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Fantasy baseball: strategy, luck, or both? If both, which plays a bigger role?


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I had been replying to posty for a second about fantasy baseball being luck-based. I didn't want to clog up the WW/streamers thread, but the thought of the conversation gave me the idea for this topic...

I'm going to repost in here what I posted in there, elaborating a bit more

 

I don't really believe in luck 100%... I think a lot of strategy goes into it. But that's my belief. I know there is a big portion based on luck.... example: guy in a league names their team Studs & Duds, drafts Tatis, Acuna, Soto, and Betts, only to run out of draft money... A lot of us were laughing like crazy when it happened and thought he may not understand how an auction worked, since he'd have to sit for about 3 hours for his next pick at this point...but obviously we were wrong. He pieces together the rest of their team through $1 bids, FA, and the WW and has high-profile adds like Schwarber before his hot streak... is this luck, or is this just solid managing--or a little bit of both? He sat in the lower-half of the standings for a lot of the year, has had a sub-par Betts and a sub-par Soto, just lost Acuna (only to pick up Soler, who is kind of going off now of course...now THAT feels like luck, but how did he have the hindsight to pick up Soler?). Tatis is worth his weight in gold I guess, Said manager adds other solid players, too, a lot of them being players that others had dropped prematurely. He also has made nice trades (pulled the wool on me... Nate Lowe for Kyle Hendricks very early in the year--totally blew it, and I don't know how that is based on luck...it was a strategic move on his part to buy-low on Hendricks and it worked) and he is able to keep his team in a money spot at this point in the season even after Acuna goes down (now injuries are luck-based, I won't argue with you about that, except for of course the fact that some players are simply more injury prone than others so they carry more risk). Again--luck, or good managing? He obviously doesn't add these players for no reason, but has had ample success in keeping up with the wire and riding hot players all year long... It makes me feel like it can't all be luck-based. I think there has to be something said for some strategy there.

I'm curious for some stories from your league about luck vs. strategy, and what your takeaway is. I think I believe it's 60:40 strategy to luck. With injuries being more rampant than ever, luck gets a boost. I also believe you can alter your league settings to make things more strategical.

Curious to hear some stories from you guys. Can be from years past, or this year. I just didn't want to clog up the WW thread but this seemed like a fun topic.

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1 hour ago, smeeze said:

Definitely closer to the "strategy" end of the spectrum whereas fantasy football is basically all the way over in the "luck" department. Just my opinion of course.

I agree with football. Almost pure luck. Can't predict if your RB1 will go down week one and end your season.

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1 year leagues are mostly luck, and even worse when they're H2H. Roto helps a bit to even things out, but it's still a pretty high luck factor. Dynasty settings are much better at eliminating luck, though H2H is still incredibly frustrating. My ideal league would be dynasty roto, though I can't say I've ever played in one, just dynasty and roto separately. 

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I didn't think about the H2H vs. Roto argument either. H2H requires some strategy, or you wouldn't be putting a roster together for a weekly lineup (if it's daily, even more strategy is involved). I will agree H2H can be a lot more luck-based, but that counts for all fantasy sports. A team can lead their league in total points and still not be in a playoff spot. I talk to my co-commish about that often.

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Is it lucky that I'm active on a forum full of guys that comb through advanced stats and identify breakout candidates before the masses? I mean I wouldn't call it skill either but its closer to skill than luck in my opinion. If you put the time in, barring an extensive amount of bad luck causing major injuries to key players on your team, I feel as though most seasons you will find yourself in the playoffs. Once you get to the playoffs it becomes mostly luck, unless you have the bench to identify matchups. I've come in first place in the regular season in my league the past couple of years but both times I've had multiple aces go down first week of the playoffs and I've gotten completely screwed. So in summation, I feel as though you can use skill to set yourself up for success, but you'll always need some luck to get the final W.

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5 minutes ago, nlm said:

I agree with football. Almost pure luck. Can't predict if your RB1 will go down week one and end your season.

I'm not letting my friends drag me into FFB again this year. It's absurd how luck involved it is and in most cases it's actually better to lose in week 1 or 2 because they you get a shot at the premier waiver guys that end up carrying a squad like James Robinson.

