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Vol. V, Issue #2 - March 2017

** Interview with Ron Shandler - the leading
authority on Fantasy Baseball, Part I

(In 2015, we introduced our members to Ron Shandler, via the on-line newsletter he started
called BaseballHQ, also interviewing the editor of the newsletter, and then we did a book review
of the well known and highly regarded yearly guide for Fantasy Baseball called "Baseball Forecaster",
but now we have the chance to speak to the man himself, in Part I of this two part interview series ... )

Notes from the Wolfman:  
I try to follow my intuition who to contact, when its time to create our next issue of our newsletter.  Anyway, I was on Mr. Shandler's list via Linkedin and he sent out an email in February, talking to all of his contacts about his current status.  People were curious about what he had been doing recently as he had left being involved with the very fine on-line baseball newsletter he started in 1986 (Baseball HQ) that we discussed in our March 2015 issue along with the baseball guide book he publishes yearly that helps many gamers linked with various forms of Fantasy Baseball.  As a matter of fact, in my opinion (if you read Mr. Shandler's bio on his website), he is the authority on Fantasy Baseball and has helped many many gamers over the years, like the Bill James of this version of Baseball.

So in my Wolfman's persona, when I received his email, I sent one back to inquire if Mr. Shandler ever does interviews, and although he said he was quite busy at the time, he agreed to begin to start an email interview process with me. Thus, here you have the first part of our on-line conversation below.  But the real reason I wanted to talk to him was because of the following statement he wrote in his email: Over the winter, I wrote another book, entitled, The BABS Project: Uncovering the Truth About Winning at Fantasy Baseball .

Well, I thought to myself, what is this new BABS Project about and could I get a copy of his new book?  As with every Strat Baseball GM or Manager, we are always looking for the edge to win more games - so what was this so-called "Truth about Winning" that was Mr. Shandler talking about? My curiousity got the better of me, so I just had to write to him.

As it turns out, Mr. Shandler is very very approachable, and does his best to help the rest of us. So I was quite pleased that he was willing to do this interview, as well as, he surprised me by sending me a review copy of his new book in an e-book format.  So at the end of this interview, I will give you a taste of what I saw when I scanned his new book as well. Which we will definitely get into more detail in the second part of this interview.

Here is a brief part of Mr. Shandler's Bio from his website (click here to read his full bio):

RON SHANDLER began publishing his unique brand of statistical information under the Shandler Enterprises name in 1986. A fantasy leaguer since 1985 and a simulation gamer since 1971, Ron was the first author to develop sabermetric applications for fantasy league play. He is the author of the Baseball Forecaster annual, now celebrating its 31st year of publication; he is the founder of the industry trail-blazing web site, BaseballHQ.com and the First Pitch Forums nationwide conference series. Ron also helped spearhead the creation of the Tout Wars national experts competition, which was the focus of the “Fantasyland” book and documentary film.

Ron’s work has appeared in numerous publications and web sites. He has written for USA Today, ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He has been cited by many sources, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Week and Money magazine. Many Major League teams are regular customers of his books and web services.

Now if you wish to read our 2015 interview with Ray Murphy, the editor of Baseball HQ (and a strat gamer), then click on:  2015 Ray Murphy Interview and if you wish to read a description of their amazing Baseball Fantasy Guide, published each year, filled with all kinds of statistics and analysis, then click on:  2015 Baseball Forcaster (note: this page also reviews Bill James 2015 Baseball Guide, so scroll down to the second half of this page!).

Ok then, it is my honor to introduce, perhaps the "Father of Fantasy Baseball Strategies", one of the few individuals who truly understand the nuisances of Fantasy Baseball, Mr. Ron Shandler ....

Wolfman:  Dear Members, it is my great honor to be able to introduce to you Ron Shandler, who is known as a legend in the fantasy baseball community, for this first part of our two part interview with him. As you read in my introduction, with his outstanding background linked to fantasy baseball over many years, you can see why, dear members, I am thrilled to have this chance to speak to Mr. Shandler directly.

Also I want to personally thank him for sharing with me a review copy of his latest book called "The BABS Project", which I shall share a few brief comments after this interview.

Mr. Shandler, welcome to the Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter.

Now Mr. Shandler, Ron, can you share with our members how you became so involved with baseball statistics and sabermetrics. Did you have any idea that eventually this was going to become your main career?

Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter, Photo of Ron Shandler, a leading authority on how to win in Fantasy Baseball, author of the BABS Project

Ron: During the 1980s, I became enamored with the works of the new breed of baseball analysts, particularly Bill James, Pete Palmer and Thomas Boswell. Each had published works that focused on their own research and I wanted to compare their systems. The first edition of the Baseball Forecaster in 1986 was just intended as a comparison analysis. Over time, I expanded it to include some research of my own, and then player projections. I was doing marketing analysis and sales forecasting in my corporate job at the time. That's about when fantasy leaguers discovered me.

