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Some have called Schechter one of the best fantasy baseball players in the world. He is a two-time winner of the CDM Sports national salary-cap challenge, having defeated 7,500 competitors in 2002 ...
Some have called Schechter one of the best fantasy baseball players in the world. He is a two-time winner of the CDM Sports national salary-cap challenge, having defeated 7,500 competitors in 2002 and 6,000 in 2005. He is also a six-time winner of the renowned Tout Wars experts league and a one-time winner of the USA Today-sponsored League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR).
Readers will learn directly from the champ everything they need to know about:
• how to project player stats;
• how to convert those stats into a specific value;
• strategy for snake drafts, and mono-league and mixed auctions;
• selecting teams using a salary cap;
• playing in keeper leagues;
• and performing in-season management.
Although the book is primarily about fantasy baseball, many of the concepts also apply to fantasy football and other fantasy sports.
The Longest "Strategies of Champions" Article Ever
Peter Kreutzer is the editor-in-chief of Fantasy Baseball Guide magazine and a fellow Tout Wars competitor. For several years, his magazine has run articles called "Strategies of Champions." Written by the winners of some of the experts leagues, the articles are 650-word essays on how the person won that year. When I won Tout Wars in 2005, 2006, and 2007, Peter asked me each time to write an article.
It was an honor to be asked to write these articles, but I found it a difficult experience. First, in just 650 words you can't get into any detail; second, I wasn't sure how much detail I wanted to get into anyway. I didn't necessarily want to give away any of my actual strategies and potentially lose a competitive edge. So I simply wrote 650 words of general information and perhaps gave out a tidbit or two of helpful information.
But I knew that to actually write about my strategy and how I won Tout Wars in a complete and thorough fashion would have taken dozens of pages. And if I included everything from start to finish—projecting player stats for the season, converting those stats into a dollar value, the auction strategy, and the in-season management, it would take even more. It would probably take an entire book.
This was when I first got the idea of writing a book. And for some reason I can't explain, the idea appealed to me. "What the heck?" I thought, "Let me just put it all out there. All of my thoughts and strategies, from beginning to end." I had always wanted to write a book, and this was something I felt qualified to write about.
As I told Peter Kreutzer, the title of this book could have been The Longest "Strategies of Champions" Article Ever. And no, 650 words were not sufficient. It took about 95,000.
As I began to write, I realized that I would need to examine everything I do and why I do it, and not only be able to explain it to others, but in some cases also prove the validity. It occurred to me that having to do this would also be very beneficial. So I added as one of my goals for this book to make myself a better player.
And boy, did I ever uncover some areas where there were flaws in my theories. And there were some myths I believed that aren't actually true. And there were things I didn't know and am very glad now that I've learned. Despite my success, I did, in fact, have a lot of room for improvement. Having completed this book, I feel more prepared and knowledgeable than ever.
Fantasy Baseball History
There were some early versions of fantasy baseball, such as the Strat-O-Matic board game, that used major league players' actual performance from prior seasons. But modern fantasy baseball, also known as Rotisserie baseball, was invented in 1980 by magazine writer/editor Daniel Okrent, who came up with the idea on a flight to Texas. It is named after the New York City restaurant La Rotisserie Française, where Okrent and the game's other first participants often met for lunch.
In the early days, before the advent of computers and the Internet, participants would often have to track and calculate the leagues' standings by hand. Participants would need to wait until the box scores appeared in the newspaper to find out how their players had fared the night before. I remember having to wait to get the standings in the mail several days after a stat week had ended. But now almost all leagues have their stats and standings calculated automatically by computer. Most even have live standings that can be updated within a few minutes of an event occurring on the baseball field.
In those early days, not many people knew what fantasy baseball was. But it has grown into a huge industry with millions of players. The first time it really hit me how big this game had become was in 2007. I was visiting relatives in Albuquerque. My nephew, who was 13 years old at the time, said he'd heard I play fantasy baseball. He told me that he did, as well. "I've got four teams in Yahoo leagues," he said.
