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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The AL-Only Experts League

Adam has a quick recap of his AL-Only Experts League draft last night.  It looks like finding an edge on the competition isn't so easy!  We'll see how the league plays out, though...  The Brainiacs have faith in you, Adam!

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Yesterday was the second and final experts league draft and it was a 12 team AL only auction draft. I decided going into this draft that my strategy would be a little different from what I had planned heading into my NL only draft. My NL only draft I decided early on that I would spend big money for big name players and that's exactly what I did. I always thought that the AL pool was deeper than the NL and I wanted to make sure I got bonafide stars on my NL squad. I was content letting the first handful of nominated AL stars get away and spend more of my budget on players I considered close to or a tier below thus giving me a well rounded team.

My greatest preparation was again to list 10-12 players from each position into tiers so I didn't have to scramble come draft time. When I felt a player's asking price became too high, I'd wait until another player at that same position would come around and based on my tiers and rankings, buy that player. Similar to the strategy I employed when drafting in my NL only league.

The biggest difference between the AL only and NL only drafts were owners were a lot more free with their spending in the AL only than they were in the NL only. That part of the draft threw me a bit but I managed to get back on track pretty quick. I wasn't expecting owners to shell out big bucks for players so quickly since they were a little more reluctant to spend early on in the NL only draft. That ended up working out for me though since I had planned on waiting a little while before making a big splash. I made aggressive bids on (and won) David Price and Felix Hernandez. With two frontline starters on my team, I made sure I got some bats with my next few buys.

Looking back on my draft, I feel like I missed out on more power bats and in hindsight probably should've taken a little more power in the draft. I also overpaid (in my opinion) for a player or two but when you really want a player in these experts leagues drafts, like I said in my last column, you are going to have to pay for them. Nobody is letting you walk away with a player without paying for them. This was especially true regarding the AL only draft more so than the NL only draft.

I've reviewed both my NL and AL teams and I like my NL team a little more. I like the strategy I employed for the NL draft a little more than how I approached the AL draft. Regardless of how I feel about either team, I had a blast drafting with fantasy baseball experts and cannot wait to get the fantasy baseball season underway.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Expert Draft Recap

My man Adam Filadelfo is back to recap his NL Only Expert League draft last Thursday.  He's looking forward to an AL-Only one tonight as well...  Good luck, Adam.  Way to represent the Brain!

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Thursday was my first experts league draft and it was a 12 team NL only auction draft. I have to admit I was a little nervous before the draft began but I knew all my preparation was enough to get me through. Once I bought my first player, my nerves steadied and I was ready to hang with the big boys. My first player I bought was Andrew McCutchen. Having McCutchen on your team is enough to steady any fantasy baseball player's nerves. I went into this draft knowing I wanted to make a big splash right away so I could have a marquee player to build my team around but also make sure I still had a balanced team when the draft was over. Once I got McCutchen, I waited on the outfield position so I didn't have too much money invested in one position. I knew I had to have a balanced team if I was going to be successful.

I was surprised by two things that happened in this draft. The first was a lot of players were going for more than what they had been "worth". Now like I mentioned in my last article, each draft is different and each owner has different values for players but I was a little surprised owners were willing to spend a little more to get a player they felt was vital to their team's success. The other thing that surprised me a little was that some of the early nominations were not the marquee players. While that didn't come as a shock to me, I did think more stars would be nominated earlier but again, each draft is different and every owner has their own strategy.

The biggest difference that stood out to me between playing in my home leagues and playing in an experts league was that in this experts league, nobody was going to be given a player. What I mean by that is if you wanted a certain player, you were going to have to pay for that player. In my home leagues, owners are little more reluctant to give up on the bidding when they feel the price was too high. Although that obviously did happen in this draft as well, I knew I wasn't walking away with a steal. These guys know what they're doing and if you wanted to acquire a player, you were going to have to earn that player. With that said, I do feel like I got a few bargains later in the draft. I also feel like I did well early on in the draft based upon the fact I bought players for less than I what I expected them to go for. This helped me a little later in the draft when the budgets were winding down and the player pool was becoming thinner.

