Sunday, April 16, 2006

Interview: Tim Dierkes

Some of the smartest and most dedicated people in baseball, specifically fantasy baseball, grew up and went through their schooling not ever thinking about "breaking into the big leagues." Just two examples include Trace Wood of The Long Gandhi who was a professional trumpet player and Ron Shandler of Baseball Forcaster fame who used to sell jingles for birthday and barmitzvahs.

Tim Dierkes, another example of someone who has made a name for himself in the world of fantasy baseball who didn't (and still doesn't) have a plan to "break into the bigs." You may remember him from such baseball blogs as RotoAuthority or MLB Trade Rumors. If you're not familiar with either site you should become a frequent visitor, as they're both excellent and are read by hoardes of fantasy baseball players looking for help in their Roto leagues and also by those interested in whether or not their MLB team is going to get the new second basemen the hometown team so desperately needs.

As a 23 year old living in the suburbs of Chicago, Tim has put forth great effort putting together a viable source for many fantasy baseball geeks since June 2005. Tim says he basically started the sites because he needed a more productive hobby than online poker. He takes his time and presents information that not only makes sense, but also has reliable sources backing it up. He uses his business administration/marketing degree to help promote his annual projections, and it helped get him his 9-5 job: search engine marketing. He's a bit involved at the moment and doesn't feel his blog writing could be his livelihood, however, especially with a new mortgage and a wedding to plan. (Sorry to break the news to all those female fantasy geeks, Tim's taken.) As of now, he plans on keeping the sites up as best he can while also devoting himself to his 9-5, new condo, and bride-to-be.

"The writing is just a hobby, though it'd be awesome if they were my livelihood one day. With a new mortgage and a wedding in November, though, that definitely seems like a pipe dream. I needed a more productive hobby, I was into online poker for a few months and it was killing me," Tim told Game Four.

His projections, which he puts out annually from his fantasy related website and updates almost weekly throughout the year, aren't just based on his gut feelings. As most projections are, his are based on mathematical formulas, inside knowledge, and past trends.

"A lot goes into the projections. I'm looking at the last three years for trends as well as the player's second half. I'm looking carefully at the player's health issues. I'm using every indicator I can find to influence my thinking. Contact rate, BABIP for pitchers, anything. I'm a huge fan of Baseball Prospectus and Baseball Forecaster and I'm definitely influenced by both. I think it's really important to note the player's injury likelihood and build that in or at least mention it in the comments. Rankings are influenced heavily by playing time, as a 5% reduction in someone's playing time can make a huge difference. I keep it updated throughout the season to account for playing time as best I can," Tim says of his own projections.

The best thing about his projections is that he's not afraid to change his mind as things develop into the season. If someone subscribes to his projections, which come in the form of an easy to use excel file spreadsheet, they'll get updates on new players entering the league, adjustments based on playing time, injury, trades, or any other changes he may notice throughout the course of the year. What annually published magazine or book can give you that?

Tim has made such a name for himself that he has recently been asked to write columns for RotoWorld on top of his own sites, which he still keeps updated daily.

Of course Tim doesn't just create all this fantasy advice and player projections for everyone else to utilize. He's involved in multiple fantasy league (4 this year), including a few so-called "expert leagues" on top of his annual keeper league. They probably aren't as highly regarded as Tour Wars, but they are nonetheless filled with knowledgeable players, most of whom have their own blogs attributed to baseball in some shape or form. Oh, and for the record, in one of them the Game Four team is currently in first place with Tim nipping at our heals, but if Fantasyland has taught us anything about expert leagues is that it's a long season and there's a lot of things that change over the course of 182 games. (Tim had the pleasure of reviewing Fantasyland by Sam Walker on his site.)

If you ever have the pleasure of competing against Tim in a fantasy league watch for him to draft Mark Ellis as his starting second baseman. He's been pretty high on him for a while.

"Ellis is one of my favorite underrated guys for '06. He's shown he has the skills to hit .300, and he had two 5 HR months to finish last season. Plus he hits at the top of the order. How is this not a top 5 2B on everyone's list? He's got 25 weeks to prove me right, wrong, or something in-between," Tim explained.

Tim's alter ego blog,, is as much a news site as it is just his own ramblings. When he has a personal hunch he'll make sure people reading know it's exactly that, but normally the rumors he publishes have a link to reliable sources in and around baseball. He doesn't just publish every crazy rumor he hears either; he takes the time to verify information in order to keep his site credible.

"Sometimes people just email me with rumors and I have to try to verify [it]. I have a ton of stuff I'm not able to print on the site because I can't determine whether the person is legit. I've developed a pretty good BS detector for it by now though - fakes are fairly obvious. A few random people who have interesting affiliations with teams or players are found this way, and I try to speak to them regularly. I don't have time to troll message boards looking for rumors, but I can rest assured that if a decent one pops up someone will email me with it. I'll always credit the source and let the reader decide for him/herself about the rumor," Tim says of his trade rumor collection.

He's not a baseball exec or a beat writer. Tim's simply a fan of the game, the numbers, and writing. Put those three things together and combine it with enough knowledge and credibility and you're going to get a good product. His sites are frequented by a number of people and for good reason. If you haven't had the time to check out the sites they are highly recommended by the Game Four team. Plus, if you're ever in the same fantasy league as Tim it's good to know what he's thinking come draft time.


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