This is a reprint of an article that I do every year. We have discussed this on the Roundtable Show many times, and refer to it often. It goes back to my first blog, The Fantasy Baseball Generals, which is why the last paragraph reads like it does (ah…the good old days). And, of all the things I have written, this is what I consider the most useful, and not just to fantasy sports:
Reading books and articles across the internet on all manner of topics, it is clear that there are many “experts.” At least, that is what they represent themselves to be. Some legitimately are experts and some aren’t. But what makes an expert?
In my view there are certain things that one can look at to see if another is truly an expert. Some of these things may be unknown to the non-expert, who may not know what they are seeing.
Here are criteria that I use to see if someone really is an “expert”:
1. Knowledge. The expert knows things that others don’t. The expert has knowledge on many matters relevant to the process at hand and is always gaining more knowledge. An example would be that an expert can provide a reasoned answer to many questions, such as “why is it a fallacy that hitters hit worse with two strikes,” or “in fantasy, why should I not chase wins” or “who will emerge from the A’s bullpen in 2014 with saves.” They may come to a different conclusion than other experts but they will evince a thorough knowledge of the issue.
2. Strategy. A true expert will know and use strategies that non-experts don’t even know exist. An example is the Low Investment Mound Aces strategy, or Total Control Drafting. There are many others. Whether a particular strategy is good or bad to use in a given context, the expert knows them and can use them should the need arise. Do you know your opponents’ tendencies? Do you know what strategies they normally use and have you successfully manipulated them?
In one league a few years ago I crafted an entire auction plan around one player (Juan Pierre) and won, with no players purchased over $30. The next year I got five of the first nine players, all over $30 and finished second. These are different strategies in different contexts with the same opponents. The ability to do this is what makes a strategist.
3. Independence. A true expert will deviate from conventional wisdom and even his own typical strategy should the situation be favorable; he will not be tied down to any preconceived set of rules. It may just be that he has a different opinion, or it may be that it is for a specific tactical reason.
Here are a few examples:
-A league allows daily pickups that become effective on the following Monday’s games, but gives priority to lower teams in standings. An owner is constantly picking up various pitchers and then cutting them a few days later to hide the pickups he really wants. Then, later in the year does the opposite when the situation changes.
-An owner that rarely spends money on pitchers is willing to bid $30 on a pitcher this year. Or perhaps he never goes for steals but this year does so because they look undervalued.
-Two winners and strong players in your league are bidding on Ivan Nova and they are the only ones over $8. In that case you would be well advised to jump into the bidding if these owners are experts even if your opinion is to the contrary on Nova.
-An owner that “never pays for saves” and is a strong player but this year is bidding up a potential closer.
4. Flexibility. A true expert can use many different strategies, can tailor his planning to given situations, and can take advantage of a situation as it presents itself through judgment and knowledge. The expert doesn’t need to read specific advice from trusted websites or other sources of information in order to come to a conclusion, though they may be invaluable; he or she can make a good decision based on a thorough knowledge of fundamental theory. There are an infinite number of situations that can arise. One would be foolish to, for example, follow trusted dollar value projections to the letter regardless of their judgment, but many owners will do just that. This goes hand-in-hand with Independence, discussed above.
5. The Thought Process. Last, and most important, is the thought process. The expert considers many variables, (hopefully most!) and can sift through them in a logical fashion to come to a reasoned decision. No further examples are needed; the permutations here are endless.
But one thing that experts can do is apply proper weight to the variables. Not every variable is equal. Consider this exchange:
Owner 1: I think X will be great this year, his BABIP was low compared to his norm, his line drive rate stayed the same and his HR/FB went up by 2%.
Owner 2: Yeah, but they team has a terrible lineup with no RBI producers, he has no protection and pitchers pitched around him.
Here we have six separate facts, and let’s assume all are true. Does this mean all are equally weighted in forming a conclusion? Clearly the answer is no. Owner 1’s facts are far more important and might be worth 80% of a projection whereas Owner 2’s facts do not deserve anything close to equal weight.
The proper thought process begins with fundamentals of statistics. Only after a statistical analysis is made is there room for tweaking up or down based on non-statistical, anecdotal evidence like league changes, city changes, surrounding lineup etc. All facts are not created equal and fundamentals trump non-fundamentals every time. Otherwise you are guessing and fall into the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy, about which I have written many times.
Either you have the will to prepare to win or you don’t; but you can rest assured that if you don’t there are plenty of owners that do. The victorious General first realizes the conditions needed for victory, and only then engages in battle. The losing owner fights first and then looks around for victory.
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