All in all, I feel I came out of this draft with a balanced team and I was able to stick to my plans going into the draft. I stuck to my tiers that I spoke about in my last article and made sure the draft didn't get away from me at any point. The draft took almost four hours to complete and although the 3 hours of sleep I got before I had to wake up for work wasn't fun at the time, I can't wait to do it all over again on Monday night when I have my experts league AL only auction draft.

Friday, March 7, 2014

An Interview with Larry Schechter

A couple of days ago I promised something special for you, Brainiacs.  Today I had the pleasure of speaking to the greatest fantasy baseball player on the planet: Larry Schechter.  Below is how it went down:

Brain:  Hi Larry!  Thanks for joining us for this interview.  Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background... How did you get started in fantasy baseball?

Larry:  Well, way back in 1990 I was driving around one day and heard about something called "World of Sports."  So, I joined and I was hooked.  I then learned about CDM Sports Diamond Challenge, which was affiliated with The Sporting News.  Along the way I was invited to join LABR, and Tout Wars, as well as the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC).  I've been playing in those leagues for about 9 years now, and well over 20 years all told.

Brain:  When you first started, were there any early challenges or struggles or anything you had to learn the hard way?

Larry:  In general, I started off pretty well from the beginning.  What I do know though is that I learned a lot from writing this book.  As I went through talking about all of the things I do I had to explain the validity of each and to do some research into things I didn't know as well.  In doing that research, I was able to realize that some of the things I have been doing are not actually based in fact... I said to myself, "I'm such an idiot."

Brain:  So, just in the process of writing the book you were teaching yourself?

Larry:  Yes, especially on those couple of things that turned out to not be good.  For example, for many years I used a valuation formula that really over-valued a few things like the ERA and WHIP of pitchers that threw a lot of innings.  Back when I first started with LABR and Tout Wars I would go in thinking that someone like Johan Santana was worth something like $45.  I knew that other people would only go to $35, so if I could get him for $35 I would think it was a great deal.  It turns out that it may have been an okay deal but not the bargain I thought I was getting.

Brain:  Break that down for me a bit... How do you formulate these valuations?

Larry:  Commonly used valuations include "Standing Gains Points" which is meant to show you how much a particular player will help you gain points in your standings, and that is really the ultimate goal to win your league.  So for example, it might take five home runs to go from six points to seven points and then another five homers to get to eight points.  Another common one is "Percentage Value Method" where, say, Michael Bourn might steal 50 bases for you and if the total for the league is 1,000 then Bourn will get 5% of that total for you.  There are others that look at standard deviations or replacement level, things like that.  What you want to do is to have an intelligently done value formula for the format in which you are playing, because a lot of people just don't do that.  They may think that Trout is the top player and then Cabrera and maybe after that is McCutcheon and Goldschmidt, but they don't really know how much more Trout is worth than those other guys.  I like to be exact.

Brain:  It's all about getting little edges here and there that amount to a big edge, and the only way to do that is to prepare well because the draft happens quickly, wouldn't you say?

Larry:  Well, yeah, but the key is to prepare smartly.  I've thought about how to prepare for each type of format.  Some principles remain the same, but some will change depending on the format. It's all about coming out with a superior team.  If every team is supposed to have $260 value, I've figured out how to come out with $300 or even $310 value.  If you are using flawed ideas, you can prepare all you want but those flawed ideas will create problems.

Brain:  If you manage to get $300 there are other teams in the league with values of $250, $240, or less.  How do you know that your team really is the one that got the best value?

Larry:  Well, everyone should think they have the best team.  If you don't think you have the best team, something's really wrong.  You should like the guys you took, but even if you project $280 in value chances are... unless your projections are definitely better than everyone else's... chances are that you're really just average.  For example, I just completed the LABR draft and came out with $330 in value.  Now, obviously not everyone will agree with that, but at that level most people would probably agree that Larry's team is pretty good.

Brain:  But how do you pull that off??

Larry:  Well, yeah, that's the second part of the answer...  I don't make ridiculous projections.  It's all about getting the most value at every level of the draft.  There are times when people do things that are the opposite.  I mean, if a player is worth $20 and you get him for $15, that's a good deal.  At $25, that's a bad deal.  Any fifth grader can figure that out.  But people fall into all sorts of things like position scarcity, or paying more for a star, or the belief that you've got to get in on, say, the top five third basemen since the value really drops off...

