OpinionDecember 13, 2006

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A Mock 6-Pack: A Half-Dozen Ideas for Improving Mock Drafts

By Matt Nemeth

There may be no more sure sign of the upcoming bloom of a new fantasy baseball season than the proliferation of mock drafts at the Fantasy Baseball Cafe. Like dandelions of winter, these happily disorganized little bursts of sunshine sprout up all over the carefully tended fields of the Cafe. They are where all the painstakingly-crafted prospect lists, sleepers, and assorted cheat sheets get winnowed down to what really matters: which players do I want, and how long can I wait for them? If you can spot a buddy or two in the pool of rankers, you might even get a sneak peak into a competitor’s strategy.

Just like dandelions, unfortunately, all this sunny cornucopia may not be as pleasant as it appears on the surface. You really have no idea what was going on in people’s minds when they drafted. Did J.T. Wood take a Cardinal in every round to celebrate their success in 2006? Did H2H vets subconsciously ignore streak hitters like Geoff Jenkins, even in a draft for roto scoring? Did Sockeye always take Pat Listach, his wife’s college roomate’s brother-in-law (before the nasty divorce), in the 2nd round – and, to make matters worse, participate in half the mock drafts? You never really know, and thus have to consider these mocks with equal doses of art and science.

With these caveats in mind, you comb through them carefully in your eternal quest to harvest draft value from this unruly crop. And unruly it is. Many mock squads seem to form like the Kansas land grab, with it being a mad dash of the first twelve Cafe members, their guests, or their kids (especially their kids) who were sober enough to log on in the first few minutes after the call. A few try to filter for quality by requiring a minimum post number – a dubious filter at best (how many hundred emoticon-only posts equal one of “newbie” Koby Schellenger’s?). With any luck, the randomness sorts itself out, but you never really know.

It was only last year that I really became fully aware of the vagaries that went into these drafts. We have used a slow live draft in one of my own “real fantasy” leagues for years, and have used mocks a lot to prepare for it. Last January, I found myself with the triple crown opportunity of time, internet access, and motivation, and signed on to a couple mock drafts to “give back” to a process that had helped me in the past. Quickly, I found that not everyone was there for the same reason. Some just wanted to be part of a Cafe event (nothing wrong with that). Some just wanted practice drafting. Some had apparently NOT been sober at sign-up, and their motivation became slim once the all-star caliber players were gone. Some never drafted their own sleepers so they could see how far the player would fall. And at least one reported he was enjoying “deking” his fellow league members in advance of their “real” fantasy draft by always drafting guys he’d NEVER draft in that spot. Suddenly I realized why my projections based on mock drafts often went awry.

With that, I made a resolution to write this op-ed piece you are reading now. In it, I’d like to challenge everyone to examine why they are participating in a mock, and I’d like to challenge the leaders of every mock draft to lay out some ground rules in advance. They can be any ones you want (even “no ground rules”), but the point is that they should be transparent so that your fellow Cafe members know what caveats to take away from your mock draft. I propose these because I do believe that the mocks are one of the single best resources the Cafe has to offer. So with that, here is a 6-pack of proposed ideas to make for more standard, helpful, and happier mock drafting.

Proposal #1: Mock draft leaders should announce the purpose of the draft to potential participants. Is the mock intended a) primarily as a resource for other Cafe readers, distilled from the best review of cheat sheets they can come up with, or b) mainly as practice for the draft-hungry mockers themselves? The answer should have a distinct influence on the resulting draft protocol.

Proposal #2: When the intent is for A, above, mock leaders should:
1) Clearly indicate the scoring settings by which mockers shall make their picks (these are more important than league size, by far).
2) Ask that everyone make their picks in the actual order in which they really think a player should go.

Proposal #3: When the intent is for A, above, the actual mock drafters should never pass on a player simply to see how far that pick will fall (if you want to see how far he will fall, simply look at someone else’s mock!).

Proposal #4: When the intent is for A, above, mock drafters should not sign up unless they have reasonable access to the internet (I’d say 4X / day, minimum) and can make picks in a timely manner. This is a community service you are providing – if you cannot make picks quickly, you’re going to burn out your Mock Squad, the draft will linger (or lapse), and the whole Cafe loses a chance at a complete, intact mock draft. An 8-week mock draft starts to provide diminishing returns…

Proposal #5: When the intent is for A, above, don’t sign up for a mock unless you have a realistic idea of how long it will last, and that you have the commitment to stick it out (see #4, above, for reasons). Again, the rest of the Cafe is looking forward to your input.

Proposal #6: When the intent is for B, above, well……good luck, have fun, do it any old way you like….just let us know that the rest of us should take the mock draftwith an extra grain of salt– and that we shouldn’t hold our breaths waiting for the end.

Matt is a 10-year fantasy baseball vet who’s been in the Café in one form or another since 2003, when he acted on Arlo’s hot sleeper tip and picked up Rene Reyes. He likes nothing better than cozying up to a fresh, well-done mock with a barley pop. Or six. You can catch up with Matt in the Cafe forums, where he posts as sockeye.
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