Why Fantasy Baseball Is Nothing More Than Luck And I Give Up

MLB: New York Yankees at Cleveland Indians

This is a rant.

Until someone shows that getting injured is a skill, I give up.

Until someone proves that they can do better than the projection systems, I give up.

I’ve won my share of fantasy leagues. I’ve won partly through luck, and partly by being in leagues where some people didn’t know stuff. If you’re in leagues where people don’t know stuff, you can win. That’s not meant to be an insult. Maybe not knowing stuff is merely a result of someone having more important things to do than read about backup shortstops and third-in-line-to-be-closers. Who in the world is Jim Henderson, incidentally? Does even asking the question mean I’m one of the people who doesn’t know stuff, and so I deserve to lose?

Once you are in a league where everyone knows stuff, and is smart enough to game whatever the scoring system means ought to be gamed, it is luck. And nothing more.

You’re all using the same projection systems. If you can do better than the projections, you should be selling your projections. Otherwise, your hunch about who is about to have a breakout season is no better than my hunch. Luck. Luck luck luck.

Even worse, once you’re in a league where no one is making any stupid, uninformed decisions, like drafting players already out for the season, or not realizing that Roy Halladay might not be awesome anymore, any advantage that you may be able to get through your magic hunches about who is better than the computer says is so grossly outweighed by the impact of injuries that it doesn’t really mean anything.

If too many of your star players get injured, you will lose. And it’s not your fault. You can’t do anything about it, so what’s the point of caring? What’s the point of spending hours and hours making a stupid spreadsheet and drafting the people you want if it’s all in the hands of fate anyway.

And, yes, for some players, not getting injured does seem to be a skill. If you drafted Cal Ripken in his prime, excellent, good for you. But a lot of injuries seem pretty random. Enough to outweigh any big intelligent decisions you think you’re making.

This is perhaps less of a problem in leagues with unlimited waiver transactions and a shallow pool. Jered Weaver goes down, pick up Dillon Gee, don’t worry so much about it.

But then you think you’ve outgrown those leagues and you get involved in something a little more complicated. Something where you can’t replace an injured player quite so easily. So, of course, you draft some backups for your least-replaceable stars. Maybe more than one backup.

Maybe you have Carlos Santana on your team, and so you make sure to waste a draft pick on Lou Marson too, because of course he’s going to get the playing time if Santana were to get injured.

Maybe you even go one step further and draft young catching stud-in-the-making Derek Norris, as an extra insurance policy.

Maybe you also draft Ryan Lavarnway. Pointlessly. But you’ve seen in past seasons what can happen when you don’t have enough catchers, no one else can be swapped into the position, and you’re stuck. You’ve seen what can happen when catchers get injured. Carlos Santana’s knee. Jason Kendall losing a season. But you did everything right. Santana. Marson. Norris. Lavarnway.

I’m going have three catcher starts this week. Four if I’m lucky. Santana from Monday. Norris started yesterday, and now since Jaso hit a pinch-hit home run and is batting .368, I’m guessing maybe I get one more start from Norris.

The rest of the games? Catcher-AAA, with his .150 BA and game-losing guarantees. Thanks, Scoresheet rules. Santana and Marson both injured at the same time? I’m supposed to be able to predict that?

It’s luck. I hate it. I hate fantasy baseball. I’m never joining any leagues ever again ever ever ever ever ever again. Until next spring when I remember that I like making spreadsheets.

Coming tomorrow: a third consecutive post about Carlos Santana, because I hate hate hate hate love him. My team is so screwed.

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Jeremy Blachman is the author of Anonymous Lawyer, a satirical novel that should make people who didn't go to law school feel good about their life choices. Read more at McSweeney's or elsewhere. He likes e-mail.

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Wow, Howard Bender wants his kicking rocks column back! LOL

Also, as someone now “proudly” starting both Gregg Dobbs and Chris Johnson in one of those “everyone knows their stuff” 20-team leagues w/ contracts and a salary cap (i.e. very limited FA pickups) I feel your pain. Freeman/Aramis/Hart is killing me right now.