Brain:  Yes, and if the top five third basemen are really worth dramatically more then it should be reflecting in the valuation, right?

Larry:  Yeah.  If you get a $25 outfielder and a $1 third baseman that's no different than a $1 outfielder and a $25 third baseman.  It's the same thing, but the problem is that a lot of people think they have to spend more on a third baseman.  They say that they are willing to go to $28 for the $25 third baseman, but they're just losing money.

Brain:  I've hear people on podcasts or websites say that they got a good deal on one or two players so they can just put those savings to use in order to over-pay for another player.  That's crazy, right?

Larry:  Well, yeah.  It's just like what I write about in the book, I heard one of the competitors in one of my experts leagues say the same thing.  If you waste your savings by over-paying elsewhere you'll be even, you'll have $260 in value, and you'll be in the middle of the pack.

Brain:  Now, there is something to be said for reliability and predictability, right?  In other words, a $30 player has a higher floor and greater predictability than a $10 player that could deliver anywhere from $1 to $20 in value.  Is there truth in that?

Larry:  That's probably true.  But everything like that you are accounting for in your projections.  If a guy has been in the league for five years you know what you are getting.  But a guy like Jose Abreu or Masahiro Tanaka, it is really hard to know what they will do.  How much better would Tanaka be as a Dodger in that stadium than in Yankee Stadium?  You don't know.  You've got to take your best guess and make your valuation.  It's certainly a lot easier to look at someone like Dustin Pedroia and figure out what they will do.  Personally, I probably won't end up with Abreu or Tanaka because there will usually be someone who values them more than I do.

Brain:  Okay, just a few more questions... From a tactical perspective, is there a habit or process that you use daily or weekly that contributes to your success?

Larry:  It's all about value, knowing specific value for each player.  Doing everything at every step to get values and bargains... at every step along the way.  Like in a snake draft it's similar but a little different, where you aren't buying a $30 player for $25 but you still need to know what the values are so you can make the right combination of choices along the way... thinking about things like position scarcity, but that is something that really only applies to catchers.  So, in a snake draft you've got to make the determination about when do you take the $15 catcher instead of the $18 second baseman.  When is that point?  For other positions, there is rarely any real scarcity and if there is it is just as likely to be in the outfield or at third base than in the middle infield.  Another thing I'll do is to compare my valuations to others.  If I think a guy is worth $20 and most other sites and magazines think he's maybe $15 or so then I will identify that player as a target.  If he is bid up to $19 I may actually pass.  In a snake draft you can use ADP to help you find these targets.  If I identify someone as a 3rd rounder but everyone else seems to think 5th round, he is probably a great target.  And, I can combine that with the players that are available earlier.  For example, I may be looking at Adrian Beltre in round two, but if I have some targeted players in later rounds who are third basemen I may opt for a similarly valued player in round two that plays another position.

Brain:  Let me ask you about managing your team in-season, too.  Obviously, the draft is the bigger impact on your season but what percentage would you say is draft versus in-season and how do you go about managing your team throughout the year?

Larry:  I couldn't put an exact number on it, but obviously the draft or auction is the bigger key.  If you start out with a superior team you'll be in good shape.  As far as in-season management, maybe some years it's 10% and some it is 30%, not sure, but again it's all about the value.  When you are making weekly lineup decisions, most of your choices are obvious.  There are some decisions where you have to seriously examine the likely value.  For example, if one of your starting pitchers has a matchup against Justin Verlander then his chance at a win will be reduced so maybe another choice is a better value.  Things like that.  And with trades, it's not a question of what has the player done so far.  You're trying to get greater value for the remainder of the season.

Brain:  Yeah, the best trades are when you sell high on a guy that is playing over his head and you can buy low on a star that is just starting to heat up, right?

Larry:  Typically, yeah.  Every situation is different though, and if a guy is exceeding expectations you have to determine how likely that is to continue.  Is he going to tail off?  So often, people look at situations like this and vaguely assess them.  I like to be specific and put exact valuations on things.

