Monday, March 3, 2008

ADP: Useful or Useless?

In one of my fantasy leagues, one manager posted how many "reaches" each team had according to Yahoo's draft ADP (Average Draft Position). There was a large variance among teams (I was tied for lowest with one) and opinions on the usefulness of ADPs. One manager, who won our league last year, thinks that they are useless. His argument essentially boils down to the fact that the average Yahoo drafter isn't that bright and you should get the players you want when you want them and screw everyone else. Also, you win leagues by going against the grain and doing something that puts you in a position to win even if it means taking a chance on an unknown quantity.

I generally agree but with caveats. I aim for maximum value for every pick. For example, even if I think that Stephen Drew will outperform Jhonny Peralta this year, I will pick someone other than Stephen Drew until either draft situations force me to take him early (such as a huge run on SS that leaves fewer higher ADP players left than there are teams without SS between me and my next pick) or it is only a round before the ADP and another team needs a SS. The team in question took Stephen Drew in Round 11 with pick 146. His normal ADP is 210.

I think this is a reach because there were only two teams left who needed SS, by his calculations. One took J.J. Hardy and the other took Khalil Greene about 4 rounds later. Hardy is, by the vast majority of players, the higher ranked SS. I like Drew more than Hardy but not 4 rounds more; you're simply giving up the possibility of taking a higher ranked player now and grabbing Drew for better value later. While I understand the idea of locking up players you absolutely, desperately must have, I think it was highly unlikely that anyone else would have taken Drew during the next couple rounds. And I don't see Drew as one of those players anyway.

That said, this player values players very differently than I do. For example, I like Snell, Burnett, and Hudson better than Lilly. He does not. He likes Joakim Soria more than Trevor Hoffman. Again, I disagree. The results of the season will tell but I definitely think that he could have grabbed a better pitcher and waited for Drew for a round at least. It's an incremental upgrade, sure, but it's by these inches that leagues are won or lost.


Nathan said...

The flaw with only looking at reaches is that it doesn't show the really good picks. For instance, I got Russell Martin with the 67th pick. His ADP is 37. That, in my opinion, was a great pickup, considering that I already had Ryan Howard, Ryan Braun, Manny Ramirez, and Nick Markakis. If I had picked him up in the 3rd round with the 39th pick, it wouldn't have been a reach. But, I was able to hold off and get him 2 full rounds later. This fact is not reflected in the analysis by W.E.B. It only shows the 'bad' picks, which aren't even that bad, considering that the draft is fluid, with many factors besides ADP influencing it.

In addition, the ADP is for all drafts, including those that don't include the same categories as ours. We have Holds and OPS, which are two huge categories, as it brings many more players into play and also rewards power hitters. If we had a vanilla 5x5, the ADP argument would be much more appropriate.

Lastly, we have to look at upside. I believe, as the Hairnet does, that you are rewarded with taking risk. If you want to win the draft, then maybe ADP rankings make sense. But, if you want to win the league, you HAVE to take risk. You have to go against the grain and pick the unconventional players, in the hope that you strike lightning in a bottle. No guts, no glory.

sanstodo said...

I agree that the Martin pick was a good one, no doubt. But for a situation like that, I honestly don't think it's much more than luck. Were you expecting to get Martin in that round? Obviously not. Was it part of your plan? I doubt it. I don't really take credit for getting Teixeira so late since I consider him a 2nd rounder easily. It was more a factor of luck and that some of the other managers in the league aren't serious players. This isn't to downplay your pick, it's just that having a talent like Martin drop so low has more to do with the other manager's in the league than with any particular strategy of yours.

I agree that upside is one factor to weigh, as are league rules. But value still matters no matter what. Stephen Drew's value really isn't significantly boosted by OPS; he's pretty much the same player in our league than in any other. You could make the argument for a guy like Adam Dunn but not really for Drew. And I don't really think Drew's upside is all that great. He's not a big power guy and he's not a big speedster. Will he provide that much more value than Peralta or Greene, enough that you would take him about 40 picks early? I definitely don't think so. Picking up Drew in round 11 instead of a chance of getting him in round 14 or being "stuck" with Greene is not going to win you a league. Getting Carlos Pena off the waiver wire last year is another story. The upgrade is minor at most, not to mention that Greene has upside of his own as well.

Anyway, it's all well and good to pick unconventional, unknown players (well, at least to most, though most serious fantasy owners know pretty much everyone in the majors and a lot in the minors). But there has to be a balance there where you can mix reliability with upside. If you build in too much risk into a team, you're going to have massive swings year to year because you're essentially relying on luck.

Personally, I like to have flexibility in my teams with a mix of upside plays (for example, Gagne, Teix, Bay, and Dye) with known quantities. Sure, I'm not slotting in Justin Upton in as a starting OF but there's really no reason to. I'll probably be gambling on Rasmus, Upton, et al at some point this year if they show signs. But in a league with shallow benches, those guys tend to be sitting around on the waiver wire. Instead of hoping that these guys pan out or I can make a miracle trade to save my season, I like knowing that there's at least a baseline I can count on for my team and improving from there. That way, my skill in managing the waiver wire and getting incremental upgrades through trades matter more than luck.

Nathan said...

I agree with most of your points, but passing on a player that ADP states is a correct pickup at that point in the draft in the hopes of getting him later is part of the strategy. Yes, I got lucky with Martin, but at the same time, passing on him in the 3rd round in favor of Manny, and passing on him in the 4th in favor of Markakis were conscious decisions. It's similar to poker - you have to read your cards as well as your opponents. I certainly couldn't know that Martin was going to come back around, but I did know that I had to take certain players previous to him in order to maximize my luck later on in the draft.

For instance, I passed on my favorite player, Travis Hafner, in both the 3rd and 4th round because I wanted a player that I thought was almost his equivalent - Jim Thome. ADP dictated that Hafner deserved to be picked in the 4th round but I figured everyone would pass on Thome for several rounds. His numbers are extremely close to Hafner's, but the conventional wisdom of all of the drafters in every league, including our own, puts his value far below.

Maybe that's the interesting point in all of this. The perception and value that drafters, both knowledgeable and ignorant, place on players... It's a nice guide, but sometimes you have to simply go with your gut on who to choose, when to choose them, and why you choose them.

sanstodo said...

That's why I think ADP is useful. The only way you know the right time to pick Thome is if you generally when he's going to be drafted. Unless you have some estimate of his perceived value, you are shooting in the dark and may pick him when his value is not at its absolute peak. And that's the entire goal; finding peak value at each and every pick.

And I disagree on the thought that Hafner and Thome will be even roughly equivalent but it's besides the point. You got good value for Thome so that pick might be better than the Hafner pick you could have made earlier. Then again, it all really hinges on whether or not Hafner bounces back and Thome stays healthy.