Fantasy Baseball Roundtable: How fantasy baseball players should prepare

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on February 13, 2012 @ 12:19:08 PDT

 


Happy Monday all, my knights and I have been hard at work, discussing what you need to do now that baseball is in the air. Pitchers and catchers are reporting this week and it is time to start getting ready for your draft and auctions. To that end, I posed the following question to my roundtable:

OK, football season is over, the Super Bowl has been played so it is time to turn to baseball. What are some of the things fantasy baseball enthusiasts should be doing to get ready for March drafts?

Brian Walton, Mastersball Managing Partner and in charge of Marketing:

You mean, other than purchase a Mastersball Platinum subscription and consume all the deliverables?

Perry Van Hook, who has already done more drafts through today than most do in an entire season, leads us off:

Flat Out #1 is READING- Mastersball of course, our friends at KFFL, Rotisserie Corner at USA Today for a start. I also think people should work their way around MLB.com (free shot at $10K) and all the very good MLB beat writers for each team who while giving the team slant still have a lot of good information about their team, rotation, lineup, prospects, etc.

Milwaukee Brewers SP Zack Greinke
Everybody into the pool!

Brian returns, but has not drafted a league yet, still basking in the glow of a World Series victory:

I agree with Perry. Getting as close as possible to what the people are saying who are actually in spring camps and around the players and coaches is very important. Personally, I am extremely close to one team in particular and can gauge the knowledge level of a national site from what they say about that team. I have seen analyses of playing time and positional battles that originate from some of these sources that are far from reality. As in so many areas, stick to name brands you can trust.

Tim Heaney, never at a loss for words:

I strongly concur with reading, not only as much MLB.com and beat-reporter news as you can digest, but KFFL, Mastersball, USA Today and the litany of other standup fantasy sites out there. Gather as many different perspectives as you can on strategy and player values so you can formulate your own; better to narrow down information than to lack it.

Of course, we discussed mock drafts last week, and regardless of how much stock you put in them, participating in them and checking other results gives you an important overview of the player pool. More importantly, spread out the time over which you partake in mocking, maybe once a week or so, in order to properly read how spring training happenings alter the market.

For those playing in leagues with familiar foes, try to recall and take notes on their tendencies - drafts, trading, etc. - just so you can have some advanced arsenal heading into the season. You should also perform these tasks in keeper/dynasty setups while also identifying potential trade partners pre-draft or during the campaign. Do all you can to confidently finalize your freeze lists and assess the positions and/or stats that will be available in the supplemental portion of drafts.

And try to watch some spring training games, or at least any highlights you can find. Even though "Best Shape of My Life" tales are often exaggerated and March ball is hardly gospel for a player's skills,seeingsomeone perform on the field can go a long way in evaluating him.

Rob Leibowitz, author of "The Prospector" and Tout Wars veteran, makes his roundtable debut:

Ditto

Read - but only the good stuff and the most up to date stuff. Generally speaking, you can ignore most magazines unless you know that this is your league-mates typical only source for information prior to a draft. In that case, it might be good ammunition.

Research as much as you can from many sources (in particular a variety of projection sources). In the end you should be digesting all this information and developyour own idea of what each player in your player pool will do. From there you can create your own rankings, projections, and values (to what level of actually putting this to paper, is up to personal preference). It is imperative that when you are sitting there on draft day, and in particular on auction day, that you believe in your rankings. If you just go in with a source (or sources) not of your own devising, you will find yourself second-guessing and reordering things and in effect, revaluing things, without running the proper calculations.

Writing things out and creating your own projections has a great deal of value as it is a good means of ingraining your thoughts and values of each player into your head. It help reinforces and strengthens those thoughts when the player is nominated, reducing the need to look down at spreadsheets, cheat sheets, etc.

If you use a computerized drafting tool, start practicing with it now. Use it during mocks. Get all the glitches out and most of all, make sure this tool is fast enough to actually use in practice during a live draft or auction.

See above - do as many mocks as you can. Practice gets you familiar with the player pool and who owners might be considering as breakouts or sleepers.

Nicholas Minnix offers his perspective then asks a question (hey, that's my job):

I can't disagree with all the suggestions so far - they're all spot on - but the challenge for most fantasy baseball players is the amount of time they may not have to digest all the material, do mock drafts and whatever else they can to prepare.

I don't think there's a substitute for doing your own projections, because nothing gets you to become as familiar with the numbers, see faults and strengths, etc. Combining that with extensive reading of news and analysis - from trusted sources, as prior respondents noted - and making adjustments (or NOT making adjustments) based on that info will leave you incredibly prepared. Practice drafts and auctions just get you in gear, for sure, although I think you hit diminishing returns when you hit a certain number (maybe double digits?).