Brain:  If you could talk to someone just starting in fantasy baseball, what would be the top piece of strategy or maybe the top two things that you would tell them?

Larry:  Obviously, I'd say read the book.  It goes for any level of player from beginning to expert.  One of my goals was to have a book that anyone could pick up, any beginner could pick it up and know what to do.  A lot of people that have read the book have said exactly that, and that they have never seen anything like it.  Some other people have said that beginners have to learn as they go and they can't start out really good, but I don't believe that.  I think that, if you put in some effort and if you know baseball and if you have some sort of understanding of math and logic, then you can read this book and do really well right from the beginning.  Other than that, there are a lot of great resources on the internet from RotoWorld.com or RotoWire.com... places where you can get player updates and information that can help you.

Brain:  I completely agree... The book is a tremendous resource for all players, including newcomers.  It's a similar thought to why I started TheFantasySportsBrain.com... There are tons of places where you can go for player information like rankings, projections, sleepers, and busts but not a lot of places that will actually help you to learn to play the game.  A resource like your book will actually help people to learn a framework of thinking that they can flesh out with statistics and projections.

Larry:  The book is not the same old garbage that you read out there.  A lot of what has been written about fantasy baseball is good, but a lot is garbage.  I've had a lot of book reviews saying that it wasn't the same nonsense you get elsewhere... You get useful information right off the bat.  It's all meat and potatoes.  I'm proud of that.

Brain:  As we wrap up, please let us know how can we follow you, how can we find the book... And then we'll say goodbye.

Larry:  Sure.  I'm @LarrySchechter on Twitter, you can follow me there.  I've got a website with information about the book, including reviews:  http://www.winningfantasybaseballthebook.com  The book is on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, on iTunes and at a lot of local bookstores as well.  Also, in Canada, by the way.

Brain:  Thank you for doing this, Larry!  The book is an amazing resource and highly recommended to everyone interested in fantasy baseball.  Read this book, Brainiacs!!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Larry Schechter Baseball Draft Strategy #2

As promised, here is excerpt #2 from Larry Schechter's new book.  If you missed the intro yesterday, suffice it to say that when it comes to fantasy baseball I don't believe that there is a single person with a better case for the title of "Best Fantasy Baseball Player in the World."

So, without further adieu... Excerpt #2:


Weekly Lineup Decisions

In a mono-league, the vast majority of decisions are easy. The players on your bench are mostly worth so little that you’re not going to consider replacing one of your starters for them. In a mixed league, you usually have a few close calls to make.

In mono-leagues, sometimes people will keep an injured player in their lineup rather than replace him with someone they perceive will do more harm than good. And if a player’s dollar value is negative, that would appear to be the case. However, even most players with a negative dollar value actually make a positive contribution toward gaining points in the standings, so you’re better off using them. (This is explained in chapter 6.)

Personally I don’t like trying to time hot and cold streaks. As I just said, you never know when a player will suddenly turn around a bad streak or end a good streak. Trying to time this is like day trading stocks. You might get lucky or unlucky. I’ve never done an analysis of all players’ weekly performances, but I suspect you would just find a lot of ups and downs, without much rhyme or reason. Sure, sometimes a player will have an extended hot or cold streak, but mostly the streaks are short and change quickly and without advance notice.

Having just said that, I’m going to contradict myself and say that there are times when a player is obviously struggling and it’s probably best to bench him until he figures it out. If someone’s mechanics or timing are out of whack, they usually don’t just get it back the next day. But again, I could give you a million examples where this approach has backfired. Carlos Gomez began the first two weeks of 2013 hitting 6–37, a .162 average. I then benched him on my CDM teams and he went 11–18 the next week.

As always, you want to get the most value possible. Suppose you’re in a salary-cap game, and you have Brandon Phillips valued at 305 and Neil Walker at 284. They have identical salaries, therefore Phillips is the best choice. However, what if Walker is playing seven games and Phillips only six? In that case, Walker’s relative value is 7/6 × 284 = 331 and he is a better choice than Phillips.
I’m assuming here that Walker will play every game. There’s always a chance he’ll get a day off, especially in the dog days of summer, so to be more precise you might want to multiply his games by 6.5 or 6.7 or so.