"Wow," I said, "You're in four leagues? That's a lot."
"Well," he said, "there are also my eight ESPN teams."
A 13-year-old boy had 12 teams. My God, I thought, this hobby has really become huge. It used to be people would look at you with a blank stare if you mentioned fantasy baseball. Now it's more likely they'll tell you they have a team.
Later in 2007, my daughter had to pick an elective for the second semester of fifth grade. The choices were dancing, improvisation, or fantasy baseball. She chose fantasy baseball. Her teacher, Mr. Schoemer, was impressed to learn that I had won Tout Wars. And so was one of her classmates. "Wow," he said, "you must be a millionaire!" I had to explain to him that no, winning Tout Wars didn't make me a millionaire.
According to the most recent data, fantasy sports generated $1.9 billion in 2008. In 2011 the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) hired its own federal lobbyist and started a political action committee. A study commissioned by the FSTA estimated that in 2011 almost 20% of males in the U.S. and Canada age 12 or older had played fantasy sports in the past year. Also 8% of females in the U.S. and 5% in Canada played. That's an estimated total of 32 million people.
In 2008 CDM Sports sued Major League Baseball Advanced Media, a limited partnership of the club owners of major league baseball, for the rights to use publically available statistics without having to pay a licensing fee. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court and was won by CDM. Three justices recused themselves because they played in a fantasy baseball league comprised of current and past court personnel. Two other justices were also in the league but didn't recuse themselves.
And by the way, my nephew from Albuquerque is Alex Bregman. He was the 2010 USA Baseball Player of the Year. Past winners include Stephen Strasburg, Justin Smoak, Ryan Zimmerman, and Ben Sheets. Alex was the youngest winner ever, at just 16. He's currently playing for LSU, where he was named the 2013 National Freshman Player of the Year. So, keeper league players, go out and grab him if it's not already too late!
How to Use This Book
This book is for total beginners, experts, and everyone in between. If you've never played before, you will learn everything you need to do from beginning to end. And I'm confident that even the experienced and successful will also benefit. I have covered all major formats of play—auctions, snake drafts, salary-cap, and keeper leagues.
Every year, many websites and magazines publish player values for the upcoming season, as well as lists of sleepers and players to avoid. Having a good set of player values is definitely a requirement in order to do well. And this book does cover how to project a player's raw stats and then convert those into a specific value.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The real keys to my success have always been my auction and draft strategy as well as in-season management. I doubt I've ever won a league primarily because I had a better set of player dollar values than everyone else.
You don't necessarily need to read this entire book. Chapter 2, "Fantasy Basics for Beginners," is meant only for those who are brand new to fantasy baseball. And, for example, if you have no interest in an auction league, there's no need to read the chapters that deal with auctions.
One exception is that even if you aren't planning to make your own player stat projections, I suggest you read chapter 5 anyway. It gives tips on how to best use the stats and values you see published. That chapter also explains why it's important to use your own value formula. If you don't already use your own formula, I highly recommend that you start doing so. It's a little complicated to understand and set up, but once you have it, it's easy to use and update each year.
While it's not necessary to read the chapters in exactly the order presented, I suggest you read through chapter 4 before you start skipping around. Chapters 3 and 4 (as well as chapter 2 for beginners) lay a foundation for some of the principles discussed in later chapters.
Most of the information in all the chapters also applies to keeper leagues. I've added a separate chapter at the end that includes some additional information that applies only to keeper leagues.
Many of the principles I discuss also apply to fantasy football, basketball, and other sports. So, for example, if you don't participate in fantasy baseball snake drafts but you are in fantasy football snake drafts, I suggest you read the snake draft chapter, because a lot will apply to football. Same for auctions and salary-cap style.
