Know Your Fellow Owners

On Monday, we discussed the importance of knowing your league parameters, and on Tuesday, the most important parameter: Replacement Value. Today, I want to talk about taking advantage of your league's tendencies, i.e., how to capitalize on the biases and character flaws of your fellow owners.

Most leagues have some kind of bias. In some advanced leagues, sabermetric-friendly players, e.g., hitters who draw a lot of walks like Nick Markakis and pitchers with good K:BB ratios like Ricky Nolasco often tend to fetch a premium, while players with poor plate discipline like Delmon Young or Alfonso Soriano come at a discount. Plate discipline or pitcher command can be seen as leading indicators for improved performance, but often owners get ahead of themselves and mistake the indicators for the performance itself. Moreover, while there's no doubt plate discipline (and the concomitant on-base skills) are good for real-life run production, often the opposite is true for fantasy. Players like Young, Vlad Guerrero and Carlos Gonzalez actually have more opportunities to hit homers and drive in runs because so few of their plate appearances result in walks. Unless, your player is a low-power, high-speed type, you're rarely happy when he gives up his at-bat for a free base. The simple course of action in such leagues is to buy Young, Soriano and their ilk on the cheap.

Experienced players in standard 5 x 5 roto leagues also tend to wait on pitching. There's a sound basis for that ? as pitching stats are more fickle year-to-year than hitting ones, as pitchers are more susceptible to serious injuries and more dependent on their teams for fantasy stats (run support being a huge variable in pitcher wins). If you know that, you might be able to get Roy Halladay in the second round - a bargain when you consider his hitter-like consistency and efficiency and the fact that he almost never turns the ball over to soft underbelly of the team's pitching staff, the middle relief corps. Halladay either goes the distance, or hands the ball directly to the closer. Moreover, his excellent command and pitch-count efficiency ensures he almost never labors to get through eight or nine innings and therefore is at lower risk for injury.

But the flip side of everyone waiting on pitching is the market for top starting pitchers is depressed, and so even if you believe Tim Lincecum will put up the best stats of his career - easily worth a top overall pick - you'd be wise to wait. That's because with other owners waiting on pitching, Felix Hernandez might last until the third round, Jon Lester and Zack Greinke until the fifth, C.C. Sabathia till the sixth and Josh Johnson in the eighth. Even though a career-best Lincecum makes perfect sense with a top-five pick based simply on his stats, if the market for pitchers were sufficiently depressed, he would not be a great value relative to the other pitchers. And if you use a top pick on a pitcher, you'll have to go heavy on hitting in most of the next eight rounds, making it difficult to take advantage of subsequent pitching bargains.

The bottom line, a player's projected stat line is not the only variable when deciding what to pay for him. You must also consider the market dynamics in your league.

Finally, in too many leagues, owners are lazy and lose interest when their teams aren't doing well. In a typical 12-team league, you might see the bottom two teams stop making moves sometime in June. Injured players and ones who have lost their full-time at-bats linger in their lineups, while other teams claim newly productive free agents. By July, another team mails it in, and in August two more rarely check in and do the bare minimum. In September only five of the 12 teams are going all out to advance in the standings.

This has major implications in a rotisserie league. The dead teams will drop precipitously in all of the counting categories (wins, strikeouts, saves, steals, RBI, HR and runs), but they'll be largely unaffected in the averaging ones (ERA, WHIP and AVG). As a result, teams that are strong in the former but weak in the latter will see no improvement when the quitters drop in the standings. But teams that are strong in the averaging categories, but weak in the counting ones will pass most if not all of the dead teams in the counting ones simply by hustling and making moves. Consequently, they'll move up significantly and very likely pass a team that's stuck behind the dead teams in batting average and ERA. If you know your fellow owners are selfish, lazy and defeatist, it therefore makes sense to value averaging categories (AVG, ERA and WHIP) slightly more than counting ones.


By: coudog12
On: 3/6/2011 9:37:00 PM
Loved the insight on the dead teams and averaging categories!
By: Chris Liss
On: 3/7/2011 8:02:00 AM
thanks. of course, in a league where everyone tries hard, it doesn't apply.
By: Erickson
On: 3/7/2011 8:25:00 AM
Plenty of "knowing your other owners" implications the last two nights at LABR, too.
By: Zenguerrilla
On: 3/7/2011 11:26:00 AM
Excellent point about owner inactivity in Roto. Not putting in a lineup in 2 weeks in September can have huge ramifications in roto. One reason why I prefer total points instead. Another aspect of knowing your league, especially regarding Roto, is how guys spend their FAAB budget. Rotowire usually does a fine job projecting free agents with price. You can throw that out the window though in a WOCFB or NFBC where guys will go for 5x-10x more especially early in the season. To often do I see a quarter to a third of teams almost out of faab money by all star break. Ironically, those are usually the guys who quit playing at the end of the year. A weekly faab budget instead of a yearly one is one way to fix that but apparently hasn't caught on with those who run the big leagues.
By: gooklaw
On: 3/7/2011 1:39:00 PM
Some of my fellow owners are yankee fans - I know that's a character flaw in real life, but are there ways to exploit that weakness at the draft?
By: mhixpgh1
On: 3/7/2011 5:07:00 PM
I'm in a few public leagues and I always ask where people live. Last draft a bunch of guys were from Atlanta and they all overpaid for Braves.
By: nayfel
On: 3/10/2011 9:52:00 AM
like the idea of saying you can pass teams who aren't setting lineups in counting categories but it isn't that much in play. In 162 game season, with hitting rosters of 15-16, the differences in the categories some times are insurmountable. Obviously, everything is relative because your team is 15-16 but how many guys on a dead team can sit out at a time? 2,3 maybe 4? Unless a team was left for dead in July, I don't see how that really ends up being more than a point here or there.
In our leagues, if a player comes back from injury, every team needs to activate and drop a player. And most teams that are dead in August have a bunch of injuries so when their players inevitably return at the end of the year, they get inserted back into their lineup regardless of the fact that they stopped playing their teams.
By: corpectomy
On: 3/29/2011 12:29:00 PM
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On: 4/7/2011 12:03:00 PM
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