Chance Favors the Prepared Fantasy Baseball Mind - ADP: A Necessary Evil

by Todd Zola, on March 28, 2013 @ 14:15:40 PDT


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The Internet is now overflowing with essays hammering the concept of ADP. I've got a few of them out there myself, which is ironic since I was producing ADPs from National Fantasy Baseball Championship satellite leagues for our Platinum customers before they were even produced by the NFBC. At the time, they were helpful. As with any strategy or tool to gain an edge, it is most effective when no one else is doing the same thing or using the information. ADPs are everywhere so they are no longer the drafting tool they were five years ago.

Arizona Diamondbacks OF Adam Eaton
Can't truss it on Eaton

A few of the conventional reasons cited when making the case why ADPs are no longer the cat's meow are they often are a mishmash of different league formats and rules. Some are biased by the default ranking of the site administering the mock draft or even the inclusion of computer-drafted teams. Some include mocks prior to decision altering information being made public such as the recent PED scandal, the pause around Felix Hernandez signing his extension and even Michael Bourn signing with Cleveland. In short, the credibility of the ADP is questionable.

All of this is well and good, but my main beef with ADPs is the perception of what they are and what they should be used for. Let's say we generated an ADP using the same league format, within a short time frame so the information was all the same. The result is not a guide to help you rank players like many appear to believe, but merely a quantification of how the market ranks the players. I realize this may seem to be one and the same, but here's the difference. If you want an opinion on something, who do you ask? I hope it is someone well edified on the subject, so their answer is credible. Now think about an ADP. With due respect to those generating it, and I don't care if this is an NFBC ADP, do you really trust each and every person's opinion that goes into producing the ranking? Think about it -- only one person wins a league. There are 14 losers. To be blunt, an ADP aggregates the opinions of more losers than winners. If you use an ADP to help rank a player's potential production, you are misusing it. You should be coming up with your expected production independent of the ADP, then perhaps gauging market value using an ADP that best resembles the league of interest. To base your picks on the ADP is a big mistake.

I and others have been preaching this and similar arguments for a couple of years but I still hear things like "That was a great pick, you got him at pick 90 and his ADP is 72," or, "You took him way too early with the 52nd pick, his ADP is 67." In fact, a feature of the NFBC draft room is to grade your draft relative to the current NFBC ADP. That drives me nuts.

Much like the scarcity argument posed last week, it's one thing to continually make a point anecdotally to a populace that likes numbers while it's another to actually use numbers -- so let's use numbers to help make the point sink in.

Reviewing the concept of APE, you determine the dollar value of each player like you would an auction and then line them up highest to lowest. Given that this is not the same as a properly constructed draft list, if you assign a round number to each value corresponding to where they fall (in a 15 team draft, the 15 highest values would be round one, the next 15 round two, etc) and multiply that by three, the resulting number represents the number of players above and below that pick or player that are fundamentally the same, or at least they have the same value. Same value is defined as anything within two dollars. In other words, a $16 player and an $18 player are basically the same guy. Expected performance, thus the corresponding value is best thought of as a range of outcomes. Outcomes with $2 worth of value are the same. Going back to the rankings, a sixth round player would have 18 players above and below that can be considered to be equal in value.

Let's use an example. ...

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About Todd Zola,

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, 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 and, 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. Fantasy Baseball

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