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The Importance of Separating the ‘Fan’ From ‘Fantasy Baseball’

Most of us who play Fantasy Baseball, season-long or Daily, have a favorite franchise we support. As we prepare for our upcoming drafts, I believe this is time when we need to consider checking our team loyalties at the door.

The word fan is derived from the word “fanatical.” A term that literally means “motivated by an extreme or uncritical enthusiasm.” Uncritical being the operative word.

If you were asked to name the top-five Fantasy starting pitchers in baseball, it wouldn’t be very difficult, right? You would respond with an answer supported by player stats such as K/9, WHIP, etc. However, if you were asked to name the top starting pitcher on your favorite ballclub, would you be able to answer the question with the same objectivity? Maybe not.

You might suggest Player X because his fastball is electric or Player Y because he isn’t afraid to throw high and inside to batters who crowd the plate. Often, when we try to quantify the value of players we cheer for, versus players we have no rooting interest in, things start to get muddled.

To illustrate my point, I will sacrifice myself as an example.

The Cautious Tale of a Blue Jays Fan

Born and raised in Toronto, I am a lifetime fan of the Blue Jays. My guess is that in 2014, I watched about 150 of their 162 games. I would consider myself a very loyal Blue Jays fan.

Not long after the Blue Jays traded for Brandon Morrow back in 2010, the media was ready to anoint Morrow as the second coming of Roy Halladay. Like everyone else, I saw him pitch every fifth day and was in awe of his raw talent. Even when he was not at his best, I recognized his enormous potential.

In 2013, when it came time to put together my pitching rankings, I thought I had done a solid job. However, what happened when Morrow was nominated in my league’s auction, went completely against my better judgement.

I had become hypnotized by the local media’s perception of Morrow and how he had looked in Spring Training. How he had the “stuff” to contend for the AL Cy Young that year. So while I had him valued at $13 or 14 in my pre-draft evaluation, I ended up paying $19 to have him on my team.

Why? It wasn’t based on WHIP, ERA or any other relevant statistic. Instead, I was still thinking back to August 8, 2010. That was the day I watched him strike out 17 batters and lose a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning. Black and white statistics had been replaced by my loyalty as a fan. So as the bidding increased, I couldn’t let go of the idea of not drafting Morrow. The idea of not having him on my Fantasy team …

That year Cy Young candidates were being drafted at a cost of $40 or more. I had justified to myself that if Morrow did finish as a top-10 pitcher, he would still have tremendous value. But Morrow didn’t win the Cy Young that year — not even close. He finished with a record of 2-3, with an ERA of 5.63 and a whip of 1.49. Even his K/9 ratio, which had been over 10 in two of the previous three seasons, had dropped to seven that year.

Granted, injuries had played a large part in his regression. But as I look back now at his career stats, I can see they don’t look that different to 2013 — 42-43 with ERA of 4.28 and WHIP of 1.35.

I just couldn’t keep his enormous potential out of my head.

How to Remove the “Fan” From “Fantasy Baseball”

So my advice to you on Draft Day is this: Do not completely avoid drafting players from your favorite team. Instead, trust your research and the effort you have spent compiling your rankings.

If your favorite player falls to you at the right price, great. But if not, let him go. Sure, it would be awesome to watch your hometown player on television every night pile up Fantasy points — but not at the cost of sacrificing the rest of your draft.

If you are truly determined to have a few players from your favorite MLB ballclub on your Fantasy roster this year, consider this strategy: Try to acquire your favorite team’s players via your minor league draft, or by using your in-season FAAB budget.

Last year, I was able to scoop up Daniel Norris midseason for $1 off the waiver wire, weeks before I read about him from the experts. I simply kept a closer eye on the Jays’ farm teams — and my gamble paid off. He is now widely considered one of the Jays’ top pitching prospects.

Remember, once the season starts, experts will be trying to keep track of 30 different farm systems and 30 big-league rosters simultaneously. This is where you will have the advantage to be ahead of the curve on your favorite players. Just not on Draft Day.

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