Fantasy Baseball Tips

I have been playing in fantasy leagues for the past 10 years and have been pretty successful winning about half the leagues I’ve been involved in. Last year, I could not rise above second all year, as one of our readers, Brent Everson had the best fantasy team I’ve ever competed against. I thought it would be illuminating to pick his brain about how he goes about running a fantasy team.

Scott: Where do you live and what is your profession?

Brent: I grew up in a small town called Valley City, North Dakota. I work in Fargo, ND for Microsoft supporting a financial software package.

Scott: What was the key to your fantasy success in 2005?

1. Being prepared for the draft.
2. Not falling in love with guys’ names. When they’re stinking it up, take them out of the lineup.
3. Be on the look out for guys on a tear. Basically the same as #2. If I saw a guy on waivers tearing it up and I had a spot open, I’d grab him until he cooled down. It almost hurts a fantasy team when all the spots on the roster are filled with marquee players, because it is hard to drop big names.
4. In general, day to day management. I’d start righties against lefties and vice versa, and sit guys against the Pedros of the world, etc. My theory is by doing this you can turn a .280 hitter into a .320 hitter. Having guys with position flexibility allows you to do this.
5. Cohort in crime. This may be the most important. I shared the team with a guy named Heath Webber out of Grand Forks, ND. He is a master with Excel spreadsheets and shares the same passion for baseball that I have. He’s the Stockton to my Malone. (or maybe vice versa) He had us prepared for the draft using overall and relative value by position player rankings. He provided brilliant, in depth information along the way and filled in as the day to day point man when I was gone for work or on vacation. He’s the perfect guy to share a team with because he provides a ton of information and opinions, and he allows me to make most of the final decisions. Not because I’m better, but because you almost need one guy with ‘final say’ power.
6. Married with Children. Both of us have families, so while some of our competition spends 9 PM to bedtime boozing or chasing tail, we spend it on the computer with our fantasy teams. (insert loser joke here)
7. Only trade when it’s necessary. Heath helps me here. I love to trade, he’s conservative. In my 14 team money league I’ve gone 2nd, 7th, 3rd, and 3rd. I blame it on dumb trades.
8. Keeping up on injuries. Will’s Under the Knife was a daily read, and I frequented to check the local news on my players.

Scott: Do you have a basic strategy when drafting?

Brent: I like to draft durable, young guys when possible. For instance, our first pick last year was Tejada, because he was still relatively young and has a habit of playing 162 games/year. How can you go wrong? In the later rounds you can definitely take a few more chances, especially in a league like this where pickups are a free for all.

The afforementioned spreadsheets focus on guys that will give good overall value in as many categories as possible, keeping relative value because of the position they play in mind as well.

I also think it’s important to not just take the next guy off the list on your spreadsheet. Look at the top 10 guys or so and pick the guy that is the biggest lock out of the bunch since you probably won’t get them in the next round. For instance, last year for our second pick we took Miguel Cabrera even though it was about 10 spots earlier than he was projected. We knew he wouldn’t fall to our next pick and thought he was the safest guy available so we nabbed him.

Scott: How long have you been playing fantasy baseball?

Brent: I have been playing a 5X5 money league since 2002, and I was in a free Sandbox league with some work guys from ’99-’01.

Scott: Who is your favorite team and why?

Brent: I’ve been an Angels fan since I was 6 years old. I moved from Satan’s team (the Yankees) to the Angels in 1982 when they signed my favorite player at the time, Reggie Jackson. Thank goodness I didn’t know anything about loyalty back then, I don’t think I could have lived with myself being a Yankee fan.

Scott: Which type of style do you like to play in fantasy baseball: SABR, 5×5,
4×4, AL or NL only? Also which scoring method do you enjoy more: Overall stats or Head to Head?

