If you haven't heard, I've written a 2012 Fantasy Draft Guide that is now available at BaseballGuys.com. If you're wondering what type of analysis awaits you in the over 50-page Guide, here is an inkling of the type of material you can expect to find there (in addition to the Player Rankings, more than 600 of them actually, that are the heart of The Guide, there are a ton of articles breaking down various aspects of the fantasy game).
People ask me all the time about projections. As I've written previously, the best one can hope for with projections is 70 or so percent accuracy. The point being, most projection systems aren't very good, and in truth, a rolling three year average of numbers is likely to be about as accurate in the long run as any projection system that you use. That's why I hesitate to give number projections each year (I also hesitate to employ a top-300 list, and you can read more about that at the link). However, there's no way around it, people love to see “Albert Pujols .315-38-118-112-8” when they go about trying to put together a championship caliber roster, even if the projector has no real way of knowing if his projection will be accurate (think Adam Dunn last year who everyone thought would hit 40 homers with 100 RBI. More on Dunn can be found in his Player Profile).
Nowadays, with the advent of this thing called a computer, and the myriad of software one can use to track a fantasy draft, people often try to reach “category targets” on draft day. What do I mean by that? I mean what numbers, in each of the fantasy categories that your league employs, do you need to attain to win a category? What number do you need to reach a top-3 finish in category? That's what targeting tries to help you to do – understand the numbers that you need to reach in each category to have a shot at your league championship. Here are the issues with this line of thought.
1- You have to be able to access historical data for your setup. If it's a standard situation like a 5x5, 12 team league, an I'll give some numbers for that setup in a minute, you're in good shape. However, if you're in a 7x7 league, or a points league, or anything non-traditional, the numbers you will need to target are different, so having access to the league standings for the past few years can help you to gauge where you need to be. The numbers also obviously change if you are in a 10-team league versus a 15-team league.
2- Just because you have the “target numbers” prior to your draft does not mean you're home free. Again, you have to depend on your projections being accurate, and that's a whole other level of uncertainty. If you have Pujols projected at 30 homers you might be 10 short of your target when your team is assembled. If you have Pujols at 40 homers in your projections maybe you hit your target number exactly. Will Pujols hit 30 and leave you wanting? Will he hit 40 and give you exactly what you expected? Will he hit 45 homers and exceed your expectations? Remember, your ability to reach your “targets” is completely dependent on the accuracy of your projections.
3- Given my statement at the start of this piece, that projections are only 70 or so percent accurate, you have to be very careful with using targets as your only guide. If you think you need 280 homers to reach your target, and your projections have you at 295 with your assembled team, you clearly don't need to go looking for homers anymore, right? What if your projections for your hitters though end up being only 75 percent right? That would leave you with around 220 homers, well below your needed target number. And that is my main point here, and why I don't slavishly use”target” numbers on draft day (in fact, I'm one of a rare breed anymore – I do not use a computer to track numbers on draft day. Maybe I'm missing out, but at the same time my track record is plenty good enough to show that what I'm doing works for me). If you only look at target numbers you may make decisions at the draft table, or on early season waivers, that ultimately hurt your team (maybe you should have been adding power instead of going for speed to hit your targets). As I've said before, drafting is much more an art than it is a science.
With that, here are some simple target numbers for 5x5, 12 team leagues.
100 Wins, 3.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 1250 Ks, 100 saves
In the end, like any other bit of analysis, “targets” are just part of the puzzle. They can certainly be helpful when you're trying to get a handle on how your team should perform so there's no reason not to use them, but don't get so tied into those targets, and your projections, that you make bad decisions on draft day because you are only looking at some predetermined set of numbers.
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Fri 7-10 PM EDT), Ray also hosts his own show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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