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Massive difference, in H2H luck is so huge. I was glancing at some inactive teams in one of my lower leagues, and one guy just manages to win weeks because he has Vlad Jr. and a few studs who give him just enough innings to win ratios while passing the minimum IP threshold, but he's barely touched the team at all and has several injured players there. Just paying attention and keeping your team healthy throughout the year is a big enough edge, and of course, there is the mass exodus that occurs after the trade deadline, when teams just give up/and turn their attention to Fantasy Football. That's the big edge in the game, the length of the season will separate the attentive managers from the disinterested. You CAN win your league in the draft with great preparation, but that does require a lot of luck, too. Look at what Ohtani has done this season, and the fact that absolutely no ranking site put him anywhere near the top 10, many had him lower than 100. Of course, smart managers learn to avoid the injury risks like Strasburg, the uncertain pitchers like Snell, but sometimes we get burned on Shane Bieber or Luis Castillo. Or taking Abreu instead of Vlad, or Mookie instead of Soto, perfectly reasonable decisions. Its easy to be results oriented, the process is most important.

Honestly, the main skill is in how you prepare for the draft, and if you are able to identify the players that the market is completely wrong about you can crush a league. Understanding leagues with different settings is huge too, and yet the room continues to improve. There are more tools available; I also think team rosters are easier to set now with mobile apps, and you see less people forgetting to set their rosters nowadays. The game will continue to get harder. I like the thread; one I had planned to bump later this year was my "2020 v. 2021" along with a new one for "2021 v. 2022", because as I said, once we get to late August/September, people will be thinking about next year or the stretch run.

You have to remember how crazy and unique this season is; I reduced my usual buyins of course because of COVID factors, and next year I expect some more rules changes to shift the game back in the other direction. So there will be some unique decisions in how to manage/construct rosters next year, and the remainder of this year will be a huge challenge with pitching staffs across MLB starting to limit innings drastically. 

Edited by Richard Kimble
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7 minutes ago, collucho said:

Is it lucky that I'm active on a forum full of guys that comb through advanced stats and identify breakout candidates before the masses? I mean I wouldn't call it skill either but its closer to skill than luck in my opinion. If you put the time in, barring an extensive amount of bad luck causing major injuries to key players on your team, I feel as though most seasons you will find yourself in the playoffs. Once you get to the playoffs it becomes mostly luck, unless you have the bench to identify matchups. I've come in first place in the regular season in my league the past couple of years but both times I've had multiple aces go down first week of the playoffs and I've gotten completely screwed. So in summation, I feel as though you can use skill to set yourself up for success, but you'll always need some luck to get the final W.

THIS. That final stretch run can be the toughest, I agree that getting into position for the title is easy if you stay active, unless you drafted Lindor, Bieber, Rendon, Snell, etc. and just had a horrible run of injury beyond that. Yet winning teams will still rely upon unexpected contributors in September for the final push, even as their lineup staples keep them steady. The most dominant team can just lose the final H2H week because they have too many good players that are resting on playoff contenders-that's the worst.

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Fantasy baseball is mostly skill & strategy. If it were mostly luck you would see a lot of year to year variance in results. Instead it is almost always the same players at the top. H2H makes it tougher than roto but the length of the season somewhat buffers against that, at least in terms of the regular season standings (in contrast to fantasy football where it is not uncommon to see a high scoring team miss the playoffs).  It's possible to get a top seed and get upset in the playoffs but having a bye reduces the risk.  

I've played fantasy baseball, basketball, and football for years and fantasy baseball requires by far the most skill & strategy. The draft is important in all three but waivers and in season management are much more important in baseball. Far more quality players emerge on the wire in baseball and they pop up throughout the season. In basketball the wire is almost useless after the first 2-3 weeks (other than picking up category specialists). In football the wire takes minimal skill: everyone knows who they key pickups in a given week are. However, you lack the sample size to know for sure. A player may wind up as a breakout or a one or two week wonder. Football also has a ton more injuries than baseball, basketball (yet they want to expand the season). 

In football one player can score a majority of your team's points in a given week. In baseball points it is impossible for any individual player to even come close to doing that. Baseball is about having a strong team; football about your top 2-3 players (falling in the end zone). You can weather injuries a lot better in baseball as a result. Basketball falls somewhere in between.

I would say baseball is 75% luck & skill. Basketball is maybe 55-45%. Football is more like 30-70%. Even terrible, lazy players can win in football if they happen to have a RB who falls into the end zone 20+ times that season.