Brent: I started playing fantasy baseball in a 5X5 format and not league exclusive, and since you always remember your first, that what I’m partial to. I do despise the average category, since a guy like Ichiro can be considered more valuable in average than a guy like Pujols. In my mind, the best case scenario for a league would have OBP, R, RBI, SB, HR, W, S, ERA, WHIP, and Ks. I enjoy overall stats leagues because that’s what I’m used to, and I think they’re less work. I do enjoy the ability to change the lineup daily and to be able to pickup players at will. Daily to me is actually easier than weekly because it becomes a routine. (take a shower, brush your teeth, set your lineup, etc)

Scott: What specific things do you remember about last year’s league?

Brent: Last year was a fun fantasy year, highlighted by the final day where we started every pitcher we could get our hands on because we wanted to catch the guys ahead of us in the wins category. Worked out pretty well.

The year was definitely not without faults, though. Here are some examples:

1. Drafted the wrong Luis Gonzalez.

2. Dropped Utley because he was getting sat occasionally against RIGHTIES in favor of Polanco. We knew he was a stud, just didn’t want to wait for them to possibly trade Placido and waste a spot on our lineup. oooooops

3. Dropped the oft injured Geoff Jenkins, right before he went on his summer long tear of all tears.

Scott’s Postnote: Finding out that Brent has a team partner and uses spreadsheets to help plot things out, definitely made me feel better about my feeble attempts at trying to catch him in 2005. I’m a solo guy and the only spreadsheets I have any experience with are one’s located in the pages of Swank magazine. I should add that I met Brent at a comedy show recently and he’s a really good guy, which dissipated much of the anger I had built up for him. (It could be said I’m a bit too competitive.) Considering that Darrin Erstad is from nearby Jamestown, North Dakota, I thought that might be why he was such a big Angels fan, but Brent claims that his love of the team came back in 1982. Hopefully, you gained some insight into what one fanatical fantasy basebll player does to be successful. Good luck to everyone who signed up for fantasy leagues, even though I hope to crush you all. Now I need to get back to my um, spreadsheets.

13 thoughts on “Fantasy Baseball Tips

  1. 1.  How do you approach filling the various positions during the draft?

    What weight do you give a superior C or 2B that may be less productive than a OF or 1B in the same round? I got Victor Martinez in the 3rd round of a Yahoo 5×5 league and was pretty happy. Other players had better raw numbers at that spot but I figured I would get a better margin over the opposition due to the relative lack of depth at catcher.

  2. 2.  How do you approach filling the various positions during the draft?

    What weight do you give a superior C or 2B that may be less productive than a OF or 1B in the same round? I got Victor Martinez in the 3rd round of a Yahoo 5×5 league and was pretty happy. Other players had better raw numbers at that spot but I figured I would get a better margin over the opposition due to the relative lack of depth at catcher.

  3. 4.  This is a really good question. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about being involved in a live draft. It also is a very hard question to answer after the first couple of rounds, as each draft can vary. One of the most difficult issues to plan for is closers, especially in a 16 team league, as if there is a run on them, you could be really f-ed if you miss out.

  4. 5.  Could the person running “The Juiced” fantasy league #2, please reconsider the limit of 20 moves per team. There doesn’t really need to be a limit like this in a roto league where you already have a max number of IPs you can use and a limit of 162 games played per position. This 20 limit move, will just make the league dead and boring, and I don’t think any of us want that. Thanks.
    vr, Xei

  5. 7.  Bad closers sometimes scavenge wins and their low inning totals don’t kill your ERA and WHIP – so I usually don’t worry about the bullpen. If I don’t have the time to manage my team on a day to day basis sometimes I’ll pick up the top available set-up guys (especially those with SP/RP eligibility) and just leave them in the lineup every day. Also freakish players like Farnsworth are good band-aids for low K rates on a team with otherwise solid SP. I’ve always targeted a middle of the pack SV total in 5×5 leagues and done pretty well using bargain bin closers.

  6. 8.  Fantasy analysis is pretty laughable on the sites I come across. It’s always fun to see stat guys completely ignore the meaning of stats in a new context.

