Monday, January 21, 2013

Never Forget to Always Remember that Fantasy Baseball Is Not Real

Jason Kubel lost in the outfield. Photo courtesy of Lost Town.
This post comes from E. Rolf Pleiss.  E. Rolf currently writes about the Minnesota Twins for Knuckleballs Blog, is the co-host of a weekly Minnesota Twins podcast, Talk to Contact and his Twitter feed is a hilarious must follow.  E. Rolf has been playing fantasy baseball for nearly a decade, but starting in 2012 he started getting serious about his fantasy-swag, and started putting some of the tips he has seen here on Crackerjacks to use. He will be sharing some of his advice for first-time fantasy baseball players with us over the next several weeks.
The name says it all, FANTASY baseball, and yet, year after year, I found myself attempting to run my fantasy baseball team the same way I imagined that real baseball executives were running their own teams.  I was valuing players as if they were playing on my REAL baseball team.  The problem of course, is that fantasy baseball is not real, players have different values in fantasy-land than they do, say playing second base for the Detroit Tigers and hitting third.

I had not yet delved deep enough into the intricacies of fantasy baseball to understand where those differences in value are found, and how to exploit them to my advantage.  Luckily for you, you will not have to spend years forgetting, because I have compiled a list what I think are the top three basics you should always remember about fantasy baseball.

Defense Does Not Matter
Fantasy baseball is all about offensive numbers.  Some leagues use traditional stats like RBI, HR, SB and some use more advanced Sabermetric numbers like wRC+, wOBA, and wRAA.  But whichever type of league you are in, what players do with a glove in their hand is largely irrelevant, and until there is a surefire way to measure defensive ability, it will continue to be a non-factor in fantasy baseball.

So while Peter Bourjos might be a really fun player to watch, his offensive numbers (.247/.301/.402 career triple slash) let you know that you should not bother having him on your team except or for steals only.  Conversely, a guy like Jason Kubel who can’t play a lick of defense, has MORE value in fantasy baseball because his 30 home runs are still 10th in the NL, no matter how many runs he costs his team waving at fly balls in the outfield.

Playing Time Matters
Most fantasy baseball leagues will establish some maximum number of innings played/pitched for each position on your fantasy roster.  These totals usually mirror some number of appearances that could be reasonably expected from a Major League everyday player, or in the case of pitchers, what could be expected from a full time starter or reliever.

In real baseball, a team like the Los Angeles Angles are willing to tie up a lot of money in a guy like Josh Hamilton who might take off a game a week.  They can justify that loss of playing time because they get enough value from him in the 130 games does play, to more than make up for the 32 games he takes off.  Plus, it is not like they are getting zero value when Hamilton is not in the lineup because someone else takes his spot in the order.

In fantasy baseball, unless you are monitoring your team everyday, when Hamilton has a day off, so do you.  You earn no stats.  Because often times fantasy baseball is based on counting stats (hits, RBIs, stolen bases, etc) you lose an opportunity to pad those stats, and if you are in a league that has no bench spots, or requires you to set your lineup at the start of each week, you wave goodbye to any chance at reclaiming those missed games.  If your league allows you to stream pitchers, then this will not be as big of an issue, as you can grab lots of extra innings by moving guys in and out of your roster, but again, any time you are not at least approaching those maximum limits, you are wasting opportunity.

Your Favorite Player is Worse and More Expensive than you Expected
If you are going to be successful in fantasy baseball, just as in real baseball, you need to build the core of your team around a strong draft.  Sure, you are going to make a lot of great trades and sneaky waiver wire pick ups, but you need to have a solid core of players to help you start the season strong.  That means that when it is your turn to draft you need to throw emotion out of the equation.

Derek Jeter might lead the MLB in jersey sales, and could be the most iconic player in baseball, but you have no business drafting him as your starting shortstop. Sure, he might have another surprise rebound season, but the guy is 38 years old and more likely to be the player he was in 2010.  Even if he does have another solid year, you’ll likely have to overpay for him on draft night, not only costing you draft dollars, but also a lost opportunity to draft a younger player or a player with higher upside.

Do your research before draft night and then trust it.  Forget Jersey sales and find a Jeter substitute for far less.

Last year his OPS of .791 was matched by Ian Desmond and Asdrubal Cabrera, but they had more HR, SB and RBI.  So don’t get stuck on a name, get stuck on finding the same player with a different name.

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