One never knows what direction a career will take, but I did know I was not cut out to be an employee. After several failed jobs, I dedicated my effort to baseball full time in 1994. It officially became my career for good when I launched the BaseballHQ.com website in 1996.

Wolfman: When you were very young, did you play baseball (little league, high school, college) and if so what was you best position?

Ron: My best position was scorekeeper! The extent of my on-field baseball career was in beer league softball when I was in my 20s. I was a singles hitter with night blindness and my poor arm relegated me to second-base. A double-play pivot was well beyond my skill set.

Wolfman: Which MLB team did you root for in your young days and do you root for now? Are there any MLB players now or in the past which are your favorites or who you follow?

Ron: I grew up about 3 miles from Shea Stadium and have always been a dedicated Mets fan even though I haven't lived in New York since 1984. I recently moved to Port St. Lucie, FL and the Mets' spring training facility is 10 minutes from my house! Growing up, Tom Seaver was my idol. These days, my favorite players change every year and are usually the guys who I think will most outperform expectation. That's the plight of the baseball analyst.

Wolfman: How did you come up with the idea for your very popular Baseball HQ website and newsletter as well as your very successful baseball guide book, "Baseball Forcaster"? What was your goal in creating this organization and your yearly book? Also, are you happy with the results of what you achieved through these activities?

Ron: BaseballHQ.com was a natural evolution of the Forecaster book and a monthly newsletter I was publishing in the 1990s. Having come from the publishing industry, it was liberating to toss off the shackles of page-count restrictions and formal publishing schedules. The paid circulation of the website surpassed all my print products within 9 months of launch. That is when I knew I had something. I am very proud of what I achieved.

Wolfman: Do you play any Fantasy Baseball yourself in any form? Have you heard of the game we play Strat-o-matic and if so what is your opinion of it?

Ron: I am a sim (baseball simulation) player and very familiar with SOM, though I have never played it. I cut my teeth in the 1960s on Cadaco All Star Baseball (with the spinner) and graduated in the 1970s to your competitor, APBA. I was an APBAite for many years until I bought my first home computer. Then I played MicroLeague Baseball and Lance Haffner Baseball.

These days, I get my sim fix by playing Scoresheet Baseball, but my professional focus is more on traditional fantasy leagues. I currently participate in several national industry experts competitions -- Tout Wars (which I helped create in 1998), FSTA and XFL.

Wolfman: Why have you left BaseballHQ if I am permitted to ask this?

Ron: Sure, it's no secret. I built up the Baseball HQ line (2 websites, 5 books and a 10-city conference series) to a point in the mid-2000s that I felt I had taken it as far as I could. I sold the business in 2008 but was kept on board to run things for several years after that. I gradually reduced my role over time and eventually decided to step down to work on some other projects, of which The BABS Project is one. However, I am still involved in the Baseball Forecaster and I still participate in the conference series. We're in Chicago and St. Louis this weekend (last weekend of Feburary)!

Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter - Book Cover of Ron Shandler's new book, The BABS Project.Wolfman: What does your new book discuss and share that you have called the BABS Project and what does the letters BABS represent?

Ron: The BABS Project takes a different approach to player evaluation and fantasy draft planning. As gamers, we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to rank players, but the error bars around projections are so wide that the exercise is nearly pointless. A player can hit 10 HRs one year, 15 HRs the next and 8 HRs the year after that and still own the same skill set.

The Broad Assessment Balance Sheet (BABS) takes the approach that players are more alike than they are different, and the more that we try to force rankings onto comparable players, the more opportunity there is to find potential draft profit. So BABS starts by assigning skills ratings to players using broad descriptors.

Another problem with projections is they try to incorporate too many objective and subjective variables. We all know that Giancarlo Stanton is a terrific power hitter, but projections will hedge because of his injury risk. Well, how many plate appearances should we discount him? That's a completely subjective decision. BABS evaluates players by separating their skills variables from their risk variables and presents them as a balance sheet of assets and liabilities.

Finally, BABS sets targets for skills and a risk budget so that you can construct an optimal roster.

Wolfman: How can our members get a copy?

Ron: You can find out all about it at RonShandler.com. That's the home for all my current work.

Wolfman: If a member wished to reach you, what would be the best way to do so?

Ron: Beyond (my website) RonShandler.com, folks can contact me on Facebook (/ronshandler.baseball/) and Twitter (@RonShandler). I answer about 96.7% of all questions asked.

Wolfman: We will be visiting with Mr. Shandler once again in our next issue, where we will continue our conversation and focus more about his theories and ideas linked with fantasy baseball and see what strategies he uses that might help our members with their game play in the current league play you are engaged in with SOM.  We will also discuss more about the BABS Project and how this new system works and why it is so effective.

Thank you Mr. Shandler for visiting with us and I look forward to talking with you again soon, to continue this dialogue.

– In visiting Mr. Shandler’s website, after I did this email interview with him, I discovered he is in the process of developing a BABS database, which sounded very interesting and another way to help people who might want to use his approach to evaluate the key players to follow for your drafts in fantasy baseball.  Also I did challenge Ron to play me in SOM, but he declined due to lack of time - perhaps later in the year I will try again.

