Behavioral Strategy for Fantasy Baseball

This article probably should have been my first at Fantasy Assembly because it explains why I write about psychology as it relates to fantasy baseball.  A couple months tardy, but its importance still remains.

I write about behavioral strategy and psychology as they relate to fantasy baseball to help us (humans) be more successful fantasy baseball players.  The assumption here is that understanding behavioral strategy and psychology can help us be better fantasy baseball players.  You have heard me declare or will hear me declare the importance of testing our assumptions, so let us test mine.

Assumption:  An understanding of behavioral strategy and psychology can help us be better at fantasy baseball.

Finding:  By understanding how psychological factors relate to fantasy baseball, we can improve our decision making process, and thus make better decisions.

An improved decision making process is a large benefit to fantasy baseball owners, larger than most of us would probably expect.  I am not saying anything new when I say that success in fantasy baseball is the result of the decisions we make.  The reason I bring this up is because the process of decision making is one of the pillars of successful decision making, and it is also the most overlooked in the fantasy baseball world.  We can breakdown decision making into the following equation:

Results = Analysis + Decision Maker + Process

The decision maker is you (unless you are outsourcing), so there is not much to discuss there, but we are all very familiar with analysis.  In fact, analysis has been the golden child of the fantasy baseball world since our game’s creation, and rightfully so.   Improved analysis has led us from baseball card stats and newspaper box scores to much more predictive statistics.  Now, in the golden age of analysis, we have more predictive information at our fingertips than we had ever hoped for, which has made us better decision makers than ever before.  Even with all this great info and analysis, we all still make subpar decisions, and it is here that the impact of process shows.  Do not just take my word for it; take it from Dan Lovallo, Professor of Business Strategy at the University of Sydney, and McKinsey Quarterly’s Oliver Sibony:

“Our research indicates that, contrary to what one might assume, good analysis in the hands of managers who have good judgment won’t naturally yield good decisions. The third ingredient—the process—is also crucial.” (The case for behavioral psychology)

This is hugely important and is why I write about behavioral strategy.  Defined as “a style of strategic decision making that incorporates the lessons of psychology,” behavioral strategy is our best bet at improving that crucial third ingredient of decision making, the process.  How so?  By removing biases, incorporating human nature, and correcting for predictable irrationality, behavioral strategy allows us to collect and analyze through a more objective scope, while allowing us to make less subjective, more rational, and ultimately better decisions.   Sounds great, right? Sure does, and the actual results of an improved strategic decision making process are even better.  Allow me to throw it back to Lovallo and Sibony:

“After controlling for factors like industry, geography, and company size, we used regression analysis to calculate how much of the variance in decision outcomes was explained by the quality of the process and how much by the quantity and detail of the analysis. The answer: process mattered more than analysis—by a factor of six” (The case for behavioral psychology)

While Lovallo and Sibony found the importance of process quality in relation to strategic business decisions, I am venturing that this applies to strategic fantasy baseball decisions as well.  Our ability to collect info, analyze data, and comprehend the analysis of others will only take us so far when it comes time to draft a player or pull the trigger on a trade.  To further improve our strategic decisions we must now begin to consider behavioral and psychological phenomena as they impact our decision making process.  Lovallo and Sibony note that this is difficult and often avoided because it forces us to analyze ourselves; however, the profits are well worth the effort.  There is a tremendous amount of content out there on behavioral strategy, decision making, and of course psychology, much more than I could cover in fifty articles, let alone one.  That said, you can check out my past articles, as well as my future content, as we continue on our quest to think more critically about fantasy baseball and consequently make better decisions.

Past Articles:


Lovallo, Dan, and Oliver Sibony. “The Case for Behavioral Strategy.” McKinsey Quarterly, Mar. 2010. Web. 22 Jan. 2014.

Jeff Quinton

Written by 

Born in 1988. Living and working in central Jersey. Proud Blue Hen (graduated 2010). Going for my MBA part-time. Fascinated by how people think and the decisions they make.

4 thoughts on “Behavioral Strategy for Fantasy Baseball”

  1. I have a great solution to mastering the psychology of fantasy: co-ownership of fantasy teams. I’ve been co-owning with a friend for 8 years and it is not only the most successful we’ve ever been, but the least stressful it’s ever been. When 2 people discuss and reason all pick ups, trades, draft picks, etc. it makes it so much easier to come up with a decision rather than making impulse moves and drops. I can think of hundreds of times where I would’ve made a regretful and impulsive move but since I was able to discuss and reason with my co-owner, we made the better decision. Not always do we make the right move, but at least we don’t feel regret since we were able to talk it through before making a decision. Not trying to brag here, but my co-owner and I have won our 14 team baseball money league 3 years in a row, winning $900-1000 each year. I firmly believe our co-ownership helps tremendously with the psychology of fantasy.

  2. I completely agree, so long as you and your co-owner are able to check each others biases and avoid group think. Some combinations of people are better at this than others (and it sounds like you and your co-owner are on the “better” side). That said, we still see MLB front offices, business teams, and corporate boards make bad decisions (about 85% of mergers and acquisitions fail to create value). Do you have any processes that your co-ownership performs to make better decisions or do you think you two are more of just a good match? This could be helpful for the other readers, including me.

  3. Great point, we are definitely a great match but we also have some processes we go through before making certain decisions. The great thing about our relationship is that we think differently and have different personalities so we are able to approach an issue from different angles and also level each other out. If one of us is getting too frustrated, worried, or excited about something, the other is there to talk them down or bring them back to reality.

    One of our processes we have is making our own separate draft rankings a couple of weeks before our drafts and then averaging them out together. This helps with biasing, valuing, and doing our research on certain sleepers and breakout players.

    You definitely have to have the time to talk, text, or email frequently but it does save you the headaches of making those decisions on your own. And most importantly, you both need wives/girlfriends who can tolerate your obsession with fantasy. We are both very lucky.

    1. I like the idea of formulating lists separately. Being able to be candid with each other is incredibly important.

      Another important note is that in any relationship, we start to assume roles. One person is in charge of knowing directions to places, the other is responsible for remembering where the spices are stored in the kitchen. The other side of this equation is that the person who is not responsible for a certain role will start to forget info relating to that role (this is part of what makes humans efficient in groups/teams/relationships). However, this can be a curse in roto if you let something go unchecked. For example, if one team member is responsible for tracking minor leaguers, then the entire team is fully subjected to that team member’s biases. I am not saying that this is the case with you and your co-owner, but I actually fell into this trap with a fantasy football team/co-owner a couple years ago regarding waiver moves.

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