Here at Get Untracked, we're big believers in The Wisdom of Crowds, a theory described by New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki in his 1994 book of that name. The author wrote that when a large decisionmaking body meets four criteria: (a) variety of opinions, (b) independence of members, (c) decentralization, and (d) an effective means of collecting opinions, the resulting choices will produce better results than those obtained by following the suggestions of the smartest people in the group.
In preparing for my fantasy baseball draft, I use ESPN's live draft results as one of many references. The list "displays the average position players were selected by team owners in ESPN Fantasy Baseball live drafts. Only players that have been drafted in a significant number of leagues will show up on this list." I believed that the thousands of people drafting teams would collectively provide a better ranking of players than any single projection system like PECOTA, CHONE, ZiPS or MARCEL. I was wrong.
The list starts out just fine, ranking Albert Pujols first, followed by Soriano, A-Rod, Reyes, Johan and Ryan Howard. But when you get to picks 51-100 (click screen capture to your right), things get a little screwy. Pick 52? Sandy Alomar, Jr. Pick 56? Eli Marrero. Pick 64? Pedro Feliciano. It's like Omar Minaya was choosing guys for his "all-Latin Early-90's" themed fantasy team.
It's clear that ESPN's fantasy draft results page doesn't meet Surowiecki's conditions to be a "wise crowd." Perhaps there is not sufficient variety of opinion, independence or decentralization. All the players listed above have Mets connections so perhaps only Mets crazies have held their drafts. (Or one Mets crazy has drafted 13,248 times.)
What's more likely, however, is that this ESPN page is not a good method for aggregating opinions. The far right column of the list shows what percentage of fantasy leagues each player is owned in. For the top MLB players, this should be virtually 100%. Sandy Alomar Jr. was selected with the average 51st pick, but he is owned in only 0.5% of leagues. This contradicts ESPN's promise only to list players drafted in enough leagues to make the list helpful.
Somebody needs to tell the WWL about the technical glitch on their fantasy site. (Dare I say ESPN is having a Sportsline Moment?) Too bad their hallowed ombudsman is leaving...