Fantasy mistakes come in all shapes and sizes. We all have leaks in our game, areas we can tighten up. Here are six common mistakes I see from Fantasy Baseball, mistakes I’ve occasionally made myself over the years.
Share your own draft mistakes in the comments. And as always, consider “it’s contextual” as the tagline for every tidbit of fantasy advice. Obviously, every league is different. You know your league context better than an outsider could.
Restrictive draft plans
It’s reasonable to make a draft plan or a seasonal plan. But make sure it’s a pencil sketch. Flexibility is the key here. Don’t restrict your ability to pounce on values.
I’m amazed when I see owners make the most stringent of draft blueprints, deciding ahead of time what rounds they’ll use for specific positions or categories. That’s like deciding your exact poker strategy for a game that hasn’t started yet. Any draft is dynamic. Things are constantly changing, shifting, evolving. Be ready to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.
Forcing instant balance
While it’s nice to have a complete and balanced team when the draft completes, it’s certainly not a mandate. The best thing you can do on draft day is acquire as much perceived value as possible. If that means you’re deeper in some areas and shallower in some other areas, so be it.
Two stat categories I am rarely going to force are saves and steals. Closers have a very high turnover rate, and it doesn’t take much for a previously-disrespected pitcher to get a chance in the ninth. Anyone who gets two hands on the baton has to be taken seriously. And the barrier for rabbits to have fantasy value is extremely low — anyone with fresh legs who’s given a green light to run is usually worth a kick of the tires. Stolen bases, far and away, are the category I prioritize the least in March.
Waiting for proof
It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s mirage when a new player starts clobbering home runs, swiping bases, or piling up strikeouts. Sometimes a fresh recall or a known veteran will play much better than his resume shows, and it’s difficult to trust. If only you could wait a few more weeks, use a bigger sample to make a better decision . . .
It’s a nice idea, but in most competitive mixers, someone is going to act as soon as plausible upside presents itself. While you’re waiting for extra proof on the Logan Morrison or Justin Smoak or Tommy Pham hot streak, someone else is saying “screw it, maybe it’s real” and taking a chance. (Yes, that’s a cherry pick. Plenty of players flash and disappear quickly. But someone is going to get valuable stuff off the wire, and you need to be contending for that stuff.)
Keep in mind, a pickup can be a long shot and still improve your chances at winning a league. Think like a poker player, understand what implied odds are. If you joined a league with 11 equally-skilled owners, your winning odds would merely be about eight percent. Fortune doesn’t always favor the bold, but aggressive players are the ones I fear during the season.
Falling in love with your (disappointing) bench
This is a corollary to the proof point, above. It’s easy to get attached to your late-round sleeper picks, make excuses for them early. But at some point we have to accept that the informed in-season choices we can make — where playing time and managerial patterns have taken hold — have more value than things we hoped for in February.
The higher you drafted someone (or the more extensive a player’s resume), the more leash you attach. But I’m always going to look for fluidity at the bottom of my roster. If you never drop a player and regret it later, you’re playing too scared. Don’t let Paradox of Choice trip you up.
Checking out early
No getting around it, Fantasy Baseball is an extensive commitment. And I can understand why the dog days of August take so many down for the count. Fantasy Football has the sweetest siren voice. Maybe you’re headed back to school, or shifting to another routine pattern in your life. And this baseball stuff can be a lot of work.
Me, I’m a full-season, play-it-out guy. I’ve got side bets to contend for. I’m competitive. I respect the competition in the room. And even if my team isn’t contending for a title, I know I can at least pass some of the people who don’t stick with it.
If you’re worried about baseball fatigue setting in, consider a co-owner. You’ll always have someone to discuss the team with, and you can share the responsibilities. Partnerships work best if you share a similar baseball world view with the other owner, but if you find the right person, it can be extremely rewarding.
I’m especially guilty of this one with my online drafts. The chat room is not your friend. Now is not the time to debate the best sandwich or the funniest Curb episode or the most underrated Bowie song. There’s no need to be on Twitter every few minutes. The rest of the world can wait. A focused mind is the goal.
For the in-person draft experience, the leak can be an overflow of materials. As Muhammad Ali once said, “the battle is won far away from witnesses.” Do your homework before draft day, then travel light to the dance — just one trusted source and an internet connection for emergencies.
That’s your six pack for today, but this is a topic that never ends. Do you reach for FOMO picks, those pricy, shiny new toys? Do you overrate handcuffs? Get attached to long-term injury guys? Share your best tips in the comments.