Thursday, March 29, 2012

The 2010 Yahoo All-Stars (or, Why I Suck at Fantasy Baseball)

The post-Ides of March: when I remember that I don't really care about college sports, when even exciting Raptors wins are tempered by the knowledge that guys like Alan Anderson and Ben Uzoh will soon disappear back into oblivion, that Jose Calderon won't be on the next playoff team, and that every meaningless W counts against a draft pick. The end of March is when MLB blueballs us with non-televised out-of market games at three in the morning. Those bastards.

And so I fill the void with fantasy drafts, constructing team-worlds that don't seem to matter quite so much as they did a decade ago, but still give me an excuse to gossip about the upcoming year like a teenage girl sneaking into a bar for the first time with her girlfriends. Who's worth pursuing? What wallflower hasn't found his true potential? And do any of us actually have a clue what we're after?

Some people approach their drafts with surgical precision, buying Baseball Pro almanacs and immersing themselves in projection systems (I'm not going to extend this awful metaphor any further, I promise). Me? I prefer a less scientific approach, one that straddles the fine line between ingenious-bargain-hunter and clueless-chump-chasing-names.

When I first got into fantasy baseball - circa 2002 - I couldn't figure out why people were dumping on 35-homer Juan Gonzalez as a high pick. Well, it turned out the fantasy experts knew their shit - Juan Gone was a chump pick, a guy who had one decent half-season left and would be out of baseball within three seasons. In contrast, a guy like Paul Byrd, a journeyman junkballer, was getting a lot of hype because he was on his way to a miraculous 17-win season, and that sort of thing matters in fantasy.

But as I played more and more fantasy baseball (with very limited success), it seemed this effect got overblown. Everyone wanted to discover the next Albert Pujols and nobody wanted to get stuck with the corpse of Mo Vaughn, so as guys became more educated more and more superstars found their way to the bottom of my drafts. I never became uber-successful with my strategy, but by 2005 I was playing half a dozen leagues and contending in half of them. I was pretty much your run-of-the-mill fantasy player - I played a casual league against some co-workers and walked all over them, but I couldn't hold the jockstrap of a legit fantasy geek.

Of course by last year, when I played another league against the same casuals I landslided in 2005, I finished 9th out of 10, headlined by my "sleepers," Manny Ramirez and Jason Bay. So this year, when drafting for the same league, you might think I'd learned from my mistakes (and I guess I have learned not to punt saves and steals right out of the gate). But my core strategy never changed: find value that's dropping. And who offers more upside than a guy who's proven that he has MVP talent? So, without really trying, this year I set out to draft an all-2010 All-Star Infield (round in parentheses):

C Joe Mauer (6th)
1B Adrian Gonzalez (1st)
3B Alex Rodriguez (5th)
SS Hanley Ramirez (2nd)
2B Chase Utley (9th)

Of those, Utley was easily the worst pick, with what emerged right after the draft as a potentially career-threatening-injury, and I probably took Mauer and Hanley a bit high. But on the back of four guys who could easily break right and wind up top-5 on the MVP ballot, some power pitching (my true sleeper, Ubaldo Jiminez, dropped to the 14th) and some speedy/young breakout/hot waiver wire outfielders, I like my chances to recover from last season's disasterfuck.

Or, y'know, maybe next year I'll turn off the basketball game and actually do my research...

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