By Jim Higgins
In some leagues, the difference between winning a championship and dwelling in the cellar can be traced back to knowledge.
But what happens when you play in a long time keeper league, where every manager seems to know the tendencies of every other manager in the league and each manager seems to have a solid grasp of the player pool. What is it that separates the winner from the losers then?
In some leagues it may be something as simple as execution of strategy. How many teams are rebuilding and what type of effect does their roster purging have on the standings? But that seems to apply only to a small group of owners in any league and seems to be a temporary difference based on how long the rebuilding takes.
So if everyone sees the same players, looks at the same numbers and even sees the same set of underlying skills, what makes it so that I view Miguel Montero as a $15 catcher in my keeper league while none of the other owners are willing to go more than that, despite the fact that half of them don’t have a catcher on their roster?
When I first thought about this, I wanted to attribute this minute difference to luck and call it a day. But as I began discussing this with Derrick, I realized that luck didn’t fill the entire gap. There was still a small bit of unexplained difference.
Then something Derrick said locked everything into place, “There’s very few things in life where you can take 12 different men with different upbringings, training, backgrounds, etc. and assume they all have an even base of knowledge.” And he’s correct in that no too people will ever read the same stats the same way.
But again, the difference isn’t necessarily knowledge, it’s how we let our experience influence our interpretation of data. For example, both Derrick and I rostered Aaron Harang in different leagues last year. I rostered him in a single-season league along with other struggling starters like Jake Peavy in the hopes these guys might rebound. Derrick rostered Harang in our keeper league hoping he, along with Josh Beckett, would form the nucleus of a rotation that would win a championship.
When Harang flamed out last year, it was no big deal to me but when Harang flamed out and it was clear Derrick’s hopes for a championship had been derailed, he knew he would never roster Harang again.
Fast forward to 2011 and Aaron Harang is on the auction block. Being a San Diego fan and knowing what Petco does for pitchers trying to get their careers back on track, I have no problems rostering Harang in a keeper league in hopes of a bounce back. To me, the $1 price was an acceptable cost but to Derrick, rostering Harang was a risk not worth absorbing.
We both know Harang is a fly ball pitcher moving from a very unfavorable home park to the best park for pitchers. We know his K/9, his xERA, his GB/FB ratios and every other measure we use to try and quantify his skill but our past experience played the only determining factor in why I rostered him and Derrick wouldn’t even consider it.
Fantasy baseball is a game of knowledge, decision-making and luck, and each of these components is heavily magnified when keepers are involved. Given that the difference in knowledge is most likely negligible amongst each manager and none of us has any control over luck, the only place where we have influence is in the decisions we make. Which, when you think about it, is the reason we play this game in the first place.
So as you start to make changes to your team, ask yourself two questions: 1) Will this move make my team better in the long run and 2) Does the short term benefit of this move get me closer to winning a championship? If you answer either of those questions yes, then it’s a decision worth pursuing. Given that our knowledge and luck both impact our decisions, chances are things will not always turn out the way we expect. But given the circumstances, I’d rather have a solid decision affected by bad luck than a shaky decision impacted by bad luck.