Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Baseball Post

Tomorrow is roto auction day for me.  Wait, wait, keep reading!  (Baseball fans only, of course).

First, yes, I know, there's nothing more boring than hearing about someone's fantasy team.  At least in baseball; I assume that's true for fantasy sports in other leagues, but I wouldn't know.  So some anti-fantasy feeling is no doubt because new fantasy owners tend to be (1) enthusiastic and (2) very, very, dull.  Fair enough.

But baseball fans shouldn't hate fantasy, even if it isn't their thing.  No roto, no explosion of information about minor leaguers.  No roto, well, it doesn't matter now, but no STATS Handbooks in the late 1980s-1990s.  No roto, and no Baseball Prospectus, book or web site.  No roto...well, the web would have meant far more information, but we would have had less, and poorer quality. 

No roto, and there's every chance that the sabermetric revolution would have advanced a lot less slowly.  Yes, standard roto (which is what I do) places plenty of weight on RBIs and pitcher's Wins.  And in 1988, my first roto season (yes, my Blue Sox are older than the Rox, Fish, Rays, and RBacks -- that's an old Giants usenet group in-joke, sorry -- and older than the Washington Nationals, the LA and Anaheim Angels, and the NL Milwaukee Brewers...where was I...oh yeah) in 1988, I was able to dominate my league because I knew a handful of basic sabermatric concepts.  You know, things like ERA being a better predictor of pitchers' future wins than current pitcher's wins, that understood properly minor league hitting stats were basically equal to major league hitting stats for predicting future hitting stats, or that saves are a function of manager choices, not pitcher quality.  This created a pretty big market for people to either explain that stuff to roto players who wanted to learn things, or an even bigger market for people to sell projections, which required knowing those things to be accurate.

My guess is that it eventually also created a broader market for all kinds of baseball stuff.  I've heard a lot of people disparage football, saying that it wouldn't exist/be a major sport if it wasn't for the gambling,  People do bet on football, a lot, and as a consequence they watch a ton of football.  And in part thanks to roto, people bet on baseball more than they did before, and also more people watch baseball than ever before. 

So, if I or anyone else starts babbling on about how we just need a good start from "my" pitcher, go ahead, walk away.  Just remember: except for those annoying conversations, and I guess except for the downside of how popular MLB is these days, baseball fans are getting a lot out of fantasy players.

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