Fantasy baseball: Owner chimes in on skill vs. luck debate

Composite photo of R.A. Dickey and Chipper Jones
Trading Chipper Jones for R.A. Dickey was a stroke of genius … with a dash of luck. (Getty Images)

In June 2011, there was a spirited debate on TTFB regarding whether fantasy baseball was more luck or skill. You can read all about it here. Being the apathetic person I am, I failed to form an opinion. In my defense, though, I am not exactly a fantasy baseball fanatic. I am no fantasy baseball Rainman, nor am I a fantasy baseball Forest Gump. If it means anything, I did win the TTFB Writer’s League last season. And, ultimately, it was that league victory that spurred my decision on the whole luck versus skill debate … and the fact that I am now an official stakeholder in the Through The Fence Sports Corporation, which is the equivalent of lifetime job security. Therefore, I can disagree with founder Jamie Shoemaker all I want and get away with it. (To understand why this is important, keep reading.)

But, I digress.

The deciding factor for me in the luck versus skill debate came via a trade I made with Jamie on March 23 last year. However, you first need to know that Jamie is an incredibly huge (read: annoying) Braves fan. And his hero is Chipper Jones. He worships at the feet of the guy. Man crush personified, even. That is why I am sure to draft Jones each and every year before Jamie can. Last year, for example, I took Jones as my 11th pick. And I know it absolutely kills Jamie to know I plan to sit him on my bench for the entire season — just to spite Jamie.

Last year, though, I grew a bit of a heart. It was Chipper’s last season. It was Jamie’s last chance to start the old man. You see, each and every year Jamie throws trade offer after trade offer at me trying to get Chipper on his roster. It was no different last season. After four declined trades, I finally accepted an offer from Jamie that sent Jones to his roster …. and I’ll have you know the trade absolutely, without a doubt, saved my season.

R.A. Dickey for Chipper Jones.

Let’s face it folks: Nobody saw Dickey having the season he did last year. I sure as hell did not. And, even when I accepted the trade, most would agree that there was nothing to indicate the type of season he was about to have. But, my pitching staff was a bit weak and I was fairly sure I was destined for last place in the league. I figured I might as well throw Jamie a bone and place another mediocre arm to my rotation.

But then, as we all know, Dickey caught absolute fire. He was a game changer for me. I started the season with a three-game losing streak. But once Dickey started doing the unthinkable, I was almost unbeatable. I finished the rest of the season going 15-4. And Dickey was the anchor for that entire run. Each and every time I had a close week point-wise, you can be certain Dickey’s pitching performance that week made the difference for me. Without him, I would have lost the majority of those games.

And the moral of the story? It was absolute pure luck that I accepted the trade that sent Dickey to my team. You see, if fantasy baseball was purely about skill and knowledge, Jamie would have kept Dicky on his team (possibly making him the only person in the world to accurately predict Dickey’s Cy Young season).

I am not saying that no skill or knowledge is required to win fantasy baseball leagues. It does, of course, play a part in every aspect of the “game.” But, it would be ridiculous to argue that no luck whatsoever is involved. Luck is an integral part of fantasy baseball. My Dickey trade is verifiable proof of that.

And the best part of the story?

On July 15, Jamie attempted to trade me Shane Victorino, Justin Morneau, Mike Leake, and Travis Wood for Dickey and Carlos Beltran. He was obviously distraught over trading away the eventual Cy Young winner.

I countered trying to get Chipper back off him.

Never heard back.

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