When fantasy baseball is your reality
Baseball fans can be obsessive. They check every statistic, research the players and stay on top of dugout gossip. Fantasy baseball players take it to a new level, spending hours obsessively checking RBIs and scrutinizing batting stances of major leaguers. For some, it’s more than a hobby: it’s a job.
Doling out winning advice
Fantasy baseball consultants are experts not only on players and statistics, but the strategies of winning at fantasy baseball. After crunching the numbers, they make projections about the season and advise fantasy players about how to win big.
“You can gain a huge following by being different and innovative, and providing information fans can’t find anywhere else,” said Ron Shandler, founder of BaseballHQ.com and author of “Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster.”
Finding a niche
BaseballHQ.com has a team of 50 baseball experts advising fantasy players. Each focuses on a different aspect of the game — such as the minors, pitching skills or fantasy strategy. They write for the website and chat with fans seeking strategy advice.
Websites such as ESPN.com, Yahoo! Sports and CNN.com also hire people to advise fans throughout the baseball season.
“You have to find a niche or a new method of evaluating performance,” Shandler said.
Not for the casual fan
Consultants are champion fantasy baseball players in their own right, so they know the ins-and-outs of the game.
Shandler in particular said he looks for successful fantasy baseball players who can write well. Attention-to-detail is also crucial; no detail is too small to report. And consultants are “highly analytical,” and able to make projections based on a variety of factors. Many have a background in statistics.
Baseball consulting isn’t for casual baseball fans. People who don’t have a strong knowledge of the business probably won’t be successful.
In it for love… and some money
Most of BaseballHQ.com’s experts work as freelancers for the site, and many have full-time jobs in other fields. New writers get $50 per column when they write for the site; more seasoned writers command a higher rate. Consultants also confer one-on-one with clients and to speak at events.
“Most of my writers only make between $1,500 and $7,000 per year,” said Shandler.
“Most aren’t in it for the money, they are in it for love.”
Q and A with Ron Shandler
Ron Shandler, 52, has been advising fantasy baseball players for more than 20 years. The Native New Yorker — who currenly resides in Virginia — is a die-hard Mets fan himself.
Here’s his take on the field.
How did you get started?
I was doing sales forecasting and I was a huge baseball fan. I decided to apply my statistics knowledge to baseball. At the same time there was a surge in analytics in baseball, so the timing worked out.
How has the industry changed?
Everything exploded in the late ’90s. The Internet gives access to so many people. Before, it was also quite an investment to get out books and newsletters. Now it’s much cheaper.
What do you do in the off-season?
Actually, that’s my busiest time. In the height of the season, everything is on autopilot. From February 15 to the opening day, our web traffic is huge.
What does your job entail?
I write columns for the site, two columns a week for USAToday, as well as do online chats and answer e-mails from fans. I write the Baseball Forecaster in October and November. I’m really juggling a lot of balls.
What’s the most money you’ve seen someone win in a fantasy baseball league?
Last year, the winner of the National Fantasy Baseball Championship took home about $240,000.