 

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My keepers are by far the best in my 14 team league and every year I get unlucky in the playoffs. In second place this year despite having lindor, Bergman, buxton, bellinger, and seager. Also kept Bauer and gleyber this year but traded them. It’s been rough. Going into every year on paper I should go undefeated but it never ends up that way. I’d say it’s both luck and skill but unfortunately I’d say the majority is luck.

Edited by Marcus Anthony
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H2H always gets written off as more luck-based than roto, but I sort of think that's undeserved. You can tilt your "luck" massively going into the playoffs by making trades and determining weaknesses of your primary opponents, whereas in roto, you are going to be largely impacted by what the bad or inactive teams or doing.

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Theres one guy in my pool that I swear must have made a pact with the devil where all he asked for was to be lucky in fantasy.

Plucks sp off waivers after 1 good start early in the season after 6 years of being garbage.  They go on to be cy young contenders while on his team and then revert back to garbage next year.   Happens so often that it cant be a coincidence.

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I actually think it’s more like 

75% luck 20% effort/time 5% skill 

but also some formats are more conducive to being impacted by effort (like if streaming matters or w/e then maybe it’s more of a factor, in dynasty leagues being proactive with trades matters, etc)

and also you could kinda argue that effort and skill should be combined anyway (after all the most skilled people in things in the world, yeah the top top top need some inherent skill but it’s a lot of effort. Let alone for fantasy baseball).  Like is putting the effort into preparing for your draft separate from being skilled enough to have a good redraft?  What exactly is “skill.”  Is putting effort into reading analytical pieces from other people and then adopting their viewpoints etc “skill?”   Etc 

 

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1 minute ago, Fbaseballgod said:

I actually think it’s more like 

75% luck 20% effort/time 5% skill 

but also some formats are more conducive to being impacted by effort (like if streaming matters or w/e then maybe it’s more of a factor, in dynasty leagues being proactive with trades matters, etc)

and also you could kinda argue that effort and skill should be combined anyway (after all the most skilled people in things in the world, yeah the top top top need some inherent skill but it’s a lot of effort. Let alone for fantasy baseball).  Like is putting the effort into preparing for your draft separate from being skilled enough to have a good redraft?  What exactly is “skill.”  Is putting effort into reading analytical pieces from other people and then adopting their viewpoints etc “skill?”   Etc 

 

Putting in the effort/time is not a skill...  

Nope on your other questions as well...

The only skill in fantasy baseball (and other sports) is if you play the actual game, draft yourself, and get stats from what you are doing on the field... 

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I don't know about the rest of you but my interest in fantasy baseball has severely declined over the last few years. Maybe it's because I'm older and have been playing since the early 90's but between the constant injuries, openers, home run or bust hitters it's just not as fun as it used to be and I think the lack of activity on these forums reflect that. 

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2 minutes ago, posty said:

Putting in the effort/time is not a skill...  

Nope on your other questions as well...

The only skill in fantasy baseball (and other sports) is if you play the actual game, draft yourself, and get stats from what you are doing on the field... 

Yea I mean by your definitions this entire conversation isn’t even a question because people are incapable of having skill for fantasy baseball in the first place.   Which I mean, okay, maybe fair, but then why do some people consistently do better than others? What’s the factor here?  Gotta be effort then

But I mean the reason I say effort/skill the line is blurred is because I think when we think of “what makes one fantasy baseball player better than another” a lot of it comes down to effort.   Are you skilled in doing the best trades, or have you read more articles that are predicting whether they will go up or down?   Etc.  Even “are you skilled at negotiating” comes down to practice in the past, same thing with discretion on who to start, drop, etc.   like I personally do think there is a “skill” component but I think it’s very similar to an effort component 

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24 minutes ago, Fbaseballgod said:

Yea I mean by your definitions this entire conversation isn’t even a question because people are incapable of having skill for fantasy baseball in the first place.   Which I mean, okay, maybe fair, but then why do some people consistently do better than others? What’s the factor here?  Gotta be effort then

But I mean the reason I say effort/skill the line is blurred is because I think when we think of “what makes one fantasy baseball player better than another” a lot of it comes down to effort.   Are you skilled in doing the best trades, or have you read more articles that are predicting whether they will go up or down?   Etc.  Even “are you skilled at negotiating” comes down to practice in the past, same thing with discretion on who to start, drop, etc.   like I personally do think there is a “skill” component but I think it’s very similar to an effort component 

This - especially when you correctly point out that some fantasy players win consistently.  If it was mostly luck, that would even out.

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