Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Fantasy Baseball 101 -- To Draft or not to Draft

To Draft or not to Draft -- Live or Auto pick?
If you're reading this, Baseball is a little more than just a simple amusement or diversion that we use to pass the summers. The truth is that once the Super Bowl is over we can't think about much else. And playing Fantasy Baseball has almost reached (dare I say... hush!) "hobby" status. (cue the music) I think that if we could actually take this from obsession to occupation, we would excel at our jobs.
While preparing for this summer job of ours, we read every bit of news we can find, printed and online. We watch the sports shows on TV even if its just a peek while waiting for a table with our wives in a fancy restaurant. We try to learn all that we can, thinking that if we could just glean a little more than our competition does, it will give us the edge that we need to succeed at our summer jobs.
Actually, it is more than a summer job. Some of us (and you know who you are) haven't stopped thinking Fantasy Baseball since the season's end last year. We have got to face it: Baseball is life. We must embrace what some may call our weakness! But that's a topic for another day.
It is timely for me to describe our yearly preseason ritual. We are already preparing for it and Major League Baseball hasn't even played game one of the PRESEASON. Once a year we gather together and fight for players that we think will get us the yearly honor of League Champion. In the past we have use tools provided by Yahoo! that managed the draft for us with minimal effort. Albeit easy, the results aren't always desirable even with an ample amount of pre-ranking. Let me give you an example.
I am participating in another league where each manager could pre-rank players before Yahoo! conducted the auto-draft. Knowing that each of the 12 managers would draft 22 players, I knew that 264 players would be drafted. With that in mind I pre-ranked about 200 players. I made estimations based on players that I wanted more than others, as well as what I thought other managers would do at certain times in the draft and then made my rankings based on that. This may have been one of the worst drafts I have ever had, even worse than last year's when I ended up with a star studded pitching staff, but no decent offense. No balance.
Here is my team this year:
C - J. Estrada1B - M. Piazza2B - T. Iguchi3B - S. RolenSS - N. GarciaparraOF - C. CrawfordOF - L. BerkmanOF - L. GonzalezUtil - J. RollinsBench - R. Ibanez(1B), J. Buck(C), J. Closser(C), B. Williams (OF)SP - T. Hudson, J. Beckett, A. Burnett, O. Perez, w. Miller, J. SmoltzRP - Fr. Rodriguez, C.Tsao, B. Donnelly
I actually thing that this team is pretty good overall. A little imbalanced, but I still think I have a chance to win. But there are glaring miscues in the draft. For starters, I drafted four catchers. 4. Cuatro. Estrada and Piazza are great picks. But even with Piazza able to play first base, that is two too many. And those two, Buck and Closser are young gambles and would have been decent backups, but not both of them and certainly not if I already have Estrada and Piazza.
Second of all, Yahoo drafted what it thought were 4 Relievers, Rodriguez, Tsao, Donnelly, and Smoltz. Tsao and Rodriguez are gambles, Donnelly may not be worth the roster spot if he doesn't get and Holds, and Smoltz is actually a starter. I don't mind owning Smoltz, but now I am stuck with only 3 relievers and only two are closers, and suspect ones at that.
The good thing is that in an auto draft, we all share the same problems with the imperfect selection system. My auto-draft didn't go great, but all the managers share the same solution -- waiver-wire pickups. I said that I think that this team has a chance to win, and I truly think so; I just need to make some very smart pickups over the next few weeks.
What is the lesson? I think that I could have made better picks on my own. Flat out. I am sure that I will make mistakes doing a live or manual draft, but they would be MY mistakes. I would own them. And it would be up to me to manage MY team to first place. Choosing your own players gives a deeper level of ownership in your team -- you don't get a team because of pure luck but rather by making smart choices when the time comes. Ok, there is a little luck too.
The Live Draft may not be for everyone, and that's why we will offer a managed "auto-draft" for those who can't or don't want to participate. Additionally, since we will spread the draft out over 4 weeks (5 picks per team each week), managers who submit their pre-rankings can edit them each week to react to "the market".
Next week I will address the "Market", the live draft, and general draft strategy. I hope you enjoy your summer job as much as I do.