I am gracious to have had the unique opportunity recently to interview the legendary Larry Schechter, one of the most successful fantasy baseball champions ever. He is a two-time champion of the CDM Sports national challenge, a six-time champion of the renowned Tout Wars experts league, and a one-time champion of the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR). As we sat down to discuss his impressive resume, I started to understand the drive behind writing his book Winning Fantasy Baseball: Secret Strategies of a Nine-Time National Champion. Although I have not yet read the book to completion (currently about half way through; full review to follow), I am very pleased to present you with an overview from the author himself and some excerpts from our interview.
Editor's Note: We are pleased to announce that Larry Schechter will be hosting a live Q&A session with RotoBaller readers tonight at 9:30 PM EST, right here in RotoBaller's famous fantasy baseball chat room. Pick his brain and get some live fantasy baseball advice. Don't miss out!
Winning Fantasy Baseball - The Book Review
In my opinion, Larry Schechter didn't need to write this book to divulge all of the secrets to success to his readers for financial purposes; he did so simply because he "always wanted to write a book" and felt this was something he was "qualified to write about".
Something I have personally realized from my own endeavors, as well as watching others succeed, is that whenever you set out to do something that you are as passionate about as Larry is about fantasy baseball, the results are surely going to be of high quality; and that is exactly what we have found ourselves with here.
The Meat & Potatoes - Your Player Valuations
One of the book's main takeaway themes stem from Larry's very deeply developed concept of player valuation that he discusses in great detail in this book.
"It's all about value" says Larry, as he breaks it down for the reader and applies it to all types of fantasy baseball league formats including mono league, mixed leagues, snake drafts, keepers leagues and auction drafts.
He dedicates a chapter to each, and explains that this book isn't just for the most expert of fantasy sports players. "It is designed for players ranging from the novice level, to a very experienced and successful player, and goes from beginning to end about how to win in a seasonal format even if you have never before played fantasy baseball". Pretty big claims, but so far this book seems to deliver on that in a nice way.
Larry has built his entire concept of winning in fantasy baseball around "getting the most value possible". He tells us that "regardless of format, you need to be aware of the players value" when going into your draft. One example he gave us about the strategies he employs, and writes about in his book, is centered around making player projections with stats from your favorite websites or magazines. And then taking those projections and turning them into a value formula for your particular format (which he explains how to do in the book of course). This may sound a bit complicated at a high-level, but you can trust that Larry explains this all in great detail and leaves you much smarter about the way you view your fantasy baseball draft preparation.
Draft Strategy & Position Scarcity
Larry also emphasizes, in regards to valuing players, that everyone has a standard value (assuming a $260 auction league budget). The objective is to maximize your auction money by trying to squeeze $290-310 of projectable value out of your $260 of physical dollars. I find many different experts to have their own preferences for projection models on proven veterans with a major league track record, but it's often very difficult to do when valuing rookies and unproven players. Larry had a very good answer for this and and simply says that valuing rookies "is much harder than setting projections on Dustin Pedroia". But he also makes his "best estimates and stays very conservative" when dealing with those types of situations. The truth really came out when he freely admitted that the chances are, he "will not leave with a Byron Buxton or Jose Abreu in most drafts because there are usually several people more hyped up for the star rookies, and project them as more valuable" than he does based on his own valuation system.
The final takeaway from his draft strategy is that you often pay a premium for star players in most auctions. So you may have to make an exception for a player like Jacoby Ellsbury, and pay the price, so you don't have too much money left for the few valuable players remaining on the board. Simply put, Larry Schechter will not overpay on draft day once he has established his own projections and values for the player pool, but will spend where needed. I must say that I found this particular portion of the discussion quite intriguing, and realized very quickly that I had better get to finishing the second half of his book before my last few drafts coming up on Friday and Saturday!
Just to make sure we haven't left any precious tips from a world class expert on the table, Larry mentions one interesting point about disregarding position scarcity; especially dispelling the rampant fallacy that the middle infield positions are scarce. He states (and we agree) that you are more likely to find that problem at the corner infield positions than at second base or shortstop. Just a bit more food for thought as you prepare for your last weekend of drafting.
"Too many people follow conventional wisdom and the problem with that is a lot of it is nonsense." - Larry Schechter
When you pick Larry's brain, or read his book, you will quickly see that he does not ever talk about or think in terms of sleepers. To him there are no sleepers. He proudly and profoundly states that he's not successful because he predicts breakout candidates, but because everyone has a value and if you can get that player for less than their projected value, then you are making a profit.
The one thing Larry told us that every reader could take from this book is that anyone from any fantasy baseball skill level can read and benefit from his book; from a neophyte to a more experienced player. He also touts that a lot of the concepts apply to fantasy football and fantasy basketball in addition to his main passion, fantasy baseball. If you want more details to his secret sauce, you'll just have to read through each precious page on your own.
With the 2014 fantasy baseball season right around the corner, don't forget to pick up Larry's book Winning Fantasy Baseball: Secret Strategies of a Nine-Time National Champion and get a little smarter about the game we are all so passionate about. Be prepared on draft day!
You can find Larry Schechter Playing in AL LABR, AL Tout Wars, several NFBC leagues and the CDM Sports Salary Cap Game. You can also catch him on twitter @LarrySchechter