They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Well, if that's the case, I'm about to pay a huge compliment to a guy affectionately known as Doughboys to the National Fantasy Baseball Championship crowd.
The Knights of Lord Zola's Roundtable have worked real hard to bring you some compelling fantasy baseball information, so I decided to give them a week off. Instead, I will share the transcript of a recent conversation I had with some guys in the locker room of my gym.
Jim - longtime fantasy baseball player whispering to his buddy John, a league mate: Look at that guy over there in the Mastersball T-shirt; is that who I think it is?
"He's going to be great."
John responds: Jason Grey?
Jim: No, you tool, Jason is in shape, and besides, he is out of the business and a scout for Tampa now. I think that's Lord Zola.
John: No way, he sounds much smaller on the radio.
Jim: I'm going to ask him. … Excuse me, are you Lord Zola?
Me - I mean Lord Zola: In the flesh, how's it going?
Jim: Going great, except my fantasy team is getting killed by injuries, do you mind if I ask you some questions? My name's Jim and this is my friend John, we're long time fans and love your stuff, especially that Roundtable for KFFL.
Lord Zola: No problem, thanks for the kind words. Hit me up with whatever you want. Well, almost anything, I can't get you Jason Grey's autograph but I can get Lawr Michaels to sign his CD, Downward Facing Dog, for you.
Jim: Cool! Here's the deal. I play in a 10-team NL-only league and just had Ryan Dempster and Brandon Beachy hit the DL. It's a non-keeper league. Jair Jurrjens, Joe Kelly and J.A. Happ are available, who should I pick up?
Lord Zola: I like Happ the best; his skills are getting better. He's still inconsistent, but he's less risky than Kelly and Jurrjens.
Mike, a guy listening in from across the room: Is Trevor Bauer available? Pick him up; he's going to be great.
Jim: Hey Mike, I didn't know you were there. You play fantasy baseball?
Mike: Sure do. Julio Teheran is going to be great, too, pick him up.
John: I think he should trade me Bryce Harper and I'll trade him a pitcher.
Mike: No way! Bryce Harper rocks!
Jim: Lord Zola, what do you think?
Lord Zola: Counting on rookies is real tough because quite frankly, we have no idea how they will do. Granted, they likely have more potential than guys like Happ and Jurrjens, but they are untested and unproven. That said, sometimes you need to take the risk. If picking up Happ is not going to be enough to make up for losing your guys, then sometimes you just have to take the chance and hope to get lucky. I mean, you weren't going to win anyway, who cares if you finish in fifth or tenth. On the other hand, you have Harper? I would seriously considering putting him on the market. You can likely get someone to overpay for the hype.
Mike: No way! Bryce Harper rocks!
John: I'll give you Lance Lynn for him.
Jim: Should I do it?
Lord Zola: It's not a horrible offer. Lynn is throwing the ball really well, though he has also been a bit lucky. His skills are real, but I am worried about what happens over the second half as his innings begin to mount and he sees some natural regression. I'd let the league know you are willing to deal Bryce for starting pitching and ask who is interested. Maybe you get a better offer or maybe you look at their roster and ask for a guy you like more than Lynn.
Mike: Dude - don't trade Harper! Pick up Bauer!
Lord Zola: See, what you really need to do is find the guy in your league that really likes following prospects, there's always one.
Mike: I hate "so-called experts." Dude, I would so like to be in a league with you.
Lord Zola: Easy, Mike, following prospects is fine, just saying that the hype is usually bigger than the actual performance, at least early on. I love watching Harper play, Mike Trout too. And in some shallower Mixed Leagues, I actually think they are worth using since you can replace them if they begin to struggle. But in deeper leagues, especially if I am in the hunt, I prefer tried and true over up and coming. On the other hand, if I am behind or desperate because of injuries, sometimes you have to take the chance. It's all about context and the situation.
Mike: I still say I'd kick your butt if you were in my league. Catch ya later guys, gotta bolt. Later Hans, good workout today.
... so's he.
Hans, posing in the mirror: I pick things up and put them down.
Jim: Thanks, we have to run as well. Keep up the great work!
John to Jim as they are leaving: Dude, don't listen to him, Harper for Lynn, and remember, I have the keys to the car…..
Chuck, another guy listening in: Todd, right? I'm Chuck. Can I ask you a question too?
Lord Zola: Sure, what's up Chuck?
Chuck: What I do when I drink too much. HA HA, that never gets old. Justin Verlander for Jesus Montero, Andre Ethier and Joel Hanrahan -who wins?
Lord Zola: What type of league is it? What's the scoring? Is it head to head? Points? Roto?
Chuck: Sorry, 10 team head to head, roto.
Lord Zola: OK, first off, I don't look at trades as being won or lost, I look at the influence to the rosters and how it impacts each team's ability to score points. Depending on the context, I can make an argument for both sides.
Chuck: Come on, man, who wins?
Lord Zola: Well, it depends, maybe they both do. The team getting Verlander, who do they have at catcher and outfielder to replace Montero and Ethier? How many other closers do they have? Will losing Hanrahan hurt them? How many points can they gain with Verlander starting? Is it more than they lost elsewhere? The team dealing Verlander - how much do they need saves? Will that help more than losing Verlander will hurt? Who do Ethier and Montero replace? How many more categories will that bring? A trade is not about the names or the values on paper. A trade is not about the rankings in a vacuum. A trade is about the impact on the standings.
Chuck, while walking away: Geez, man, all I wanted to know was who won the trade….
Lord Zola muttering to himself: Ignorance, it never gets old.
David, the only guy left in the locker room: Excuse me, I've been listening in, and you seem pretty smart. Can I ask you one, too? I really want to go to Hawaii but I am afraid of flying and get sick on a boat. Can you build a highway so I can drive?
Lord Zola: Heh, I'm good, but not that good.
David: Just kidding. My real question is what's the deal with R.A. Dickey?
Lord Zola: Did you want that highway two or four lanes?
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.