    The key to roto is understanding the equivalent value of every stat you use. That’s it. The crude values in my league last year were, 27.6 runs = 14.7 hrs = 32.6 rbis = 17.6 sbs = 38.2 ks = .084 AVG(given ave abs) = .238 OPS(ave pas) The difference in position players is just a change in the median or replacement level for each stat.

    As for closers, as long as you get two guys who play for the whole season, you’ll be fine. Never draft closers based on the saves you think they’ll get, obviously.

    “7. Only trade when it’s necessary.” nah, trade whenever you’re getting positive expected value.

  7. 9.  Great article, and great tips from the guy keeping you down, Scott. But there is one thing that really frustrates me about his comment regarding BA. I moved away from that stat years ago, I see it’s lack of value. But how how HOW in the name of all that’s holy can he then keep SB, the stat which gives value to Juan Pierre, of all people? And nearly no one else. Simply put, the standard 5×5 is not a league I can ever play in for that reason alone, it’s a TERRIBLE stat for judging the value of a player.

  8. 10.  It is abundantly clear from reading this post that, come Monday evening, I am going to be the proud recipient of approximately six months of my ass on a platter.

  9. 11.  I hate the SB and Strikeout stats, which is why I do 4X4 leagues, using SABR principles as much as I can. While I know Runs and RBI’s are flawed stats, I still think they show some worth in a player. It would be pretty boring if a fantasy league just had 2 offensive categories. (OBP and SLG)

    In regards to pitchers, closers are more important when considering that there are just 4 categories and one is saves. Once again, saves and wins are flawed categories, but there the best I can come up with after ERA and WHIP.

    When someone invites me into a league with SB’s and Strikeouts, I just don’t know how to play in such a league, as those categories I rarely pay attention to. Sure strikeouts have some value, but WHIP is a far more important category.

    I will change the levels of moves each team can make, but I don’t want them to get too high, as without limits teams at the end of the year can just pickup every pitcher starting for the day to bump up their win total. I think that wrecks some of the integrity of the season.

  10. 12.  I’m a lurker and rarely post so hopefully this isn’t intrusive. I’ve worked (???) in the fantasy industry for most of this decade but am not really a 5X5 guy. I’ve written often on the subject of alternative categories that better represent real life, having played 13-15 category H2H for years, and of course, this format will allow you to ignore the SB in its entirety and draft power as it’s represented more. I subscribe to things like SB(net) and running a calc RELIEF category instead of Saves, which weights the save higher but also includes the Hold and subtracts for the Blown Save. But ultimately, a game is a game, and we shouldn’t get too caught up in comparing it to real baseball.

  11. 13.  11. Thanks for changing the level of moves from 20 to 40. Keep in mind your concerns about teams picking up every pitcher just to bump up their win total is offset by the fact that you made a maximum innings pitched limit. Why not just let each team budget their innings pitched limit of 1250? I can see one or the other, but not both. jmho

    11. Why do you think strikeouts is such an unimportant statistic from a SABR standpoint? I would say it’s a better measure of value than WHIP. WHIP takes into consideration too many fielding dependent variables, strikeouts does not. Perhaps an argument could be made that K/9 or K/BB is a better category than Ks but not WHIP.

    Lastly, when selecting categories to use one must consider the purpose of what we are trying to do. Do we want to have the categorie(s) that best measure a players value, the categories that are the easiest to follow when watching a game and reading the box scores, or the categories that best distribute value upon the complete player pool. I’d say you want a mix of all three. I mean who wants to sit down with a calculator trying to figure out the VORP of each player, or the EQA etc… Sure, the simpler stats like SB, Saves, Average, Runs, RBIs, ERA and WHIP all have flaws but all serve a purpose in giving certain groups of players value. I enjoy the more SABR type of stats like OPS or OBP for hitters but understand why others still shy away from them.

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