To combat my ignorance the first time I played fantasy baseball, I did what anyone does when they need answers: consulted the Internet. This was 2005—the Industrial Age for the web—so fantasy commentary was just starting to percolate “back then”; it wasn’t as obvious where to go for information.
What I couldn’t get my head around was a concept I kept reading about—this concept of Value. Only experience could help answer questions like:
“Should I reach for this pitcher, that won’t go for a few rounds, because he’s supposed to have a breakout season?”
“Should I take this proven third baseman in the fifth round, or wait until the thirteenth and take the guy that is supposed to be a HUGE sleeper?”
“Should I take this pitcher a little early since all the talent after him is in a lower value tier?”
These are (/should be) the conundrums running through a manager’s head on draft day and unless we attended each team’s Spring Training, we look to fantasy writers for insight.
Anyway, long story short, after exhaustively reading the experts and averaging rankings, (I was entering a keeper league that had three seasons under its belt.) the experts had Jason Schmidt ranked the highest of the available players. He was my first pick of the expansion draft.
Some of you just looked at your screen like I made an offhand child pornography joke. Yes, Jason Schmidt. The guy who dropped 18 W, 251 K, 3.20 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 2004 and then followed up with a tepid 12 W, 165 K, 4.40 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 2005—the year I took him. Ouch. (Who knows why he had the decline. It’s not like there have been substance abuse problems in baseball; I’m sure he just forgot to train in the offseason.)
So what did I learn, besides the concept of value and that drugs are bad? Take an expert’s opinion with a microscopic grain of salt.
You are dealing with one person who has to know the workings of 30 teams and countless prospects. When I mentioned my Schmidt pick to a buddy, a huge Giants fan, he burst out laughing. He wasn’t fooled; he knew the Giants had been playing with house money and that Schmidt was set for a regression. And my buddy didn’t play fantasy baseball.
Experts know they’re often throwing darts at the wall; they’ll always let you know once in a while that “Hey, I’m just one opinion, one voice; it’s worth what it cost you” and so on. But the problem is that often we don’t notice our favorite fantasy writer, despite his solid jokes, perpetual hangover, alleged womanizing and pop culture references, is not correct enough. His good writing blurs the fact that he’s not that good a fantasy analyst—at least no better than other writers, or even your own eyeballs.
So here’s what we’ll do: We’ll implement the Fantasy Pundit Accountability Act. We’ll have a fantasy league of fantasy writers. You don’t need to worry about drafting anyone, but every month or so, we’ll examine the big names in fantasy writing and compare how they’re doing against their preseason picks. And, perhaps, add a little “color commentary,” if you will.
Basic preseason rankings, (Top 25’s) from writer to writer, are rarely that different. The area of contention is when, despite common opinion, we’re told about Boom Guy or Bust Guy. We’re told their value isn’t what it seems. It’s when a writer implores us to take Andrew McCutchen before, say, Carl Crawford or after Torii Hunter. It’s when writers create such a debilitatingly persuasive argument, we have to draft Boom Guy or we’ll be positive our season is ruined. And it’s when they dissect Bust Guy’s splits so convincingly that we stare at the manager who ends up drafting him like he ate something from under the couch.
How many hours do you spend prepping for the fantasy baseball season?
Because as Boom Guy kills our roster by playing like he spent the offseason bathing in a pool of chocolate syrup and Bust Guy looks like his offseason was spent in a pool of creatine (or related substance), we remember our source and wonder if it’s a federal offense to mail dog poop. (It is.) And, conversely, if Boom Guy plays like the stud he was supposed to be, we wonder if it’d be weird to email a screenshot of our league standings. (It would be.)
It’s a writer’s Sleeper/Busts, Breakout/Regression, Get/Get-Away lists that make or break a season.
That’s what we’ll compare and examine.
Something like this:
|June 7th, 2011|
|Joe Writer from Example.com|
|Player||Stephen Drew||Jose Bautista||Chase Utley|
|Prediction: Boom or Bust?||BOOM||BUST||BOOM|
|By how much?||Into top 3 SS||Back to his dismal 2009 numbers||Back to the #1 2B|
|Key Quote||"He has the speed for a dozen steals and has always had good power. Parra will mature and take walks, Young and Upton's averages will improve and Drew reaps all the benefits."||"His fly ball rate was so far off his career mark last year that I'd be surprised if he even topped 20 long balls this season."||"Utley was simply hampered by fluke injuries last year; don't let the final numbers fool you. He is still the games finest hitter at the 2-bag."|
|And, actually…?||Drew is first among SS's in RBI's and Runs; he's fourth in steals. [Writer] also said he spent all off-season working with a curveball specialist since that was what he struck out on the most. K's are down by 7%. Good insight right there.||Wow. Bautista has hit 7 home runs in June. And it's June 7th. I guess the prediction that he'd "plummet to the ground" didn't specify which planet we were talking about.||Utley has made owners yank out some hair with only 3 RBI's in his last 12 games. But that's largely due to the poor hitting in front of him. He is back to stealing bases and hitting for a healthy average. He's putting wood on the ball and staying healthy which is largely what was predicted.|
|Overall/By Position Composite Rank, Preseason (ESPN, Yahoo, CBS)||98,7||40,6||15,2|
|Overall/By Position Composite Rank (As of June 7th)||33,2||3,1||29,3|
Bold predictions are what end up making a winning season; that’s why we look to the experts—their insights on which players will or won’t have that sacred Value.
Let’s see who’s getting it right. We'll compile the major writers' predictions in the next installment.
[Suggest a fantasy writer for review or a new field in the ratings system in the comments below or send Caleb an email. Become a Fan to avoid missing installments of the Fantasy Pundit Accountability Act.]