Don’t Be A Draft Room Tryhard

In video games, a “tryhard” is somebody who attempts to use advanced playing techniques despite lacking the talent to pull them off. They’re trying hard to succeed. This is usually done by imitating professional players. The results are predictably poor.

We have tryhards in fantasy baseball even if their appearance is slightly different than in popular video games. Talent has less to do with it. Few touts stream their drafts or share their inner monologue when making picks (I’m beginning to do so). As such, mimicry is mostly limited to perusing the draft results of expert leagues like LABR and Tout Wars. There is also some scope to misplay advanced strategies, but again, relatively few writers are even talking about these. Most fantasy baseball content can be categorized as rankings, player analysis, or this-is-happening-now.

In case it’s not clear, it’s considered a bad thing to be a tryhard. To paraphrase words you’ve heard before, you have to learn to walk before you can run. By trying to execute strategies beyond their means, tryhards increase their chances of failure. Of course, it’s not all bad. Failure is the best way to learn. Today’s tryhard can become tomorrow’s expert.

Here are three common ways fantasy players try too hard.

Trend Setters

We often refer to “helium” during draft season. Some players just climb, climb, climb up the ADP rankings with no sign of ever reaching equilibrium. For example, the excitement surrounding Adalberto Mondesi back in November was palpable. He’s continued to ascend through late-February. Mondesi was a stretch at his early winter ADP in the mid-50s. Now he’s going in the early-40s. If you want something sexy, shiny, new, then Victor Robles is available 50 picks later. If you simply want Mondesi’s statistical profile, Tim Anderson is available at pick 124.

Reaching for one guy you believe in, like Mondesi, doesn’t automatically mean an owner is a tryhard. Obviously. What you’re looking for is a pattern. Something like Mondesi in the third, Robles in the fifth, Forrest Whitley and Jesus Luzardo back to back in the 8th and 9th. Nick Senzel and German Marquez and Kyle Freeland oh my.

You get the picture. Every time you select a trendy, inexperienced player, you forgo a more reliable veteran. Do this enough and your roster will fall apart quicker than a game of Jenga during an earthquake.

Hoarders

I promise this post was not inspired by Sheryl Ring’s approach to the FanGraphs Staff Two ottoneu auction. I’ve had the concept on my list for a few weeks. However, her draft serves as a timely example.

Sheryl decided to roster not one, not two, but FIVE catchers. As a reminder, ottoneu is a two catcher league with a 162 game cap for the position. So you need about 1.5 catchers. A total of $34 was spent on these backstops. She openly shopped her depth during the draft. While it sounds like fun to corner a market, have you ever seen it work? I haven’t.

The problem is that there’s always another alternative. Supply is deceptively large. I was one of the many owners in need of a cheap catcher. Ideally, Sheryl’s strategy would have forced me to trade with her for my catcher. We talked about it during the draft, and I even tried to make a few picks to facilitate a deal. Then a funny thing happened. I got Mike Zunino for $1. He projects to perform similarly to most of the players Sheryl can offer (a $20 Buster Posey the lone exception).

This is an extreme example, and I hope my colleague doesn’t mind me calling her out a bit. To her credit, she’s already traded $3 Yan Gomes in what I consider to be a hugely profitable trade for $3 Domingo Santana. So maybe she’ll make this work after all.

In a more traditional roto format, hoarders usually try to dominate the supply of aces or closers. The problem with this is that it’s now easier to finish in second place. If one team rosters six of the top 10 closers, then another team with two top 10 closers and a scrubby patch or two will have a shot at second place. Controlling the supply of good closers will rarely yield any trade advantage. Ditto aces. If one team has six aces, then the others can accomplish more using Anibal Sanchez and Luke Weaver. (This paragraph doesn’t apply to head-to-head leagues where hoarders want to reliably dominate those categories rather than make trades).

Stream Queens

Streaming is the practice of turning your last few roster spots into a revolving door of waiver wire players. This technique can be used to pick up playable starts from otherwise unrosterable pitchers, chase saves from setup men, or take advantage of fringy hitters with favorable matchups at friendly ballparks. If used cautiously, it’s a great way to actively search for a breakout talent rather than waiting until August or September for Fernando Tatis Jr. to show up.

It’s also a wonderful way to create regret. Personally, I get used to certain players being available. A couple years back, I was cycling Tommy Pham on and off my roster nearly every other day. Then suddenly he was gone and somebody else cashed in on his best days. I was fortunate to not repeat this mistake with my many Max Muncy shares last year.

Where this can become a problem in drafts is when an owner doesn’t complete their roster with the expectation that they’ll solve the issue later. Unfortunately, “later” often comes too late. Especially in non-shallow leagues. Think you’re going to get saves on the waiver wire this year? Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. Want to resurrect that Low Investment Mound Ace? Ehh, good luck to ya. Still believe steals can be freely acquired on the waiver wire? Good luck to you too.

Of these three tryhard mistakes, this is the one of which I’m most guilty. After all, a lot of my seasonal content is about streaming successfully. I know I’m going to use the strategy so I prepare my roster. There are correct ways to go about this. My Screw Cancer draft provides some examples. I’ve positioned myself with the necessary prospect currency and roster spots to jump on opportunities. And I have just enough depth to cover in the interim.

Parting Thoughts

So yea, don’t be a draft room tryhard. Then again, the results of a fantasy baseball league don’t really matter. So try as hard as you want. Have fun.





You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam

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Vegan Man!
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Vegan Man!

Are there specific league settings where being a (modified) “hoarder” is more acceptable? Say a QS league with a 180 start limit for SP?