Fantasy baseball owners are a competitive bunch, which often makes it hard to extract the true tricks of the trade from the very best. Sure, there are plenty of fantasy experts who are willing to donate the name of a projected sleeper or bust. But when the questions start to dig a little deeper, most of the truly elite owners clam up, as they protect the biggest secrets of how to build a league champion. But in January, the best of the best, Larry Schechter, blew the lid off the industry with his tell-all book titled, "Winning Fantasy Baseball".
There is little doubt that Schechter owns the most impressive trophy collection of any fantasy baseball aficionado. His two CDM titles, six Tout Wars championships and one LABR victory is the kind of resume that sends other fantasy owners scurrying to find another league when seeing Larry's name on the signup list.
The beauty of "Winning Fantasy Baseball" is its appeal to both the novice and experienced fantasy owner. Schechter takes time at the beginning of the book to outline all the basics for fantasy baseball participation, and then he slowly ramps up the pace in each succeeding chapter. The book contains a series of terrific tidbits on how to master a snake draft or an auction, which should be the biggest thing on a fantasy baseball owner's mind at this time of year. It also breaks down the differences in strategy between mixed leagues and mono formats (AL- or NL-only).
Chapters five and six of Winning Fantasy Baseball are the sections that really set this book apart from other fantasy baseball books. In those sections, Schechter breaks down his method for projecting player statistics, and then putting those projections into a useful value formula, in an effort to accurately rank all Major Leaguers. Readers of Winning Fantasy Baseball will quickly learn that no detail is too minute for Schechter, as he understands that small advantages can eventually add up to a massive lead in the league standings. Even experienced fantasy owners will find challenges in following the mathematical complexity of chapters five and six. But a patient approach to these chapters can pay off in a big way for those who want to dominate their competition. Schechter shows that a few extra hours spent working on a winter spreadsheet is well worth the end result.
The book does not leave fantasy owners high and dry after draft day, as Schechter offers a detailed plan for in-season roster management. Chapter 11 offers an intricate system for evaluating potential trades, and for maximizing production from the waiver wire. In discussing the book, Larry offered an additional tip that will benefit all fantasy owners in one month's time, when he reminded us not to "be too quick to give up on an under-performing player or jump on the bandwagon for a hot player. What goes up usually comes down, and vice versa".
Throughout the book, Schechter encourages fantasy owners to reject conventional wisdom unless each specific concept can be proven. As Larry offered in a recent conversation, "[Conventional wisdom suggests that] you need a first baseman who hits a lot of homers. Why? No, you don't. Sure there are more power hitters at first base than at middle infield, but there are plenty of home runs available.
If you get Prince Fielder, projecting him for 30 homers and an outfielder projected for 10 homers, that's no better than getting 10 homers from James Loney at first base, and an outfielder who will hit 30. Either one is fine. But where people get into trouble is thinking they need that power first baseman, so they overpay for Fielder and lose overall value."
The word "value" is a common theme in the book. To Larry, winning a fantasy baseball league is all about maximizing value at every turn. He shows how to extract the greatest roster value out of draft day, and out of each in-season transaction. Winning a fantasy baseball league isn't about making that one great gamble that nets a massive gain. A league championship is almost always earned by making many small maneuvers that each push a team a little bit further ahead of the pack.
Because fantasy baseball draft season is in full swing, Schechter's tips on player selection will be of great interest to readers right now. He encourages all owners to enter their draft or auction with an idea of knowing which players are most likely to end up on their roster. By doing advanced research, owners can have a good idea of which players they prefer, in comparison to the majority of competitors. To quote Larry, "if, for example, I think Brett Gardner is worth $22 and everyone else thinks he's worth $17-$20, then it's very likely I'll get him for less than $22, which will be a good deal. I also do this as a reality check for myself. Before the auction or draft, I would take another look at a guy like Gardner and make sure I'm not being too optimistic. But assuming I stand by my $22 projection, I will be able to identify Gardner, and several other players, as good targets entering my auction or draft".
Because "Winning Fantasy Baseball" can take an owner all the way from league basics to a championship run, it is an essential manual for all fantasy baseball enthusiasts.
Fred Zinkie is a Fantasy writer for MLB.com.