What do roto owners without that kind of time or patience do, though? The casual player is the one who helps a fantasy sport become mainstream, but he or she isn't the most well-informed. Are they just casualties of that development, or is there a way to streamline preparation?

Before this was my job, quite a few years ago, I kept up on the news at an aggregation site (like KFFL) and then just searched for news pieces from team or beat sources when I wanted to know more about certain players or situations. I did a few mock drafts when I had time. Certainly didn't have time to do my own projections, but perusing players' multiple-season stat pages helped - where were the inconsistencies, who had the track record, who was over- and undervalued, etc. The development of sites like FanGraphs makes it easier to research the stats of players nowadays, but then it also requires some familiarization time with the metrics and methods, and knowing which are more useful than others.

Chicago White Sox 1B Paul Konerko
Projection systems vary

Obviously, we're nuts about roto ball, and we know quite a few who are. What about the less enthusiastic player? Any thoughts on how to simplify your prep plan when you're not as heavily invested? Or, perhaps a better way to put it, how do you balance the trade-off? Is there an optimal point, when the rest becomes gravy?

Lawr Michaels simplifies things:

I think we are all on the same page here.

I think the two most important things any player can do are:

  • know the player pool
  • know the league rules

Now, how a fantasy ownerchooses to learn the player pool is up to him/her. but, essentially, knowing power, speed, strikeout, and control tendencies for at least all the major league available players is pretty much essential to me.

If that means reading every magazine on the rack, fine. If it means looking at the back of baseball cards, fine.

Then, using that knowledge to exploit the rules toone's benefit and ideally concoct a winning team is a lot less daunting.

Truly, though, if you know the playerpool of availables, and know the scoring, those are the two single most important things an owner can do in my opinion.

Ryan Carey suggests a very good point, ask questions:

Well, I think my fellow knights have covered most of the ground, and I agree that getting to know the player pool or "inventory" is the most important thing you should be doing right now. While I don't do my own projections (that's Todd's job) I do like to have fun constructing my own depth charts and potential lineups, rotations. I also like to make lists. Lots of lists. These lists will often group players into categories or "draft-able skills" such as: High K-Rate/200+ K SP's, 20/20 players, Multi-positional players etc.

I will do mocks like the rest and track the marketplace through a variety of sources. I will definitely follow the goings on in Spring Training and MLB.com is a great source of info and so ESPN actually does a great job with their annual coverage. Most of all, I try to find an outlet to ask questions and get into debates like this one. Message boards have always been a place I've gone to get a player's point of view on strategy, rules, game theory and a host of other topics. Mastersball and Baseball HQ are the two I frequent most often for my fantasy talk.

Lord Zola's wrap-up:

Since Nick asked, I will answer, since I wanted to address this anyway. Nick alluded to the fact doing one's own projections are time consuming and may not be for everyone. Well, I am going to let you in on a little secret. Generally speaking, projections consist of two components: rate of production and amount of production. Think of it like this. The rate of production is your mph when driving your car and the amount of production of the time you drive. How far you go is simply mph multiplied by the time. The number of home runs is simply the homers per plate appearance multiplied by the number of plate appearances. Here is the dirty little secret: the skills portion of the projection (rate of production) is alarmingly similar between projection sets. Sure, there are differences as different models use a different weighted average of past performance, or a different aging algorithm or regress some metrics differently, but by and large, at the end of the day, the skills portion between projection sets are close enough for jazz, or in this case, fantasy baseball. The major difference between projection sources is the playing time: plate appearances or innings pitched. So you want to know how to do your own projections? Find a couple of sets of available projections (see Fangraphs or invest in the Mastersball Platinum service), convert everything to per plate appearance or per inning pitched and assign your own playing time. Voila - you now have your own projections.

Other than saying my knights did a fantastic job of sending you in the right direction, I want to make a couple more points for those of you in a keeper league that allow off-season trading. Now is the time to begin to peruse your potential keepers, breaking them into three lists: yes, maybe and no. If it is common in your league to send out cattle calls, announcing who is available, definitely send out the maybes, but consider adding the better from the no list (you never know who someone else may consider a keeper) and also a tease or two from the yes list. You may have no desire to trade a certain player, but including him can often either lead to a surprise offer you did not expect or provide an ice-breaker so you can now veer the talks into a more desirable direction. You might be amazed how much you can glean about how others value players even in failed trade negotiations. In redraft leagues, the market value of each player is pretty well standard. But in keeper leagues, who one already has as a keeper can markedly impact their value for the available players, and knowing some of this may assist you when deciding your keepers and planning a draft or auction strategy.

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to share your comments below and keep an eye out on KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by at @KFFL_Baseball for next week's discussion topic.

Todd is the Content Manager for the Mastersball Platinum Subscription product, featuring frequently updated player projections, values, rankings and profiles along with unique Excel tools, Minor League rankings and cutting edge strategy essays. Click HERE for details.

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About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.

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