February 4, 2014 posted by Patrick DiCaprio

2014 Fantasy Baseball Strategic Thinking in a Fantasy Draft: Part I

2014 Fantasy Baseball Strategic Thinking in a Fantasy Draft: Part I
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One of the least written about areas of fantasy sports in general, and baseball in particular, is the area of strategy. Well, many writers discuss what they call “strategy,” but discussing when to take your first starting pitcher is the lowest level of strategy. When we here at discuss strategy what we have in mind is something different.

A loose definition of strategy in our use of the term is the application and understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of fantasy sports to develop a plan to win your league.

For example, one of the most important strategic ideas is considering what you expect your opponents to do. You simply cannot craft a plan to do well in your draft against anything, but the weakest competition if you do not think about what your opponents plan to do. Yet there are very few fantasy baseball writers that mention this in their discussions of strategy.

That is why most writing about so-called fantasy strategy fails. Anyone can advise fantasy players to “wait until the late rounds to draft a starting pitcher.” This is strategy only in a very basic sense. The true fantasy strategist asks himself, “If I draft starters only in later rounds what can my opponents do to stop me? If they all plan to do the same thing how will I adjust?” It makes no sense at all to discuss a so-called strategic principle in the vacuum of one’s own team without considering the overall context.

In our view no decision on any topic related to fantasy baseball, or life for that matter, can be the correct one without consideration of how your adversaries will act, react or try to thwart you. That they will do so is a certainty in any league that contains tough competitors or a decent prize pool.

Anyone that has played in tough auction leagues against experts or for high stakes against very skilled players knows exactly what we mean. In these leagues, for example, you will often see other owners making moves at the end of the auction that are specifically tailored to hurt a particular owner. Some will manipulate other owners to do things they would rather not. Some even resort to psychological warfare, like Matthew Berry of ESPN, whose constant chatter during auctions is effective in making his opponents alter their plans.

As an example in my personal experience, I play in a league where owners can auction not just their active roster but their reserve roster as well. One owner routinely, to his credit, will continually overdraft players, often picking one team to target. He will simply go after every player the targets bring up for a bid or bid on. When you are dealing with foes of this sort you have to devise a plan to combat their tactics. In that case you should consider his actions when bringing up players. One solution would be to nominate players you do not want and then act like you are miffed that he keeps stealing them, so that he continues to bid on the guys you bring up.

In another league with a similar structure I had a reputation for being unwilling to bid more than $30 for players in most circumstances. My adversaries took advantage of this, so I had to craft a plan one year to target a number of $30 players. Most players in this league also knew that I tended to be patient and to wait until the middle rounds to strike. So in one season I purposely auctioned five of the first nine players, all over $30.

That is what strategic thinking is about. It is not just simple maxims such as “don’t draft closers until late rounds.” Strategic thinking is about recognizing your own strengths and faults and, more importantly, how others perceive your strengths and faults. Then, it’s time to act on them in a manner not only to profit but to punish your opponents.

Punishing your opponents means you have to figure out what they are likely to do and then crafting a plan to take advantage of them. It is not easy and requires a lot of thought and evaluation of factors aside from ADPs and dollar values. Strategic thinking also requires a proper understanding of fantasy baseball theory.


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