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Thursday 19th Oct 2017

Do you want to learn Mastersball's tricks of the trade to win at the NFBC?  The Masters of the NFBC is the place.

I thought I would do something a little different for this week’s NFBC Zone.  Over the course of the season, I get some e-mails and private messages and I do not always get a chance to answer them all.  As it happens, the past few weeks have been a wee bit hectic for me and I have been unable to address even more than usual, so I thought I would…well…interview myself using the unanswered e-mails and PMs.

MASTERSBALL: Hi Todd and welcome to the NFBC Zone.  We would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy day to help us out.

Me: My pleasure, I am always willing to help myself out.

MASTERSBALL: Great!  Here is the first question: what makes you an expert?  What have you ever won?

Me: Are we really going down this road again?  It is getting a bit stale.

MASTERSBALL: Oh sorry, my bad.  That was a question from 2008.  Dude, you really should clear out your PMs.

Me: Ah, that explains it.  And stop calling me dude.

MASTERSBALL: Let’s try this one.  Are you planning on returning to Las Vegas?  We missed you the past couple of years.

Me: YES!  Personal circumstances have forced a shift in priorities, but assuming a few things flesh out, I am very much looking forward to returning to Sin City.  I cannot express how much I have missed the Friday AL and NL auctions.

MASTERSBALL: What do you think of Fantasy Camp?  Are you offended by your “numerish” character?

Me: I love it and HELL NO!!!  For those that do not follow the NFBC forums, Fantasy Camp is a running feature written by Doughboys, starring forum regulars in what is best described as caricatures of themselves.   The majority of the posts are parodies of current discussions.  My character talks in numbers, termed numerish and is most often translated into English by another forum regular, bjoak.   There is nothing insulting about it.  Numerish is really nothing more than playing the percentages, a topic that is currently being discussed on the NFBC forums.  My philosophy is I want to base my decisions on the odds I feel have the greatest chance of happening.  That is, I want to minimize what others may deem a gut call.  The metaphor I use is the rolling of a pair of dice, though I admit the analogy is far from perfect.  The proper prediction is for a roll of seven.  This only occurs 16.7% of the time, but of all the combinations, it is the most likely.  If you predict anything other than seven, you are essentially making a gut call.  For me, numerish is nothing more than the analysis I use to determine what I consider to be the most likely outcome.  Putting aside the fact that there is a very good chance that not all my methods are proper, assuming for the sake of argument that they are, if I guess seven every time, I maximize my chance for success.  Again, the analogy is not perfect; I am not saying there is a 17% chance of getting a decision correct.  I am only suggesting that whatever the percentages may be, I prefer to choose the path I determine has the best chance of happening, minimizing if not eliminating what amount to coin flip decisions.  That is the essence of numerish.

MASTERSBALL: What do you think of the state of the high stakes industry and what is happening with other football contests?

Me: To be honest, I prefer to leave the discussion of what is happening to some football contests to those plugged into the situations.  It really is not my place.  Obviously, I hope everything gets settled as this is no doubt a black eye on the industry, and I trust it will, or perhaps better stated, I am confident that the NFBC and NFFC will adhere to a solid and trustworthy business model so there will always be a safe and reliable platform for high stakes players.  That said, there is an area related to the high stakes industry that really worries me and that is the current proliferation of daily contests.  I am by no means knocking those that are operating daily games and certainly not chiding anyone playing them.  My concern is fantasy sports are already treading on thin ice when it comes to the non-gambling classification.  Especially in light of what has happened with the on-line poker industry, there will come a time that daily games will come under increased scrutiny and maybe perhaps is deemed a game of chance.  This could bleed over to the games we presently play.  I am part curious, part dubious of what is around the corner.

MASTERSBALL: What do you think of Doughboys idea for an “expert” NFBC league?

Me: For those unaware, this idea was recently proposed by the aforementioned Doughboys and can be found HERE.  I have a couple of different directions I can go with this.  Bottom line is if it were to come to fruition, I am in.  But truth be told, I am not really sure if it will accomplish what is intended for a couple of reasons.  If the reason is to increase the credibility in the eyes of NFBC players, that is only going to happen if the writers play against other NFBC players, not other writers.  Perhaps more importantly, to those that play in LABR and Tout Wars, I do not see an NFBC writer’s league being considered more credible.  LABR and Tout Wars have been around for several years.  I just don’t see how winning a writer’s NFBC league would be more prestigious to those in the industry.   And, like suggested, no matter who wins it, the NFBC buzz is going to be, “so what, let’s see how they do against real NFBC competition.”

That said, if the idea is packaged as a promotional tool for the NFBC, I see nothing wrong with that and think it is a neat idea.  My KDS will be 1-15.

This past week was definitely an exciting one for all of us participating in NFBC leagues.  If your team has struggled or dealt with a rash of injuries, it is very likely that you have had your sights set firmly on the calendar as June approached. Every seasoned fantasy player knows that June brings the promise of a slew of highly touted prospects passing the Super Two threshold and finally getting the call to the show and thus becoming available for NFBC owners to bid on. This past week did not disappoint those owners who were on prospect watch as several blue-chip prospects were called up in time for this weekend’s FAAB period. The three biggest names called up this week were 3B Mike Moustakas, 1B Anthony Rizzo and SS Dee Gordon.

The week began with the news that Gordon would be getting the call to replace the injured Rafael Furcal for the Dodgers.  Of all the names called up this week, Gordon was likely the most surprising player to get called up.  He is definitely the future at the position for the Dodgers and brings to the table a commodity that can be hard to find on the wire this late into the season, speed.  He actually brings a lot of speed as he stole 73 bases in '09, 53 in '10 and had tallied 21 in AAA at the time of his call-up.

Tuesday brought even bigger news, as it was reported the Royals had purchased the contract of 3B Mike Moustakas from Triple-A Omaha. Moustakas was arguably one of the most highly sought rookies on draft day this year and as such this news was bigger for those owners who drafted him in March and have been patiently waiting for this day to come.  He led the entire minor leagues in homers in ’10 with 36 and his owners are praying that he can provide a power boost from here on out. While the call-up was great news for those who drafted him it didn’t create the same frantic buzz in leagues since he wasn’t available to be bid on in any Main Event leagues this week.

