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WHAT MAKES FOR A TOP FANTASY OWNER

A week or so ago (see article below) I opened up the question of what separates a top owner in any given league. I asked you what qualities you thought were important to the best players. I asked what you thought they did better then the rest of the owners. The response so far has been great.

Many of you took some time to write some very interesting notes with your thoughts on the subject and the whole process has been an eye-opener in many ways.  And reading your answers has been some of the most fun Iíve had in this job. This turns out to be a fascinating question.

Now this isnít a scientific survey. I just wanted a feel for the answer to the question of what distinguishes a ďtop owner.Ē

Of course, as many of you wrote, there is no one answer. The reason any given owner is good is because he does a number of things well. But to get a handle on what things itís most important to be good at, I turned this into and MVP-style of voting. I went through all the notes and grouped the qualities mentioned. You guys worded things a bit differently but you were basically talking about the same things.

Then I used your notes as votes. The quality you said was most important got 5 votes, the quality you said also very important got 3 votes and anything else you mentioned got 1 vote. Then I divided the score by the grand total of votes to get an importance percentage.

Hereís how itís going so far. Here are the things you think separates top owners from the rest of the pack.

22.0%  Tenacity

21.4%  The Draft

18.2%  Good information

13.8%  Player Evaluation

  8.8% Trading

  7.5%  Patience

  2.5%  Creating a balanced team

  1.9%  Boldness

  1.9%  Developing and implementing a plan

  0.6%  Fighting the urge to over manage

  0.6%  Luck

Now Iím hoping to get two different views, one from the top players themselves and those of our Insiderbaseball.com subscribers who consider themselves ďTop Player in TrainingĒ. But to this point only two people who wrote donít consider themselves top players, so I donít have enough data there yet. Most of this is self-explanatory of course, and in some cases your answers touched on several of these areas, so I gave a vote to all that applied.

Tenacity simply refers to what I talked about in the original note. Itís the idea of being into your team up to your elbows every day, gathering info, staying on top of the rest of the league, making improvements to your team no matter how small. Itís basically showing up every day and not resting until youíve done something to help yourself, even if itís just reading about a hot player in AA somewhere. Those who are tenacious are simply looking to improve at least a little everyday.

I didnít really want to separate out ďbuilding a balanced teamĒ but it was mentioned specifically in many notes so itís important in your eyes. Itís very similar to having a plan or overall roster management, but again, when the phrase is used repeatedly, the concept is obviously of particular interest.

As I get more notes, these categories may expand, but for now these are the things that came up, pretty often in fact. The concepts talked about in the notes were remarkably similar in many cases.

So now we have something to work with.

I donít think there are any real surprises here, but the results so far are interesting. The things that stick out to me are the importance you put on the draft, and the relatively low level of importance you assign to two concepts we deal with a lot, trading and patience.

Itís funny that tenacity and the draft are #1 and #2 because in one sense you say it takes a season to build a team (tenacity) and yet much is determined on Draft day. I think thereís truth to all of that. There are no wrong answers here after all. And while as I told you in the original piece I believe tenacity is my own most important quality, we here at Insiderbaseball.com are charged with the responsibility of your draft, the supplying of your information, and much of your player evaluation. I suppose the fact that you are here on the team with us shows the importance you place on those qualities. And while we already knew how important all of that is, this is just additional fortification for us, and tells us that our priorities are straight.

The relative percentage of patience in this poll is fairly low, but the thought came up in a majority of the answers I received. Itís just that it was usually something listed as ďalso importantĒ. Basically owners felt that itís important not to panic based on April and Mayís stats and itís important not to buy high and sell low. I think that to most of us, the concept of patience is like keeping your left arm locked in your golf swing. We understand the concept and buy the concept, but putting it into practice isnít always easy.  And like most of us, when we lock that arm (or stick with a struggling player through April and May) and start to get good results, our faith will build.

