The Pontifications of Lord Zola: Hey you kids, get off my lawn!
Todd reminisces about the good old days.
About a year ago I decided to forgo my dream of curing cancer or finding the key to Alzheimer's Disease and traded in my labcoat and safety glasses for one of those ergonomic desk chairs and curvy computer keyboards - not to mention a gynormous monitor. I figured if I was going to try to make a go of this fantasy baseball thing I may as well have good posture, avoid carpal tunnel and not have to squint. We're approaching a year later and so far so good. Though, I got rid of the funky chair and went back to my old one. Who needs good posture, it's not like I'm on TV or anything.
Because I now make a living as a fantasy baseball writer, analyst and editor, I should be careful not to bite the hand that feeds me and puts a roof over my head, but there is something bothersome about the direction my beloved former hobby and now vocation is taking. I'm not naive; I know times have changed. We live in a world where satisfaction is instant. Books are now 140 characters long while movies take 6 seconds. Fantasy baseball now has reserve lists and daily transactions. We're robbing Peter to make the game more interesting for Paul.
You see, Peter is old school. He was weaned on single league auctions with no reserves. The only way Peter could replace a player is if he was put on the disabled list or sent to the minors. Not only that, the player used to replace the injured or demoted player had to be released when the original player was ready to return.
Now Paul, he's a fantasy football guy that likes baseball but is bored by the year-long grind of fantasy baseball. He prefers the rush of fantasy football.
So the game Peter - and yours truly - grew up playing has changed in an effort to keep up with the wildly popular fantasy football. I say changed and not evolved because in my estimation we have taken a step back in a few areas. Again, I'm not naive. I realize the changes are necessary for the once hobby to now be an integral part of a booming industry. After all, if these changes didn't occur, the game may not have grown to a point I can actually make my living writing about fantasy baseball. Otherwise, I may still be the second best candidate interviewed for every biotech/pharmaceutical opening east of the Mississippi and instead of having a roof over my head, I'd have a ceiling over my head, still living in my sister and brother-in-law's basement.
Here's my problem. Well, here's my problem with the current state of fantasy baseball. Technology has blown up and so much information is available so much faster than when Peter and I used to compute standings from the USA Today sports section on Monday (AL) and Tuesday (NL). Now Paul can get real-time news sent right to his smartphone and with a click of a couple of buttons, he can change his lineup without even being at his computer.
The part that bugs me is this is being misrepresented as strategy or skill. One of the arguments posed is we have the technology available to make sure we never have a dead lineup spot. Why not allow daily moves, after all, it adds an additional element of skill and in-season strategy management and who wants to take a zero at a spot for half a week when it is so easy to just replace him?
Sorry friends, that's not strategy, that's common sense. So is sitting Dillon Gee at Coors Field but starting him when he faces the Cubs at home.
Putting Mitch Moreland in your lineup when he's at home facing a right-hander isn't skill, it's common sense.
Strategy? Skill? Hardly.
And please, spare me the rhetoric insisting playing the right match-ups is skill. Batter versus pitcher data worthless, regardless of the sample. Studies demonstrate this. So is riding streaks. But this is a rant for another day.
For me, the skill and strategy of fantasy baseball lies within principles of projecting player performance, converting that to a ranking or bid price then developing a plan to put as much intrinsic potential onto your squad at the lowest price relative to market cost. There's skill accociated with with projecting player performance. Converting a raw projection to a ranking takes skill and is in part dictated by strategy. Developing a draft plan is strategy while the proper execution of said plan is skill.
The key to it all is variance. Variance is just a fancy word for luck. Projecting player performance is an inexact science. The larger the sample in question, the less variance influences the outcome. While I'm not sure I'm in complete lockstep with this assessment, the accepted expectation for player projection over a season is 70-percent accuracy. As the sample is reduced, the variance grows. Take a guy projected to hit .250. A logical expected range may be .235-.265. But what about for one game? The projection says 1-for-4. He gets one fewer hit and he's at .000. One more hit and we're talking .500. That's variance.
Relating this to valuation theory, let's consider Nate Schierholtz and Chris Denorfia. Neither are full-time players. losing at bats in a platoon. This gets factored into the initial projection and the corresponding ranking is determined. In the old days, you'd be stuck with them on your roster so long as they were active in the Majors, and that's a good thing since their intrinsic value was set on a sample where reasonable accuracy is expected. Fast foreward to 2014. Paul doesn't care about projecting Schierholtz or Denorfia. He knows Schierholtz rakes against righties while Denorfia croaks southpaws. Chances are someone of this ilk is on your reserve roster or available on waivers or as a free agent. Maybe it's Garrett Jones, maybe it's Andy Dirks. The point is, projecting the performance, converting to a ranking and incorporating that into a draft plan is rendered moot nowadays. Someone expected to garner 200 at bats for the season could be more valuable than Mike Trout on a given day if Trout is traveling and the 200 at bat player is in the lineup. That's not skill. That's not strategy. That's common sense.
And, for what it's worth, the same holds true for pitching.
Yeah, I know, it's a bit hypocritical to say all this then head off to the bank to deposit the check Fantasy Alarm sent me. All I'm saying is as a fantasy player, I'm frustrated with the direction the game has shifted. I think those looking for instant gratification are missing out on some of the best nuances of the game. I think they're losing out on a greater level of satisfaction derived from winning a league based on a well executed draft plan and not being first to the waiver wire when the latest closer lost his job.
Fortunately, there's nothing preventing me from finding 11 Peter's and playing in a league with old-school rules. And I do just that. Though I try to mix up the names of the owners a bit. The auction can get a little tedious. Think about it. How many times can you really take hearing
"Going once, going twice, sold to Peter for $4."