The same can’t be said for Anthony Rizzo.  News of his impending call-up hit the wires on Thursday and NFBC owners likely began trying to determine how much they would have to bid to secure his services. Rizzo was the least surprising name to get the call this week as he has simply been killing the ball at AAA. The 21-year-old had a .365/.444/.715 batting line with 16 home runs in 52 games. He was part of the return the Padres received from Boston in the Adrian Gonzalez deal and it has already been confirmed by manager Bud Black that he will be his primary first basemen going forward.  Rizzo brings more pure power potential to the table than Moustakas, but he also strikes out more and will have to battle the unfriendly confines of his home ballpark.

With Moustakas off the board in almost all NFBC leagues this week, Rizzo and Gordon were the two big prizes and the bids didn’t disappoint. Both players were added in all 26 Main Event leagues.  Gordon went for $148 on average with a high bid of $293 and a low of $37.  Rizzo obliterated those numbers as he went for an average of $387.  His high bid was $539 and the low was $277.  All told Rizzo took over $10,000 worth of FAAB dollars off owners books on Sunday, an astounding number.

While these three were the biggest names of week, they were not the only ones.  Charles Blackmon (OF, COL), Jemile Weeks (2B, OAK), Mike Carp (1B, SEA), Cord Phelps (INF, CLE), Lucas Duda (OF, NYM) and Chris Nelson (2B, COL) were others names that sent owners to their computers, searching for information on the new faces in various lineups around the league. Ben Revere (OF, MIN) and Jordan Lyles (SP, HOU) were two other players who helped get the ball rolling during the previous weeks FAAB period. Many of these names served as consolation prizes for those that either missed out on the big prizes this week or found themselves so low on funds, that making a serious run on either Rizzo or Gordon was never really in the cards. Blackmon seemed to be the most popular back-up option for NFBC’ers this week and it will be interesting to watch and see if he can grab the CF job from Dexter Fowler going forward.

All that is left will be to watch and see if any of these players can be the answer to owner’s prayers. Odds are that someone on this list will emerge as a dominant force for the rest of the season.  NFBC players cast their votes with Moustakas in March and then again with Rizzo on Sunday.  Perhaps one of them will equal or surpass the production that Hosmer has delivered thus far.  Of course in the midst of all the recent call-ups we were reminded of how unpredictable it can be to invest in players making their first extended foray into the majors as the Dodgers finally sent the struggling Jerry Sands back to AAA.

If you came up short this week, take heart, there will be more names coming up soon. Desmond Jennings is at the top of the list, but he is likely already owned in many NFBC leagues.  Brett Lawrie (3B, TOR), Dustin Ackley (2B, SEA), Lonnie Chisenhall (3B, CLE) and Jason Kipnis (2B, CLE) likely will be part of the next wave of young talent to hit the scene.  If you are still sitting on a pile of FAAB you will get another chance to spend a big chunk of it, most likely as soon as next week.  Happy Prospecting!

I have never participated in an NFBC mid-season league though I plan to one day.  Never having done one, I am a bit naïve to the strategies involved.  Are owners more cautious or do they take more chances?  How much does present level of performance impact ranking, good or bad?  Now that we have a feel for the pitching, does this make it go off the board sooner or later?  How far down do injured players fall?

I decided to do an exercise that many do in the spring and that is a solo mock where I select all the teams.  Personally, I have never done this as I participate in a plethora of real mocks (is that an oxymoron?) so I have never mocksterbated, not that there is anything wrong with that.

To mix it up a bit and hopefully reduce some of the “numerish bias”, I forced myself to pick as some stereotypical drafters: scarcity guy, best player available guy, pitching guy, take a risk guy and risk averse guy.  I interspersed “what I would do” amongst the others.  Of course, it is impossible to remove all bias, because all picks are rooted in how I feel players will perform, at least with respect to healthy players.

As a backdrop, I generally still put more credence in a player’s track record than I do in current performance, unless I can identify a change in skill I consider to be real and sustainable.  If I was actually drafting in a mid-season league, I would avoid injured players like the plague and not invest even with the injury discount.  Both of these factors ended up impacting the selections.

Before I present the first six rounds of the Zola mocksterbation, please do not consider this a map of how a mid-season league will unfold as I have no clue.  I would be more than happy to address picks in terms of how I feel about the player and why I picked him in a strategic sense, but this is not a prediction of how I feel a mid season league will look.

What I Would Do: Albert Pujols, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Josh Johnson, Corey Hart, Jeremy Hellickson

Scarcity Guy: Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Zobrist, Andre Ethier, Cole Hamels, Brian McCann, David Wright

Best Player Available Guy: Adrian Gonzalez, Jay Bruce, Tim Lincecum, Adam Jones, Michael Young, Jonathan Papelbon

What I Would Do: Ryan Braun, Brandon Phillips, Hunter Pence, Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke, Andres Torres

Take a Chance Guy: Jose Bautista, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Hamilton, Joe Mauer, Eric Hosmer, Daniel Hudson

Pitching Guy: Miguel Cabrera, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Jayson Werth, Alexei Ramirez, Brian Wilson

What I Would Do: Matt Kemp, Shin-Soo Choo, Ian Kinsler, Dan Haren, CC Sabathia, Gaby Sanchez

Risk Adverse Guy: Joey Votto, Curtis Granderson, Andrew McCutchen, Jon Lester, Elvis Andrus, Martin Prado

Scarcity Guy: Robinson Cano, Victor Martinez, B.J. Upton, Jimmy Rollins, David Price, Colby Rasmus

What I Would Do: Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Rickie Weeks, Justin Upton, Shaun Marcum, James Shields

Best Player Available Guy: Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Jered Weaver, Shane Victorino, Adam Lind, Mariano Rivera

Take a Chance Guy: Carlos Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, Mike Stanton, Chase Utley, Pablo Sandoval, Josh Beckett

What I Would Do: Prince Fielder, Kevin Youkilis, Ichiro Suzuki, Tommy Hanson, Jhonny Peralta, David Ortiz

Pitching Guy: Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Drew Stubbs, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ryan Zimmerman

Risk Adverse Guy: Jose Reyes, Matt Holliday, Paul Konerko, Adrian Beltre, Matt Cain, Heath Bell

Well, that was interesting.  While undergoing the process, how to deal with injury prone players was the most difficult part – not for me, but the “other guys”.  In real drafts, this will no doubt be one of the defining factors.  I also found it more difficult than I thought to pick objectively for the “other guys” so ultimately, this is even more of a reflection of how I currently rank the players than I expected.