We preach patience a lot here because we know that the numbers tend back towards where history tells us they should be a very large percentage of the time (80% in the case of our projections, by the way) . Thereís always a few high-profile cases every year that turn out to be exceptions, and that always drops a few owners off the ďregression to meanĒ bandwagon, but those that stick to it will come out ahead in the long run.

Thereís one thing that to me is conspicuously absent from this list and all of your answers, and to me itís one of the big things that identify also-rans. This is good (that it hasnít come up yet) because I get to delve into the concept in a First Pitch or two before the end of the month because I feel itís incredibly important in an owners development. If youíve read Moneyball you will find this concept familiar, but owners in my league, and regular readers here, will tell you itís a dead horse Iíve been beating for years.

The one thing that is omnipresent in most perennial also-rans in any given league is their inability to rise above their biases and accepted beliefs. Once they get an idea in their heads, or form an opinion about a player or thing, that is it for life. And nothing changes. What was true in 1980 is still true today, by gumÖ.

These are the guys who wouldnít take Mark Prior and Roy Oswalt because they were rookie pitchers. These are the guys that donít think Preston Wilson and Alfonso Soriano are any good because they strikeout too much and donít walk, and yes, these are the guys that donít think that 31-year-old pitchers donít suddenly bloom into Cy-Young caliber starters and stay that way an entire season.

See? I was one of those guys this year. I had a belief about the possibility that Estaban Loaiza would continue to excel this year. And at the point where I had to decide what I thought he was going to do, instead of re-examining my beliefs and challenging those beliefs, I simply blindly clung to them and I blew the call. I was stubborn, lazy and closed minded about him, and I blew the call. 

Itís important to constantly challenge your biases and beliefs, because once you find separation between the truth and your fellow ownerís biases and beliefs, you have opportunity.

Later in the week, Iím going to start looking at some of the individual answers I got from this question. There are some terrific notes to in the pile to talk about and itís obvious this is something you are anxious to get into a little.

You really responded to this question, and I hope you will continue to respond. You donít have to write a thesis if you donít want to. Just drop me a note listing the 2 or 3 or 4 things you think separate the top owners from the rest of the pack and also if you will, tell me if you consider yourself a top owner. I want to see if thereís a difference in each groupís answers. So donít be shy. I want to here from you guys who are improving, but arenít where you want to be yet. Simply use the categories above or give me a new item if thereís something that hasnít come up yet.

So please keep those cards and letters coming! -Lou Blasi


Original Article on What Separates the Top Owners posted on August 27th:

What separates the top fantasy owners?

Let that question linger and weíll get back to it.

At this point in the year, while the wounds are still fresh, I like to spend time trying to figure out what Iíve learned from this season. My team is in the playoffs. Thereís not much left to do at this point but put in 3 more lineups (if Iím lucky enough to make it to the World Series) and hope for the best. Iíll fret over my starts each week and do all the homework needed to maximize my roster each week, but for the most part, my team is what it is. Itís either good enough to win or it isnít. My job is basically done. Itís time to see if what I built will fly.

Now is the time I become more of an observer. I watch the games a bit differently. Once my season is finally completely over, and during the MLB postseason, again, while things are fresh, I look back at what I wrote and what other people wrote about players and I try to tie it altogether. I look back and see what concepts I can take from this season.

Now Iím a big believer in verbalization. I take a lot of notes, and send myself a lot of e-mails with ideas and other tidbits I donít want to forget. And I believe you can think about something all you want, but when you verbalize those thoughts or write (type) them, you bring those thoughts to the next level. You coalesce them into something less vague and more useful.

Now Iím going to drag you into this process.

Each year I usually ask you to write me a note telling me one thing you learned from the year. Itís a great exercise for me and it helps me form ideas about how I can be more useful in my writing for Insiderbaseball.com. Iíll do that again this year, somewhere down the line. But today I want you to consider the question:

What separates the top fantasy owners?

