How can I win my fantasy baseball league?

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Answered by: Dan, An Expert in the Fantasy Baseball Category
There are many reasons to join a fantasy baseball league. It can help you stay in touch with old friends, make the baseball season more interesting for you, or just give you something else to do during your summer months. Whatever your reason for creating a fantasy baseball team, you probably want to assemble a winning squad. Some fantasy baseball players spend several hours a week watching highlights, reading scouting reports, and poring over article after article online. If you have the time to spend on that, more power to you. If you don't, you're looking for a less involved approach to propel you to the top of the league standings. It may come as no surprise, given the emergence of sabermetrics in baseball, that data analytics wins championships.

It takes very little knowledge of database management (or even baseball itself) to win a fantasy baseball league using data. In fact, most of the work has already been done for you. There are countless resources on the web for those seeking fantasy baseball advice, and simple data analysis software like Microsoft Excel or Google Docs can help leverage those resources with relative ease. By crowd-sourcing rankings from various fantasy experts, you'll be able to establish trends: which players the experts agree on, which players have more debatable value, and how your potential picks stack up against each other.

The first step is to identify the resources you'll pull into your master database. A bunch of websites will publish exhaustive rankings of every player on an MLB roster as the start of baseball season approaches. Some of the most popular among these sites include ESPN, CBS Sports, and Fantasy Pros. These rankings are already presented in a spreadsheet format, so it's easy to copy and paste them into your Excel or Google Docs file. From there, it comes down to manipulating the date you've compiled.

The first step is formatting all the data so you can look at it on the same sheet. Some sites might use a Last Name, First Name format, while others list players by First and Last name. You can standardize the data using MS Excel text functions (LEFT, RIGHT, MID, LEN, FIND). Once the player names are all in the same format, their rankings from the different sites are ready to be organized onto a single tab in your spreadsheet.

Copy an entire list of player names into column A of a new tab. Each column after that can include the rankings from your data sources. These rankings can be entered by copy/pasting from each of the sources, so long as the player's names have been standardized across all sources, and sorted into the same order for each. Better yet, they can be imported using the VLookup function in MS Excel.

Once you've imported each source you want to use, you can use a simple Average formula to calculate the mean ranking score for every player. This method of averaging crowd-sourced ratings will reduce the effect of bias or miscalculation on the part of any one of your resources. If you value one source more than the others, you can create a mathematical formula in Excel to give your preferred column more weight. If your MS Excel abilities preclude you from writing such a formula, simply copy more valuable sources into multiple columns before using the average function to give those sources more weight.

Once you've gotten the hang of using MS Excel to evaluate your fantasy baseball options, you can expand upon this strategy. Using the same methods outlined above, you're able to find averages for specific stats predicted by different sources. For example, you can see the average of players' predicted home runs as estimated by Yahoo and ESPN.

This method of compiling and analyzing data from multiple sources can yield a competitive advantage over anyone using a single source, or trying to juggle multiple sources without an organized system. The rest of your fantasy league will be amazed by your ability to come up with your own ranking system. Better yet, they will all be jealous as they watch you win week after week.

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