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Interrogate the Industry: Mike Gianella

Excitement fills the air as the latest Interrogate the Industry article lands upon you. First, the Super Bowl has been determined with the Seahawks vs. Patriots,and  now I am sure you know what that means — baseball season is coming and along with it, Fantasy Baseball.

The other exciting thing is this site! That’s right, it is brand-spanking new and will now host posts from myself, and so many others throughout the Fantasy season(s) that it should already be a bookmark on your browser by now. I will be continuing the Interrogate series, and hopefully ramp it up a bit in 2015, so get ready. The first one I am posting is from a very well-known, knowledgeable and all-around friendly guy: Mike Gianella of BaseballProspectus.com. Mike was willing to take some time to answer my questions, and I certainly enjoyed the responses.

Interrogate the Industry: Mike Gianella

1. Everyone got their Fantasy sports writing start somewhere. Talk about your start, including the possible ups and downs. Who helped you from the industry?

I started out as a commenter at Alex Patton’s website. One day in 2003, I randomly vented about an NL home league that I was dissatisfied with and Alex emailed me privately to ask if I would stand in for him at LABR in their NL division. It was an amazing experience (even though I finished middle of the pack), but I didn’t think it would parlay into any kind of “expert” gig. The next year, Alex was invited to a CBS expert league draft and once again asked me to do it. I won in my debut, finished second the next year, and for the first time started wondering if maybe I could do this whole “expert” thing.

I started my own blog in early 2007. It was a very specialized, auction-oriented, only-league format blog that, from the beginning, attracted a very small yet insanely loyal group of followers. Before you start writing, you always believe that your work is going to be ridiculously good, but looking back at those old pieces, I realize my work was incredibly raw. I knew my stuff, but conveying it to an audience wasn’t always successful. Eventually, I found my voice and the blog took off.

Interrogate-Mike Gianella2In early 2010, Peter Kreutzer (a.k.a Rotoman) asked me if I could be a fill-in at the last-minute in Tout Wars. Someone had dropped out, and I was their second or third replacement. Unlike with LABR, I was very nervous. I had been putting myself out there as an “expert” for years, and while I had done very well in CBS leagues, Tout Wars was a higher echelon. I had all of two days to prepare and all I wanted to do was not embarrass myself. I did better than that; I finished tied for third place. While first is the goal, I was pretty happy to have held my own in my rookie season.

Tout Wars helped me grow my profile, and Twitter allowed it to continue to grow. By interacting with even more Fantasy players than ever, I was eventually approached by Baseball Prospectus in early 2013 and asked to write for them.

I’m not really sure I had any “downs,” though the road was long in part because I didn’t do as much to promote myself in the early going as I should have. I was somewhat timid about talking myself up, which is something I would recommend to anyone who wants to get into this industry. It’s a tired cliche, but the worst thing someone can tell you if you ask them for something is “No.”

I have mentioned some of the good people who helped me along the way. Patton was essential. I learned from his books way back when, and even though we didn’t meet until earlier this year, I have always considered as a mentor. Kreutzer gave me the opportunity to get into Tout Wars, and was helpful when I needed it and patient with my mistakes. Jason Collette and Joe Hamrahi were both essential into bringing me into the Baseball Prospectus fold. There are so many others I could mention who have been great and helpful. If you are respectful and willing to listen and learn, the Fantasy Baseball community is mostly filled with terrific people who will appreciate you if your passion for the game is genuine.

2. Do you partake in Daily Fantasy Sports? If so, can you see them eventually dominating the industry?

Baseball Prospectus had a business relationship with Draft Street before they were purchased by Draft Kings, and then with Draft Kings after the sale. I play in an effort to promote the relationship, but to be honest, I am more of a dabbler at this point than a serious player. It is fun, but I was in nine Fantasy leagues last year and I try to devote my time to being competitive in as many of those leagues as possible, especially since that is the thrust of what I do for BP.

