The Pontifications of Lord Zola: I Don't Care!
You can win the draft. Lord Zola says he'd rather win the league.
Some of you guys are driving me nuts. I’m looking at my buds in the industry as well as my pals in the high stakes arena. I see it on blogs and in message forums. I hear it at live events.
“According to <insert your favorite draft software here> my team is in first place”.
“I nailed my targets. I have 270 homers, 1075 runs, 1050 RBI, 165 steals and a .275 average.”
Really? Now? Before a single pitch has been thrown in anger?
Honestly, I really don’t care. I don’t follow in-draft standings and I don’t track category totals. You can win the draft. I’m setting my sights higher. I want to win the league.
I know, it’s a popular tactic. Use historical standings to determine what’s necessary to finish third or fourth in each category availing enough points to win the league. As the draft progresses, you track how many of each stat you have with the goal of achieving the historical objective. It seems reasonable enough.
But let me ask you a couple of questions. How many times have you finished a draft or auction and failed to meet your targets? Now how many of those leagues have you won? That’s what I thought.
I’d be willing to bet if you polled every participant in your draft or auction and asked if they met their targets, the response would be a unanimous yes. How can that be?
To be blunt, if you aren’t on top of the standings or at minimum ahead of your targets using your own projections as your inputs then you need to review your draft or auction strategy.
Our own picks each have bias. We’re choosing players we feel will do better than the market suggests while passing on players we feel will not live up to the market’s expectations. This is obviously an inane hyperbole, but if I have Pedro Ciriaco projected for a .300-25-100-100-15 season and draft him as my utility, chances are I’m going to lead the standings and demolish my targets. Now tone this down to a more reasonable scenario where I feel Mark Trumbo will hit bat .260 with 35 homers and I gain that edge throughout my squad, then it stands to reason I’ll squash my targets. If I project each player to hit only 2 more homers than the market, that’s an extra 28 homers, assuming the rule book, 14 player hitting lineup.
This research is in the embryonic stage, but I’m taking drafts from the National Fantasy Baseball Championship Classic contest and determining the percentage of stats that were drafted versus those accumulated at season’s end as well as determining the correlation between percentage of drafted stats and place in the standings. Preliminary results show the typical team drafts 65 to 90 percent of their ultimate stats and while there is a correlation between a higher percentage and standings place, it isn’t nearly as strong as one my intuit. That is, winning the draft by no means guarantees winning the league. Making your targets doesn’t insure that total come season’s end. On the average it means you got about 75 percent of the way there.
Of course, we’re all human and emotions play a part in everything we do. You leave the draft or auction confident then you hear through the grapevine that according to so-and-so, your team sucks. Their draft software puts you in last place.
Repeat after me: I DON’T CARE! Feel free to replace care with something stronger.
Here’s the deal. Who knows what projections are fueling the draft standings. All it takes is one player to be vastly different to skew everything. Maybe you project Neftali Feliz for 35 saves while the other projections call for Joakim Soria to win the closer job in Texas. Maybe you feel Oscar Taveras will come up in June and get 400 at bats while the other projections don’t even include him.
Let’s do this once more, this time with even more conviction: I DON’T CARE!
There are so many nuances draft standings can’t capture that go beyond the obvious of replacing injured players. The most obvious are on the pitching side of the ledger where weekly match-ups play such an integral role. Depending on the size of the league, the last few starting pitching spots are usually dedicated to streaming hurlers with the most favorable match-ups. You may draft Tyson Ross with the sole intention of using him only for his home starts at Petco Park but the standings will reflect his entire season’s expectations. You may have two closers on your active roster with a third in reserve with the idea of sliding the third one in on occasion when you don’t like the impending match-ups for your back-end starters. The saves total will not account for the extra handful of saves.
I DON’T CARE!
Circling back to targets, it is imperative that projections be thought of as a range of outcomes and not a static number. Too many times late picks are made in an effort to reach a target and not with the big picture in mind. Let’s say you’re 25 home runs shy of your target. Available are Mark Reynolds who is projected to hit 27 homers and Nate Schierholtz projected to hit 18. Personally, I’d rather have the security that I know Schierholtz is going to see every at bats when a right-hander is on the mound facing the Cubs. I’ll sacrifice the potential upside of Reynolds. The projection for Reynolds factors in that he may play 150 games and swat 35 out of Miller Park or he may strike out 10 times in a row and Milwaukee places him on waivers. Inevitably there will be someone that chooses Reynolds because that’s the option that passes the target.
I have heard and understand the contention that tracking home runs and steals is done more to insure balance than reach a total. I’ve done it myself. But it was really just an excuse to track. Of course we all peak to see where we are. Here’s the thing though. The usual goal is third or fourth place. So what if you finish in second in one category and fifth in another; you still garner the same points.
Analogous to the above example, drafting a lesser stolen base player instead of a better power hitter because you’re short bags and have ample dingers is a waste. You’re only going to get about 75 percent of those totals anyway. Forget balance, you have 26 weeks to make moves to even things out. When a home run hitter gets hurt simply replace him with a speedster and balance is attained.
My goal is to win the league. You can win the draft. I don’t care.