The benefits of keeping a roto journal

by on March 30, 2010 @ 10:00:00 PDT


Rotisserie players tend to regard completed seasons as mere collections of numbers: 200 HR, 80 W, 3rd place, 2 points out of 1st. But a Roto season is a six-month journey, and there are lessons to be learned from the basepaths both taken and not. To put the year in perspective, compile a record of the season in a notebook. Certainly, this journal should be your storehouse of observations of all sorts about players. But its pages can fill other roles:

1. Do over. Unhappiness with one's post-Draft Day roster is a typical ailment. To channel that grief, draft a second, fully outfitted team based on your league's post-Draft Day rosters. If you choose players whom you drafted, use their current price, since you ended up with them; for players from other teams, use their current prices plus $1, to mimic the additional bid that you would have had to make to steal them away. And draft up to only $255 -- the lost $5 compensates for the likelihood of your needing to make several extra bids beyond a buck.

With the aid of hindsight, you should have little trouble fielding a team with greater projected stats than your own. The conclusions are two-fold: First, bargains abounded in your draft; and second, they were not predictable. Eighty percent of bargains arise not from an edge in knowledge, but simply from eddies in the flow of the draft; this truth is one argument against entering Draft Day with a plan. This exercise should also drive home the merits of drafting a balanced roster and spending every dollar on Draft Day, minimal feats beyond most owners.

2. Sift through the circular file. Tracking completed trades is a standard task in fantasy leagues. However, unmet trades tell as a tantalizing tale. Record every unfulfilled deal that passes your senses. Include unclosed trades that you extended to other owners and vice versa, as well as trades that you mulled but never pursued. Jot down a few words about why you refused or shelved a trade; review these lines at the end of the year. Should you have pulled the trigger in some cases? Extended some of your abandoned offers? Given the quicksilver sentiments of human beings, one hypothesis is that few trades should be offered, but most offered deals should be accepted. Your findings may or may not support this idea.

Feel free to add notes about your done deals. For example, did owners accept your proposals with little hesitation? If so, maybe you tender too much from the outset -- haggling is exhausting, but an offer that is immediately accepted is usually an offer that is too sweet.

3. Knock opportunities. Tally the free agents who caught your eye throughout the season but didn't make the cut. What appealed about them? And why did you shy away? To track their missed contributions, record their stats at the time that you pass them by and then at the time when you would have sent them back down. The take-home message of this drill will be the unmistakable stink of luck. Free-agent picking is often a crapshoot, especially when you consider that, in most cases, you are collecting stats from these players for only a few weeks (and sometimes on the basis of only a few weeks), and small samples notoriously distort.

4. Cultivate contrarianism. If you are ever going to have the stomach to buy low and sell high, you will need to build some faith in yourself first -- best to start on paper. At the All-Star Break, pick one player at each offensive position, and a pair each of starters and relievers, whom you bet to sharply outpace their first-half value. Don't choose players who have been injured or otherwise off the field -- pick guys who have been playing, just poorly. Use a floor of 200 AB for hitters, 75 IP for starters, and 25 IP for relievers. Do the same for a sampling of overachievers. Remember to make a note of your picks' dollar values for later comparison. In all likelihood, freed from the pressure of having to actually stake your team to these players, most of your bets will pay off.

5. Plant the pivot. If you're in a keeper league and you began the season in clear rebuilding mode, then your approach for the season was established from Opening Day. For the rest of you, there comes a time in a Rotisserie season when the decision must be made: to fight to the end, or to bail? When the moment of reckoning arrives for you, take time to express your rationale in print. At the end of the year, re-assess this decision. Did you make your decision too early? Too late? Which players, and how many, did you over- or underestimate? Did deal-making die out or flourish? Ultimately, was there anything that you could have done differently to improve your fortunes?

6. Cast a glance back. The shuttering of another MLB season is the time for a final task. Following the guidelines in Step 1, build a third team from your league's Draft Day rosters, this time using the known, full-season stats and prices. How many of the true bargains did you peg in Step 1? Do those players whom you overlooked share a trait? Maybe you don't give enough credit to older players, or players on a certain team or possessing a certain skill; if so, work through this blind spot next season. Also, is there an owner or two who captured most of your league's bargains? If so, these may be fellows to shadow in next year's draft.

In an endeavor as competitive as Roto, it's foolish to discard the experience of seasons gone by. Remember: "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it." Not surprisingly, the man who uttered those words, Spanish philosopher George Santayana, never finished worse than 3rd in his Rotisserie league -- no one ever counted out the "Carlos Santayana's"...

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