I can envision a situation where DFS continues to grow and grabs a fairly significant market share. However, there will always be a segment of people who prefer playing in a year-long league with their friends or co-workers. DFS will probably reach a saturation point, insofar as new players will replace players who stop or play less because they are consistently losing money. DFS will probably take over a portion of the market, but “traditional” Roto and H2H leagues aren’t going to dry up as a result. In part, this is because this isn’t an either/or situation. You can play in a home league and still throw a few dollars down on DFS every week quite easily.

Donaldson should see a nice bump in production with the lineup in Toronto in 2015.

Josh Donaldson should see a nice bump in production with the lineup in Toronto in 2015.

3. Are there any players on new teams this upcoming season who you will be pursuing more than before in Fantasy Baseball drafts?

Josh Donaldson gets a big bump moving from Oakland to Toronto and the lineup around him gives him some great run/RBI opportunities. Pablo Sandoval should get a bump moving out of Pac Bell, even though he is moving to the AL East. I generally believe that unless it is a radical park change (a pitcher moving to Petco or a hitter moving to Coors) that players changing teams tend to be somewhat overblown for Fantasy purposes.

4. If you had to choose a bounce-back player from this group, who would it be, and why? Jedd Gyorko, Jason Kipnis, and Joey Votto.

Votto’s the guy who should have the most significant impact if he is healthy, though going forward that could always be an open question. Still, I like Votto as a potential moderate bargain in leagues where people believe his best days are behind him. He may have two or three more near-elite years in the tank.

5. What is the most annoying Fantasy related questions you get on Twitter, or anywhere for that matter?

I’m very patient when it comes to nearly any question, but when someone sends me a screenshot of his roster and asks what I think, it drives me nuts. Almost always, this question is provided with zero league context, so I have no idea how good or bad the team is compared to everyone else in the owner’s league. I can offer my opinion, but what can I possibly do that will be helpful? This type of question seems to be less about asking for help and more about someone seeking validation that he did well in his draft.

6. Is there a strategy you will be using in Fantasy Baseball drafts in 2015? Positional scarcity, power hitters, elite pitching? I tend to just go where the value takes me, but my team structure this year will depend a lot on whether or not I get Clayton Kershaw or not. I don’t target elite pitchers, but he is the kind of player who can change the entire composition of your roster. If I get him, I’m going to go hitter-heavy early and fill out my staff much later than I normally would. Otherwise, I will probably go with more draft balance on the hitting/pitching side.

7. Is this the year Bryce Harper stays healthy and meets his lofty expectations? It is difficult to predict health, but regardless of how many games he plays, at some point he is going to be an elite force. It just might not be in 2015. Mike Trout has spoiled us in regards to how damn difficult this game is. It takes so long to hit your stride as a player even if you are completely healthy. Harper seems too good to produce only at an above average level. He will break out at some point. I’d put the chances on that happening in 2015 at 50-60 percent.

8. If you had to write an episode script for any television show which one would it be? Any plot ideas? 375px-Howimetyourmother Like anyone else who watched the show faithfully for nine years, I’d sure like to re-write the finale to “How I Met Your Mother.” There is way too much to have to try to fix in the completely regrettable last season, but I’d want to see an ending where Ted simply gets together with the mother and it doesn’t involve Robin at all. Take out the Robin/Barney divorce and you could devote time to explaining how Barney finally found happiness and peace without creating a flimsy plot excuse to free Robin from Barney. I’m getting mad again just writing about this.

9. If you could hang out/party with one person for one day, with zero repercussions, who would it be and why? Mickey Mantle in mid-to-late 1950s New York would be fun. I’d love to see New York City as it was back then. Even though I’m not a Yankee fan, the idea of running into all of those baseball and non-baseball celebrities, if I were hanging out with Mick, would be too much to pass up.

Be sure to follow Mike Gianella, one of the industry’s best, on Twitter @mikegianella.

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