Here are a couple of observations.  When I was picking as me, it was difficult to get over the stigma of where I valued the player in the spring.  Well, not difficult, but it was an uncomfortable feeling picking someone in say round three or four that I was able to get in later rounds in March.  But with injuries and the like, a player moving up a round or two is understandable.  I also noticed how non-scarcity friendly the early rounds played out.  That is, there are so many injuries to second baseman, shortstop and third baseman that taking the best player, regardless of position could be the way to go, and then worry about filling in the rest later.

If I were to actually participate in a mid season NFBC league, my strategy would indeed be to focus on these safer outfielders and first baseman and eschew anyone injured or playing hurt.  However, my catch would be to use the middle rounds to select players others have soured on that I feel will be better than they have demonstrated thus far, like Alexis Rios, Derek Jeter and Daric Barton.

Good luck to everyone playing in a mid season NFBC league.  Perhaps next year I will be able to join you.

I have never participated in an NFBC mid-season league though I plan to one day.  Never having done one, I am a bit naïve to the strategies involved.  Are owners more cautious or do they take more chances?  How much does present level of performance impact ranking, good or bad?  Now that we have a feel for the pitching, does this make it go off the board sooner or later?  How far down do injured players fall?

I decided to do an exercise that many do in the spring and that is a solo mock where I select all the teams.  Personally, I have never done this as I participate in a plethora of real mocks (is that an oxymoron?) so I have never mocksterbated, not that there is anything wrong with that.

To mix it up a bit and hopefully reduce some of the “numerish bias”, I forced myself to pick as some stereotypical drafters: scarcity guy, best player available guy, pitching guy, take a risk guy and risk averse guy.  I interspersed “what I would do” amongst the others.  Of course, it is impossible to remove all bias, because all picks are rooted in how I feel players will perform, at least with respect to healthy players.

As a backdrop, I generally still put more credence in a player’s track record than I do in current performance, unless I can identify a change in skill I consider to be real and sustainable.  If I was actually drafting in a mid-season league, I would avoid injured players like the plague and not invest even with the injury discount.  Both of these factors ended up impacting the selections.

Before I present the first six rounds of the Zola mocksterbation, please do not consider this a map of how a mid-season league will unfold as I have no clue.  I would be more than happy to address picks in terms of how I feel about the player and why I picked him in a strategic sense, but this is not a prediction of how I feel a mid season league will look.

What I Would Do: Albert Pujols, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Josh Johnson, Corey Hart, Jeremy Hellickson

Scarcity Guy: Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Zobrist, Andre Ethier, Cole Hamels, Brian McCann, David Wright

Best Player Available Guy: Adrian Gonzalez, Jay Bruce, Tim Lincecum, Adam Jones, Michael Young, Jonathan Papelbon

What I Would Do: Ryan Braun, Brandon Phillips, Hunter Pence, Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke, Andres Torres

Take a Chance Guy: Jose Bautista, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Hamilton, Joe Mauer, Eric Hosmer, Daniel Hudson

Pitching Guy: Miguel Cabrera, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Jayson Werth, Alexei Ramirez, Brian Wilson

What I Would Do: Matt Kemp, Shin-Soo Choo, Ian Kinsler, Dan Haren, CC Sabathia, Gaby Sanchez

Risk Adverse Guy: Joey Votto, Curtis Granderson, Andrew McCutchen, Jon Lester, Elvis Andrus, Martin Prado

Scarcity Guy: Robinson Cano, Victor Martinez, B.J. Upton, Jimmy Rollins, David Price, Colby Rasmus

What I Would Do: Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Rickie Weeks, Justin Upton, Shaun Marcum, James Shields

Best Player Available Guy: Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Jered Weaver, Shane Victorino, Adam Lind, Mariano Rivera

Take a Chance Guy: Carlos Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, Mike Stanton, Chase Utley, Pablo Sandoval, Josh Beckett

What I Would Do: Prince Fielder, Kevin Youkilis, Ichiro Suzuki, Tommy Hanson, Jhonny Peralta, David Ortiz

Pitching Guy: Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Drew Stubbs, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ryan Zimmerman

Risk Adverse Guy: Jose Reyes, Matt Holliday, Paul Konerko, Adrian Beltre, Matt Cain, Heath Bell

Well, that was interesting.  While undergoing the process, how to deal with injury prone players was the most difficult part – not for me, but the “other guys”.  In real drafts, this will no doubt be one of the defining factors.  I also found it more difficult than I thought to pick objectively for the “other guys” so ultimately, this is even more of a reflection of how I currently rank the players than I expected.

Here are a couple of observations.  When I was picking as me, it was difficult to get over the stigma of where I valued the player in the spring.  Well, not difficult, but it was an uncomfortable feeling picking someone in say round three or four that I was able to get in later rounds in March.  But with injuries and the like, a player moving up a round or two is understandable.  I also noticed how non-scarcity friendly the early rounds played out.  That is, there are so many injuries to second baseman, shortstop and third baseman that taking the best player, regardless of position could be the way to go, and then worry about filling in the rest later.

If I were to actually participate in a mid season NFBC league, my strategy would indeed be to focus on these safer outfielders and first baseman and eschew anyone injured or playing hurt.  However, my catch would be to use the middle rounds to select players others have soured on that I feel will be better than they have demonstrated thus far, like Alexis Rios, Derek Jeter and Daric Barton.

Good luck to everyone playing in a mid season NFBC league.  Perhaps next year I will be able to join you.

The three stories dominating the fantasy landscape to this point of the season are Jose Bautista, the continued dominance of pitching and the plethora of injuries.  Today, I would like to spend some time talking about the third point, injuries.  Specifically, I am going to use this space to bring to light something that I feel is an inequity in our NFBC competitions and then propose a solution.

