Whether you are in first place, last place, or somewhere in between this is no time to get complacent. If you want to win your Fantasy Baseball League or at least finish with a pride driven flourish this is the time to put on your gloves and get to work. No matter how well your team has done thus far this season anything can and will happen to derail you. But if you are more prepared for the stretch drive than your league mates the chances of coming out on top are much greater. Since Roto and Head to Head have far different endings to their seasons I’ll talk about Roto in Part 1 now, then tomorrow we’ll discuss Head to Head strategies in Part 2.
ROTO LEAGUES –
I know what you are thinking. “I can barely focus long enough to set my lineups every day.” I’m not talking about a several day seminar here, but a few hours to really look at where my teams are at with 8 to 10 weeks to go in the season. Roto makes it easy by giving me the ability to look at all my Roto Points by stat category and comparing those Roto Points against those of my entire league. Once I know what makes up the league’s scores I can better see where I might be able to move up in the standings. Conversely I can see which categories I stand a good chance of losing ground in as well.
Now I have to focus on my team. I figure out my team’s strengths and weaknesses and check my roster to see if I have the players to move the needle in those categories where I have the best chance of moving far up in the League standings. I’ll find out the health status and projections of each of my players going forward including the guys on my disabled list. Now I have a better idea as to which of my positions I might have an opportunity or a need to upgrade. But there are some things I have to remember. Some of the better pitchers in the game are on innings limits for one reason or another. If I own some of them I need to know how many starts they have left before I won’t be able to use them. Pitchers with nagging injuries on non contending teams will likely be shut down once their team is eliminated if not sooner. Finally, September call-ups can both help and hurt me. I might be able to get a jolt from a Cup-Of-Coffee rookie, but one of them may also cut into the playing time of one of my current regulars.
If I am really ambitious and have the time, or if I am in a money league where cash is riding on it, I will even take a look at the rosters of my top competition for the crown. I do the same brief analysis to see what categories they may have potential to move up or down in and what players they may be getting back from the DL soon. If both my team and another contender need stolen bases, for instance, I better get going on grabbing the best base stealer on the wire or be the first to trade for the speedster riding someone’s bench before they get their first. The time for patience is over now and replaced by action.
No, you don’t have to send blood samples to a lab. Just spend a few minutes looking at those stat categories and thinking about what it would take to move up and how far can I move. If I am 5th in Saves with 65 for instance, and the guys ahead of me are at 72, 80, 80, 85, I’d have to figure out what it would take to make up 20 saves, or even the 7 ahead of me in 4th. I have to weigh that against what it would take to bring in a closer or two so I could give it a shot, but only if my league mates would make any available. If, however, I am 5th in Strikeouts with 860 behind 867, 870, 885 and 887 I have a much better shot at gaining those 4 points by making minor changes to my pitching staff. But I won’t know that unless I take a look.
Because Roto scoring is all math it is easy to see why it gets tougher and tougher to move your ratios as it gets deeper into the season. As that sample size gets bigger you are less able to move the needle on ERA, WHIP, OPS and Batting Average. I’m not saying it is impossible, and if your scoring is tight at the top where very little movement in the ratio would be needed to gain points then it might be worth going after that. However, if the ratios ahead of you are far off in the distance you have to think about your ability to change the outcome. For instance, if I am 5th in ERA at 3.50 after 120 starts and 900 innings pitched and the 1st place team is at 3.20, some quick calculations show me that i would have to have a 2.60 ERA the rest of the way to finish at 3.20 for the season. (Assuming 60 more starts @ 7.5 Innings per start, see notes below for calculation) Is it even feasible that i can manage that even with aggressive trading? Know where to best spend both your time and resources most wisely.
No, we’re not going to play Charades, but it is time to get off your butt and do something with all this information you have now. Start with your roster and identify the players that are just not helping you. While we preach patience in the first half of the season, there comes a time to cut bait and give up waiting on some players. Maybe you have stashed a minor leaguer you thought would have come up by now, but he hasn’t. Maybe there is a guy on your overcrowded DL that won’t be much help anymore even if he does come back with a few weeks to go. Finally, you may have a player or two that you knew were going to break out this season, or become the new closer by now, but they haven’t. This week I have sadly said goodbye to CC Sabathia, Yadier Molina, Chris Colabello, again, and even Rex Brothers, one of my preseason favorite draft picks. But if they are not going to help me win now they have no business on my roster.
The rest is up to you. Scour the free agent wire, find out who may get called up, and finally go after some trade targets. No one can you tell which trading techniques will work best for you, but the most important thing I have learned the last couple of years is communication. Trade negotiations are so much easier if you have open communication with your league mates. In our Major League Fantasy Sports Leagues we post and exchange all our phone numbers. It is really surprising how much different things seem when you actually speak to a person on the phone as opposed to just email and online banter. It is also important to know any trade limits or deadlines in your league. Don’t get caught with your pants down when you find out the deadline was yesterday. Finally, find out any other League Rules such as tie breakers and whether stats for “play-in” games count or not. Again, you don’t want to find out after it is too late.
Finally, there are those seasons when you just know it is not going to happen. If it is a keeper league then you can attempt to make trades to beef up your keepers while moving pieces that might help a contender. But whether you are in a keeper or not, you have an obligation to your league mates to both play out the season as competitively as you can and also being responsible when it comes to any trading or player dropping that you do. Everything you do or don’t do affects the rest of a Roto League no matter what place you are in.
As for me, I can’t let up. Moving up three or four spots to a respectable finish is still important to me even if I can’t win it. Plus, I never know what will happen. If I keep my pedal to the floor I may start passing teams that have mailed it in already. If you are new to a league or website, the way you finish the season as a non contender may be the difference between getting an invite back next season or invites to other leagues. If you let your team go dead you can be assured you’ll be looking for new leagues next season.
Good Luck, and get off your butt already, the All Star Break is over and soon it will be Labor Day.
I’ll talk to you tomorrow about Head to Head Leagues.
1. The Featured Picture of this article is the cover from ESPN the Magazine’s Analytics Issue Feb 22, 2012.
2. ERA needed to finish the season at 3.20 was calculated as follows: There are 60 starts left from the 180 start limit in a Standard Roto League. My team already had 350 runs in 900 innings to have a 3.50 ERA. In 180 starts, at my average of 7.5 innings per start I would have 480 runs in 1,350 IP to have a 3.20 ERA at that point. Therefore I can only score 130 more runs in those remaining 450 innings pitched over 60 starts. 130 runs in 450 innings is a 2.60 ERA.