Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fantasy Baseball Strategies That Don't Work

posted by Jon Williams
All of the strategies listed below have been successful in the past. I am not labeling these strategies as terrible but rather as dated. In long running leagues (epecially keeper leagues) with experienced, savy ownership the use, or attempted use of these strategies will not only bring you frustration but also an unsuccessful season. This is because the experienced fantasy owner studies the strategies of his opponents and shapes his own strategy to ensure the disruption of his rival's plans and the furtherance of his own. To help you counter these obstacles I've provided you with three things:

1. A description of the dated strategy and how it was supposed to work.
2. The methods your opponent can use to disrupt the strategy.
3. An alternative way to re-shape the strategy to make it workable again.

The L.I.M.A. Plan

The LIMA plan was a great strategy for a while. Ron Shandler created the LIMA plan but in reality there were lots of great players employing similar strategies for years before Ron popularized it. LIMA, stands for Low Investment Mound Aces. The idea was that in a typical 12 team, 4x4, only-league with a $260 budget you couldspend $200 to build a top ranked offense and devote just sixty dollars to your pitching staff with no more than half of that budget spent on saves. You would select the pitchers you purchased from a very select group that met certain criteria:

• K/BB ratio of 2.0 or better
• HR/9 of 1.0 or less
• K/9 ratio of 6.0 or better
At the core of the strategy was one of the tenets of Advanced Fantasy Baseball - Draft skills, not roles. Using this strategy allowed you to draft the best pitchers in the game before they became the expensive closers and starters that so many owners were spending so much of their budgets to acquire.

This plan was a huge smash and it quickly became all the rage in fantasy leagues, which is also when it became almost useless. With everyone chasing the same group of pitchers the untouted starters and middle relievers that were once atainable for $3-5 were now costing well into the double digits. Even owners who were not strictly using the strategy knew to bid up the owners utilizing the LIMA plan (which if you knew the plan was very easy to spot).

Even Ron Shandler has moved on from using the LIMA plan. There are ways to make the LIMA play workable if you are determined to use a version of it. One very simple way is to increase the budget allocated to pitching to an amount that allows you to draft a nice collection of the better LIMA pitchers but not so much that it seriously diminishes your offense. Another method is to add an Ace Pitcher (one that meets the LIMA criteria of course) to the mix. Adding an ace will not only (in theory) increase your pitching points but it will also throw your competitors off the scent when it comes to guessing your strategy.

Stars and Scrubs

This strategy has been around for almost as long as fantasy baseball has been played and there are several variations. The object of the strategy is to buy as many top tier stars as possible (both hitters and pitchers) until you only have one dollar left for each of your remaining roster spots. The idea is that a large collection of stars will carry your roster and that your scrubs give you the opportunity to get lucky.

The strategy gets beat all hollow when your opponents bid up the better scrubs and leave you with the true dregs of the league. The strategy also requires you to get lucky with both the emergence of scrubs and the continued health of your stars. The tougher your league the more difficult it is to recover from the loss of your $40 stud hitter or $25 ace starter or closer. This is also a very dangerous strategy for the novice owner to use, especially in a league full of sharks.

The plan can be salvaged by reserving enough of your budget to allocate $2-5 on those last few roster spots. Another variation is to buy just one stud per position. In other words one stud catcher, one stud corner, one stud infielder, a stud outfielder or two, an ace starter, and a top closer. If done carefully this can be done with plenty of money left to fill your other spots.

Spread the Risk

This strategy attempts to do exactly what its name says it will. In this strategy the owner will spend no more than $30 on any player. This way the owner can afford to buy lots of talent and will not need to roster many (if any) scrubs. If used intelligently this plan ensures that the owner will have a deep, balanced roster. This protects the owner from injury problems and slumping superstars.

The problem with this method is that it is very league dependent. Every league is different and some will pay different prices for certain types of players. Anyone who has ever opened a fantasy guide and scoffed at the idea of players being bought for mid-teen prices when in your league these guys go for $25-30 already know the problem. If mid-tier guys are selling for $25-30, then the true superstuds are going for just $35-40. Thus cutting off your bidding at $30 also cuts you off from all of the best quality talent.

You can use a version of this plan if you are very familiar with the spending habits of your fellow owners and you are confident in your ability to adjust your spending on the fly. The important thing is to getyour fair share of the available talent.

Punting Categories

By sacrificing a roto category such as saves or steals, the owner hopes to use the money budgeted to those categories to dominate the other ones. In the vast majority of cases the owner chooses saves, because closers are often overpriced contribute to fewer categories than starters and middle relievers.

This strategy often fails because the owners who utilize it dump the category during the draft and fail to collect enough points in the other categories to win their leagues, though it is very good at placing owners within striking distance.

Making punting a useful strategy is very simple. Rather than dump a category for the entire season, just dump it at the draft. After the draft the owner should use every available resource to find the stats he ignored during the draft. By constantly monitoring the waiver wire and taking advantage of trade opportunities its possible to do quite well in the neglected category and thus have a shot at winning the league.

One Dollar Catchers

A very common strategy in fantasy baseball drafts is too ignore the more expensive catchers in favor of drafting two $1 catchers (or waiting until the end of the draft) that receive very few at-bats. The idea behind the strategy is that so few catchers are productive (and usually even the productive ones do not compare to the comparably priced outfielders or corner infielders) that the money it takes to buy the very best at the position is better spent on more productive players at other positions. And further that with not enough catchers to go around very few of the other teams would have strong catching anyway.

While it sounds okay, essentially dumping the catching positions, it creates two holes in your fantasy lineup. The owner with strong hitting from the catcher spots has an offensive advantage that can often make a huge difference in the final standings.

Very carefully scouting catchers can usually uncover productive catchers for bargain prices. last season Ryan Doumit and Kelly Shoppach were draft day bargains that carefully scouting may have revealed. This season Jesus Flores and Pablo Sandoval may be huge bargains at the catcher position. MLB always puts added focus on weak positions which ensures that eventually the development cycle will result in a better crop of catchers.

NEXT: On Sunday read why Buying Low and Selling High is not as simple as it sounds.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Schruender said...

I like the idea of the LIMA strategy although I've never heard it called that before. I'm thinking about Zack Greinke in 2007 and Liriano before he underwent Tommy John surgery. You're right about watching to make sure everyone in the league won't do the same thing, but if they do then you adjust.

Monday, December 1, 2008 at 6:40:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Jason Collette said...

Punting can work but you have to be a Ray Guy-like fantasy owner to pull it off. I won my AL only league while punting saves for the entire season - totaled 13 saves from a collection of middle relievers. However, I maxed out ERA, WHIP, and K's while placing high enough in wins to get 2nd place in the pitching while letting my offense carry me to the title. I won by half a point as I won the runs category over the team that finished 2nd place to me 1052 to 1051. I don't think I'll take that chance next season

Sunday, December 7, 2008 at 8:00:00 AM EST  

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