A sneak peek at MVN’s new magazine: Roster

On Tuesday, February 26th, MVN will proudly launch it’s brand new online magazine, Roster.  The inaugural issue will be a full-length fantasy baseball preview issue and draft kit, featuring insightful commentaries, brilliant analysis, and even an article by me!  Printed below is a small exerpt from my article, “If Dr. Phil and Sun Tzu ran a fantasy baseball draft” in which I look at seven mistakes that people make in fantasy drafts because of their own psychological weaknesses.  I talk about why each one happens, how to avoid it, and then give some tips on devious plots whereby you can use these weaknesses against your fellow owners.  It’s psychological warfare for fantasy leaguers who want to draw blood from their fellow owners, or at least inflict some mild bruising.

Mistake #3: Breakout!
In which every fantasy baseball analyst, and I use that term very loosely, comes up with his “breakout!” candidates for the coming year.  And based on one or two cool sounding ones, you alter your plans for the draft.
Why it happens: You want to be in on the secret.  You want to be one step ahead of everyone else.  You want to find this year’s Fausto Carmona who goes from dud to stud all of a sudden.  (Not that anyone called Fausto Carmona…)  So, you buy annual magazines, read a few blogs, and spend way too much time searching for the mythical guys who will breakout! 
Here’s the thing: many of the rationales used are based on “feelings.”  That’s right, you’re basing your draft strategy on someone else’s hunch.  Things like this always seem a little dumber when you say them out loud.  You will develop a man-crush on a couple of these guys, and you will look for evidence that confirms your hypothesis (in psychology, it’s called the confirmatory bias) that this guy is a true breakout! candidate.  No one ever argues for why someone is not a good breakout! candidate, so you won’t have that guilty feeling that comes from hearing both sides of a story.  As an added bonus: if the breakout! never happens, you can blame the bad advice.  If it does, you can compliment yourself smugly on having seen it come.  Heads, I win.  Tails, you lose. 
How to avoid it: Frankly, most “breakout!” seasons aren’t actually the result of a player developing a new talent, but rather of a player getting a little lucky over the course of a year (Brady Anderson hits 50 HR in 1997… and never gets to 30 ever again).  Young players may develop new skills, but in general, that generally brings them from not so good to average major leaguers.  You’re looking for the next superstar that no one knows about.
Here’s how to check on someone’s breakout candidate analysis:

  1. Does the writer discuss the entire logic behind why this player will be the breakout! candidate? Is the logic sensible?If you see, “the way he looks,” “the way he plays the game,” or “people say there’s something special about him,” please run.  That’s not logic.
  2. Do they apply that logic to everyone in baseball (within reason).  So, if they profile a guy who is younger than 25, and will get the starting left field job this year and had good power numbers in the minors. there should be a section for other guys who fit the same profile.  This makes sure that this isn’t just a sportswriter with a man-crush engaging in wishful thinking.
  3. Does he brag about previous correct “calls” that he made, without mentioning the calls he made that didn’t pan out?  Thanks to the magic of the internet, his “calls” from last year are probably archived somewhere.  Find them and see what his track record is.  Did he name 20 guys and 2 of them actually broke out last year?  For some reason, the words “blind squirrel” and “acorn” are coming into my mind.

How to use it to your advantage: One of the most devious plots out there for drafts where you all meet at someone’s house.  Make a list of names of “breakout!” candidates whom you are fairly convinced will not be the second coming of Mickey Mantle this year.  For good measure, put some actually likely candidates whom “everyone knows about” in the first few places on the list and in the last two places.  The spacing is important… people generally focus on the first and last few items in a list, not the middle.  You’re setting a trap.
Put the garbage candidates whom you hope the other owners are actually dumb enough to draft in the middle.  Don’t label the list as anything (it should just be a list of names) or better yet, call it “the Super List” in big red (actually use red…) letters, and leave it exposed on the table.  Curiousity will kill the cat.  When someone inevitably asks you about it, blush at having left some sort of classified document on the table, then say something like “well, Larry, we’re friends and you’re the type of guy who would know this stuff already, I suppose I can tell you.”  Now that the butter has been applied, proceed to explain how you did a little research and these are your breakout! guys.  Point to the middle of the list at the guys you don’t want to draft.  Because anyone can make a decent-sounding argument for a breakout! season for anyone — you just need a few cliches — make an argument for why a guy like Christian Guzman would make a surprisingly good pick (he’s coming back from injury and look at what he did before the injury!  He was a whole new player last year!)  Emphasize the word “surprisingly” because, you know, you’re letting Larry in on a big secret.
I told you you’d feel guilty afterwards.
For the rest of this article, and much much more fantastic baseball writing (including an article by StatSpeak’s own Eric Seidman), be sure to tune your internet thingies to Roster on Tuesday.


7 Responses to A sneak peek at MVN’s new magazine: Roster

  1. Did Christian Guzman pay you for that advertisement?

  2. Grammar Umpire says:

    Hopefully the new magazine won’t include a typo in ITS first sentence, like this post did.

  3. Spelling Umpire says:

    And excerpt is spelled with a “c.”
    Good fantasy writing also includes good writing, guys. Get an editor or at least run through things through a spellchecker.

  4. Pizza Cutter says:

    Thanks for the tips, Ump. I’ll make the corrections.
    While I’m doing that, would you like me to insert a comma after “Hopefully” and eliminate the redundant “through” from your comments? I can also break up “spell checker” into two words and put a comma after the first part of the conjoined sentence “Get an editor.” Just looking out for you, man.

  5. No, Pizza, the articles of me, you, and Mike have absolutely no merit unless everything is 100 % grammatically correct and correct in spelling/puncuation. Let’s hire the Umpires to be our editors. With their supreme knowledge of what makes for good fantasy writing, and our sabermetrical skills, jeez, watch out planet Earth.

  6. dan says:

    I stoppde readinf tha instint I notyced “excert” wus messpeled

  7. DanC says:

    Who in their right mind would have ever doubted Fausto?? Clearly, he didn’t have that killer instinct so he couldn’t close. I had a feeling about that kid…he was my top sleeper choice last year.

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