The First Draft of 2001    (01/22/01)

A friend of mine who works for invited me to participate in a Mock Draft.  The draft's main purpose is to provide readers a barometer of where players will go in their own drafts this spring.  After each pick, we were asked to offer a brief reason why we chose each player.  Anyway, the league is a 10-team combined league and all of the owners are experts from different websites and fantasy sports outlets.  Further concentrating the player pool, each team will only have 18 active players, with a 7-man taxi reserve squad.

Fantasy Point Scoring System
Rather than the ranking system commonly used in standard rotisserie/fantasy baseball, this game will use a point system based on various statistical events.  The points are awarded like this:

runs scored:  1 Each 1/3 Inning Pitched: 1
base hit: 1 Win (W): 10
double (2B): 1 Loss (L): -5
Triple (3B): 2 Save (S): 10
Home Run (HR): 3 Blown Save (BS): -5
Run Batted In (RBI): 1 Hit (H): -1
Walk (BB): 1 Walk (BB): -1
Strike Out (K): -1 Strike Out (K): 1
Hit by Pitch (HBP): 1 Complete Game (CG): 5
Stolen Base (SB): 2 Complete Game Shutout (CGSO): 10
Caught Stealing (CS): -1 Earned Runs Allowed (ER): -1
Catcher Throws Out Base Runner: 1 Wild Pitch (WP): -1
Passed Ball (PB): -1 Error (E):  -1
Error (E): -1 Hit Batter (HB): -1
Sacrifice (S): 1 Balk (BK): -1
Ground into Double Play (HIDP): -1 Complete Game No Hitter (CGNH): 20
Hit for the Cycle: 5 Complete Perfect Game (PG): 30
Runner Picked Off:  1


It's an interesting scoring system in that it both rewards and punishes for the quality of play.  Of course, some of the rewards are greater than they'd be in real life.  For instance, a player who gets a walk and a stolen base is awarded more points than a player who hits a double.  In real life, a player who hits a double not only puts himself in scoring position, but possibly clears any and /or occupied bases.  The player who draws a walk merely advances the baserunners one base and then risks getting thrown out - even the good basestealers get thrown out 25% of the time - attempting to get into scoring position.  But in fantasy points, he scores 3 points (1 for walk, 2 for steal), whereas the doubles hitter gets only 2 (1 for hit, extra one for double).

Anyway, I accepted the challenge simply because it would pit my skills and knowledge against some of the elite in the industry.  But since I had never played this type of game before, I had to do some serious studying to get a handle on what to look for.  And this is what I observed:

1) Strikeout pitchers are the most valuable commodity in the game.  Any pitcher who can strikeout 200 batters and win 15 games while posting a reasonably decent ERA can easily accumulate more than 600 points.  Very few hitters can achieve such lofty heights because their big ticket items - home runs and stolen bases - get very little compensation compared to what a pitcher gets for either a win or a save or a complete game.

2) Of the top 100 point producers last year, shortstops, third basemen and catchers combined for only 9 spots.  Starting pitchers garnered 37 of the top 100 spots.  Outfielders grabbed nearly 30.  So getting a good player at the scarce positions can go a long way toward ensuring success.

3) The elite players in the starting pitching and outfield positions change more dramatically from year to year than any other position.  For example, 5 of the top 15 starters from last year were no where close to the top 15 the year before.  So even if you picked five top 5 starting pitchers, there's a high degree of likelihood that only 3 would be so highly regarded by the end of the year.  The same is true in the outfield.  The top 5 or 6 percent remains reasonably consistent from year to year, but after that, it's subject to change drastically.

And from that, I devised by pre-draft strategy, which I will divulge in my next column, along with an analysis of the first 10 rounds.