Some people might also take into account what parks Phillips and Walker are playing in and which pitchers they are facing. I usually don’t get that complex, unless it’s something obvious, such as playing at Coors Field. This doesn’t mean I automatically play a hitter just because he’ll be at Coors or bench him because he’ll be in San Diego. To be precise, you need to project the stats you think the hitter will produce, and the resulting value. For example, my 305 value for Phillips might be lowered to 270 for a week he’s playing half his games in San Diego.

Catchers are a little tricky. If they have seven games scheduled, they almost certainly won’t catch seven days in a row. For National League catchers, you can assume they’ll only play six. For the American League, some of them may still play seven by being used at designated hitter. So you need to try to project this as best you can. Also, keep in mind that for most catchers, all these days off were counted in their original projection. Unlike full-time position players, who will get 550–600 at bats, a full-time catcher would typically be projected for only 475–500 at bats (possibly 525–550 if he’ll also be a designated hitter).

Early in the season, I do consider weather. A team may be scheduled for six games but the weather forecast so threatening that a rainout or two is quite possible. The colder weather is valued also bad for hitters; a guy who typically hits .300 with 25 homers might be a .285 hitter with 18 homers if he always played in 50-degree weather.

For pitchers, taking into account their matchups is, obviously, much more important. Some choices are easy. If a pitcher is a close call with several other pitchers, and he’s got one start at Coors Field or at Texas, then bench him. If he’s got one start at a good pitchers’ park against a weak hitting team, then start him.

I don’t think I’m saying anything brilliant here. This is all pretty obvious. My only possible words of wisdom would be to advise you not to overthink and overanalyze matchups. I know some fantasy players who go crazy looking at home and away splits, pitchers’ historical records against other teams, etc.

The ideal way to make a weekly lineup decision is to consider the likelihood of all possible outcomes, create projected stats, and convert that to a value.

You could take a lot of time each week analyzing all the pitching matchups and home and away splits, and driving yourself crazy coming up with an exact figure, or you could make this process a little quicker. Here are a few examples . . .

No Designated Hitters at National League Parks

You own David Ortiz, and he’s on pace for a $20 season. Ordinarily you wouldn’t have to think about possibly benching him, but the Red Sox are going to be playing six games at National League parks, where there will be no designated hitter. The manager has stated that Ortiz will only start one game in each series.

You calculate that if he starts two games, he’ll probably get eight at bats. Most likely, he’ll get to pinch-hit a couple of times as well. So you take his current pace, but adjust it downward to reflect only ten at bats for a week (which would be approximately 260 for the year).

David Ortiz
$ Value
AB
AVG
RUN
HR
RBI
SB
Current Pace
20.0
520
.285
74
26
92
0
Projected Week
7.7
260
.285
37
13
46
0

For this week his projected value is $7.7. It’s interesting to note that the way value formulas work, if a player gets half the playing time and stats, it doesn’t mean his value will be cut in half. In this case, his value is less than half. If we want to get more complicated, we can consider how he hits on the road, what ballparks he’ll be at, what pitchers he’s likely to face, etc., and can further adjust the projections based on all of that. But we’ll keep it simple, and just give him the $7.7 projection. If you’re in an AL-only league, you’re unlikely to have a better replacement. If you’re in a mixed league, you might.

Bad Pitching Matchup

You own Jeff Niemann, worth $10.8, and he’s at home against the Tigers, which is fine . . . but he’s facing Justin Verlander, who’s been on a hot streak for the last month. You are concerned it will be tough for Niemann to get a win. You can’t just write off Niemann, because there is still a chance he’ll get a win, plus he contributes in other categories. You have to ask yourself, “If every game this season Niemann was at home facing a hot -Verlander, how many wins would he get?” Make your best guess and plug that number into your value formula and see what you get. For example:

Jeff Niemann
$ Value
IP
ERA
WHIP
Win
K
Current Pace
10.8
175
4.25
1.31
11
128
Vs Hot Verlander
6.9
175
4.25
1.31
6
128

In this case, your guess was six wins, leaving Niemann with a $6.9 projected value for the week. Again, if you’re in an AL-only league, you probably don’t have a better option. If you’re in a mixed league, you might.

