How do fantasy guides come up with their performance predictions? And why should you trust them? Or not trust them?
The answers are quite varied. Some guides rate skill sets, some guides look at past performance and compare them with skill sets. Some look at three years' worth of performance (one of the more accurate ways to project), and some look at that and then add or subtract a little bit based on age, upside and health. And some simply look at the stats, trust their guts and pull them out of thin air.
So how do you know which one any fantasy guide uses? Often you don't. But even if you did, how would you know which one to trust? Even the guys who are pulling stats out of thin air are relying on years of expertise and experience when they make their best guesses. That already tends to make them a lot more accurate than the guesses by all except the most informed fans.
Veteran fantasy players usually do a little of each. Often they start with a guide as their basis and modify it from there. Experts make their own fantasy guide, often in their head, often putting it onto paper, sometimes as early as the beginning of October -- and it's those expert guides that you see on sale or given away for free online.
In reality the best thing you can do is make your own guide, either by modification of an existing guide, by averaging out several guides or by building from scratch and modifying your opinion based on a number of factors, including tapping into the expertise of those who know more than you do.
And unless you devote your life to following baseball year round, those experts often know more than you do about the game. Of course, choosing the right experts is a tough thing, especially if you don't know anything about them. It's a very personal thing and there are plenty of variables here, from experience, to written voice, to proven track record, to, well, gut feeling.
But if there is one thing I think is important about a fantasy expert -- how much of his or her time devoted to baseball and how much to other sports. I don't want someone who covers two, three or four or more sports. I want someone who follows baseball year round. Someone who can talk about the Arizona Fall League, winter ball in the Caribbean, the World Baseball Classic and who even knows enough about the Japanese and Korean leagues that he or she can name a couple of the teams.
In fact the more he or she knows about baseball the better. Fantasy baseball is a game where knowledge is power and lucky for us we can draw on the knowledge of many different experts. Their advice can shape, change, modify, confirm or temper our expectations, but in the end, unless you blindly want to follow, the decision to use that advice is yours.
That's where building your own draft sheet, be it from scratch, based on a newsstand guide (or a bunch of guides), or one of the reputable books, offers you the opportunity to gain a leg up. Even the experts take advantage of all the available tools, opinions and knowledge they can gather before draft day. That preparation gives them an edge, and will give you an edge, especially when you have information that no one else in the room possesses.
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