The Pontifications Of Lord Zola: Keep Doing It And You'll Go Blind
Trust me, everybody does it. They may not admit it, but they do.
No, not that silly. I’m talking about mocksterbation. After all, staring at a computer monitor for too long can irritate your eyes. Truth be told, mocksterbation was a term I coined a long time ago to describe the process of doing multiple private mock drafts in the privacy of your own home. But with such sites as Mock Draft Central populating the Internet, this is no longer necessary.
I have four primary reasons for embarking on multiple mocks before the drafts get serious in March. As an aside, gleaning market value of players is not one of them. Proper use of the average draft position (ADP) will be a subject of a future column.
1. Find outlying players
As just implied, I don’t use mocks to gauge market price but sometimes I discover some players for which I am more bearish or bullish than the drafting populace. If the same players are always at the top of my draft board or some players consistently get drafted before they’re even on my radar, I’ll go back and look at the player again. Sometimes I alter my ranking. More often than not I confirm my original thoughts which may avail an opportunity to get a nice return on my investment in a later round.
2. Get out of the comfort zone
We all have pet players and trusted strategies. We’ll deny it, but it’s true. In fact, some pet players may emanate from the outlying players above. Something I have been doing for a long time so it felt good a couple of years ago when my colleague Ron Shandler offered this same advice to the audiences of the spring First Pitch Forums – do something different for a change. If you always seem to select the same player in the same round, don’t. If you draft scarce players early, take a couple outfielders in the first few rounds and see what happens. Alter when you take pitching, including closers. Put yourself in spots that are different, if not uncomfortable. Keep in mind this is a mock. I’m not saying to do the real thing in this manner, but if you force yourself out of your comfort zone, you’ll have had some experience dealing with it if come March, your opponents do the forcing.
Given I live by the axiom no one cares about your team but you, sharing a recent draft I did may help to illustrate the point. Plus, I get to mention a couple players so I can choose a cover photo for the piece.
This wasn’t a mock but a real league that drafts early but it serves the purpose of a mock. It’s a 15-team league and I was on the wheel. The main concern on the wheel is when to take pitching. It’s not my style to take an arm with the 15th or 16th pick so the first time I would consider a hurler would be the 3/4 turn. I opted to pass expecting one of my pet guys to be there next. But something happened on the way to the 5/6 turn and they were all off the board. Uh oh.
So what I did was double up on closers, but just not any closers, pairing Kenley Jansen with Aroldis Chapman (Craig Kimbrel was gone). My usual approach is to grab a decent starter early and wait on closers so this was bass-ackwards, landing myself squarely out of my comfort zone. In full disclosure, I did take some comfort knowing I have done a study that shows closers like Chapman and Jansen paired with a lesser starter is equal to my normal starter plus my normal closer, but still, this is a path I don’t usually follow. Since I know you won’t sleep without knowing, my first starter was Kris Medlen followed by Hyun-Jin Ryu. In a league of this nature, Medlen is more an SP2 and Ryu an SP3 for me, but when paired with 100-strikeout closers, I have the equivalent of an SP1 and SP2 with two middle tier closers. As an aside, choosing two closers at the turn was either perfect timing or the impetus of a run as four more closers were drafted in round six. Similarly, I was able to sit out during the second run of closers when six went off the board in rounds 9-11 then when six of ten picks were closers at the 12/13 turn.
Forcing myself out of my comfort zone has actually given me the confidence to do this even if my guy was there at 5/6 turn.
3. Be ready for anything
This is an extension of number two with the difference being your opponents force you out of your comfort zone – you don’t do it on purpose. Given that each draft is a unique entity, there’s no way you can happen upon every single scenario. But the more mocks you undertake, the more scenarios you encounter which forces more means to deal with the surprise. There’s no guarantee you’ll experience the same situation, but the more puzzles you solve the better you become at solving puzzles. The surprises can come in the form of your players being drafted or an unexpected turn of events like an inordinate number of scarcity drafters leaving a bunch of outfielders on the board. If you did a prior mock by starting with two or three first baseman/outfielders, you should feel more comfortable doing it for the second or third time.
4. Get intimate with the player pool
Projecting and even profiling players is one thing. Putting them under the microscope to decide whether to choose them is another. You are now looking at the projection in total, considering the upside potential and downside risk. The more mocks you do, the better the chance of having almost every player be a candidate for your team. The due diligence on each player is priceless. You will likely end up jiggering your rankings based on nuggets learned from the drafting process.
In summary, market price is the last thing I glean from mock drafting. The primary benefits are experience and familiarization with the player pool. Mocksterbating may not lead to a happy ending, but your knowledge and skills should be honed enough to get you in the hunt where you can let fate take you to the promised land.
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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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