If you think Niemann tends to pitch better at home than on the road, you could also adjust his ERA and WHIP downward, and perhaps his IP and strikeouts upward. You can also take into account how good a hitting team Detroit has.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Preparing for Your Fantasy Baseball Draft

You may think that my man Adam Filadelfo is only a football guy.  Au contraire, my friends.  Adam is a baseball expert as well, and below is a report from him on his preparations for a couple of expert leagues where he will represent Brainiacs Worldwide.

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Since this is my first experts draft, I decided to put in a few more hours of preparation than I usually do for my home leagues. After all, these participants are the best of the best and I'll have to be on top of my game to even compete with these guys. I thought I would share some of my ideas on how I have been preparing for my upcoming draft that is this Thursday and is a 12 team NL only auction draft experts league.

I always purchase a fantasy baseball magazine every year just as a gauge. I like to see where my ideas lie in comparison with some of the leading experts in the industry. I didn't put too much stock in what the magazine said in terms of auction value since the magazine was released back in January. Since then, injuries have occurred and values of players have changed either for the better or for worse. Some of the auction prices printed in the magazine I used as a starting point for certain players. I just wanted to get a feel for how much players I would be targeting in my draft were worth to other experts in the field.

Another way I prepared for my NL only auction draft was to mock draft. I felt like I could get a better grasp on the value of players then I could reading my magazine. After all, mock drafts are updated daily so to speak since they are constantly running. If I could get a sense what the players I valued are worth to other fantasy baseball players, I would have a better understanding how much I'd need to bid come draft day also keeping in mind that every draft is different so the value could be more or less depending on who I am drafting with.

While I was mock drafting the day away (I did multiple mock drafts to get a better understanding of how players were valued), I set tiers of positions. I felt like this was the greatest help out of everything I did to prepare. My ultimate goal was to come out of each draft with a balanced team but there were certain players that I wanted and certain players I was willing to let another owner outbid me for. This is where my tiers came in. I categorized 15-20 players at the same position and broke them into groups. The absolute best at that position were grouped together. If the asking price was too high for my taste, I would look to draft the next player at that position based on my tier. I felt this helped me early on in my mock drafts while all of the stars were flying off of the board. For my NL only draft, I feel like the outfield position isn't as talented as the AL so I looked to draft a few of my top ranked outfielders early on. Also, I feel like the second base position in the NL is much weaker so I made that a top priority as well.

I plan on participating in a few more mock drafts before my actual draft on Thursday to test out different strategies but another idea I had going into my mock drafts were to not budget a certain amount of money on hitters and pitchers. Since every draft is different, I felt like going in knowing what each player is worth to me was a better plan than saying I was only going to spend this much on hitting and this much on pitching. I was afraid I would miss out on a potential "steal" using that strategy. I believe to be successful in fantasy drafts, you need to adapt on the fly. Having a plan is good, but don't live or die by that plan. What I did was get a few stars early then sit back a little while and wait so I didn't blow my budget right away. Going back to my tiers, I told myself that if I didn't get player A, I thought players B and C were just as good and I'd be able to grab them for a little less. Every dollar counts for me. I was willing to spend a little more on certain players knowing that I could wait on others that I thought were comparable in value (at least they were to me).

The last thing I did during my mock drafts was to hold certain players back. I'm sure every owner has implemented this strategy at some point in an auction draft (this strategy only works in auction formats) hoping I could get that player at a discounted rate later in my draft. Once again, I went back to my tiers. I also nominated players early on that I had no intent on drafting just to let other owners spend some of their budget leaving me with a better chance of getting players I did want.

The final thing I did to prepare was to look over my mock draft results after my draft was over. The results are emailed to you so you can see where you drafted what player and how much you spent on that player. I printed out a copy of my results and made comments on what I thought I did correctly and where I thought I had made a mistake. In some instances, I felt I got a bargain on a player and in other instances, I felt I had overpaid for a player or could have waited a little longer and gotten him for less. Now that I know what my targeted players are worth to other fantasy baseball owners, I have a much better understanding of what it will take for me to draft those players. Again, every draft is different so the values will of course change according to each draft and owner but I feel like this was a good way to compare notes so to speak with other fantasy owners.

