MLB
January 12, 2012 posted by Patrick DiCaprio

Do Projections Matter At The End of the Draft?

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It is a pet peeve of mine when other people say that I am a “numbers guy.” This is far from true and it is even further from the truth when we get to the end or an auction or draft.  It is my view that at the end of the auction or draft, projections, dollar values and ADP are irrelevant. Would a numbers guy say that?

Usually the pursuit of “value” is what analysts discuss when dealing with late round selections. The later rounds usually reflect a constant pursuit of “value” on the basis that this is where you can make or break your team with that one late round player that far out produces his expectation.

This is undoubtedly true in theory. But in practice it is false. Why? Projections and values simply do not matter in the least in the late rounds and no matter how astute you are and no matter what criteria you use you are essentially at the whim of fortune. You can throw your projections out the window and simply go after the guys you want without regard for value. Value won’t make a difference in one year anyway.

Every year in drafts we see many owners selecting a player at a position because he represents the highest value player remaining on his board, or the highest valued player remaining at a particular position.   An owner may select, in a mixed league a player because they are rated more highly on the owner’s particular projection methodology.  But if you are the guy that likes player A or player 1A then pick them and to hell with the ranking list. If you would rather have player B than player 1B then take him. You are just as likely to gain as to lose.

Generally when we get to these “end of the position” players we are faced with relatively minor differences in value or draft position, usually one or two dollars, or maybe two rounds of ADP. These differences are so small as to be irrelevant and cannot be the basis for decisions. I am sure many others in the industry will disagree, and perhaps vehemently, but there is no denying the role of luck no matter how vociferous the opposition and no matter how cogent their argument seems.

We simply cannot make fine distinctions based on numbers that are inherently unreliable, especially at the end of the draft when the margin for error is inordinately excessive. There is so much inherent fluctuation in unreliable commodities like these, perhaps up to seven rounds of draft position, that separating bottom tier players because of a $1 or $2 difference, or a three round ADP difference is meaningless.

That is not to say that there is no selection criterion that is valuable, far from it. It is only to say that projections or forecast dollar values are not the main focus. This is the reason for my pet peeve. I do not even look at projected dollar values in the end of an auction; once players are all going for $5 you would be a fool to pass up a potential player at $4 merely because he is only projected for $1.

For example, let’s say you are choosing between Players X and Y, both of whom have similar profiles, and can roughly be valued at $6. If you feel that you are certain which one will perform better than the other then you must have a copy of Gray’s Sports Almanac.

When making these types of selections one is playing the odds, a la roulette.  Like roulette whether you are right or wrong is largely (but not entirely–hence the effort) a matter of fortune no matter what criteria you use or how exacting your forecasts.

With regard to Players X and Y an example of information that can be used to make these fine distinctions might be their expected ERA, or comparing comparable players, or overall upside for 2008 in one’s own opinion, or a host of other subjective criteria that one is familiar with and has used in the past with success.  Gambling on upside is far better than taking five players projected for $6 at $4 values.

Experience is the only way to hone one’s judgment in such matters and is the best guide.  Here the scouting player is likely to do just as well as the “numbers” guy, assuming that he actually knows what he is doing, which is decidedly not the case for 95% of so-called “scouting” guys.

The successful owner makes subjective judgments made that others would not make. No criterion trumps excellent judgment, and the only way to success is to hone one’s judgment through experience, trial and error and analysis of one’s mistakes. The expert player will make better selections based simply on superior judgment, and not on any truly objective criteria.

Even if an owner is taking his cues on selections from an expert generated draft ranking chart there is still little to be gained by attempting to divine the undivinable simply because it carries the tag of an “expert.” One can rank these players in any order one chooses using any methodology and could justify the ranking to the world.

However, despite my disdain for the “numbers” in the end game, I will say that any system that purports to be anything other than a very loose guideline, no matter if it is portrayed as quasi-mathematical or scientific, is simply not telling the whole truth. Mike Podhorzer, a former FP911 writer for example, will freely admit that a $2 or $3 value difference is meaningless. On the other hand, other sites act as if a $0.50 cent difference is a big distinction. If you find one of these sites, beware!

There are far better ways to spend one’s draft preparation time than seeking out more exact or more accurate projections, or trying to make a draft ranking list that attempts to quantify in minute detail the fine distinctions between the end round players. Personally, I prefer to imagine myself in a rollicking mud wrestling match with Elizabeth Mitchell and Evangeline Lilly since at least it puts me in a good frame of mind.

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