Sunday, February 17, 2008

Fantasyland

Just checked my email and - gasp! - my eight Keeper League keepers are due to commissioner/perennial champion Frank Schwab by Monday. I've put some time into it, but not as much as usual. I've only got a couple tough decisions to make - good tough decisions, not trying to choose between marginal players - and it shouldn't take me that long.

Over Christmas, I was all set, ready to make these tough choices, after reading Sam Walker's Fantasyland. What a great book. If you've ever gotten a little bit too involved in your fantasy baseball team, this is a must-read.

In a nutshell: Walker is a big-time newspaper reporter who takes a year off his regular job to enter Tout Wars, the most prestigious rotisserie baseball league in the country/world. He's never played fantasy baseball, but figures the connections with general managers, managers, and players from his regular job will give him an inside track on the competition. But, he is also intrigued by the Billy Beane Moneyball approach - numbers don't lie.

The guy flies to the winter meetings, visits every team in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, and makes it to loads of games in person. And my favorite part: he hires two guys to help him. One is a guy who researches players' personal histories and focuses on the intangible qualities. The other is the numbers guy who runs formulas and says things like "stick to the paradigm." The battle between the two is fascinating, and seeing how Walker chooses whose advice to follow is too.

In the end, Walker finishes near the bottom of the standings, but learns a ton, and wins the league the next year.

Even more enlightening are what happens to Walker's personal life. His wife is a saint, patient to a fault, even while pregnant. She is happy her husband has found a hobby, and amused at the maniacal state it drives him to. He also loses touch with all his friends, and instead of going out for dinner stays home and watches games.

Happy to report that I've never reached this depth of obsession, so this book makes me feel better about my approach to fantasy sports. But it also left me envious - how awesome would it be to hire two guys to help you run your team? To fly to a Red Sox game and tell David Ortiz you're thinking about trading him for Alfonso Soriano because you need steals? (Walker did this)

The book inspired me to come up with a more analytical approach to drafting, which will take place later next month. I'm not going to reveal my plans, because I don't want Schwab to copy them. ;) To make up the ground between second, where I finished last year, and first, Frank's usual spot, I'm going to need all the inspiration I can get.

Now, gotta find that Sporting News fantasy preview ...

2 comments:

Frank said...

Ah, the Sporting News preview. A sure sign of spring. I'm just wondering how to put together a full good year in Corby's league, rather than a good start/painful finish or horrible start/hot streak that's not good enough.

I've always found fantasy baseball better than football, especially so today. With so much information on the internet about FFL, everyone has basically the same draft lists and sleepers, etc. It's still entertaining, but not all that much skill anymore. Baseball, I think you need to know what you're doing.

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