I will be mock drafting and preparing for my AL only auction experts league  draft later on today ( I have been studying and preparing for that also but made the NL my top priority since that draft is this week. I will share some of my strategies with you regarding my AL only draft later this week since that draft is Monday evening. I already have an idea of how I am going to approach that draft as well but a little (or a lot) more preparation won't hurt either. You can never be too prepared.

Larry Schechter Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy

We've got something very special for you today, Brainiacs.  And tomorrow... and a third thing a few days later.  All three courtesy of the greatest fantasy baseball player on the planet - Larry Schechter.

And I'm not the only person who calls him that.  Many others have called Larry Schechter one of the best fantasy baseball players in the world, if not the very best.  He's got the hardware to back it up, too.  He is a six-time winner of the renowned Tout Wars experts league and a winner of the USA Today -sponsored League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR). He is also a two-time winner of the CDM Sports national salary-cap challenge.

The following is an excerpt from his new Amazon best selling book, Winning Fantasy Baseball: Secret Strategies of a Nine-Time National Champion. In the book, Larry discloses all the secrets of his winning methods. It is designed for everyone from beginners through experienced players.

Winning Fantasy Baseball is available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and in bookstores everywhere in the U.S. and Canada. More information and reviews can be found at www.winningfantasybaseballthebook.com. You can follow Larry on twitter @LarrySchechter.

Here now, is the first excerpt from Larry's new book:
My goal for an auction is to buy as many players as possible for a discount. That’s the only way to buy $290, $300, or more value for my $260 budget. To execute this strategy,
I could simply show up at an auction and wait for bargains to appear. But I do much more preparation before I show up.

And there are two important caveats. If I simply wait for bargains to appear and take what I can get, there’s a danger that I might pass on too many of the better players and end up not spending my entire $260. Leaving money on the table is the biggest sin for an auction. It is a blunder of huge proportions. If you leave a dollar or two on the table, that is not a huge blunder. But $5, $10, or more? That’s a whole lot of value you just gave away.

The other caveat is that if I just take every bargain that shows up, I could end up with an imbalanced roster. What if I’m valuing stolen bases more than my competitors? I could end up with massive overkill for speed and no power. So I do try to get a somewhat balanced team. I don’t want to start in a position where I know I’ve got overkill in certain categories and am going to have to trade later. (Some people think that’s a good idea. As I explained in chapter 3, I think it’s a terrible idea!)

Identifying Potential Bargains
Rather than waiting for the auction, I attempt to identify potential bargains in advance. On my player-projections pages, I have a column called Others’ Value. My 2011 AL-only league shortstop projections are shown to the right. The Value column is my personal dollar value for that player. Then I have listed the dollar value according to five other sources. For the 2011 season, the sources I used were Fantasy Baseball Guide magazine, Rotoworld.com’s online draft guide, Sporting News magazine, Fantasy Baseball Index magazine, and Baseball HQ’s website.

I pretty much always use Fantasy Baseball Guide magazine, Rotoworld.com, and Baseball HQ. I find their dollar values to be generally pretty well thought out, and—more important—I know that these are popular sources used by many players, including some of my competitors. I often have also used RotoWire magazine, for the same reasons. (I didn’t use it in 2011 simply because it didn’t arrive in my local newsstands until very late in the spring.)

                                                                           Others Value                                     
   Player                       Value               FBG  RW       SN      FBI    BBHQ    
Derek Jeter                  $20.8               19        21        24         21        20       
Alexei Ramirez           $20.1                20        20        21         18        21
Elvis Andrus               $18.7               18        25        24         23        17
Cliff Pennington         $13.7                11          8          3         10        10
Asdrubal Cabrera        $13.5               13        15        14        15        14
Tsuyoshi Nishioka       $13.3                1        10          2        16        18
Erick Aybar                 $12.9               13        14          3        13        14
Yunel Escobar             $11.8               14        12        12        11        12
Jhonny Peralta             $11.5               11          9         7         11        10
Reid Brignac               $11.0                 7          9         2          3          8
Alcides Escobar          $10.3                 7          6         2         15        15
Alexi Casilla                $ 8.8                 1          8         0          9         15
JJ Hardy                      $ 7.6                7          7         2          5         16
Jed Lowrie                  $ 7.3                  9          4         0          3         8
Orlando Cabrera         $ 7.0                  6          3         5          3         7
Marco Scutaro             $ 6.8                12         4        12        10        10
Brendan Ryan             $ 4.4                  1          2         1           3         5
Jason Donald              $ 2.6                  5          1         1           3         3
Felipe Lopez               $ 1.3                  5          2         1           5         2                                


