Two Fantasy Baseball Draft Philosophies

There are essentially two ways to go about drafting your fantasy baseball squad. With the first, you decide which players you like and make sure, within reason, that you pay what it takes to get them. I'll call this the "genius" philosophy of drafting. With the second, you enter the draft without any idea what player you're going to draft/buy, and you simply take those who you believe are undervalued. I'll call this the "agnostic" philosophy of drafting. So which is better - the genius or the agnostic. Or more aptly, (since almost everyone combines the two to some extent), what's your split between genius and agnostic?

The genius philosophy presumes you can predict better than others which players will perform in the higher end of their expectation range. Why you believe you have this particular ability isn't important. The agnostic philosophy presumes that no one over the long haul has any particular expertise at predicting what end of the market-based expectation range a player's performance will fall and seeks to take advantage of those who mistake themselves for prophets.

Personally, I think I'm about 60/40 genius - maybe even 70/30 - at least in an auction. I tend to target a bunch of big name players I like for whatever reason with half to two-thirds of my budget. Then I wait around forever for bargains as an agnostic, though even then I have strong preferences for players I have hunches about. In a draft, I'm more likely to be agnostic - taking players where they fall for the first eight rounds or so.


By: Jonah Keri
On: 2/26/2009 12:29:00 PM
100% agnostic all the time. I don't know anything about anything, and don't pretend to.
By: Erickson
On: 2/26/2009 2:11:00 PM
To be "agnostic" also requires a bit of "genius," though - you have to have at least a good idea of who you like and what the players are going to do to know that they're undervalued, no?
By: Chris Liss
On: 2/26/2009 2:53:00 PM
To be agnostic means you don't like anyone in particular - it's all about what each guy costs.
By: jhermann
On: 2/26/2009 2:55:00 PM
I do agree that both strategies are used in drafts to some extent. And, I also believe that the agnostic method is more frequently used in the latter rounds. There are also nuances, which include strategies regarding when to take certain positions, break-out candidates, and on and on. There are people who try to pick players from their favorite teams. Every thing being equal, I much rather have David Wright over Alex Rodriguez because I am a Mets fan. But, your theory places much emphasis on an individual drafting with the idea that he is optimizing his expected utility, which assumes rational behavior. I wonder how rational we are all in the end, even in our intellectual pursuits. And, how can we determine if we are rational: I am rational because I pick rationally; I pick rationally because I am rational. So, there is the ultimate problem of determining rationality.
By: Chris Liss
On: 2/26/2009 3:00:00 PM
To clarify - there are companies that are underpriced relative to earnings, and same with players. Not to care which ones you get so long as they are underpriced is to be agnostic. The genius picker cares which players he gets because the ones he's targeting are players he thinks will perform better than median expectations. So say the market pegs Alex Gordon at $19 this year, the genius will pay $21 or $22 - whatever it takes because he thinks Gordon will break out, i.e., perform in the top 20 percentile of his possible 2009s. The agnostic has no idea whether Gordon or Guillen or anyone else will perform better than the median expectations generated by past earnings, age, etc. so he will never spend extra based on that hunch. He will merely take whichever players people expect to underperform past earnings/present situation whether it's Gordon or Guillen. He has no preference.

The agnostic's skill lies in being clear-headed about the facts which inform reasonable value. He is wary of speculation on the up and the downside. I tend to be more agnostic about downside and more "genius" in targeting breakouts.
By: Chris Liss
On: 2/26/2009 3:05:00 PM
And I'm not implying that the genius drafter is actually a genius - he could have a terrible draft. Only, rightly or wrongly, he believes that he has the power to find the breakout guys above and beyond what the market dictates. The agnostic can likewise be a simpleton - one form of agnostic is one who takes a cheat sheet and drafts off it verbatim. He has no preference, so he just nabs the next guy on the list.
By: kevinccp
On: 2/26/2009 4:06:00 PM
So would a "Stars and Scrubs" approach be considered a totally genius draft? Or does it tilt say 80/20, 90/10?
By: Scott Pianowski
On: 2/26/2009 6:13:00 PM
Eighty percent agnostic, ten percent genius, ten percent special sauce.
By: Jonah Keri
On: 2/26/2009 8:10:00 PM
fun All this draft strategy talk is making me wish I'd cleared time on my schedule to defend my LABR crown. Bah.
By: Rokerman
On: 2/17/2011 4:18:00 PM
Don't you have use a little bit of genius strategy to figure out who to be agnostic about? I agree with Erickson. Thought provoking idea though
By: DTrump
On: 3/25/2011 5:21:00 AM
Very interesting. I would love to be agnostic, but it is tough to do intellectually. the more research one does, the more 'undervalued' players one thinks he finds. I tend to be around 80% genius during my drafts. The genius method is certainly more fun for me. The problem with being more agnostic is that the pain that comes from getting someone at a below market value when you hate them (as I did with david wright in 2009) is just too much to bear with the big ticket purchases. I tend to be much more agnostic with 20% of my budget or so, but need to be genius with my big picks.

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