Some of my methods are time-consuming. You aren't necessarily going to have the time or the desire to do everything I do. But many of my suggestions and strategies are fairly simple and not time-consuming. And for some of the time-consuming ones, I give advice on how you can take shortcuts. Some things I'll say may seem a bit complex at first, until you digest them. The good news, though, is that I'm not a math major or rocket scientist, so I don't get too complex. (One day my high school math teacher showed us a formula simply because it plotted a fluegel-horn around the x-axis. I quit calculus the next day.)
Make no mistake, though, putting in time and effort will reap dividends, as long as you work smart—and don't just spend time for the sake of spending time. There are times I've been at an auction or draft and heard people say, "I'm not really prepared, I'm just going to wing it." This has happened even at experts leagues and leagues where you had to pay money to enter. I don't get this. If you aren't going to prepare, why bother? I would never dream of not being fully prepared. As you'll see in this book, that is one of the big keys to my success.CHAPTER 2
Fantasy Basics for Beginners
If you already know the difference between a 4×4 and a 5×5 league ... an auction and a draft ... Rotisserie scoring and Points style ... and a keeper league and a redraft league, then you probably want to skip this chapter. This chapter covers the basics and is designed for people who are very new to fantasy baseball.
The basic idea behind fantasy baseball is that you get to own your own team of actual major league players. When they accumulate stats—such as home runs, stolen bases, wins, saves, etc.—in real life, you also get those stats for your team. Most fantasy leagues choose their teams before opening day of the real major league season and then last for the entire 162-game major league schedule.
There are three ways to determine the winner of a fantasy league:
1. Rotisserie scoring. Each team is ranked from top to bottom in each scoring category. For example, if there are 12 teams in a league, the team with the most home runs at the end of the year gets 12 points for that category; the next highest total gets 11 points, then 10 points, etc. The point totals for each category are then added up to give a grand total and determine the winner.
2. Points style. This scoring gives you a certain amount of points for each achievement, such as one point for hitting a single, two for a double, three for a triple, four for a home run, ten for a pitcher getting a win or a save, etc.
3. Head-to-Head (H2H). This competition generally pits one team against another for a weekly game. Opponents rotate each week in a round-robin system. The scoring can be Points style or Rotisserie scoring where the team that wins the most individual categories is declared the winner. At the end of the week, one team gets a win and one gets a loss.
Many head-to-head leagues will have a regular season that lasts 22–24 weeks, at which time a certain number of teams with the best won-loss record advance to the playoffs. The playoffs are single-elimination matchups that occur during the last two to four weeks of the actual major league regular season.
Almost all fantasy games include both hitters and pitchers. A typical roster requirement would include 14 hitters and nine pitchers, with the following positions:
1 first baseman
1 second baseman
1 third baseman
1 corner infielder (either a first or third baseman)
1 middle infielder (either a second baseman or a shortstop)
1 designated hitter (can be any position except pitcher)
While the roster shown above is typical, there are many variations. This is an example of a team's starting lineup. In addition, most leagues have a reserve squad of at least four players. These reserves can be moved into the starting lineup as desired.
Commonly a player is eligible at any position in which he appeared a minimum number of games the prior season. Depending on a league's rules, that minimum can be anywhere from five to twenty games.
Most leagues allow lineup changes once per week, at which point you can move players between your starting lineup and reserve squad. Some leagues allow changes midweek or even daily. Also some don't allow any changes. You draft a team and that's your lineup for the entire year.
The three most popular formats for selecting players for your team are snake drafts, auctions, and salary cap.
1. Snake drafts (also called straight or serpentine drafts). Draft spots are chosen at random. The team owner with the first pick can select any player he wants, and then the team owner with the second pick chooses someone, etc. The team owner who picked last gets the first pick of the second round, and all teams follow in reverse order of the first round. Then the draft snakes back as the order for round three is the same as the first round, round four is the same as round two, etc.
