I really enjoyed the intro/foreword/whatever in Baseball Forecaster this year. Shandler talks about something that became clear to me about five years ago and it changed my perspective of fantasy baseball. I'd be interested to see if there are many others out there that have come to these same conclusions about fantasy baseball.
It actually started with fantasy football. I started to realize just how luck-based h2h fantasy football really is. A guy in our league finished with season high points, yet missed the playoffs. Isn't the point of the game to prove that you know more than the others - that you can score the most points? And for some reason it never hit me until then that you can have the most points in a league and finish with zero victories. Not to mention the luck of injuries, player matchups, and guessing who to play from your own roster in a given week.
About that same period I was having a frustrating season of fantasy baseball. I realized just how luck-based it really is, and it helped me to calm down because it took the responsibility away from me to be always be the winner. Up until that time I was pretty high strung. Since my start in pre-internet 1993 when I would insanely channel surf looking for any highlight and any tidbit of information, when I would have trouble sleeping until the paper hit my doorstep so I could be absolutely sure what my players did, and when I would look at each and every box score each and every day, I had been taught that being insane led to success. Back then just paying attention got you ahead of the rest. Of course the internet happened and oodles of expert advice gave even the dumbest owners the chance at a winning season.
My revelation was that there's only so much I can control. There's only so much I can learn before the draft before I hit a wall. Once you're at the wall you've learned enough to have a chance at a successful draft, but anything beyond the wall is just wasted energy. This revelation didn't make the victories any less sweet, but it did make the defeats much easier to swallow. When I would have terrible luck I wouldn't get pissed and cuss and cry about my bad luck like a little biotch, I would just let it roll off my back and patiently look at how I might improve. I started to have more patience with under-performing players and I started to value the outlying years of player contracts more.
So that leads me to this year's Baseball Forecaster. Shandler talks about not relying on precise forecasting, instead focusing more on things like predicting trends before they happen, playing time, injury risk, etc. And I swear gut instinct is part of this too. I'm not saying I'll swear off studying because it's that studying that gets me that gut feel. Sure, you'll be wrong part of the time, but I think that in the big picture you come out ahead. I think these strategies are the the key to success. I almost have to believe that because...
I'm not a very bright guy. I like to look at FanGraphs on occasion, but I can barely understand what's going on over there. I never do anything beyond a single simple calculation. But here's a simple calculation - how many teams are in your league? How many of those owners are intelligent owners? I don't mean as intelligent as you, or as good an owner as you, just intelligent. There's only one team that can win and only x number of teams that can win a significant amount of money. There's just not enough room at the top, and luck is going to have a hand in the decision. I have had a lot of success in my years, but it wasn't because I was smart. I just put myself in a position to succeed by making a good effort at all aspects of the game (drafting, keepers, trading, etc) and had some luck along the way. The scary part is that this describes most owners out there and somebody's got to lose.
I'm not saying this has made me a better owner - there are pros and cons. I now have the awful habit of only paying attention to my players. For example, I was astounded when I saw Jhoulys Chacin's numbers. Not just at his success, but that he pitched that much last year
If you threw out a player I used to always know what fantasy team he was on, his salary, and contract status. That helped a lot with trades. I can't do that anymore. But this revelation has helped me to take a step back, see the big picture, relax, and just plain get more enjoyment out of this pastime. And it hasn't made me any less successful.
Again, I'm just interested to see if others have come upon this revelation on their own, and how/when it happened. I also hope that those of you out there that were insane like me can take it down a notch and perhaps get more enjoyment out of fantasy baseball. I hope you eventually feel the relief of realizing that there's only so much you can do - the rest is out of your control. Is there a zen emoticon?
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” --Henry David Thoreau