People ask me: EWB, what’s the best thing I can do to level up my fantasy skills? Right now, I’d say “Get off of Twitter, I don’t know WTF those guys are fighting about, but it’s dumb.” But you’re probably on to 20chan or something else deplorable already, so you’ve seen worse than grown men fighting over imaginary sports management.

There’s no single path that will bring you fantasy glory. I mean, other than starting up a league by yourself and inviting nobody else. You’re gonna be so embarrassed when you come in second place behind a team that didn’t even draft!

There’s no single thing that will make you the best fantasy lothario on the planet because you can’t control everything. And when you realize how little control you have, that’s when you level up your fantasy game and become a better player.

Wait, EWB. Grey was named the best rankings in 2023 by FantasyPros and Rudy knows regression maths and y’all seem to win at a fair rate — what gives?

Let’s be like Einstein and do a thought experiment here.

Take ten quarters. I know, I know, you probably don’t actually have quarters anymore because you’ve got Venmo and you’re earning 1.5x points with the American Express card. Good for you. But let’s imagine it’s 1999 and all the original members of TLC are still alive and you’ve got a pocket of quarters.

Like every good person who has gobs of time thanks to the lack of social media (it’s 1999, remember?), you start flipping those coins and tracking the results.

Two sides to the coin: heads and tails. Should be 50/50, right? Let’s flip those coins ten times each and see what happens.

If you want somebody who has already flipped a hundred coins to do your fantasy work for you, get on that Razzball Premium Subscription. I’m not paid to say that. Grey and Rudy don’t make me say that. I say that because I’ve worked for / know people from every major provider and most minor providers and Razzball is legit the best performance for money. If I’m boring you to tears right now, then let Rudy do all the work and you just play.

Are you done flipping quarters yet?

I just flipped my quarter — let’s call it Inflatable Chicken — and it landed tails twice in a row! 2 for 2! I’m on a roll. Now I flipped it five times, and I have 4 instances of tails and 1 instance of heads. Clearly, Sonic the Hedgehog fans are thrilled right now.

4/5 tails for Inflatable Chicken. So, the next 5 throws should be a solid 4/5, right? I kid you not, they were. Inflatable Chicken, you’re going in my pocket for a lucky day. 8/10 instances of tails. Y’all are gonna have to wait while I go spend some of this luck at the casino.

[7 hours and -$2000 later]

Inflatable Chicken should have had 5 heads / 5 tails, but it went a solid 8/10 tails. Let’s throw another 10 times and win! [EWB goes wild at his kitchen table, even wilder than his usual Saturday night meal prep of frozen fish and tater tots]

And our friend Inflatable Chicken went 6/10 heads this time. So, over 20 throws, we now have 12/20 tails, and 8/20 heads. To hell with it! I’m doing another ten. [EWB channels his inner 90s kid and slams the quarters like POGs. No, I didn’t misspell that, Gen Z]. 

Inflatable Chicken went another 6/10 heads, bringing the total score over thirty throws to 16 tails and 14 heads.

This is fantasy baseball in a nutshell. On a long enough timeline, just about everybody is average. On a short enough timeline, even average players can look like all-stars, or great players can look like trash.

For fun’s sake, let’s say “Tails” means a hit. Let’s study my data now:

Sample Size 2 throws 5 throws 10 throws 20 throws 30 throws
Hits 2 4 8 12 16
Batting Average 1.000 .800 .800 .600 .533

By “Half”:

Sample Size 1st Half 2nd Half
Hits 11 4
Batting Average .733 .333

My good friend Inflatable Chicken is clearly a spring chicken. In the first half, Chicken dominated with a .733 batting average, buffeted by going wild out of the gate with 8/10 hits. Then the All-Star Break came and poor Chicken ran out of energy and stumbled to a meager .333 average, which was a magnitude worse than the first half and 20% worse than baseline expectations.

