How To Improve Your Fantasy Baseball Knowledge

Justin Timberlake has come a long way. He started out as a dorky little kid on the Mickey Mouse Club, “progressed” (notice the strategic use of quotation marks) to this, started dating the hottest celebrities (at the time), began appearing in award winning movies, and now he’s winning solo recording artist honors.

This example of Timberlake was mentioned by Marc Ecko, the billion-dollar fashion mogul, in a podcast interview about what it takes to be great (click here to listen). He used this illustration of Timberlake to point out that nobody ever really starts out great. It’s a process. To paraphrase what Ecko said:

The key to greatness is iteration.

According to Wikipedia:

Iteration is the act of repeating a process with the aim of approaching a desired goal, target or result.

Said another way, it’s about making continuous improvement over time. Small improvements. But a lot of them. Not necessarily dramatic leaps forward.

Timberlake didn’t just snap his fingers and go from scrawny Mickey Mouse Club kid to Music-Superstar-Hollywood-Actor-Junk-In-A-Box-Heartthrob. It took him years to get there.

Every season. Small incremental improvements. For many seasons.

If you start applying this concept now and master a couple new fantasy baseball concepts each year, think how good you will be five or even ten years from now.

Are You Improving?

One reason I enjoy having this site is that it holds me accountable to improve at this “craft” of playing fake baseball games.

I have had seasons in the past where I didn’t seek to improve knowledge or understanding of the game. But now I have reached a point where I try something new every year.

I make my draft preparation a little more involved. I add new features to my spreadsheet. I  enhance my rankings formula. I consider other ways of ranking players. I just developed my own projections for the first time. I read books about (real) baseball, Sabermetrics, technology, and even fantasy baseball.

So What Are You Doing To Improve This Year?

There are many things you can do. Here are some things that come to mind (please note that some of the links below are affiliate links):
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    • Listen to podcasts.  There are a lot of quality podcasts out there. Give them a try. Find one that fits your league, your needs, your personality, your sense of humor.

A Word Of Caution

I know.  All those links just made your head explode.

I just did you a disservice.  I gave you way too much information to consume at one time.  Don’t go crazy and start a fantasy baseball drug binge.

Pace yourself. Pick one or two tasks above and devote yourself to those one or two items. Be practical. Maybe you start out with playing in your first AL-Only league and reading one book. And that’s it for this whole season!

Next year you add one or two more things. Before you know it you’ll be extremely talented and knowledgeable about this game. I don’t suspect I have many 75 year olds reading this, so we’ve got time to improve. Justin Timberlake didn’t just come out of the womb as Jessica Biel material. He improved slowly over time.

Make Reasonable and Measurable Goals

I really mean it. Just focus on one or two things. Don’t expect to go crazy on the information above. It’s not going to happen.

I’ll tell a story to illustrate. I’m married, have two young daughters (four and two), work and commute about 55 hours a week, and try to maintain this blog (hence only one or two updates a week). That keeps my plate pretty full.

It can be difficult to find time to for exercise. I’m also 32. So it has become more important that I start to think about and consider my health. Those 11PM bowls of ice cream finally seem to have caught up with me.

I’ve set a lot of informal fitness goals before. I tried P90X once (eff that). But they all failed.

I came across research somewhere that said goals that are reasonable and measurable are significantly more likely to be achieved. I suppose that’s common sense. But it’s not unusual to hear people set goals of running a marathon or losing 50 pounds.

Put This To The Test

To give this a try, I set a goal to run 200 miles during 2013. I have never been a runner (if you are, you probably laugh at my small goal), so 200 miles seemed reasonable. That’s about four miles each week. Or two separate two-mile runs each week. Definitely reasonable.

The goal is also specific enough to be measurable. Run 200 miles in the year. Or run 4 miles each week. Or run 2 miles each work out.

Which reminds me, that’s one more helpful suggestion.