To illustrate the depth of the injury situation, let us take a look at how many disabled players there are on the average in an NFBC 15-team league.  In my NFBC Classic league, there are currently 46 players flagged with that nasty pair of red letters, DL.  That is, on the average, three per team.  I play in a couple of satellites where there are 38 and 42 disabled players.  So it is safe to say there are about 42 injured players populating each league’s rosters.

I know injuries are part of the game.  I realize luck is a significant element of the competition.  But here is my issue with the current roster setup.  Our rules lead to the fantasy baseball equivalent of the rich getting richer.  Not only does a team enjoy good fortune because they are mostly injury-free, but they have more available reserve spots to better manage their roster.  This imbalance is further amplified with the advent of the Friday activation rule for hitters.

For every injured player, the unfortunate owner can roster one fewer reserve hitter to deploy during a good matchup, one fewer starting pitcher to spot, one fewer speculative closer or one fewer Minor League prospect.  It is already bad enough that the injury necessitates substituting a lesser player in the active lineup.  But in addition to losing a reserve spot to a hurt player, the owner is handcuffed as they do not have the same inventory of healthy players to manage their team compared to teams with fewer injuries.  The rich get richer.

My proposal is thus: trim the draft to 27 or 28 players meaning we all have four or five reserves.  Then, allow each team a separate disabled list to house injured players.  In addition, open up the eligible free agent pool to be everyone on the 40-man roster.  If the holdup is the concern that owners may hoard injured players, then set a maximum number of disabled players.

At least early in the season, this should make free agency more interesting as there will be 30-45 fewer drafted players.  You will need to really decide what to do with your four or five reserves.  Plus, why have the Friday activation rule if there are a ton of teams that cannot carry a backup at every position since they are sporting so many injuries?  If everyone has the exact same four or five reserve spots to work with, at least that inequity is eliminated.  By this point in the season, on average, that is how many we have anyway.  Let's get rid of the "on average" and make sure everyone is playing with the same arsenal.

The primary drawback I see to the idea is policing of the rosters.   Truth be told, what I am proposing is quite commonplace.  The standard rule is you get one week’s stay of execution after the player is reinstated from the DL.  Of course, you are free to activate him his first week off the DL, but you have one transaction period to take action.  In regular leagues, monitoring this is the duty of the commissioner or the secretary of waivers and transactions.  It is unreasonable to ask our buddies Greg and Tom to police every single NFBC league for DL activations.   That said, I am quite sure our friends at STATS Inc can concoct the necessary code.  What we would need is for the site to track when the player comes off the disabled list, notify the owner and automatically drop the player if no action is taken after the second transaction period off the DL.  The tracking is already done, as that unsightly red DL appears and disappears.  We just need STATS Inc finest to tie that to a warning, then an automated drop after the second transaction period off the DL.

Who’s with me?

If you look up “glass half full,” you will no doubt see a picture of NFBC stalwart Glenn Lowy.  Posting under the moniker of Glenneration X on message forums, Glenn always has something positive to add.  But don’t let his sunny disposition fool you; Glenn is a fierce competitor, striking fear into his opponents not only in baseball, but football and basketball as well.

Mastersball:  Welcome to the NFBC Zone Glenn.  How long have you been playing fantasy baseball?

My first taste of “fantasy” baseball was Strat-O-Matic.  Back in the late ‘80’s my brother and a mutual friend finally talked me into joining a league they had been involved with for a few years.  It was an established 20-team, face-to-face league, allowed seven keepers per season, and would meet a couple times each month to play series against scheduled opponents.  I loved it.  I remained in that league for over a decade until politics and internal strife caused a slow deterioration and eventual disbanding of the league at the end of the ‘90’s.  To this day, I still think back on that league fondly.  It was as much fun as I’ve ever had in fantasy.  There’s nothing like rolling the dice with the game on the line for a base hit 1-17 and then having to roll that 20-sided dice to see if the fantasy gods were with you that day.

My first taste of fantasy sports as I play it today was with a fantasy football auction league my brother-in-law convinced me to join in the mid-90’s.  I’m still part of that league today.  A few years later, this same group decided to form a fantasy baseball league as well.  Outside of a one-time try at a mail-in league I had won a couple years earlier and never played again, that was my first real taste of rotisserie baseball.  I played there for seven years, finished in the money six of those years and won three, but grew weary of the lack of structure and inadequate trading rules and left.  It would be three to four years until I’d try my hand at fantasy baseball again.  In 2008, a co-worker talked me into filling an open spot in his local league.  Though I only finished 3rd that year, I was hooked once again.  The next year, following that league’s draft, I needed more.  That’s when I did my internet search, found the NFBC, and made my fateful call to Greg Ambrosius the next day.  One of the best calls I’ve ever made.

Mastersball: Do you still play in local leagues?  Has your perspective in these leagues changed based on your high stakes involvement?

Though I still play in two local fantasy football leagues, my days of playing local fantasy baseball leagues are likely over for good.  The internal politics, the glut of unbalanced trades, and the potential for collusion just stripped the joy for me in playing those types of leagues.  My last year of playing local baseball leagues was my 1st year in the NFBC.  Now my “local” leagues are NFBC satellites or independent leagues filled with high stakes players.

Mastersball: You play the high stakes games at an elevated level but obviously have fun doing it.  How do you balance the seriousness of the competition with the enjoyment you seem to glean from playing?

There’s a saying about work that if you really enjoy what you do, it doesn’t feel like work.  That’s the case for me with the NFBC and high stakes sports in general.  I love this hobby.  I love the competition, I love the sports, I love the contests and games themselves, and I love to draft and team construct.  I’ve always been into statistics, even when I was just a kid reading the back of Topps baseball cards.  I’d get a copy of the Baseball Encyclopedia and get lost in it for days.  Though this is a time consuming hobby and can involve a lot of work, there’s a good chance I’d be reading the same articles and reviewing the same statistics even if there was no such thing as fantasy baseball.  Like I said earlier, I love this hobby and all that goes into it, so for me it doesn’t feel like work.

Mastersball : Which overall are you going to win first, the NFBC, NFFC or NFBBC?

