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Fantasy 101: The Psychology of Trades and Properly Analyzing Your Team

Jun 25, 2015
Robinson Cano may be a nice buy-low candidate.

Robinson Cano may be a nice buy-low candidate

It’s mid-June and the “dog days” of summer are upon us. With the fantasy baseball season nearing the halfway point, now is a great time to analyze where your team sits (regardless of where you are in the standings).

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As humans, we all fall into various pitfalls when it comes to how we think, what we think and why we think it. You probably haven’t considered this topic when it comes to fantasy sports, but you should. We are a results-based society, and that can set you up for failure in this “win now” culture.

What’s important in fantasy sports is the process. If you can develop a sound process, the results should follow more often than not. This doesn’t mean having a bad draft, exercising no logic on the waiver wire or making bad trades and sitting in first place thinking you’ve done it all right. Maybe you did, or maybe it was luck that has tricked you into thinking you are a great fantasy owner. Sometimes we get down on the correct process, and we constantly find ourselves saying, “Well if only I had…” or, “I wish I wouldn’t have drafted this player…” There are probably several owners who are down on having drafted someone like Robinson Cano at this point in the season, but now is the perfect time to prey upon those owners and buy low.

Am I saying he returns to his old Yankee days? Absolutely not, but if you expected that kind of production when you drafted him, you were wrong in the first place. Don’t let results tell you the whole story. Look deeper into his profile and see what is going on and you will find that things aren’t necessarily awful, but keep in mind that baseball is a very volatile sport on a daily basis. Over the course of the season, however, things tend to normalize. Yet, we forget that during the heat of the moment, throw our hands up in the air and give up. Don’t be that owner. Do your due diligence and find out if age, injury or some other factor is causing the issue. Maybe if it is just variance in a small sample, then you can look to take advantage of another owner who may be too focused on results.

In short, cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Individuals tend to create their own “subjective social reality” from their perception of the input. In fantasy sports, we as owners may have been all in on doing whatever it took to get a one-category producer. Even if you’re doing well, it likely is going to catch you at some point. Get the process right, remove your bias and try to find a willing buyer who helps even out your production.

If you’re floundering towards the bottom of the standings in a standard redraft league, it’s time to consider shaking things up a bit. This could involve trading a one-category producer or maybe just simply upgrading a position. Sometimes it involves something a bit more drastic that you have to be willing to shed your pride to make it work. Let’s look at one such strategy in closing that I tried last year.

In a redraft league that allows you to have only one starting pitcher, give this approach a shot. Have a pitcher who can be consistently productive each start, even they aren’t a top-tier option. For me last year, that was Julio Teheran. From there, fill the rest of your pitching slots with relievers (most of whom are found via waivers). If you haven’t clicked the “X” yet, stick with me. Utilize your pitching assets to acquire some multi-category hitting producers since hitting categories are tougher to predict. In the pitching category (we used a 6×6 format), you essentially have WHIP, ERA, saves and holds on lock. Wins and strikeouts are essentially conceded, but that’s OK because we aren’t looking for a team full of the highest scoring fantasy producers at year end. We simply need to beat our opponent each week. You’ve just stacked four of the 12 categories in your favor nearly every week.

You simply need to manage two out of the six hitting categories in your favor to break even, so imagine what can happen if you can fill the other lacking categories by upgrading your bats. I utilized this strategy last season and nearly turned a bottom-of-the-barrel first half into a championship. I employed it too late in the summer since I was skeptical, just like you are right now.

The message isn’t that this strategy will immediately catapult you into first place. In fact, it’s a risky proposition. But the intent of my message is to encourage you as a fantasy owner to re-train your mind and think in a different way. Sometimes you have to pull a wild move, but sometimes it’s just a minor tweak. However, the challenge isn’t the move itself. It’s overcoming the psychological barriers we allow in our heads. This isn’t easy and, quite frankly, I fall victim to cognitive bias a lot. When we can look beyond that though, the correct process will ultimately win out over time.

Adam Sutton is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Adam, follow him @DraftStars_Adam. You can find more of Adam’s work at

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