When I first decided (in 2005) to add this others’ value information, my hope was that it would help me identify players whom I thought had more value than what my competitors thought. As it turned out, it was a very valuable tool and has continued to be so.

I peruse this information looking for potential bargains. Starting with the shortstops, Derek Jeter is at the top of the list. My value is $20.8. Two of the five others list him at $21, and one at $24. This means it’s very likely someone else will be willing to pay
at least $21 for him, possibly more. So it’s unlikely I’ll be able to buy him for less than my value of $20.8. Alexei Ramirez and Elvis Andrus also have many others’ values at, or exceeding, my value.

The next shortstop is Cliff Pennington, whom I’ve valued at $13.7. The others’ values are $11–$8–$3–$10–$10. This means it’s very possible none of my competitors will be willing to pay more than $11, if even that much. Obviously, my list doesn’t include every possible source of values, and all it takes to ruin my chance of getting a bargain is for just one of the other eleven guys at my auction to think he’s worth $13 or $14. Nonetheless,
I’ve got a chance here. It’s much more likely I’ll get a discount on Pennington than on Jeter, Ramirez, or Andrus. As I said, my experience using this system has shown that it works. When I identify a player like Pennington as a potential bargain, there’s a good chance he will be available at a price I like.

Going through the rest of the shortstops, I have identified three targets:

                                              Projected
Position           Player              $ Value        Discount   
Shortstop         Pennington      $13.7               $2.7    
                        Peralta             $11.5               $0.5    
                        Brignac            $11                  $2.0                


My projected discount is calculated by simply taking the highest others’ value and subtracting that from my own value.

I look at every position, as well as pitchers, and compile a comprehensive target list. There are always many players on the list. For 2011, there were a lot of hitters with projected discounts in the $1–3 range and a lot of pitchers at $3–5. (My complete list of targets for the 2011 Tout Wars auction is shown in chapter 7.)

For a mixed-league auction, as you’ll see in chapter 8, I’m looking to get discounts much greater than just $1–3 for most levels of hitters and more than $3–5 for many pitchers. So the projected discounts here don’t exactly apply for a mixed league.
However, it still allows me to identify targets. There is a greater chance that Pennington, Peralta, and Brignac will be available for the types of mixed-league discounts I’m looking for than will players such as Jeter, Ramirez, and Andrus where others value them as highly—or more—than I do.

Discount Double Check
In addition to being my list of potential bargains, I must also ask myself, “Could this simply be a list of players where I’ve got it totally wrong?” For example, if nobody else thinks Pennington is worth more than $11 and I’ve got him at $13.7, maybe I’m being way too optimistic.

When I project players’ stats I try to take a second look at many of them. After generating the above list, I will take a second look at anyone I haven’t already considered and perhaps even a third look at some players. For these targets, I want to make sure that I am very comfortable with my projections.

If I change my projected value for anyone, I will adjust the above list accordingly. But for all those who remain, I’ve now taken two or three looks at them, and I’m going to stand by my projections, even if they’re a bit higher than what others think. After doing so, I am confident this is my list of potential bargains.

As I said, my target lists have proven to be extremely helpful. Typically more than half of the players I end up buying were on my target list. And some of the ones I didn’t buy still went for a good price, but I didn’t have room for them on my roster. Also, that doesn’t mean that the other players I bought were all for full price. There are always discounts available for some players I wasn’t expecting.

I’m confident that you can compare your own values to others’ values to also get a good idea of potential bargains. (If you know that some people in your league like to use certain sources for their information, be sure to include those sources in your Others’ Value column.