Monday, June 15, 2009

Fantasy Baseball Roundtable - Contend or Bust!

posted by Jon Williams
This week we have the pleasure of hosting the Fantasy Baseball Roundtable. I asked a question on the minds of many fantasy owners at this point in the season...

You find yourself in 7th place in a 15 team mixed 5x5 league. You've just lost your best hitter to injury and your pitching isn't that good. If you really want to win, what do you do?
We received a bunch of great answers. If you find yourself in a tight race or falling behind, the advice from this group of experts just might show you how to pull ahead.

Mike Podhorzer – Fantasy Pros 911

Find the nearest tissue box, wipe the tears away, and gently explain to yourself that due to some bad luck, this just might not be your year. Or you could simply come to terms with the fact that you may just not be a very good fantasy baseball player! On a serious note, it really depends on a number of factors that were not given in the question. Absolute rank in the standings means a lot less than how many points you are behind a money spot. It is also important to know how close the category totals are and how easy it is to gain points. I would look over my roster to see how many under performers I own and if there is any hope for a rebound for these players. I would be much more confident in a second half run if my team was loaded with slow starters than if I had players performing right at expectations. There is really no great piece of advice for this situation, other than simply trading for better value, trying your best to acquire pitchers whose skills are better than their ERAs suggest and crossing your fingers that your team enjoys better fortune over the rest of the season. Panic moves and trades just to "shake things up" will probably do more harm than good.

Tommy Landry – RotoExperts

At this point in the season, it is time to pull out the stops if you are muddling in the middle and suffering from injuries. I would start working the wire on my pitching ASAP, shooting to snag guys on a tear before they cool off or hot prospects facing MLB batters for the first time. Even though most roto leagues have a pitching start limit, don't let that scare you off of maxing out your starts as soon as possible in this scenario. There are always useful MRs out there in mixed leagues, and once you use up all your starts, you can get cheap wins and Ks with respectable ratios from a long list of relievers down the stretch. For hitting, now is the time to cut the dead weight and start gambling on players who are likely to be called up over the summer. Look at what guys like Alexi Casilla and Mike Aviles did late last season. Keep an eye on guys like Matt LaPorta, Eric Young Jr. (will be a huge speed source once he's up, but beware the BA and OBP), and even Alcides Escobar, for example. And faithfully check the waiver wire daily, because I've managed to snag some gems already this year, including John Lackey in a shallow league and Casey Blake (seriously, look at the numbers) in a very deep experts league. Most of all, never surrender!

Tim Dierkes - RotoAuthority

My typical answer is to trade pitching for hitting, even if you don't have much. If I had one good starter, I would shop him. If I felt I could find saves on the waiver wire, I would shop my best closer or even package up two closers for a top bat. Beyond that, I wouldn't do anything. I am not a fan of shaking a team up for the sake of shaking it up. At the time of this writing, 64% of the season remains. Plenty of time for a 7th place team to climb the standings if you believe in your players.

Patrick Cain – Albany Times Union

You are in seventh right now, congrats you're on a one-way street to irrelevancy so the hitter you lost probably doesn't matter too much. And for your pitching? Well, there is not much on your wire either I bet. So gear up, it is time to focus and focus hard on an achievable strategy.

I will assume your "best hitter" is one that has power. Ditch HRs. Ok, don't abandon them, but settle for finishing in the bottom 3. RBI are going to lag too, but that depends greatly on your other positions. As for offense, I'd try something like going for AVG, SB, R. That means Ichiro Suzuki and Carl Crawford are being fast tracked over to my squad as I sacrifice some pop....don't forgot you can deal that injured hitter assuming he's not out for the season. From there, make sure your weakest guys - the $1 or $2 like players - are hitting high in the lineup. Until recently, a prime example would have been Skip Schumaker.

If you can own SBs, R, AVG and you avoid dead last for RBI & HR, your offense isn't in that bad of shape. Let's say can get 1st on those 3 and 12th for the other 2...that's 53 of 75 points. With that you'll average out to be in the top 3rd, and that is typically were a team in the hunt needs to be.

Oh yea, keep your offensive bench thin to nonexistent. You'll see why.

As for pitching, exploit mid-relievers. Many non-hold leagues forget about the no-name 7th inning men. Ideally, the rest of your league will have fewer pitchers as they will have an offensive bench. Think about this: a crappy starter (say Ross Ohlendorf) goes something like this... 5 innings 3 ER, 2 Ks. Nobody wants that. If a few mid relievers contribute that night you could get 8 Innings, 3 ER, 6 Ks, on the night. Presto, you just turned Ohlendorf into an average starter by adding pinch of Mike Wuertz to the equation.

