When to change your mind about fantasy baseball.


Fantasy baseball owners stick to the strategy that they feel has worked for them in the past. And there is no deviating from it. (Click to tweet this.) Why is it?  Why would us fantasy baseball players stubbornly (well, other than the fact that real baseball is a slow glacier of change) stick to a strategy that may have worked for us in 2002, but hasn’t gotten us higher than 5th place since?

There is actually a fair amount of research on this phenomenon. Well, not on fantasy baseball strategies, but on how us humans have a heck of a time changing our minds about something, even if there is overwhelming evidence that we should.

"“[People] already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper."

What’s going on? How can we have things so wrong, and be so sure that we’re right? There is a substantial body of psychological research showing that people tend to interpret information with an eye toward reinforcing their preexisting views. If we believe something about the world, we are more likely to passively accept as truth any information that confirms our beliefs, and actively dismiss information that doesn’t. This is known as “motivated reasoning.” Whether or not the consistent information is accurate, we might accept it as fact, and as confirmation of our beliefs. This makes us more confident in our preexisting beliefs, and even less likely to entertain facts that could contradict them.

And once those “facts” are internalized, they are very difficult to budge. Side Note: Outside of general stubbornness about strategy, you can see how this would effect out predispositions toward particular players as well. For example, let’s talk about Mike Trout. He’s having a season for the ages. If you are already predisposed to target rookies, don’t you think you’ll use his season to justify going after more rookies next season, even though Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are the exceptions to the rule that most rookies – overwhelmingly – provide less fantasy baseball value than a player in their primes?

So when should you change your fantasy baseball strategy? Do you even need to? If you are still winning and having a great time, you might not. But if your tried and true methods haven’t gotten it done in a while, then you just might need to shake it up. Here are some pretty good rules of thumb:

  • You might need to change your mind about your fantasy baseball strategy when it isn’t working anymore. Duh. If you haven’t won in 5 years and you just aren’t being honest with yourself that the one time that strategy worked may have been more of a fluke, then it might be a good time to experiment with some new fantasy baseball strategies.
  • You might need to change your mind about how you manage your fantasy baseball team when the rules of the league dictate it. If there are significant rule changes in your league then you may need to adjust your strategy to game those rules. And don’t whine about the rule changes, innovate around them.
  • You might need to change your strategy when other fantasy baseball owners catch up to the strategy and implement it themselves. This has happened to me on several occasions. One example was that for 3 years I would commonly roster a pitcher with both SP and RP eligibility to rack up relief innings when I didn’t have a starting pitcher on the hill that day. I’d maximize my relief innings, rack up Ks, and help lower my ERA and WHIP. The best thing was that I always got these pitchers for free out of free agency. When several other owners *Shakes fist* (“Naaaaash!”) caught on, started hoarding these pitchers on their rosters, then tried to use them as trade leverage, I knew my free ride was over and I had to modify my strategy.
  • Change your strategy if you’re really bored with fantasy baseball. If you need to spice it up to keep interest going, then by all means try a strategy that you never would’ve even considered a couple years ago. What the heck, mix it up! It could be a lot of fun to go against your own inclinations, and in doing so, you might discover new interest in the game and learn a whole lot in the process.

It’s hard. We all get stuck in our ruts. Just don’t be that guy who’s still trying to run with the same old play book he used to take home 3rd place in 2004.