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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

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.