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Home: Perspectives

Swing for the Fences
Draft Strategy
March 5, 2001
Author: Shawn Kopelakis
 

With many fantasy drafts underway or about to get started, there are many approaches general managers take into draft day. Of course the way league scoring systems are set up should highly influence your strategy. Many leagues use a 4x4 (HR,RBI,SB,AVG,W,S,ERA,WHIP) or 5x5 (HR,RBI,SB,AVG,R,W,S,ERA,WHIP,K) system. Still others put more emphasis on other categories and subtract from totals for things like errors, caught stealing, losses and walks. It is vital for you to decipher how your scoring system effects the value of players. This will impact your cheatsheets and limit the effectiveness of cheatsheets you find on the web or in magazines. Many GMs fall victim to relying solely on player rankings they find pre-compiled and not factoring in the effect of their scoring system.

Jim Edmonds is the classic example of hitter who excels in leagues that do not factor in strikeouts for batters. If your league subtracts points based K's, then Edmonds becomes a B- guy instead of an A- guy. Big difference.

That said, there are general rules to follow on draft day. My key to ranking players revolves around their value within their position. It is tough to tell the difference between Kevin Millwood and Mike Sweeney by looking at their statistics across the board. Who is to say who is more valuable from that quick comparison. But if you create a benchmark by which you can measure the value of all players you can transcend hitting and pitching parameters. This is easier than it sounds.

First determine the approximate number of players that will be drafted at each position in your league. If you are in a 10 team league, you can assume approximately 25 players will be drafted at 1B and 60 players will be drafted as starting pitchers. Once this is known, you can look at lists that show the statistics for the first baseman and the statistics for the pitchers. Find the median point for the list - the place where you would find the exact definition of an average player. Then you can compare players to that median to determine their adjusted value to your team. Say Sweeney is the eighth best 1B and averages .50/points per game more than the 12th best 1B. Then say Millwood is the 15th best pitcher and averages 1.25/points per start more than the median pitcher at 30. Because Sweeney's number multiplied by 160 games (80 points) is higher than Millwood's multiplied by 35 starts (43.75 points), his value is greater. Sweeney becomes more valuable because he outperforms the median of his position more than Millwood does. It is an interesting system that can be tweaked, but I've found it to be helpful across the board.

This system relies heavily on last year's numbers. That does not factor in guys growing old (Rafael Palmeiro) or coming off injury (Tom Gordon). You must factor these concerns in or risk losing out on some top performers. Moises Alou had an excellent season last year after returning from injury but slipped in many drafts because people lost track of him. A better way of determining the rankings is to use numbers of a three-year span and determine points per game. Ths system also does not factor in changes in scenery (Mike Hampton) or younger guys taking on different roles (Carlos Guillen). Rafael Furcal was a sleeper for those who knew what was going on in Atlanta with Walt Weiss aging and the young speedster being given a chance by Bobby Cox. It is difficult to predict the success of young prospects but just be willing to take some risks. At the same time, be cautious of guys changing teams. There is often an adjustment period while players get used to their surroundings.

Using this system makes it very hard to overbid for guys. It means that when you are on the clock and debating whether to take Gabe Kapler or Eric Chavez or Glendon Rusch, you will be able to look at one number for all of them and determine their comparable worth. I would not suggest this system be used all the time. Discretion is still key, especially in the later rounds where you draft more on need than on best available. Taking a third OF instead of your first 1B may not be wise just because the system says so. Remember that your strategy must be intertwined with a clear decision to have a well-balanced team or to load up certain positions and pick lower end guys at other positions. That strategy is another column for another week...


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