MLB Fantasy Points
MLB General Managers look at the season in three two-month increments. They spend April and May evaluating what they’ve put together and discovering if their team can be a contender. June and July are periods of assessment; GM’s of losing teams assess what kind of prospects they could receive upon dealing a big-name player while GM’s of winning teams try to target that missing piece that will hopefully put their club over the top. For this reason the majority of trades happen in July because at that point a GM knows for sure whether he’s going to be a buyer or seller. After the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, teams are either in it to win it or to play spoiler. (Although since the inception of the wild card many more teams have at least a theoretical shot at the playoffs much deeper into the season.) In sum, it is very rare to see a major trade consummated in the springtime unless it is in response to a key player sustaining a major injury.
So what, you might say, not tellin me anything I don’t already know. Fair enough. Here’s my question: why do so many fantasy owners see fit to wheel and deal so early in the season? The purpose of a fantasy league is to be your own GM, right? Don’t you put together a team that you believe will compete for the long haul? Why not emulate the guys getting paid tons of money to run baseball franchises? They allegedly know what they’re doing, and assuredly know more than we do, so it’s worth using their template.
Of course the biggest difference between GM’s and fantasy GM’s is that the real ones are constructing teams that can win baseball games whereas their fantasy counterparts are trying to amass the best cumulative statistics. Wins versus stats: an age-old paradigm that frequently pits the selfless against the selfish. Here’s the problem, though. Having a “good clubhouse guy” on your fantasy squad means squat. All fantasy owners are inherently (and justifiably) interested in only one thing: statistics.
Baseball is a sport told by numbers. By virtue of the length of season and intricacies of the game, not to mention the myriad of ways to statistically interpret production, baseball relies more on stats than any other sport. However, as complex as the game is, it is also quite simplistic. One guy throws, one guy hits, again and again. Because of this, it’s a game that revolves heavily around the law of averages. The element of repetition is prevalent, and most relevant to my argument. For example, if you flip a coin ten times, it could quite realistically land heads seven of those times. That would give you a 70% rate of heads. Flip that coin five hundred more times and I guarantee the rate of heads will be right around 50%. That may not be enlightening, but it is the law of averages.
Let’s relate that to baseball. Take a look at the current stats of three players, who for the moment shall remain anonymous.
Player A- .234, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Player B- .200, 0 HR, 6 RBI
Player C- .212, 1 HR, 5 RBI
Now, look at the stats of these three players.
Player D- .370, 2 HR, 11 RBI
Player E- .343, 6 HR, 10 RBI
Player F- .412, 2 HR, 8 RBI
Obviously anyone with rudimentary knowledge of baseball could look at these stats and say with complete certainty that Players A, B, and C are all worth trading for Players D, E, and F. In fact, the numbers would indicate that any fantasy owner who didn’t come to that conclusion must be a little thick in the head. Or just a real baseball junkie who knows that Player A is actually Alfonso Soriano, Player B Manny Ramirez, and Player C Travis Hafner. Three of the premier sluggers in the game today, whose numbers currently pale in comparison to the likes of Player D (Aaron Hill), Player E (Ian Kinsler), and Player F (Orlando Hudson).
Hey, no knock to Hill, Kinsler, and the O-Dog (who is finally living up to his ridiculously cool nickname). These guys have all had explosive first two weeks, and just might continue their bashing through the summer. However history would tell me that Soriano, Manny, and Hafner will all be fine. The law of averages has my back here too. For the purposes of this context the ole law states quite simply, that Hill, Kinsler, and Hudson will inevitably slow down and those other three will most definitely turn it on, and soon. (You know, water seeks its level…or something like that.)
Back to the main point. If you consider yourself a knowledgeable baseball fan and participated in your league’s draft (and did so with no identifiable mental black outs), there is simply no reason to make a big trade this early in the season. Chances are you have one of those three struggling, blue-chip superstars on your team. (If not one of them then someone in the class of Gary Sheffield, Mark Teixeira, or Lance Berkman, all of whom are presently enduring prolonged troubles at the plate.) So basically one of your top picks is not only performing poorly, but is actually skewing the entire statistical breakdown of your squad. A detriment at the moment? Absolutely. In the long run? Not in the least bit.
Real-life GM’s give their teams two months on average to develop an identity before making possible personnel decisions. And believe me, their concerns are far more serious than pondering what Manny and Hafner’s final 2007 stat-line will look like. So why shouldn’t we use the same philosophy? As fantasy owners, we all have our core of carefully selected blue-chippers to complement a handful of very good players and a couple of handpicked sleepers. That’s a fantasy baseball team. In my opinion it’s a crime to start tinkering with that entity so early in the season, when some of your stars are actually hindering the output of your team. I for one can say Manny probably won’t get the flip a coin ten times, flip it five hundred times thing, but that sure as hell won’t stop the law of averages from applying to the big fella.
So here’s my advice: take a hard look at your squad. If today, you feel it’s not as good as it was two weeks ago, and you haven’t sustained any major injuries, making a blockbuster trade isn’t the right move. Trying to get a refund on that twin you dropped probably is.