I intend on winning them all in 2011. Cool

All joking aside, odds say the NFBBC would be the easiest to win since it’s a much smaller contest.   One in 48 or 60 is a lot easier to achieve than one in 390 or 322.  Still if I had to choose the game I feel is my best, it would be fantasy baseball.  I’ve had a lot of success in fantasy football over my first two years in high stakes.   I’ve won leagues in all the different football contests, each a different format, and multiple leagues across the fantasy football landscape each year.   Still, I think my “instincts” are better in baseball.  I think that’s an underestimated trait to what makes someone successful in this hobby of ours.  Listen, we all do the work, we all do the research, we all have access to the same information nowadays.  There’s such a glut of information, there’s no longer any way to beat someone else because you can outwork them or beat them to the punch.  I think the difference has to lie in the ability to properly process that glut of information.  That’s why you see the same people on top of leaderboards for the various sports year after year.   They take the same information we all have and process it better, their “instincts” give them the advantage.  I just feel that for me, I process baseball information better, I have better instincts there.

Mastersball: So Glenn, do you have any other words of wisdom you want to share with us today?

Words of wisdom?  I’m not sure I have any that would be useful to anyone reading this article.  I’m far from the Shawn Childs’, Tom Kessenich’s, or Todd Zola’s of the world whose words of wisdom others actually covet (and they so generously share).

The one thing I will share is how much I enjoy playing the NFBC.  It’s more than just the contests themselves, though they are great in their own right.  I think what’s been most unexpected for me and most appreciated since I first joined up two and a half years ago is the sense of community you find here.  I referenced earlier how I gave up local leagues after I started playing here, but in a sense I really didn’t.  The NFBC has the feel of a local league, just on a much grander scale.

A perfect example of that occurred just last night when Bill Cleavenger, a very accomplished and respected player in both the NFBC and NFFC, gave me a call out of the blue just to chat a bit and see where I was planning on drafting the NFFC this year.  We chatted for about a half hour.  How many other things in life bring two adult men, one from Kentucky and one from New York, together with a common passion and interest.  This happens all the time amongst many cool and interesting participants of our games, through phone calls, PM’s, e-mails and live drafts.  All of us from different locations, upbringings, backgrounds, careers, all brought together by this game we all love.  This sense of community is part of what hooked me to the NFBC specifically and high stakes sports in general.  It’s not that faceless mail-in league I tried 15 years ago.  The message boards are our community center, PM’s, e-mails and phone calls are our two neighbors talking over a fence, at the school bus stop, or the deli counter, and the live drafts are our summer and winter parties.  I really enjoy the NFBC community. In that way, it’s a lot like that FTF Strat league way back when.  All that’s missing is that 20-sided dice and the roll and prayer to the Fantasy Gods.

Eschewing the fear of opening up Pandora’s Box and inciting another “skill versus luck” debate, I would like to pose a question to the NFBC masses.  Is in-season roster management really that much of a skill?

I am not trying to insinuate it is luck, far from it.  But is it honestly a skill in truest sense of the word?  Sure, some are much more diligent than others, and if you want to contend that diligence is a skill, you will get no argument from me.  I applaud those that are more conscientious than others, being on top of what I feel are better called current events, like playing time battles, injuries and closer situations, not to mention the drops in their league.  To me, one of the more satisfying feelings is knowing your league-mates are all cussing you out on Sunday night when they go to bid on the hot free agent only to see you picked him up for a mere pittance last week.  Yes, diligence of this nature is a skill.

What I am more referring to is the lineup decisions we all make before the start of Monday and Friday games.  A hot-button message board topic has always been how increasing the ability to manage your team with transactions adds more skill to the competition.  Sorry, but to a large extent, I disagree.  The majority of lineup decisions fall under the mantra of common sense, especially once injuries mount and those unsightly pair of red letters, D and L appear next to your player’s name.  Yet, many argue that these decisions are rooted in skill.

I know what many of you are thinking – you look at the splits and make a skills based decision.  You review history and learn how a hitter has performed against a certain team or pitcher and vice versa.  But the ugly truth is this information is not at all predictive.  The sample is simply too small.  There are individuals much smarter than I that have done the math to refute this means of analysis.  I know this information is offered on fantasy web sites and flashed on the screen during game broadcasts.  I understand it is quoted by managers when they are explaining lineup decisions.  I realize it is talk show fodder, “How can he have let him pitch to that guy, he took him deep last time.”  But the honest to goodness truth is it is hogwash.  How a player has performed against a team or another player should not be considered when making lineup decisions, unless it involves something more tangible like a righty-lefty split.   The end result is the vast majority of our in-season lineup decisions are more common sense than skillful analysis.

Please do not interpret this mini-rant as my being opposed to the Friday transaction rule, though in full disclosure, I would prefer we set our lineups on Monday and c’est la vie.  I admit I am old school and long for the days this part-time hobby, full-time obsession of ours was played with no reserve lists and you were only able to replace a player if he was placed on the disabled list or sent to the Minors, but I digress.  I posed the above question in all seriousness, but also as a means to segue into another mini-rant, and that is the direction fantasy baseball is headed.

Simply stated, speculation has become a greater element of the game than I personally like.  In order to be successful nowadays, you need to hit on as many of your speculative picks as you do hit on the guys you researched and correctly identified as value performers.  The existence of reserve lists serves to fuel this speculation, as you can mitigate your risk by benching or stashing questionable players as opposed to being stuck with them in your lineup.  You think Javier Vazquez will fare better in the National League?  Prove it and have him active and not on the bench until you determine if you were right.  If you had an injury and picked up Sam Fuld on a whim, keep him active once he cools off, don’t bench or release him.  But I am not naïve, reserve lists are the norm and not the exception and they are here to stay.  I’m a big boy, I can deal with it.

There are two specific areas that worry me with respect to the direction the industry is headed and the role played by speculation.   One is, wait for it, mere speculation on my part, while the other is more personal.