The Illusion of Fantasy Safety

Where would you draft Inflatable Chicken in your fantasy baseball draft? That first half was great! Imagine if Chicken found stability and maintained that for a whole season. Maybe Chicken got injured, or had never played that much before. Maybe Chicken is in the best shape of their life — probably Korean fried — and could replicate the second half?

But maybe Inflatable Chicken is more like the second half — always underperforming expectations. What if that second half is Chicken‘s actual skill? What if I was wrong about Chicken being a 50/50 player, and really Chicken is a 60/40 player? After all, I got burned — oil is hot! — during the playoffs. I don’t know if I can really trust Inflatable Chicken this year, especially when they cost me the championship…

We do this kind of rationalization everywhere in life. How many bad meals at a restaurant will it take before you stop going? How many times do you need to see traffic before you anticipate needing a detour? Do you tell yourself you’re bad at math and then spend your days working a cash register where every dime needed to be tallied?

Or maybe the opposite is true. Have you never had food poisoning? Have obstacles never blocked your path? Are you (or do you know) somebody who’s the boss and can’t write their own name or do second grade math?

On a long enough timeline, you’ll find yourself much like your imaginary sports team: on a hot streak, or on a cold streak. It’s all in perspective and measurement.

Playing Time and Luck

Half the battle to being a better fantasy player is getting “lucky.”

Luck exists in the statistical sense, like we talked about above. Inflatable Chicken went 8/10 to start the flipping season, and that’s not explainable by science other than “small sample size.” This is why I prefer batters who swing the bat to those who sit up there waiting for walks. Respect to the Greek God of Walks and all, but if you line up a streak of ABs against pitchers who never throw outside the strike zone, the only way you’re getting on base is by swinging.

Luck also exists in a more practical sense for playing time.

While I certainly don’t want to say Noelvi Marte‘s 80 game suspension for PEDs is “luck,” it does add more playing time for the entire Reds infield. Jonathan India and Christian Encarnacion-Strand benefit from Noelvi Marte’s absence — and that’s something you had no control over. Suddenly, everybody’s drafting CES — did you get him at a discount last week?

Lucas Giolito was my aggressive pick for a starter to finish in the top 25 this year. Well, that dream’s dead before takeoff because Gio’s likely off for Tommy John surgery. This opens up a rotation spot for one of the many free agents out there — could it be Michael Lorenzen, Mike Clevinger, or even Jordan Montgomery? Guys like Clevinger go from zilch to “dart throw” value.

Those lineup sites are projecting Wyatt Langford to break camp and start the season in the majors. ADP Hopeium. But what if this is just his spring cup of coffee? Could the Rangers just want him to get some seasoning with the MLB team and give him a syllabus of work to do in the minors for the bulk of the summer season before returning in August/September for the playoffs? The guy who drafted Langford in the 10th round of my RazzSlam draft sure thinks so.

We can’t control all of these things. We can’t predict a lot of these things. The best we can do is have a vision about what is likely to happen, and then prepare for the alignment of best possible outcomes.

As much as we talk statistics here at Razzball, it’s important to keep in mind that most of this stuff is out of our control. None of these players are truly safe. They’re just more or less likely to reach their performance expectations. Top fantasy sports players control this chaos by being in multiple leagues — some of your favorite Touts might be in upwards of 100 leagues across multiple platforms. They draft entirely different teams with different strategies to prevent against financial disaster — maybe this is the year that pocket ace strategies pay off big. It happens about once a decade, and you don’t want to be left out when it hits!

If you want to be a better fantasy manager, sometimes you need to step aside from the statistics. Sometimes, you gotta be like Dr. Strange and look into the multiverse, and see all the possibilities out there. Why is Rudy so good at projections? Because he has an algorithm to figure all that stuff out — he doesn’t need to sit on Twitter waiting for lineup news because the system automatically adjusts.

When those best laid plans line up in your favor? That’s when you take home the imaginary trophy for your imaginary sports team. Good luck in 2024 all!