2. Auction leagues. Players are put up for bid, one at a time. Each player is sold to the highest bidder. Teams have a total budget, usually $260, to acquire their roster (usually 23 players). Star players will typically sell for as much as $30–45, while scrubs will go for $1. Once teams have filled their starting rosters, there is usually a reserve draft in which the reserves are selected by a snake draft, rather than an auction. It is rare that reserves are chosen by bidding.
3. Salary cap (also called pick-a-player). Each major league player is assigned a salary by the game operator. Teams may choose any players they want, provided they fill their required starting lineup with players whose total salaries fit under a salary cap. The goal is to select the players who will produce the most valuable stats relative to their assigned salary. Reserve players can usually be selected with no regard to a salary cap. However, when players are moved in and out of the starting lineup (usually on a weekly basis), the total salary must always remain under the cap.
Fantasy leagues that use all major league players are called mixed leagues and typically have 12 to 15 teams per league. Mono-leagues, which use only American League (AL) or National League (NL) players, typically have between 10 and 13 teams.
People often get together in person for their snake draft or auction. Snake drafts are less time-consuming than auctions, because no bidding is involved.
Snake drafts can easily be done online, through various websites or Skype. Auctions can be done with Skype or online, but it is more difficult.
For a salary-cap game, participants do not get together to select teams. A player selects his team whenever he wants, prior to the entry deadline (usually opening day of the season), and submits his entry online or by mail or email.
Various companies offer online management services for fantasy leagues. They will calculate the statistics and league standings each day, as well as provide an online place for teams to make their roster moves. Some game operators provide their own websites for this purpose.
Excerpted from Winning Fantasy Baseball by LARRY SCHECHTER. Copyright © 2014 Lawrence Schechter. Excerpted by permission of Emerald Book Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted January 10, 2014
This is very well written and easy to read. I like how he makes even the complex subjects, such as value formula,
fairly easy to understand. I've played fantasy baseball and football for many years, with a fair degree of success, and
yet I learned a lot. Much of this will also help me with football.
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Posted January 8, 2014
Winning fantasy baseball was a great read and insightful look into winning your fantasy baseball league. Beginners and experts alike can learn from Larry's experience and expertise I want to compliment Larry for his work and strongly urge anyone who plays fantasy baseball to buy this book. .
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Posted December 23, 2013
This really is an excellent book on fantasy baseball for just about everyone- if you are a beginner Larry gives you the recipe to start from scratch. And even if you are the most experienced or successful fantasy player around, there will be something in this book that can help you, and certainly make you think. And Larry covers every format too- from single league auctions to salary cap games, to mixed league snake drafts, etc. For a sport as popular as fantasy baseball, there have been very few books really explaining how an expert puts together and maintains a team- until now. Seriously, if you play fantasy baseball and want to better your game, I think you should get this book. And then stay out of my league.
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Posted February 27, 2014
"Winning Fantasy Baseball" simply teaches you how to do just that. Larry takes the time to examine both beginner and advanced strategies across various league types and formats. No matter your degree of experience in the Fantasy Sports world, this book will offer something for you. In addition to teaching people how to evaluate and project player statistics, Larry explains how to create value formulas as well. Tips and tricks are provided with how to succeed in both mixed and mono-league formats, and the entire book flows nicely and is extremely easy to read. Despite the fact that I am a Fantasy Sports writer, I found myself highlighting and earmarking several pages as I learned from the master. With baseball season right around the corner, this makes for a fantastic gift. Simply put, this is the best book I've ever read regarding Fantasy Sports, and I look forward to applying its methods this season!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2014
If you want to win at fantasy baseball, get this book. I have been playing competitive fantasy baseball seriously for 10 years. "Winning Fantasy Baseball" was a tremendous read and will (hopefully) put me ahead of my competition for years to come. Larry takes potentially complex theory and makes it easy to understand and implement. If you are serious about fantasy baseball, you need to buy this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.