As many of you know, daily fantasy games are increasing quite rapidly in popularity.  Harkening back to the sample size argument above, my concern is these daily fantasy games will eventually be considered to be more gambling than a game of skill, and I am worried about the trickle-down effect to the game we play.  I have nothing against those running or playing the daily games.  I do however, feel as though the almighty dollar, and how much revenue may be generated in that arena may cause issues down the line.  I do not know if the recent goings-on in the on-line poker industry is an apropos analogy, but it is not completely distant either.

On a personal level, I am a bit frustrated with the quality of analysis and advice being offered by my fantasy brethren.  I realize this may come off as elitist and there are many out there that feel as though I should have my so-called expert card revoked.  On one hand, I am thrilled fantasy baseball is growing.  On the other, the area it is growing is more tied to the speculative nature of analysis than the numerish, as so cleverly dubbed by Dan Kenyon, last week’s guest in this space.  I honestly cringe when I hear or read much of what is offered in terms of fantasy baseball advice.  While the number of those playing the hobby has grown, overall, the quality of the information offered to those playing has declined.  And that is a shame.

We are pleased to introduce our first guest contributor to the NFBC Zone, none other than Dan Kenyon.  While Dan has been with the NFBC since the beginning and is a very accomplished player, some of you may be more familiar with Dan’s message board moniker, Doughboys.  Dan has kept the NFBC message forum alive with entertaining yet thought provoking posts, providing many of us with a reason to keep checking the NFBC boards.

Mastersball: Welcome to the NFBC Zone, Dan.  How long have you been playing fantasy baseball?   Do you recall the name and format of your very first league?  Do you still play in it?

I have outlived most of my league mates.  My caller ID will say So and So nursing home is calling and I’ll know it’s Ulysses (if you know somebody named Ulysses, you’re old), Ulysses calls me every spring to help him decide if he wants Puckett or Griffey Jr. with the first pick.

Seriously, I think it was the early 80’s. I don’t remember the name of the league, but it had something to do with our local paper. Our ‘Commish’ was the Sports Editor and had perfect access to all box scores.

That league has since folded, but I’ve been playing ever since.

Mastersball: How long have you been with the NFBC and what contests do you play?

Since 2005. I read an ad while I was reading ‘Fantasy Sports’.  While the Super Bowl was on (Yeah, I was reading ‘Fantasy Sports’ while the Super Bowl was on, what of it!?) I thought that I’d done all that I could in Yahoo leagues and the like. So, I put on my halo, and begged my wife to swing through Las Vegas on our 30th Anniversary trip to California. She said yes, and, of course, she’s regretted it ever since. Just kidding, she’s been a great sport.

I play satellites, both 30 round and draft champions. I also haven’t missed a Main Event, which is what I focus on.

My friends tell me that I’m so cheap that if I ever play in an auction that I would spend a dollar on each player and demand a real refund on the rest of the money.

And, they’re probably right.

Mastersball: You have had your fair share of success over the years, including finishing second overall in the NFBC’s inaugural season.  What do you feel is the biggest difference in the competition now as compared to the early years?

It’s been a lot like poker. The newer players are more of a ‘go for it all’ player. They’ll take as much talent as possible at the top of the drafts and worry about their deficiencies later. At the same time, they have short term memories, the most recent stats are what is most important, not what has happened over the long term for a player.

Mastersball: For the past several years, you have shared your thoughts and insights on the NFBC message forums.  Today, we would like to reach out to some NFBC participants that may not read the boards.  So Dan (or Doughboys), what is on your mind today?

A lot. I think back to a guy named Bob who was on our High School baseball team that finished third in State. Bob was the last guy on our team, hardly ever got to play. Being a senior was the only thing that saved him from being junior varsity. He would occasionally hit the ball a mile, but mostly, a whiffer. After our year was over, we had the opportunity to scrimmage against the local College. The College coach came over to Bob during a practice and offered some advice. Bob tattooed every ball and hit two homers off of their college pitcher that day. He went on to become one of the best softball players that our region ever saw.

I know you’re wondering what this has to do with anything, but I’m thinking of Jose Bautista. I, now, not only marvel at just not how well he hits, but his arm, and the way he plays right field as well.  Jose, Bob, Bob, Jose.

Shoeless Joe Jackson took $5,000 to fix the ’19 Series. At the same time, he did nothing to help the Reds win the World Series. He led all hitters during the Series and did not make an error.

It makes me wonder.

Hmmmm, if I gave a call girl $5,000 (the going rate for any young girl to consider  hanky panky with me), and  she takes the money and tells me to get lost, is she considered to have performed the act?  Jackson was.

I also think about Aldo Nova and his hit record in the 80’s called ‘Fantasy’.  Some player like Drew Stubbs or Juan Pierre who are far better fantasy players than baseball players should use that song for their ‘entering the batter’s box’ theme. Just a thought.

Seriously, thanks to all who have replied to my posts. Hopefully, the posts are as much fun for you as they are for me.

Mastersball: Thanks Dan! Good luck the rest of the season and I feel I can speak for the NFBC community when I say your message board posts are a joy and help remind us that while this is a serious competition with a lot on the line, it is still supposed to be fun.

 

So how are your teams doing so far?  I know NFBC players often like to boast that they don’t look at the standings and many even claim to not watch any real games at all.  I will humbly submit that I am not one of those owners.  While I try not to obsess over too much minutia regarding my various teams, I must confess that I check all eight of my fantasy teams every day.

I have only two teams under the NFBC banner this year, one 15-team Satellite league and my Live Double Play entry.  I think this would definitely put me on the low side of the curve for the average amount of teams for players here at the NFBC, as I know many who have many more squads they are managing on a weekly basis.  So again I ask, how are your teams doing?  The more teams you have, the more complicated the answer inevitably becomes and as we enter the last week of April we are close to passing the first checkpoint of our season. We all are trying to assess the information we have to determine which teams look good, which teams need help, which early season trends may continue and what slow starters will turn it around.

April is a tough month for fantasy players.  Much like real MLB teams, it begins with excitement for the new season and hopes for a title run with our carefully constructed rosters.  April means we stop looking at projections and ADP and start looking at box-scores, standings and an endless stream of news updates.  A quick look at the overall standings shows that April is a fun time for those off to fast starts,  pleased with their handiwork, yet still wondering when/if their luck is going to change.  Unfortunately for many, April is a cruel mistress with injuries, slumping superstars, struggling starters, deposed closers and even surprise retirements as just some of the myriad developments that seem to mock our finely crafted pre-season plans.

