general what they have done and realistically will do.

However, the one aspect to Larry's approach that I do find both interesting, as well as the slant that gives him some edge aside from his doggedness in number crunching, is that he indeed factors out dollar values down to the penny. 

That is, I might factor that Hunter Pence is an $18 player, and, depending upon when in the auction Pence is nominated, and who needs what, I might be willing to go as high as $20 for Pence before deciding the investment is not worth the potential payoff. 

Not so Larry. For, if he believes the value of Pence is $18.40, once $19 becomes the bid, Schechter folds, and that subtle difference is likely a large part of what makes the difference between his five Tout wins and my pair of them.

In general, Winning Fantasy Baseball is a lot more readable than I feared a formula-based book might be, and it is all presented in a logical and graspable fashion.

In the end, stats or not, as we enter the heights of the 2014 draft season, Larry's thoughts, coupled with his clear success, make the book a great planning tool for all all fantasy players who are simply interested in winning.

And, well, simply reading about fantasy baseball is enough to jazz most of us anyway.

 

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