I do not review baseball books very often. I have managed to write more ‘fake’ book reviews on this site than real ones. Even books that have been in print for years that I meant to belatedly review end up unreviewed – like The Book or Ball Four - because I’m usually in one of three states (pre-season stat-crunching+writing/in-season team management+writing/off-season vegging).
But I made an exception with Winning Fantasy Baseball (officially out Jan 7 – click preceding link to buy it on Amazon) since the author (Larry Schechter) is far and away the best performing ‘expert’ in Tout Wars. I could obviously learn a couple things from him. (It didn’t hurt that his PR person sent me a free copy as professional courtesy – if only I had such sway with European car companies or bacon of the month clubs).
I polished this nearly 350 page book in 2 days. Kudos to the author for his eminently readable prose.
What Does The Book Cover?
Auction/snake draft strategy, projecting stats, projecting $ values, in-season team management. Particular focus is placed on AL/NL-only leagues and 15-team mixed leagues with weekly (vs daily) roster changes.
Who Should Read This Book?
While this is useful for any serious fantasy baseball player, it is most useful for those that think spreadsheet and not big and tall clothing when they hear XL. For those of you who predominantly play the standard 12-team mixed league snake draft format, the value of the book will primarily be in draft preparation and strategy (vs. in-season management).
- He provides a very good overview of several methodologies for valuing players including Standings Gain Points (SGP), Percentage Value Methods (PVM), and Standard Deviation-based models. If those terms sound like jibba-jabba to you, that’s understandable. I had never heard of PVM before reading the book. You will be a lot wiser on these topics after reading this book. Mr. Schechter’s experience using SGP is clear as he is able to provide a great primer on the methodology and the PVM section was interesting. (FWIW, I had never read about other methodologies when I devised my Point Share method but it has many similarities with SGP with a pinch of Standard Deviation.)
- He hammers away at what I think is the most important principle of draft strategy – maximize roster value – and provides several useful tips during pre-draft preparations to achieve this.
- He provides a birds-eye view on how an expert prepares for and conducts a draft (in this case, an AL-only ToutWars draft).
- He drills into several concepts like ‘position scarcity’ and ‘hitter/pitcher $ splits’ that will leave the reader wiser than when they started.
Dim lights (there are no lowlights)
- I found the chapter on projecting stats to be dated as, even with some nods to concepts like BABIP, it suggests one create their own projections based on basically gut feel (e.g., look at past years, make some adjustments as you see fit). There is no mention of any projection system – Marcel, ZiPS, Steamer, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball HQ, etc. Clearly, Mr. Schechter is very good at projecting this way given his track record but I think the better recommendation for most is to grab data from a solid projection system or an aggregation of projection systems like FantasyPros, make adjustments where you see fit, and focus the majority of your time on draft strategy and converting it into player values/rankings (or just rely on me to do all that for you!)
- His mixed-league approach involves adjusting AL/NL-only league values. While I found this an interesting exercise – and can see how it works – this feels convoluted for those that only play mixed-leagues.
Would I Recommend It?
Definitely yes. Whenever you get the chance to peer into the brain of a highly successful person in a field/vice you love, you do it.