This will help your ERA, WHIP, and Ks a phenomenal amount. And when a closer goes down, you'll probably have the backup, putting you in line for Saves.

A completely different approach would be to pick up guys with extremes vs. left vs. right splits and play matchups. But I'm guessing someone else will touch on that.

Adam Ronis – Newsday

The first thing you need to do is analyze where you are in categories. You might have five points in home runs, but be 10 homers away from getting 10 points. Look at the categories where you can move up and target those categories. You need to work the waiver wire well, even though the pickings may be slim. You also need to take chances. Look for players that are struggling and have track records and try to acquire them. A guy like Chris Young from the Diamondbacks is an example. He has power and speed, but has been awful. Try and find players that are struggling but have proven in the past they can get it done. The bottom line is don't give up. Make trades and be aggressive.

Rudy Gamble – RazzBall

Why don't you add a few more hindrances? How about the cable company turned off my Internet access? Or I have been caught for not paying taxes on my past years' fantasy baseball league winnings and I am being sent to prison?

Winning at this point - assuming it isn't very tight between 1st place and 7th place - is highly unlikely. You obviously have to take some chances. I would gamble on young players and look to make some trades to upgrade weak spots with an emphasis on strong 2nd-half players. If there is anyone on my team that is a possible sell-high candidate, I am looking to move them. Same with closers as I would rather take the risk of finding saves off the waiver wire.

MLB.com Shop

Jon Williams – Advanced Fantasy Baseball

The most important thing to remember is that you have more than half the season to make up ground. Use trades to fill any holes in your lineup. One of my favorite strategies is to trade a star player for two less popular but productive veterans. Often you will lose a little in the Homerun and Stolen Base categories but you will gain in Runs and RBI. I suggest you trade for hitting help because good bats are extremely hard to find on waivers. I also would play up the strengths of the players you do have. If you have power but no batting average or speed concentrate on building your power stats even higher. If you have a surplus in a category you can trade it for players that will help you gain ground in whichever category is easiest.

Concentrate your FAAB bids and waiver claims to build your pitching statistics. You can never count on building points in the wins category so do not even try. Instead, look to gain in ERA, WHIP, and Strikeouts. If you own mediocre or bad starters, dump or trade the bad ones for the best middle relievers available. Often a few good middle relievers can do the job of an ace pitcher. Also, keep an eye out for pitchers that are performing better than their results. Until recently, Jon Lester was a very good example of the kind of pitcher you want to target.

If you are in a keeper league, consider trading your best prospects and keepers for more expensive one-year players. The goal is always to win this year. You can worry about next season in 2010. Any upgrade you make is going to make winning that much easier.

Do not give up! You can do it!

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2 Comments:

OpenID nobuddy353 said...

Interesting piece. I've been in this predicament a handful of times over the last few years, and it actually lead to perhaps my most enjoyable experiences playing fantasy baseball. If in a money league, you obviously must make a move if truly interested in being competitive. There are two realistic approaches:

A) Trade Pitching for Hitting. Above scenario pitching is already weak, but trade your few spare serviceable pitchers to upgrade your hitting. While depleting your pitching entirely, this will fortify your hitting and assuring good returns in those categories for the remainder of the season. Now on the flipside, what this forces you to do is work the wire for pitching. This can be done to amazing results if in a daily moves league. AMAZING results. But this will require an immense amount of time and research in regards to knowing your pitchers, ballparks, matchups, etc. This approach works only if you are willing to put forth the work. I won a league with nothing but waiver wire pitchers and elite hitting, but it took some high maintenance and constant supervision.

B) Trade your elite players for a package of good players. Quality for (Decent) Quantity strategy. Trade your elite players for a package of 2 to 3 good players. Building up depth and rounding out stat categories in the process. Eventually you will have a solid all around, unspectacular squad. Downside of this approach is that you will need obviously the involvement of other owners and some luck in deals. If you are in a non-active league, this is not a realistic option. Also, of course, the work will have to be put in.

Done both the above, both were very fun experiences, but do require a lot of team maintenance and let's face it - you're only doing this if you are in a money league. Or insane. Thanks.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 12:09:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Good stuff, Nobuddy. You mention money leagues as a motivation for doing the work of getting back into contention. I know a lot of owners who in this situation would decide to rebuild rather than do the work. One owner in particular was fond of saying that finishing anything but first was the same to him as finishing last.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 12:43:00 PM EDT  

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