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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).

Highlights

  • 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.

 

  1. Big Magoo says:
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    I just picked this book up last week and started reading it the other day, coincidentally enough. Great minds think alike.

    Your review pretty much covers everything, and for those who want the Cliffs Notes version (halfway through, anyway), I’d sum it up like this: trust yourself and be prepared. Have a plan and stick to it. Pay attention to things like ADP and consensus rankings, but don’t let them influence you in any significant way. Maximize value by not overpaying for any one particular player (with occasional exceptions).

    It’s very straightforward and easily readable, as you mentioned. Definitely worth a look.

      • Big Magoo says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: Happy New Year, Rudy! Looking forward to seeing how my projections and $$ values match up with your point shares. I finally see a dim light at the end of the offseason tunnel…

  2. Van Hammersly says:
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    Sweet! Thanks, Rudy. Bought this over the weekend and it should arrive any day now.

    I’ve been really successful the last several years simply reading Razzball, but I’m always open to hearing other intelligent perspectives and not the usual noise (“position scarcity!” “the power is legit!”) from ESPN, Y!, CBS, et al.

    Rudy, did you happen to write up a 2013 experts’ ranking reviews post? I really enjoyed the one or two you wrote previously, so I was curious to see how Razzball did in relation to other touts last season.

    • @Van Hammersly: Hey VH. Been reviewing expert rankings/projections during the break. Planning to write it all up this month at some point.

  3. Drew says:
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    Sounds pretty cool Rudy, I’ll check it out.

    I’ve been tossing an idea around in my head the last week or so, and you’re the guy to ask about it. I’m curious if there are any studies out there that show the variability/instability of draft picks by position.

    On average, how many top-5 ADP 1B finish top-5 at the end of the year?
    Top-10 ADP finish top-10?
    Top-20?

    Etc.

    Or what the average finish for a preseason top-10 pick might be. There are smarter ways to look at it (that probably have been done already).

    Think it could be an interesting and useful thing to consider headed into the draft. Any thoughts or similar studies you know of?

    Thanks Rudy!

    • @Drew: I have seen general findings on this but not something as specific as you’re stating. I know Fantistics had a chart (can’t find it via Google or their site) that showed reliability per position but the only real takeaway I recall is that Catchers are riskiest.

      We have 2013 Pre-Season and End of Season Player rater data up on the site so you can look into this. Quickly looking at this season’s final top 10 (http://razzball.com/playerrater), Miggy, Trout, and Dread Pirate are the only players showing up in most top 10s (I also had Kershaw in mine). Cano finished 11th so that’s a potential 5th. I imagine 2-5 of the top 10 finishing in the top 10 is the norm and that this rate is about the same for top 20.

      Last year was a rough one given that at least 2 1st round picks delivered almost nothing (Braun, Kemp) and several missed significant time (Stanton, Pujols). I am going to do an analysis this preseason that shows the impact of ‘hitting’ vs ‘missing’ your top round picks.

      • Drew says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: Thanks Rudy,

        Appreciate your response and looking forward to the analysis you mentioned. I kind of suspected Catchers and Relief Pitchers are the most unpredictable, but understand that accounting for injury in some way basically is a must for a potential study to have real meaning. One of these days maybe I’ll get into it and let you know if I find anything interesting.

        Thanks again

    • OaktownSteve says:
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      @Drew:

      There’s a guy named Mike Gianella that now works at Baseball Prospectus doing their fantasy stuff. He used to have a blog called Roto Think Tank which he stopped when he moved to BP, but the blog is still up. He had excellent coverage of pre-season auction values versus end of season dollar values. If you go to the blog and scroll back through older posts to last year’s off season you should be able to find it. He might also be doing it on BP but I think their fantasy coverage is mostly or all for pay.

      • Drew says:
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        @OaktownSteve: Thanks Steve I’ll check it out!

      • Blue says:
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        @OaktownSteve: Gianella is really, really sharp.

  4. Drew says:
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    I just bought the book. On another note…

    When will the 2014 rankings start coming out?

    • Eddy says:
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      @Drew:

      Top 10 comes out Monday.

    • Later this month for the rankings.

  5. Larry's Laptop says:
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    He spends 15% of his time on excel.
    50% of his time watching pixelated bukkake.
    35% on calculating APT (average pixellation time)
    There is no position scarcity.
    Have some sex nerds!

  6. Al lydon says:
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    Looking for a site to find out who will be SP-RP eligible for 2014. Grey says he doesn’t do one of these. These guys are valuable on your team for the flexibility they give us. I know you guys do this for the other positions. Just curious why you don’t do it for the SP-RP’s ?. Seems like this is something you should include to the best stat blog in the business. You guys are awesome none the less. Happy belated Festivus and New Years Rudy.

