The 2011 season is over, and with it fantasy baseball. Last night's events will go down as some of the most dramatic in the history of the sport, and if you missed it, no amount of packaged highlights will even begin to replicate the tension and excitement. Today's lack of action is a true anticlimax, but the upside is that in just over 24 hours, baseball's second season begins in earnest. It's going to be tempting to tune in and start scouting playoff teams for your 2012 draft. It's not a bad idea, to be sure, but a word of caution before you do:
Don't overrate individual playoff performance.
As fantasy players, we try to gain every advantage we can, whether that's finding the best website with the best advice, using the next great stat, or finding the next big thing by simply watching more games than the next guy. It's a natural evolution inherent to the game. However, it's very easy to fall into several traps when postseason play is concerned. Here are just a couple:
- Small sample size. This cannot be overstated. The MLB playoff system is a roll of the dice. Teams play 162 game seasons, and often (like last night) divisional and wild card races come down to a difference of just one of those games. Contrast that with the postseason, where the maximum amount of playable games for a given team is 19, just over 10% of the regular schedule. Anything a player accomplishes in the second season has little correlation to what he can accomplish on a consistent basis from April to September. Sure, it's nice to know that Mitch Moreland can handle the pitching of the Giants over a 5 game series, but what good did that do you when you wasted a mixed-league draft pick (however late that pick was) in 2010?
- Narrative and legacy. Commentators and analysts love to talk about players building their legacy during the playoffs. Part of this is ratings-driven - they're trying to get you to tune in, and part of it is driven by the desire to elevate certain players to hero status. Neither one of these factors should influence how you view a player when it comes to their regular season value. This is very easy to fall prey to: I've already seen comments from people who are moving Evan Longoria up on their draft board because of last night's heroics. Longoria is a great player that plays sort of a shallow position, but bumping him because of one night? No. See also: Small sample size.
- Recency bias. By the time we're knee-deep in each LCS, Mike Morse will be a distant memory. Don't overrate players because their team has gone deep in the playoffs, and don't forget the ones that have the misfortune to play for teams that missed out on the tournament.
By all means, watch the playoffs. Take notes, even. See how Matt Moore does in a high-pressure situation against a very good lineup. Just don't jump to any conclusions. Let the other guys in the league do that. In fact, next year at your draft, casually converse about Miguel Cabrera's awful October, then grab him at a discount. Conversely, drop a reference to Eric Chavez's improbable rise to glory, then sit back and watch some schmo reach for him. There are little to no market inefficiencies to be taken advantage of when it comes to the postseason. Better to be the steady hand at the wheel than the leaf blown to and fro by the slightest breeze.