My league is 16 years old and I would have qualified for all 16 postseasons if we played them (we didnít have on the first year and again in the strike of 1994). My league is mature, experienced, and pretty damn strong at this point, and in the context of that league, I am a top owner. 

If had to cite one thing that separates me from the other owners in my league, my first answer would be tenacity. I donít stop. I make claims almost every week. If I can improve the last player on my roster I will do it. I carefully chart out and agonize over my starting pitchers and my lineup each week. Iím talking trade 5 minutes after the draft until the rules tell me I must stop. I am always working to make my team better. Iím looking for any and every edge.

Iíve seen too many season turn on one pitch, one hit, on AB. I understand that while itís 20+ weeks of hundreds of games and thousands of ABs, everything counts.

And I mean EVERYTHING.

This week, going into the playoffs, I claimed three players. I claimed Robbie Hammock to replace Greg Myers. I claimed Danny Graves because I believe heíll close in 2004 and he qualifies as a starter in my league so this week I can just trot out my best four starters and try and keep my ERA, WHIP, and Losses down by shortening my rotation to the top 4 guys (and because Rich Harden has been shaky and Jason Schmidt had starts in Coors and the BOB). And I claimed Ron Mahay because he might give me a couple more strikeouts this week than the guy I had as my 4th reliever.

Earth-shattering moves? No. But I think they make my team a fraction of a percent better and that makes them worth while to me. Now I lost last nightís start by Jason Schmidt as a result of trying so hard, but I can live with that. The final outcome almost never determines the quality of a decisionÖ

Huh? Ö

Let me put it in football terms. If you are 4th and 25 on your own 1 yard line with 1:00 left to go and you are leading by 2 points and you decide to run a quarterback sneak, is that a quality decision?

No?

What if that sneak goes 99 yards for a TD? Are you a genius all of a sudden? Does that decision now become brilliant?

No. You are still a moron.

The outcome didnít change the quality of the decision.

I lost Schmidtís outing and itís one Iíd certainly like to have on my pitching line, but Iím still at peace with my decision not to use him this week because it was the sound move. When you make a decision you donít have the benefit of knowing the final outcome of it. You must make your decision based on the knowledge at hand and thatís how the decision must be judged.

There are certainly other things I do that help me succeed each year. I bring other things to the table. But if you had to pin me down to one thing that most separates me from the other owners in my league, itís that I simply do not stop trying to be better.

If you are a top owner, what about you? Or if not, what about the top owners in your league? What makes then better than the other owners?

Do they work harder? Do they draft better? Do they evaluate talent better? Do they manage their assets (cap money, salaries, draft picks, roster slots) better? Are they bolder? Do they see things before everyone else? Are they better at trading? What other things do they do better than most? What qualities make them ďtop ownersĒ?

The answer obviously is yes to most of, if not all of, the questions above. But I want to pin you down to your idea of the one or two most important qualities a top owner possesses. Please drop me a note and tell me, in your mind, what separates the top owners in fantasy baseball from the rest.

Tell me what you believe are the one or two most important keys to their success.

And I want to know if that answer is different from the perspective of the top owners, so please tell me if you consider yourself a top owner. If you finish in the top two or three places most years or even top 4 in larger leagues and have won multiple titles, then you are top owner. Donít be shy and donít think about it too much. Itís just a little experiment to see if the top players, and the rest, see the same qualities as being vital in their success.

Now Iím doing this because I can get 2 or 3 pretty easy First Pitches out of your replies, I think thatís obvious (g).  But I also think that although you may have pondered this question in some vague way in the past, getting you to think about the answer is such a way that you can express it in an e-mail is going to sharpen your focus on the answer. Its going to bring your thought processes to a much more tangible and useable level. And sampling other peoples answers will be a huge benefit to everyone I think.

So drop me a note Ö.

Are you a top owner?

What separates the top fantasy owners? -Lou Blasi

 

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