Wolfman's Final Comments

Ron's book is 102 pages, and I had a chance to glance at it only, but it looks very comprehensive ... in our second interview I will be speaking more with Ron about these new strategies he discusses in the book and why he believes the BABS project is the system to use to prepare to build your team.

So in conclusion, I have great respect for Ron's work, what I have seen via the Baseball HQ site, his book, "Baseball Forcaster" and now to become his student over the next month or so to fully understand BABS. In any case, we have his book listed now on our resource page, and his only request to get your own copy is to become a member on his website, where you will have an even greater access to all his amazing strategies and insights.  This is the website he shared during his interview.  I can't wait to speak again to Ron in his second interview to learn more from the "Man". Stay tuned ....

Wolfman Shapiro
Mgr. of the Skokie Wolfmen in the CBA, USBN Editor



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Contained inside this exciting issue of Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter:
(to view the various interviews, articles, columns and special sections click on the links {underlined}
and this will take you to the appropriate webpage)


  ARTICLE with WOLFMAN SHAPIRO - Wolfman Challenges STPC Worlds Champion Pete Nelson, The Strat Tournament Players Club, is known as the most expansive and challenging series of Strat-o-matic Baseball Draft tournaments world wide. Pete Nelson has been one of the main organizers and supporters of these tournaments for many years as well as one of their repeat champions in their classic Worlds Tournaments.  Pete lives close by to our editor Wolfman in the Seattle area, so at the end of January, these two giants played a best of seven game series following the tournament rules of this club. Find out how this epic battle of SOM Baseball heavies went ....

  SOM Baseball and MLB World News - March 2017, This is our periodic column where we share any exciting news and updates linked to either the SOM World or MLB. In this issue, we share a story about "Opening Day" at the Strat-o-matic Game Company you have never heard, along with another report from another newsletter member of their experience at this year's "Opening Day".  We also share another analysis from Baseball Info Solutions done by strat gamer and the owner, John Dewan about how to evaluate Up-the-Middle Performances of various MLB teams ....

  STRAT WISE with MARC WASSERMAN commissioner of the Cyber Baseball Association (CBA) continues his new column sharing various perspectives on SOM Baseball. For his article this month he discusses about vintage strat-o-matic cards and how to find the best deals and prices to get them.

  INTERVIEW with CHRIS WILLIAMS, Strat Baseball Author, Chris is a fellow strat baseball gamer and new member to our newsletter who has just recently become the author of a new book through Acta Sports by the title of, "Coulda Woulda Shoulda", a very entertaining book about "What If" scenarios that might have changed the history of baseball. In this interview, meet Chris and find out more about his new book.

  SOM BASEBALL LEAGUE REPORT with WOLFMAN SHAPIRO -- the editor of "The Ultimate Strat Newsletter" and 2012 CBA Champion, turns his attention to talk to members of various face-to-face Strat-o-matic Baseball Leagues that he has discovered through the league registry service offered
on the Strat-o-matric website. Each commissioner speaks about the history of their league and their experiences. To read the interview for this month, click on the link below:

INTERVIEW with HARRIS JESSOP, Winter Need a Life League Commissioner (Netplay)

  ARTICLE with CHUCK TINKLER, Chuck is one of our most popular contributors and is back with a new article for his column, "The Chuck Stop", as he continues his article he calls "Old Guys Rule" with Part III. This article deals with the value of a 1st round draft pick and more - Chuck always entertains our readers with his insightful and colorful stories and experiences - check out this latest edition now!

  ARTICLE with WOLFMAN SHAPIRO - How to Setup Your Draft League Team, the Final Part of this article, Wolfman, finish the last segment of this three part article to share with our members the meat and potatoes of his various strategies how to build his 2017 Skokie Wolfmen in the CBA, a Keepers computer league. In this segment, he discusses the results of the CBA draft held in early March with both this written article and some supplemental entertaining videos.  By using his team as an example, you may receive from this article some suggestions and new strategies you can use to help build your own team and bring to your fans a league's championship.

  RECOMMEND ON-LINE SOM RESOURCES -- On-line Strat-o-matic and Baseball related websites that offer amazing information, special tools and products to improve your game play that we strongly recommend. In most cases, we have had personal contact with these sources who agree with the idea and key principle about working together to help promote each other.

  BOOKS TO DIE FOR and Become a BASEBALL GURU -- This page is specifically about special books we are finding that either will expand your insights about the game of Baseball, help you in the creation of your current league teams or with your replays and learn more about the Strat-o-matic Baseball Game and Game Company's history.  We have a special arrangement with Acta Sports, who is a publisher of a number of great baseball books (including Bill James Handbooks) to offer for our members a 10% discount. We will continue to add more books to this page in the future as we uncover other gems our members should know about.


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Wolfman Shapiro
Founder/Editor, the Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter

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