That’s why we play the game.
One of my favorite parts of fantasy baseball is thinking about the psyche of my fellow competitors - why they make the decisions they do in contrast to why I make the decisions I do.
Don’t worry; this isn’t going to be a lesson on knowing your opponents inside and out. I can honestly care less about that psycho-babble that makes for such great narrative. When it’s my turn in a draft, I pick who I want. I don’t try to get into the heads of my opponents. After all, I haven’t developed immunity to iocane powder so I best not match wits with a Sicilian when a fantasy title is on the line.
But that doesn’t stop me from looking at the picks of my opponents after the fact in an effort to hone my own process. Why did they make the pick they did? Do they know something I don’t know? Am I missing something? Is there something they are doing that I should be doing to improve my own game?
Not for nothing, I don’t mean to seem elitist here, but I only do this with drafters I respect. Respect can come in a couple of different ways. Obviously past success is pertinent trait but not the only trait. So long as I have some semblance of my opponents approach and philosophy, respect can follow.
What I like to do is pick out two players that profile in a similar manner. Perhaps it’s position, perhaps it’s statistical contribution. Whatever the connection, I think about why I favor one player over the other.
I’m presently in a draft that we annually kick off the day after Christmas. Based on this draft and following the early National Fantasy Baseball Championship Draft Championship (NFBC) leagues from afar, I can tell there are a few players I need to put under my microscope as my present opinion differs from that of the masses. Don’t get me wrong; I trust my methods and the ensuing conclusions. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t at least question my methods and philosophies on occasion.
The first pair of guinea pigs is Jay Bruce and Mark Trumbo. Presently, Bruce’s NFBC average draft position (ADP) is 28 Trumbo’s is 72. To me that’s a huge discrepancy for such similar players. My rankings have Trumbo about 32nd and Bruce 40th.
Here’s their respective three-year averages:
Sure, twenty-three more run + RBI, a couple of bags and .006 points of BAvg are worth more, but 44 picks more? Not to mention, I rank Trumbo higher than Bruce. Why?
Bruce is known for his consistency which no doubt accounts for his late second-early third round status. Within the season he may be all over the map, but come October, Bruce will go .255-32-100, book it. But here’s my problem. Last season, Bruce fanned a career high 185 times at a career worst 27% rate. The power was there as usual but a .322 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) propped up his average in spite of all those whiffs. In other words, the end result was the same but the pathway to get there was precarious. Bruce’s skills aren’t as consistent as his outcomes thus a second/third round investment is a risk.
Trumbo is also coming off a year where he set a career-high in whiffs except his BABIP wasn’t as fortunate so his average was a disappointing .234. If Trumbo is a little more fortunate and Bruce’s luck corrects, their lines would be almost identical.
Now factor in the fact Trumbo is moving from one of the least friendly hitting parks to one of the kindest and my optimism begins to take shape. Based on park factors, Chase Field should be worth five or so homers and the accompanying production. Keep in mind home runs are hits too which should add a few points to Trumbo’s average if some of the extra big flies were previously caught. Additionally, if Trumbo is installed as the full-time cleanup hitter, he’s looking at a few extra chances which should further aid to close, if not surpass the 20-something gap in RBI plus runs from Bruce.
Summing it up, I see worst case scenario with Bruce and Trumbo with similar averages and production with Trumbo hitting more homers – hence his higher rank on my spreadsheets.
So why does everyone else place Bruce in the 2nd/3rd and Trumbo in the 6th/7th?
1. They give Bruce points for consistency which I see as tenuous based on increased strikeouts and a risk in batting average.
2. Even though the three-year averages are close, Bruce has a longer track record.
3. There are still some that expect a power spike from Bruce where I’m in it-would-have-already-happened-here-by-now mode.
4. Others aren’t factoring in the park effect change for Trumbo.
Bottom line is I’m sticking to my guns and will try to snag Trumbo in the 4th/5th round if he fits my team needs in terms of positions and stats. I trust my reliance on contact rate as a leading indicator to knock Bruce down a tier and although everyone reacts to a change of scenery differently, the extreme nature of the venue differences has a far better chance of being beneficial than non-impactful.
Next time I’ll compare and contrast another set of players where my current expectations differ from the masses.
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Affectionately known as Lord Zola, Todd was the 2013 Fantasy Sports Writers Association recipient of the Fantasy Baseball Article of the Year, Web. He's been with Mastersball since its inception in 1997 and presently Todd writes for the ESPN Insider and Baseball HQ. Todd is a frequent guest on SiriusXM and is a regular on HQ Radio. He's a veteran of Tout Wars and LABR as well as a multi-time NFBC champion. Follow Todd on Twitter @ToddZola
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