The other aspect that April ushers into our life in the NFBC is FAAB and the love/hate relationship we all have with it. Sunday is a busy day for owners around here and I can only imagine how much time those of you with multiple teams are dedicating to the weekly FAAB adventure.  Still, I know from experience that the thrill of a successfully navigated FAAB session can take the sting out of a slow week and we all look forward to the challenge and opportunity to improve our respective rosters each and every week.

Last week BBHQ’s Ron Shandler, in his Master Notes newsletter, advocated a change that he himself introduces by telling us we are going to hate it.  While I agreed with that statement, I do think the idea captured the frustration that many of us encounter when it comes to early season roster management and FAAB.  Titled “Moratorium”, Shandler proposed placing a moratorium on free agent moves until May 1st.  The reasoning behind the proposal came from his “exasperation” from having to answer an endless stream of questions in his online chats regarding the weeks “hot” targets.  Jerry Sands and Ryan Roberts were the Week 4 case subjects.  He talks about the dozens of questions on Sands and gives a few examples of those received:  What will he do? Can he hold the job? Should I drop Ryan Raburn for him? Should I drop Michael Cuddyer for him? Should I drop Kila Ka'aihue for him?  The proposal comes from the perspective of someone fantasy players are looking to for information and perhaps unfairly, answers.  The problem in giving the masses what they desire is the lack of information needed to make calls like those referenced above.  In other words, with such a small sample size, how can you realistically expect someone to give you more than conjecture or guesswork when it comes to questions like these?

Now, I didn’t bring up Mr. Shandler’s proposal to dwell on it too long.  His name is always a provocative one to use for the NFBC crowd and the problem referenced is one every owner has to face in the early going of the season.  I think a point to take away from it is, even those in the industry with a firm grasp of predictive analysis will at best be making educated guesses when it comes to questions like these.  I think it is safe to say that most of you playing in the NFBC would oppose any move to limit your access to the waiver wire for the first month of the season.  In fact, I would venture to guess that some of you in DC leagues, which have no in-season FAAB, would like some system for in season moves added to that format if you could.  As frustrating as it can be for those in the information business to try and answer the cornucopia of questions that come every week, for the serious player in a competition like ours these early determinations can have a big impact.

I think it is fair to say that Jose Bautista’s 2010 campaign has changed the landscape to a certain degree when it comes to evaluating and bidding on early season risers.  Much like Ryan Braun’s 2007 changed the landscape for emerging rookies, Bautista’s 2010 shines bright as a reminder of the potential rewards of grabbing these types of players early.  The side effect is that at this level all that means is everyone is looking for the same players and bidding on them more aggressively than in years past. Will Sam Fuld keep this up?  He very well might at this point.  If you grabbed him when you could, you are no doubt a pretty happy owner right now.  Still, there was nothing in his track record that indicated this level of play was coming OR that it can be sustained.  But to wait and see on a player like Fuld means you will see him on another owner’s roster.   The “Bautista” trend has brought new meaning to the adage “Spend Early and Often”, with regards to free agency.  If your team is off to a slow start, or beset by injuries, the pressure to land the next big thing will only get amplified.

Of course every ADD requires a DROP.  Bringing in new talent means you are letting someone go.  In many cases, especially early in the year, this means adjusting your expectations about a player you really liked on draft day.  Or, just looking at your roster and admitting you can no longer afford to carry three closers in waiting anymore.  Yes, this means for every Sam Fuld or Jose Contreras you bring aboard a Jed Lowrie or Ryan Madson is sometimes sacrificed.  Only time will tell if you made the right decision but the case of Ryan Madson (who I cut a week ago in another league) is a reminder to remember why we drafted certain players in the first place.  It’s why many fantasy writers will often remind us “It’s only April” when we ask if our slumping 1st round pick is going to stink all year.  Patience is often the advice given when it comes to giving up on a proven commodity that comes out of the gate slowly.  It is sound advice and is easier to take in deep leagues, where admittedly the talent available is less exciting.  In the Main Event the dearth of available options often means we have no choice but to wait.  Often the guys we will consider dropping in 15 team leagues are replacement level players in their own right, which makes it a lot easier to take a chance on a Sam Fuld type of player.

But what about the 12 team Double Play leagues? How patient are you in those leagues and how patient should you be with your slow starters?  The fact is it is a lot tougher to decide who to cut in DP leagues, as most of the names will be guys who you would never consider dropping in deeper leagues.  It also means you will likely see those guys on one of your opponent’s rosters the following week. While they may not hold as much importance to you as your Main Event team the odds are that many of you have multiple 12 team entries this year.  It’s fair to say that it’s an entirely different ballgame and one that I have heard more than one prominent NFBC veteran say they have yet to master.  It also tends to get put onto the backburner when it comes to pre-season analysis and preparation and that in itself can present a challenge when it comes to drafting.  We just don’t put in the same amount of time preparing for it as we do the Main Event. Still, more of us are playing in 12 team leagues than anywhere else and being that the Double Play is my main focus this season (since I’m not in the Main) my energies these days are more keenly focused on scaling the 780 team Double Play mountain.

Last week someone questioned how someone could cut Kyle Drabek in a DP league.  The fact is these kinds of cuts will happen every week in 12 team leagues.  The fact that so many roster-able players populate the free agents list each and every week means that you almost have to employ the opposite tactic when it comes to slow starters, at least those who reside on the fringes of our 12 team rosters.  I learned the hard way last season as I waited far too long for certain players to turn it around.  I had Kazmir, Harden and Vazquez last season and by the time I moved on from them the damage to my ratios was done.  I also suffered with Utley and Rollins as my top two picks and had a long terrible season.  I vowed to not make the same mistake this season.

Now, I helped myself immensely by having a much stronger draft this season.  My team is off to a good start and the pitching in particular has been very solid.  I still have one SP (Vazquez again) giving me headaches and injuries have hit my SB totals with Andres Torres and Angel Pagan going down.  Still, I am trying to employ the lessons learned last season and not get too attached to any of the names on my roster, especially those in the bottom third.

