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Q. I was wondering if there are any articles or your thoughts on the idea of position scarcity and do you use it or discount it in terms of auction format? For example, in my league, catchers routinely go for almost double the projected dollar amounts from your Fantasy Domination Ranking Sheets.
A. I actually used to believe in it and was even a proponent of it until around the mid to late 90's when we did a study on several hundred (and subsequently within a few years, several thousand) real fantasy leagues worth of data. What we found was that with perfect hindsight, position scarcity simply did not work and it wasn't even close. I know there are readers who disagree with me on this and I've heard the many good arguments on the other side but a home run is a home run whether your catcher hits it or your first baseman hits it. One argument goes that you should pay more for the catcher because he gives you more production out of a spot from which you normally wouldn't get much production. In real baseball, this is absolutely true and I'm completely a believer in real baseball position scarcity value but it's because the player makes a defensive contribution that doesn't exist in fantasy baseball.
When we did this analysis on the many fantasy leagues, we tried drafting based on inflating prices for players at weak positions and we did it with perfect hindsight, knowing exactly how players would perform. We even knew, with perfect hindsight, exactly how weak each of the positions really were. We had the computer simulate billions of drafts using these many leagues of data and with a third of the teams doing absolutely perfect position scarcity analysis and valuation and the rest of the teams ignoring it. Even with perfect hindsight, the position scarcity teams dramatically suffered in the standings, often ending up with middle-of-the-road teams that got reliable production out of the weak-hitting positions like catcher and second base, but suffering overall because it either had to try to find bargains at the good-hitting positions or because it ended up paying more for the production of the 20 home run catcher as an opposing team paid for the 20 home run outfielder. If the positions are weak, then it's okay to fill them, on average, with weak hitters. If you get lucky and can buy Alfonso Soriano at the same price you would have paid for him to fill your DH spot, great. If not, you move on and accept it.
After that study, and the sequel to it, which had even more data to work with, it seems hard to believe that I used to believe in this idea in fantasy baseball and I know there are many people who still do. It doesn't work for me and I've tried all of the valuation adjustment methods out there, both using hindsight analysis and for forecasting. The most common argument I get is that the guy who does pay more for the 20 home run catcher says that "it's easy to fill a roster with good hitting outfielders late in the draft" and I argue otherwise. They're only good in terms of a distorted perception based on the real baseball population rather than your actual fantasy population.
I can tell you that this is an area I know I differ on compared to some other fantasy experts and perhaps they're right and I'm wrong. My analysis tells me it's a good way to finish around the middle of the pack and if I'm wrong about that, then somehow I've found fantasy success most of the time by doing otherwise. If you believe that a home run from your catcher is worth more than a home run from your first baseman, then you are very much on the other side of this debate from me. At least you know where I stand.
Amazinz wrote:There is late round value for savvy drafters at every position.
Cornbread Maxwell wrote:Amazinz wrote:There is late round value for savvy drafters at every position.
true - but doesnt that mean that position scarcity isnt a good concept to use when drafting then?
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