Building a productive, dominant, Fantasy Baseball team can be just as challenging as learning Trigonometry, or building a house. But in essence, it’s almost exactly the same process in theory:
- Trigonometry takes a vast understanding of a variety of Mathematics subjects including basic Algebra, Advanced Algebra, and a bit of Geometry. In Fantasy Baseball we see a similarity with first understanding basic stats such as ERAs, Batting averages, and strikeout-to-walk ratios, and then the more advanced stats such as BABIPs, walk rates in percentages and even ISO measurements.
- Building a house takes a general understanding of framing, and cannot be done properly without a quality foundation to build upon. In baseball, the “foundation” would be your draft, while your “framing” would obviously be the players.
But as odd and confusing as that all sounds, it really isn’t that difficult to understand. In all Fantasy sorts, understanding is the key to not only building a great team, but also enjoying the experience to its maximum.
In Part One of this series, we will take a look at some of the more rudimentary aspects to building your team. We will focus on some basic draft principles, understanding the value of MLB stats and the translation to Fantasy, and move towards the more advanced stuff in an effort to afford you the necessary information one needs in Fantasy Baseball.
Obviously, this piece will be more geared towards those of you just starting out in Fantasy Baseball since most seasoned veterans know the difference between why an ERA isn’t as valuable as a PQS.
The Foundation: Where it all begins.
Everything begins with the draft, and a nice introduction to draft principles can be found here in an earlier piece I wrote.
Go ahead, give it a read. I’ll wait.
Ok, so the basic idea is laid down: know your players, evaluate the worth of starting pitchers vs. relief pitchers, and learn the ways of the waiver wire and watch lists, while riding the all important player streaks.
Draft analysis, predictions, and strategies vary from site to site and owner to owner—and while there are a few things that everybody can agree upon— finding what works for you takes time. One simple way in familiarizing yourself with what’s going on, is participating in Mock Drafts.
Mock Drafts are an invaluable tool that can help you understand player rankings, ADP rankings, what people are writing about and why. But more importantly, it gives you a bird’s eye view of how other owners are strategizing, and what that could translate into, when the real thing begins. There’s no set rule in drafting per say, but there will be a lot of people who say things like:
- “Never take pitcher with your first pick.”
- “Always go for as many power hitters as possible.”
- “Always go for a balanced team.”
- “Never draft a relief pitcher towards the back end of the draft.”
Trust me this list can go on, and on, but the more familiar you become with the draft—and other people’s tendencies—the easier it will be for you to devise your own approach. Just keep in mind a couple of useful points:
- Try to have a list of 15 to 20 players you absolutely want to try and get. This way if a couple of them get taken before you, your backup plan will be right in front of you at all times. It will cut down on your draft time, and it will prevent panic picks.
- Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Most people this year will target Albert Pujols with the first pick, but what about A-Rod, Hanley Ramirez, Chase Utley, or even players such as Ryan Howard, Carl Crawford, Prince Fielder or even Tim Lincecum? If you know what type of team your trying to build, it will enable you to be a trend setter; not a trend follower.
- Stay on target! A lot of times, an owner will start a “waterfall” by selecting an odd position somewhere unexpected in the draft—someone taking a relief pitcher in the 5th or 6th round for example—and usually people immediately follow suit thinking there is a “run to the bank” for that position. Keep your focus on YOUR draft strategy, and don’t worry about the heard. You’re the one building your team to your liking, jumping on a couple of errand trains could leave you without options and ruin your draft.
Framing 101: The The Building Process.
Ok, so we went a bit deeper into the foundation of your team—The Draft—but what about all those wonderful stats we all look at? In Baseball, and Fantasy Baseball, there are more stats and numbers to crunch than most accountants deal with in any given year, but taking it step by step can go a long way towards your overall understanding to how things translate into success.
First and foremost, this is no longer the 1970s and 1980s; we are no longer using notebooks to record player stats; we are no longer running on x386 processors that take 25 minutes to load web pages, and Bill James’ formulas have gone by the wayside—well most of them anyway.
Today’s Fantasy baseball is much more advanced with a multitude of various league formats, Internet streams that provide up to the minute player news, and advanced versions of the once popular 5X5s; in other words, the days of basing your team on simple MLB stats are gone.
But without the basic stats we have nowhere to begin, so they still hold a great deal of value.
(For the sake of this being Part One of the series we will forgo mentioning the complete list of a stat line rather, include that in Part Two when we talk about the more advanced topics)
There are 6 basic stats for hitters: batting average, hits, homeruns, stikeouts, RBIs, and on base percentage. These basic stats give you the basic idea of how valuable a player can be, but don’t always give you the big picture.
For a Pitcher, there are also 6 basic categories to look at: ERA, WHIP, strikeout to ball ratio—shown as SO/BB in acronym form—homeruns, inning pitched, and win/loss.
Again, these stat categories will give you enough initial information to go on, but won’t always tell you the big picture.
Let’s look at an example:
A pitcher you own shows that he has an ERA of 3.01, and an overall SS/BB ratio of 20/10, with 30 hits and 3 HRs, in just under a month’s worth of work.
Not that bad right?
But if you dig a bit deeper, and add in another stat called walks per 9 innings or BB/9, it reveals that said pitcher gave up 70 percent of those walks in the last two weeks. You could dig a bit deeper—out of suspicion—and find out the same situation is true for his hit count, meaning the monthly stat is misleading, and it doesn’t tell you the pitcher is showing signs of possibly entering a slump.
Consequently, if you reverse the roles, and the pitcher’s strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9) came at the end of said month—not the walks—it could reveal the pitcher may be heating up.
It sound strange and seems obscure, but it’s way of sniffing out which pitcher on your roster is rising, and who is falling. In this mention, we demonstrated utilizing basic stats, knowing your players, and riding the streaks.
Fantasy Baseball presents a higher level of challenges than, say, Fantasy Football.
In Fantasy Football, if you had to choose from between starting Peyton Manning against the lowly Rams and starting any rookie against this year’s number one ranked Packers’ defense, it would be a no-brainer decision: Peyton Manning hands down.
But in Fantasy Baseball, making a roster decision between, let’s say, two pitchers is not so easy.
You have to determine who’s hotter, who has the better projected lineup matchup, you have to know who is performing better statistically at that time, not to mention you have to take into account your league type and it doesn’t hurt to know a little about the ball parks they are playing in.
But if you remember to study the basics and apply them throughout the year, you’ll be taking your first step towards dominating your league, and understanding the complex world of Fantasy baseball.
In Part Two of this series, we will go a bit deeper into the more advanced statistical categories and how to utilize them and read them. We will gather all those wonderful little acronyms you see all over the Internet and explain them all, and reveal why basic stats DO NOT always show us the big picture.
Good Luck this year everyone, and stay tuned!