Fantasy Baseball Round Table: Does winning require taking risks?

by Todd Zola, on April 16, 2014 @ 13:04:34 PDT


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Confession time: I'm not the most organized individual. I know, shocking. Let's just say there's a reason why one of my regular features at Mastersball is called Organized Chaos and why my posting of the column is not nearly as regular as I intend.

One of the off-shoots of my lack of organization is failing to send out the Round Table topic to my colleagues in ample time to allow the quality of discourse of which they are capable. Occasionally, in these instances, I'll send out a canned question, and they always come through on short notice with a top-notch answer.

SP Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals
Wacha no joke, but risky? Perhaps

This week I decided to fall on the sword and not force them to once again cover my backside with a last-minute reply.

But of course, that leaves us without a Round Table this week. But have no fear. I have a topic I'd like to discuss. Actually it's more a "thinking out loud" sort of thing with the hope it generates some discussion and may even lead to a future Round Table topic.

Here's the deal. For a couple of years I've been pretty candid that I need to introduce a greater element of risk into my game, but I'm not sure I've done that. Heck, I'm not even sure that more risk is in fact warranted.

On one hand, I believe the best pathway to winning is a series of decisions each based on what I determine to avail the greatest probability for success.

On the other, league after league, year after year, I finish behind someone who took a chance and left me in the dust.

I'm beginning to wonder if the decisions that lead to winning coincide with those that result in success.

Maybe that's the problem. An argument can be made that all winning players have success, but not all successful players actually win. It boils down to how one defines success.

A pro golfer or tennis player can carve out a very successful career without ever winning a tournament. Does the same hold true for fantasy baseball?

It's not that I don't win leagues -- I do. I think if you do the math and determine the number I should win based on pure randomness (e.g. one should win a 12-team league once every 12 years) that I win more than my share. But like every other competitor, I want to win more. This is exasperated by seeing others win more in both industry leagues and the high-stakes arena.

Sometimes I think it's simply a numbers game. If one should randomly win a 12-team league once every 12 years and they win it once every ten years, they're successful. Another way of looking at it is if you play 10 12-team leagues in one season and win one, you're doing better than the odds dictate.

But I want to win more than once every ten years or one out of ten leagues!

Is my failure to do so my reticence to take chances or is my decision making anti- to the most probable outcome? That is, while I think I am making a series of correct decisions, maybe my thought processes are flawed and it has nothing to do with risk but is in truth rooted in a faulty analysis?

What's his answer? Click here!

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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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