Friday, February 29, 2008

Bennett & Bodin on Baseball IV: The Colton & Wolf SMART Strategy to $$$

The projections have been made. You have reviewed your notes. Now, it is now time to make some of the final decisions. At this time, you are probably considering hundreds if not thousands of options about who to select.

To win a fantasy league, an owner must have a strategy in mind. To paraphrase long-time LABR owners Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf, owners need a set of principles to guide them. Without a system in place, the owner will be tempted to throw good money after bad and make decisions during the year that are not the wisest.

This will be theme throughout the remainder of our articles. However, first, as you are probably wondering ....


Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf have managed fantasy teams in leagues like LABR for several years. They have been very successful, winning at least two LABR titles and finishing high in the standings on many of the other competitions. Glenn Colton is a big-firm lawyer. Rick Wolf is a long-time fantasy sports executive. Bodin had the pleasure of competing against Colton and Wolf in the 2004 AL LABR League and Bennett battled Colton and Wolf in the 2005 AL LABR League. This article is based on the article on their SMART Strategy System, which first appeared on in 2004.


The five basic principles of the SMART System are Scarcity, Management, Anchor, Relievers, and Team. The acronym SMART comes from the first letter of these principles.

Colton and Wolf claim that the SMART System is simple, straightforward, and battle-tested through their participation in expert leagues such as LABR and the Tout Wars. They use the SMART System in selecting their team.


We now discuss the five principles of the SMART System in more detail.


There are positions where the talent level is scarce. The owner’s job in preparing for a draft or auction is to identify these scarce positions. This can easily be accomplished by listing all of the players eligible to play at a position in the order of the owner’s preference. By assigning a $ value to each player, an owner can quickly determine the positions that are scarce.

Knowing the positions that are scarce allows the owner to do the following:

(1) Bid a little higher than $ value on a star at a scarce position. For example, Joe Mauer at catcher may be considered a star at a scarce position. Barring injuries, Mauer should outperform virtually any other AL catcher with the possible exception of Victor Martinez. This gives the Mauer’s owner a big advantage because he is not playing with a dead weight at catcher.

(2) It is easier to find productive players at positions that are not scarce near the end of the auction and in the free agency pickup process. In the auction, this allows the owner to wait a little longer before filling the positions that are not scarce.

(3) Trade a star at a scarce position. Such a trade can often bring the owner a better set of players than trading a star at a position that is not scarce.

(4) The owner should only be willing to overspend at good players at scarce positions.


As we discussed earlier, the owner must carefully prepare. The owner has to visit various Internet sites to see if there are any pieces of information that may make a difference in the player’s performance. For example, what does it mean when the various Internet sites report that Manny Ramirez is in the best shape of his career and working out diligently every day in Arizona? The owner has to do reading and search the Internet for news that may make a difference on his team. The owner should also the players that may be activated in a couple of weeks.

Further, the owner must: (i) track the players who become eligible at a position that they were not previously; (ii) activate a player from their reserve squad who is suddenly playing regular; or (iii) release or place a player that is injured on the owner’s reserve squad. Injuries and trades cause position shifts and role changes. A position to watch carefully is the closer position. Several middle relief pitchers became closers in 2007 and there is no reason why this should not continue in 2008. Our criterion of category management, mentioned in an earlier article, is very close to the management criterion mentioned in the Colton Wolf article.


Every team needs a starter that is an anchor for his fantasy team. They need a starter who can be relied upon to produce decent statistics such as: under a 4.00 ERA, under a 1.300 WHIP, 220+ innings and 160 + strikeouts. Anchors generally cannot be found on the waiver wire and the owner who has an anchor will probably demand a very high price if you try to trade for him.


Strategizing pitching is always tricky and one of the ideas of a good pitching strategy is to minimize risk. In that regard, the SMART strategy recommends that the owner acquire a solid closer and a couple of solid setup pitchers who are second in line for saves along with the pitching anchor. In that way, half of the owner’s pitching staff is solid.

Colton and Wolf’s two basic rules for relievers are that they pitch for a winner and they throw hard. They believe that closers who pitch for marginal or terrible teams are not solid choices under the SMART strategy because of increased risk. Closers on good teams are not traded to become setup or middle relievers on other teams. Analyzing what happened in 2007 allows the owner to verify that several closers on bad teams became setup pitchers on good teams. Further, the owner should not spend too much on setup or middle relievers. Proper research and some luck can find the $1 middle reliever who becomes a closer. Make sure that the middle relievers throw hard, get strikeouts, and have a reasonable ERA and WHIP.


In forming your team, Colton and Wolf recommend that the owner improves the odds of players having good production if these players are from winning teams. Pitchers on the good team get more opportunities to win and save games and have the benefit, generally, of better fielding and better support pitchers. Hitters on good teams have more RBI opportunities, see better pitches because men are on base in front of them, and cannot so easily be pitched around. Colton and Wolf do not recommend that owners avoid players on bad teams but to adjust the value of these players to account for these teams.

Our experience in auctions is that this almost naturally happens. Players on good teams are thrown out early in the auction and have a good chance of being bought for a contract price that is at or above their estimated contract prices. Similarly, players on bad teams are not thrown out early in the auction and have a good chance of being bought for a contract price that are at or below their estimated contract prices.


The Smart Strategy consists of the 5 categories mentioned above. The Extended Smart Strategy consists of 7 categories – the 5 categories mentioned above and 2 new categories. Colton and Wolf have a different name for the Extended Smart Strategy but we will not use it in this article. These additional categories assist the fantasy owner set up a proper strategy for selecting players for their fantasy team. Thee two categories are now briefly described.

Age of the Player

Colton and Wolf note that ‘players in their prime are more likely to be consistent, less likely to get hurt, and less likely to see their production plummet unexpectedly.’ They recommend taking younger players with a strong future rather than older players who are past their prime. Some players age faster than others and their production drops off quite quickly.

A surprising thing that has happened in the last couple of years is the success of some of the older pitchers and the quick drop-off in the ability of other older pitchers, and the possibility of these older pitchers getting injured. For example, consider the Randy Johnson situation in 2007 and the developing Curt Schilling situation in 2008. We generally only select the older pitcher if the pitcher is inexpensive (under $5 for example). We let other owners assume the risk of the older pitcher.


Saves and steals are similar categories. A fantasy team needs at least one genuine player who can steal on his team to insure that the team has a respectable showing in the speed category. Colton and Wolf believe that to rely on a handful of steals from a number of sources is a strategy that generally does not work. Of course, a genuine speed threat will cost a reasonably amount. The owner should look around to see if they can find a player who may not be too expensive but can be a threat to steal a number of bases.

Drs. Bennett and Bodin encourage comments and questions and will attempt to answer these comments and questions both personally and in future columns. Bodin can be reached at and Bennett can be reached at

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Duran said...

This comment has been removed because it linked to malicious content. Learn more. said...

This won't actually have success, I think so.