Trust the Process: Mind Control, Part One

Written by: Andrew Lowe (@ALowe710)

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This is an article I am extremely excited to write and develop. The thought of writing it is perhaps the reason I joined the staff at Prospects 365. It’s kind of my pet project, potentially my pride and joy. I hope you enjoy it and learn something. I am going to split this up into two parts, because it is massive!

Previously, I have discussed that controlling as many facets of fantasy baseball as possible is important – players and draft picks, mostly. However, there is an even greater asset that can be under your control if you are sly, persistent and persuasive. I’m talking about controlling your individual league mates and even your whole league holistically.

This article will crudely draw from psychology and behavior. You can use these to your advantage, just like everything else that’s much more obvious in the fantasy baseball world. I will try not to go into psycho-babble talk, but it does help to understand the underlying reasons for why people act the way they do.

Here, I’ll try to parlay those concepts into applications for fantasy baseball. Remember, this is meant for dynasty leagues, but it can also be applied to redraft leagues at times. And of course, I am not claiming these thoughts are foolproof, or that you will dominate your leagues because of them, or that these are even the best ways to “control your league mates.” But they have worked for me over the years and can be a good launching pad for your own experiences and experiments.

  • Be persistently involved in trade talks. This almost goes without saying, as I have written it before, but BE ACTIVE. If you are in the ears of your league mates consistently, they will come to you. Don’t just talk trades. Talk about the league or baseball or life. Help them if they are new. Communicate with them. Don’t spam or be annoying, but make sure they know you are there.

If you are the main voice, perhaps the only one, your league mates are hearing, then you will be their main source of information. They’ll become comfortable talking to you. They will trust you. You should be the first person your league mates think of when they’re looking to make a trade. This has happened several times in my league, as several teams have “tanked” through the years and each time, they were at the center of most trades and negotiations months before their tank. Even though I was tanking last year, I struggled to drop enough in the standings to attain the top pick. But I believe because I was so communicative and helpful to others, I was able to snag the draft pick that eventually became the #1 overall pick in the Prospect Draft, from another tanking team. Some teams in my league not only make trades to tank or stockpile draft picks; it seems they make trades just for the heck of it. Just to say they traded. Why? I’m not too sure, but I can think of one major benefit: It keeps communication open and flowing and builds trust with other owners, which allows for future trades. The classic case of this working to your advantage is when a player no one in the league knew was on the block is suddenly traded, usually to that super-active team. All the other teams bemoan the return and claim they would have traded more, had they known the traded player was available. Why did this trade happen so stealthily? Because the “lucky” owner was in the seller’s ear and put in time to cultivate that relationship to become the first option. And that is where significant value can be gotten.

So how do you do this? First, as I’ve already said, be active and communicative. Second, it helps to be good at communicating. The ability to empathize with your league mate helps. This means that you need to see what the other team needs from your team. Do not be myopic and selfish and only think about what your team gains. The third point goes hand-in-hand with that notion – make mutually-beneficial trades. It’s kind of silly, but some owners won’t make a trade with an owner they have made a bad deal with previously. They feel they got swindled and it left a bad taste in their mouth. Sometimes it’s just bad luck. Other times, perhaps you did knowingly screw your opponent. People will come back to you more if they got a fair trade before. You do this by being aware of what they want and meeting that at a fair price. I’m not saying you willingly give your trade-partner more value than you receive, but make sure they *think* they benefit too. And perhaps, if you scratch their back, they’ll scratch yours when you need it.

  • This is where things get really fun, in my opinion. In my league, I have been adamant about one thing: starting pitching being extremely important (it’s a Head-to-Head league). This goes against the advice of most fantasy baseball experts. You will mostly hear that hitting is more valuable than pitching. I don’t subscribe to that thought, certainly in a H2H league. Who actually believes me in my league? I don’t know. But what I do know is that starting pitching is very hard to come by, as nearly every team, especially a team in playoff contention, hoards starting pitchers. Even semi-decent starters are scarce on the wire. I just tried to stream Jefry Rodriguez, Aaron Slegers, and Burch Smith because they had the best matchups, and got rewarded with 15 earned runs in 9.2 innings. The “best” starters currently available in my 20-team dynasty league are Bartolo Colon, Sal Romano, and an injured Brandon McCarthy. I have consistently said that starting pitching is what wins championships and while that may not always be right, it sure seems as though it’s taken hold in my league.

You’re probably thinking I gave away my strategy and only made it harder on myself to win. On the surface, yes I did. Everyone wants pitching now. This is especially true in the draft. We all know pitching prospects are the riskiest asset of all. I, however, love stockpiling them. Since mostly everyone believes that “There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect” (credit to Gary Huckaby at Baseball Prospectus), I go against the grain, per se. To me, the perceivable fact that no pitching prospects are reliable only strengthens the notion that I need more. The rest of the league feels a strain on notable pitching prospects, which puts some of my league mates (especially those who believe in TINSTAPP) in a bind: they both want pitching prospects and do not believe any are overly-valuable. They don’t know whom to take because they rarely bother to study what makes a pitching prospect good. In turn, they panic. They trade out of the draft. They take the hyped, projectable teenager with little command instead of the sturdy, reliable Double-A arm. They look for the most easily-accessible information and hope a Top 100 pitching prospect drops into their lap. They come to me/you for advice. Don’t steer them the wrong way if they ask. But while you steer them down the straight-and-narrow, make sure you leverage the knowledge you relay. You can steer them away from your target. You can ask for a small favor. And that goes back to being in their ear with information and negotiations. Holding that power is a hidden asset you can use to gain value.

I should also point out that it helps to be right. You can’t just say things and be wrong or else no one will believe you eventually. A boy who cried wolf fallacy, if you will. Study your league, notice trends, then state your claim. That will make it more believable (and likely true), then other league mates will eventually heed your word. I won two championships in four seasons in my league, and that alone gave me a lot of credibility to my league mates, especially since I won using pitching-heavy strategies I had openly told the entire league were key to winning. While winning a championship always involves some luck, fortune typically favors the well-prepared. This is simply Trusting the Process in a slightly-different light than my other articles; follow the right path and you’ll find the opportunities you’ve worked hard to attain.

How do you manipulate your league? What are your methods? Would love to hear from you! So please share by commenting below or tweeting me at @ALowe710. I look forward to hearing from you and look out for Part 2, where you’ll find the juicy stuff!

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Featured image courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times

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