Break Larger Goals into a Series of Smaller Actionable Goals

A series of small attainable goals are more likely to be achieved than one large goal (similar to the disaggregation of data concept I recently wrote about). I was really thinking of my goals as “Run 2 miles tonight” or “Run 4 miles this week”. Much less daunting than “Run 200”.

It worked.  In the end, I ran 205 miles during 2013 (and upped the goal to 250 for 2014).

Apply This To Fantasy Baseball

So don’t set a goal of “Finish in the top three of my league this year”. That’s too high level. And it’s not actionable.

Break it down into two smaller more reasonable and measurable goals that will likely lead to a top three finish. Something like this:

  • Read “Winning Fantasy Baseball” by February 15th (reasonable, measurable)
  • Do something new by developing my own rankings customized for my league

If you aren’t familiar with the “Create Your Own Rankings” series, it breaks down into six separate and distinct pieces. So you could even break that goal down into six more reasonable goals. Something like complete two parts each week from February 15th forward, giving you plenty of time to finish the project before you really start to prepare for the draft.

Then When Next Year Rolls Around…

You’ll already be familiar with the book and how to develop rankings. So you focus on learning pitching Sabermetric measures and read another book.

Then just rinse and repeat.

The Bottom Line

I’m long-winded.  But take two things away from this:

  1. Make yourself a little bit better at this fake baseball game each year. Most people don’t do this. If you are able to, you’ll be a force in just a few short years.
  2. To maximize your chances of achieving this improvement set a series of small, reasonable, measurable goals.

You Can Do This. And It Will Work.

You probably have at least one or two guys in your league that just print out an ESPN draft cheat sheet, or maybe they even pay $29.95 for some draft software. They won’t stand a chance.

You probably have some highly intelligent and very skilled players in your league. But they’re probably not continuously improving.  Or even if they are, you need to do this to keep pace.

So if you’re looking to climb the leader board or even just keep pace with some incredible managers, this is a path to those outcomes.

Lame Joke Section

If you don’t want to take my advice, then “Cry Me a River”. Or remember, “What Goes Around… Comes Around”. OK, I’ll stop.

Thanks For Reading

What’s your plan for this year?

Make smart choices.


5 Responses

  1. Mike
    Mike at | | Reply

    I never thought of applying CI to fantasy baseball, but makes perfect sense.

  2. Mike
    Mike at | | Reply

    I ordered the Baseball Hacks book. I’m really interested in learning MySQL. Is the book assuming some database knowledge? Or, will it assume the reader knows nothing?

  3. Tanner Bell
    Tanner Bell at | | Reply

    I would characterize it as though you need some above average overall technology saviness, but not necessarily any previous experience with database work. It comes loaded with a lot of the code you need to do things. But the goal isn’t to “teach” the meaning behind all the code. So I found myself in a little trouble at times, because I’m not a coder myself.

    I’ll save you some heartache I had. This site http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/errata.csp?isbn=9780596009427 has some confirmed errors in the book. So if I had a hard time getting something in the book to work, I checked that site for possible fixes.

    I still have a dream to learn more of this myself. I registered for this Yahoo Group, it seems like a great resource. http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/RetroSQL/info

  4. Mikeup
    Mikeup at | | Reply

    I decided to do two things to improve this year. First was to try my own valuations, which thanks to SFBB, I was finally able to do. But I’ve always felt confident in my drafting. I just want to get that little bit better, that little bit more precise.

    The second is so much harder. I need to “practice excruciating patience”, as Ron Shandler would say. Every year, I draft a good team and every year I’ve made over a dozen moves before May is over. I tank my own team consistently. This year, my incremental improvement will be no more than 5 moves by June 1 and no more than 30 moves by the break. I know it sounds like a lot, but not when compared with the crazy tweaking I usually do.

  5. Tanner Bell
    Tanner Bell at | | Reply

    I love the excruciating patience mantra. Having good projections and rankings available to you as the season goes along and actually using them to make decisions can be a good tool. It’s easy to see a guy hit 5 HR in the first week and start to calculate that on a season-long pace. But it’s pretty sobering to look up his projection and see he’s targeted to hit 18.

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