    • I can do this pretty easily. I don’t publish them on the site because it gets too messy estimating the player’s value.

      What’s the criteria – 5+ GS and 5+ games relieved?

      • Al lydon says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: Yes that’s the criteria. Appreciate the help. Also in a 12 team H2H points league what ratio do you suggest as far as how many pitcher’s to hitter’s you would pick. 21 picks in all. I was thinking 11 hitters to 10 pitcher’s. Your thoughts.

        • @Al lydon: Just wrote up a post w/ this for 2014. Should be up sometime in the next 7 days.

          • Al lydon says:
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            @Rudy Gamble: Thanks for that Rudy, I ‘ll be looking for it.

        • @Al lydon: Depends on how many players you can start and whether you can make daily or weekly starting lineup changes. Generally, I’d want almost all SPs on the bench so you can mix/match based on matchups each week.

  7. J-FOH says:
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    I ordered this two days ago with that Amazon gift card I got for Christmas. I must say, this is really eerie, did you also get a hankering for a sausage and mushroom pizza last night?

    • Weird – I took mushrooms and dreamed I rode on a flying sausage to the Amazon and delivered a pizza to Santa Claus. I’m like, “Why do you live in South America?” and he’s like, “Um, I’m German and that’s where the naughty side of Mrs Claus’s family moved a couple of generations ago. Your in-laws – can’t live with them, can’t throw them in a sack and dump them in the ocean, am I right?”

      • J-FOH says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: I don’t know, my “in laws” live in Long beach and the ocean is so damn close you can smell it….oh wait that’s the refinery

    • Big Magoo says:
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      @J-FOH: Sausage and pepperoni here, but it’s kind of like choosing between Cutch and Goldy. Can’t really go wrong either way.

      • Wake Up says:
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        @Big Magoo: my favorite pizza topping…smoked trout…

        • Big Magoo says:
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          @Wake Up: I always enjoy a good rizzoto…

          • Wake Up says:
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            @Big Magoo: only when cooked by a righty…

      • J-FOH says:
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        @Big Magoo: you do the double sausage

    • Wake Up says:
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      @J-FOH: did you also get a hankering for a sausage… and mushroom pizza last night?

      I’m with you on the mushroom pizza…but???

      • J-FOH says:
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        @Wake Up: I got the munchies after tripping through a field of lefties caught in the snow storm of the offseason. That was no ordinary Guillermo Mota, that Furbush really packs a wallop if you don’t step in the abyss of the mobbies first

        • Wake Up says:
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          @J-FOH: HA!

  8. Wake Up says:
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    Nice review Rudy…I’ll have to check this out once I’m done reading “Tonyball” which just arrived to my cabin…postmarked 2008…my postperson is a big fan of “Funny Farm”…

    • J-FOH says:
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      @Wake Up: HAHAHAHA, he drives fast and washes his clothes seasonally?

      • Wake Up says:
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        @J-FOH: …and he’s due…overdue…

  9. Mike

    Mike says:
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    Thanks for this, Rudy…I love a good baseball read

  10. Whatever says:
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    Ordered this book last week with my usual yearly Fantasy Forecaster purchase. Looked like a good read. Thanks for confirming.

    • goodfold2 says:
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      @Whatever: you mean the ron shandler book? that thing rules.

  11. Carnac says:
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    Fingers crossed that ESPN has a camcorder set up during their fantasy experts’ ranking summit again.

    • Carnac says:
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      Wow, that was a non sequitur. Here’s a (more related) protip: if you buy the book via the above link, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will personally cut Rudy Gamble a check for $0.02.

  12. SwaggerJackers says:
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    @Rudy:

    In a 10 team auction keeper league with OBP instead of AVG and QS instead of W, pick 5 keepers for the upcoming season. Each year, the price of keepers increases by $3.

    Tulo $24
    Cano $21
    Scherzer $16
    Bautista $10
    Gomez $11
    Minor $6
    Segura $4
    Myers $4
    Jose Fernandez $4
    Billy Hamilton $4

    • I’d go Cano, Myers, J-Fer, Segura.

  13. Fabio says:
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    I read it the kindle version, not exactly the “rosetta stone” of fantasy baseball that many reviewers were trying to sell. A lot of common sense and tips one can easily find in this website, and the theory of Standings Gain Point was also discussed here and in other websites.
    I hoped it was better.

  14. Jay says:
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    Rudy!!! happy new year bud-

    got a quick keeper question:

    need 5 who’s out:
    Votto, Stanton, Machado, Beltre, Kipnis, Strasburg.

    league scores traditional 5×5 plus Total bases and QS.

