When we refer to theory we have in mind principles such as “Is ‘value’ subjective?” and “What role does opportunity cost play in auctions?” Again, these are not easy to discern for the neophyte or intermediate player, but if you are reading site you are likely looking for advanced information and you will get analyses of these theoretical principles. To start on the right foot here are some of the most important theoretical and strategic principles for the advanced fantasy player:
1. “Value” is a subjective concept and not an objective concept. Fantasy owners should not be tied down to conceptions of “values” on draft day. Projections are nothing more than symbols that try to sum up a range of probabilities in one number. A projection, no matter how good, will only be accurate to a margin of +/- $5 70% of the time. This is a big margin for error and allows the astute fantasy owner to grab players he wants without regard for small differences in rounds/dollars. If you loved Paul Goldschmidt in 2013 and he had an ADP of round four or a projected dollar value of $22 you would have been foolish to refuse to draft him in the third round or to not pay $25 if you felt strongly enough. Stronger players know that ADP is virtually useless once you get past Round Three.
2. “Buy Low and Sell High” is largely a myth, especially against better or tougher competitors. What we have said above about advanced players, namely that they will think about what you are thinking, makes it very difficult since they know exactly what you are doing when you try to sell high.
3. Do not put credence into any website or writer that proffers “rules” to follow for fantasy success. They are wrong. Rules are to be ignored for the most part as they are just simple advice that will allow more advanced players to take advantage of you. Every rule must be deviated from far more often that one thinks. “Tips” are great if you don’t follow them to the letter of the law; “rules” such as “never draft a starting pitcher in the first round” are foolish.
4. Unorthodox strategies are more likely to work against better competition than pedestrian competition. Against weaker competition standard strategies must be preferred because your judgment and skill advantages will carry the day. As the competition gets tougher so does the thinking of your opponents. The key here is the degree of skill and judgment that you have versus your competition. If you are better than your opponents you need not worry about unorthodox strategies as your skill will carry the day. However, if all the opponents are equal then an unorthodox strategy can bear fruit.
5. Luck and chance play far bigger roles in fantasy success than 99 percent of experts care to admit. As the competition gets tougher the role of chance is magnified. This is because marginal gains in knowledge and preparation are scarce against other owners who all have the same information and knowledge that you do. If you have the same knowledge and the same skills then what else can separate you from everyone else in the crucible of one individual season?
6. True expertise is hard to come by and 99 percent of the fantasy information out there is from non-experts. Be wary of this advice. Apply these criteria to all you read.
7. The idea that you should not target specific players is wrong. This is a so-called “rule” that has no credence at all in our opinion. In fact the best fantasy players do exactly the opposite. Irwin Zwilling and Lenny Melnick at one time were notorious for this. One should avoid going overboard as there is a happy medium, but if there is a player you like and feel strongly will be profitable then apply the first idea addressed above and overpay.
8. Fantasy analysts who do not understand the idea of opportunity cost are not experts, as opportunity cost is the single most important consideration in auction leagues. When you buy one commodity or player not only do you pay for that player you also bear a non-specific cost in terms of profit that you passed up by buying that player. If you overpay for David Wright this year you will not just be paying a high price tag for a player likely to be worth half of that, you also pay a cost for the potential profit of the other player that you would have purchased for his roster spot had you not gotten Wright. Managing opportunity cost and anticipating it during your actual auction is the hallmark of the best auction players.
9. When making selections we must recognize that one simply cannot make fine distinctions based on numbers that are inherently unreliable. This is doubly true at the end of the draft when the margin for error is inordinately excessive. So just draft the player you prefer and do not worry too much about their projection or average draft positions. It doesn’t matter at all if, in a deep league, you are deciding whether to draft Danny Salazar in the 11th then feel free to draft him regardless of the fact that Salazar is projected to be worth X amount and Corey Kluber will be worth a little less, but can be had a few rounds later. Simply take the pitcher that you prefer.
10. Perhaps most importantly, decisions can only be evaluated based on information that existed at the time of the decision. Do not let results seduce your evaluation of the actual thought process. Process wins over results in evaluation. These ideas merely scratch the surface of the ideas that expert players are not only aware of but put into practice in every league in which they compete. In garden variety leagues against basic competition these ideas will not likely matter much, but once you are ready to play against better competition or for big money you will not win without understanding these ideas. We hope that we will be able to help you to fantasy victory if you are looking to sharpen your fantasy skills.
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