An Ear for Human Tendency: Pointing Out A Great Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball Column

via flickr user rogerchoover (click-through)

There’s something a little grating about the fantasy baseball posts and trade/contract rumors that look to 2011, even in the thick of the 2010 season. It suggests a level of obsessiveness that’s a little uncomfortable for me, like people who plan their next vacation while they are still on their current vacation.

That said, I’ve found an exception to the rule: this Yahoo! fantasy baseball article, 10 Questions: 10 for ’11, by Chris Ryan. On the surface, this would seem to be your typical fantasy post about booms and busts and draft picks and what-have-you, which is well and good, that’s why I was reading it to begin with.

But I started to enjoy this column on a slightly different level, as I started to get its logic. The questions in question are basically, “Who is next year’s X,” in which X is the player that embodies one of the 10 fantasy baseball phenomena.

Here is an example:

Who is next year’s … post-hype pitcher who causes owners to exclaim “damn, I can’t believe I forgot about that guy” when said pitcher lives up to his billing in Year 2.

2009 Version: Clayton Kershaw
2010 Version: David Price
2011 Version: Brian Matusz

There is some explanation as well, but what really got me interested was the identification of these phenomena, and how on point they are. “Yes!” I found myself saying when I saw David Price’s name on this list. His hype was enormous, then he had a “mediocre” year as like a 21-year-old so everybody forgot about him, and now he’s the stud we all expected. The space of a year wiped our brains of his potential, which he–and deep-down baseball people, too–obviously didn’t lose sight of.

It’s a simple idea, but Chris Ryan has rendered it perfectly in these questions. He’s used his eye for pattern to shed some light on our common experience as baseball fans and fantasy baseball players, the way that Chuck Klosterman so often does in his work on music and popular culture.

Here’s another one, ’cause they’re fun:

Who is next year’s … can’t miss youngster who disappoints on a season-altering scale?

2009 Version: Chris Davis
2010 Version: Gordon Beckham
2011 Version: Starlin Castro

This one’s also perfect because I totally disagree with him, mostly because Starlin is on my fantasy team. I drafted Gordon Beckham this year, and experienced the season-altering disappointment. Ryan’s in my head!

Anyhow, I just thought I’d point out what I consider a fantastic example of how a little insight, some research, a good ear for human tendency and a laptop can change the world.

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