    We also roster an IF spot(no CI or MI) – we have offseason trading allowed and just acquired Kipnis. I REALLY like Machado. Think Beltre could be in for a big year.

    I traded away picks last year to go for it so i don;t pick this year until the 8th round and then again in the 11th. Moving Stanton could most likely get me back some “early” picks. It may be blasphemy on this site, but thinking about moving Stanton…?

    Any thoughts? Thanks.

    • I think you need to hold onto Stanton to have at least one OF. Votto is a no-brainer. Keep Strasburg. So with Beltre/Machado, you’re playing the other one at this IF position? I’d probably suggest not keeping Machado just b/c IF seems easier to fill than 2B or OF but hard to say. If you can get good value for Stanton, I guess I’d do it given his health concerns.

      • Jay says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: Yes I would play one at the IF spot.

        Machado is also coming back from the that knee injury too. I would have to weigh the offers for Stanton. But man I love me some machado. I think he is one of the top 10 keeper options, although the injury is a bit concerning. plus I have read that there may be some thhought in moving him back to SS once hardy moves on. not sure how factual that is, but that would definitely be a huge plus.

        I guess it’s a better problem to have than not having 5 solid options and having to choose that way…

        • good point on the machado injury. yes, better to cut from 6. maybe dangle beltre or machado along with stanton and take the best deal?

  15. centerfield _ ballhawk says:
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    Rudy,
    I’m attempting to create a spread sheet with some projections and dollar values for the upcoming season. I intend to use these dollar values for a twelve team auction draft. I decided to go with streamers, but some of the dollar values look a little on the low side. For example, Jay Bruce is listed at $17 dollars and Freddie Freeman at $16, respectively. Is it counterproductive to use these rankings if I’m just going to go ahead and diregard some of them? Do yiou recommend another set of projections and dollar values, or should I just adjust some of the dollar amount that I disagree with?

    • When is ur auction? Mine should be up by end of month. I like steamer projections but not sure about the playing time estimates or the $ methodology.

      • centerfield ballhawk says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: Not until Match. Probably better off just waiting. Some really bizarre auction values. Bryce Harper was really low, Carlos Gomez was closer to ten dollars.

        • Yeah, just wait then.

  16. Cheese says:
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    Hey Rudy

    I’m looking into purchasing this book, but also one of the others listed below as well. Can you give some insight into the following materials?

    Baseball Prospectus 2014
    The Bill James Handbook
    Ron Shandlers 2014 Baseball Forecaster

    I’m leaning towards the Baseball Forecaster, but I can be swayed. What are your thoughts? I appreciate any feedback. I am fairly well versed in advanced stats, so I won’t be frightened by advanced statistical analysis.

    Thanks,

    • Of those three, I only have the Bill James Handbook. I bought it for the first time this year as I’m looking into Park Factors. It’s okay but does NOT have 2014 projections, player profiles, or much in terms of articles. I’ve bought Shandler’s Forecaster before and found it useful. It’s the most fantasy baseball focused of the three and usually interesting strategy articles. I like the player profiles and general stat articles in BP.

      Given that BaseballHQ peeps have kicked my butt in recent years in expert leagues, I’d go with the Baseball Forecaster. If you could, click the Winning Fantasy Baseball link in this article so I can get a little Amazon affiliate love :)

      • Cheese says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: I’ve already clicked it probably about 8 times since you wrote this, so you’re already getting much love on my end haha. Thanks for the help!

        • goodfold2 says:
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          @Cheese: if clicking the link alone helps youse guys it’ll be really high quite soon (the click count).

  17. Eddy says:
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    Hey Rudy,

    Thinking of nabbing this book. I focus on mixed leagues, only 12 teams in size. I know 15-team leagues and AL/NL only is a thing with experts, but simply not something I’m interested in. Is that broached too much here to the point of being put off by it?

    • It probably isn’t the book for you unless you are interested in 15 team or al/NL.

      • Eddy says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: Understood, I’ll hold off then.

        Razzball helped me to three 1st place finishes last year, so no reason in fixin’ what ain’t broke!

  18. Schlitzy says:
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    Just a quick plug for Rudy’s point shares. Have used them for my very competitive NL only auction the last 3 years and won two of them, last year by a very wide margin.

  19. DrEasy says:
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    I’d be really interested in hearing what you thought of “The Book”.

    As for projection systems, to be more useful they should auto-eliminate players for which there’s too much uncertainty: rookies, sophomores, players coming back from injury, relievers, etc. At least they should provide some sort of standard deviation or error bar.

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