For example, I started the year with Brandon Phillips, Derek Jeter, Miguel Tejada, Jose Lopez and Jed Lowrie as my 2B/SS/MI core.  I also drafted Matt LaPorta and Brett Wallace with my last two picks since I liked both young players and hoped one or both would emerge this season.  With the exception of Tejada I liked every one of these picks when I made them.  Three weeks later Tejada, Lopez, LaPorta, Wallace and Lowrie (who I picked back up) have all been dropped.  Tejada and Lopez both were off to dreadful starts as was Derek Jeter.  While I wasn’t going to give up on the captain yet, Tejada and Lopez were easy drops.  Jon Herrera and Lowrie took their place.

If Herrera has another week like he did last week, I won’t be afraid to move on from him since there are other options available, starting with Tejada and Lopez.  LaPorta and Wallace were tough cuts, and both were picked up the week after I cut them. But Matt Harrison was brought on board.   I cut Wallace to take a chance on Domonic Brown before he returns. Ironically, I picked up Justin Smoak and Carlos Gomez this week and let go of another draft day player in Marlon Byrd and a week 3 pickup, Jake McGee.  I got a 1B I liked as much as LaPorta or Wallace and I got some steals which I desperately needed.  This illustrates the fluid nature you need to employ to the back end of your 12 team rosters.

This isn’t really news to anyone.  We all know there is a lot more available talent on the wire in DP leagues all season long.  The challenge is to not be afraid to take advantage of that fact and not be afraid to let go of names we like for names who are producing the stats we need.  It’s a different challenge and one you’d be wise to implement especially if your team is struggling early.  Our own Perry Van Hook summed it up when he gave this answer to one of the questions posed to Ron Shandler regarding Jerry Sands.  “I would certainly have told the questioner to dump Ka’aihue for Sands, for at worst you are getting your next drop candidate or your question for next week.”

 

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.”

 

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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.”

 

For the Lawr and Order: Special Mastersball Unit, that Todd and I drafted way back last March, finishing in the top three, and recouping at least our entry fee, probably won't happen.

Going into the final week of the season, we had dropped to 82 points, and seventh place in the league. That is 40 points behind the league leading Pizza Bagel team, 22 behind Matt Mchale, and 17 points behind the third place Baseball Furies.

So, the question is, what would, or should I have done differently?

Well, the truth is, nothing.

In drafting fifth, we picked Troy Tulowitzki, figuring he would not be around on the return, and that ideally following Hanley Ramirez, he was the most productive guy at a pivotal spot.

If you have followed the red hot Tulo, his season totals are now .323-28-96 with 12 swipes, and .313-12-35 over the past month (two swipes).

So, what is the fundamental difference, between these squads and ours?

Well, I can categorize in one word: injuries.

Now, I have to assume those teams between the Furies and us--The Alpacas of Doom, The Kendry 2-Step, and Jake's Bagel--were similarly bit, although in preparing this piece, I did not review their drafts or position (though for the Kendry 2-Step, the question is rhetorical). Just the top three teams, and ours. And, all of our teams--one through twelve--likely had both disappointments and surprises, as that is just part of the deal.

But, Pizza Bagel has survived pretty much as drafted, with no major injuries, and Matt Mchale has had one in Stephen Strasburg, who was a calculated risk at that.

As for us, Tulo missed six weeks, as did Asdrubal Cabrera, and Luke Scott. Then we lost playing time from Russell Martin, Kevin Youkilis, Jake Peavy, and Ryan Sweeney, looking conservatively, despite the fact that we would fill spots out of the reserve pool, there is no way we could replace the aggregate numbers of the players lost. 

In fact, even discounting Tulo, Droobs, Cabrera, and Scott, figuring all teams lost some production to injuries, had Martin, Youk, and Peavy provided the following numbers, it would have made a 18 point difference in our totals:

  • 16 runs
  • 13 RBI
  • One point in average
  • Nine homers
  • 10 steals
  • 70 whiffs
  • One point in WHIP
  • One point in ERA

I know that combined with an extra two months of Youk, Martin, and Sweeney would have provided that offense had the troika simply kept on the season path on which they were headed.

As would have Jake Peavy, had he made 15 more starts--Peavy had 93 whiffs over 107 innings, with a 1.23 WHIP when he went down for the year--and again, he had both turned a corner, and has a resume full of solid seasons on which to base such an assumption.

So, just those somewhat meager totals would have been enough to put us in third, rather than seventh. Of course our moving up would mean lots of jumbling of the standings with the other teams involved, and I did not factor that closely. So, we might have even finished second (when Youk went down, we were in fifth, a handful of points from third, by the way).

But looking at it that closely is no different than the mental masturbation that sometimes has us ignore our instincts with too many charts and stats and cheat sheets at draft time. For, when we drafted, it was with a yellow legal pad and our magazine, and that was simply to confirm position eligibility and age, in a couple of instances.

So, in the end, I would have taken the same team and hoped the Red Cross would haunt someone else's roster. However, this is the game we play, and injury is as much a risk, as is having a down season (for there are those noted surprises, and while we did not have Jose Bautista, we did have Carl Pavano, for example).

Last year, when I won the American League Tout Wars title, I was lucky enough to have a team that had some surprises, but avoided any prolonged injury. In looking at last season, though I did win, the one difference I noted between my squad and that of second place finisher Mike Siano, was that I put myself in the position to take advantage of my luck.

Because in the end, that is what won it for me, and this year in the NFBC, being on the back end of the luck wand did me in. Plain and simple.

Now, as we close out the season, I hate, after all the stats and charts and programs and thought, for any of you reading to walk away cursing, that the game boils down to luck, for it does not.

But, it does indeed ride on being able to, as noted, take advantage of luck.

That means drafting players on teams who will contend, and picking players who do not have recurring histories of either injury or erratic totals.

So, as you enjoy the playoffs, and pending season, and gear up for the 2011 season, try to remember that. For, as stated, I would do nothing different (note I cannot say the same of my teams in other my other leagues). The only question is, can you same the same about your teams of 2010?

If the answer is yes, the off-season should be a breeze and pleasure. If not, you have some work to do.

 

 

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