For the majority of head to head fantasy baseball leagues, today marks the beginning of the playoffs. That being said, I thought it would be wise to step away from analyzing player performances in Buying & Selling in order to write about a more underrepresented aspect of the game we all love. In this week’s installment, I will highlight several things to think about while attempting to advance to the next round and hopefully win a championship. In this stage of the game, strategy is almost if not more important than the players you actually possess. Making the right roster move can sometimes be the difference that sets an owner up for a championship run. Disclaimer: all this advice is situational and none of it can be relied upon 100% of the time. Use these tools within context and they can be quite helpful. Good luck in your league playoffs everyone!
Play The Percentages: Don’t choose what is possible over what is probable. Of course there are exceptions here. If you need a home run, so to speak, making the riskier selection is sometimes necessary. What I mean by playing percentages is that you, in most circumstances should refrain from benching a solid pitching option that may have one mediocre matchup for a worse option with bad matchups who may have a two-start week ahead. A lot of the time, choosing what is possible will get you into trouble. For example, it was possible that Dan Haren was going to throw a great game upon his return from the DL at Philadelphia on July 8th. However, he’d been bad much of the season and using him for a spot start in this scenario was dangerous, although in one league I contemplated it. I chose to realize what was probable, which was that he would have an average day at best, which wouldn’t put me over the top in that particular matchup. In that game, Haren allowed 10 base runners over 5 innings and wouldn’t have made a difference. This is especially important to remember in weekly leagues where you are forced to set your lineup in advance. Conversely, you can sometimes deviate from this strategy if you are in a league where innings pitched or quality starts are a category, as volume (depending on your matchups, the other teams roster, etc) might be more important. Taking calculated risks are fine, but more often than not in fantasy baseball, going with “your gut” will not pay off.
Be Weary Of Season (YTD) Statistics: Look, it’s September. It is no longer the time to be drooling over the guy on your waiver wire with the most homers in April and May. Since it is now playoff time in head to head leagues, the season is substantially shortened. So why would we be looking at numbers a player accrued in June? In leagues without acquisition limits, riding the hot hand can sometimes be the difference between winning your championship and being just another member of the herd. If you need a roster fill-in for an injured stud, take a look at players with sustained recent success before stagnating veterans.
Tailor Your Roster: Don’t make the mistake of just blindly inserting your “best” players in and going with it. It’s important that you know your enemy; take a look at your opponent’s team before each and every day/week to ensure that you start the players that give you the best chance to win. This is especially important in weekly formats, but it is still relevant in leagues with daily transactions. If your opponent is starting 4 closers in a weekly league, you are going to want to calculate your chances of taking saves if you only have 2. In that scenario, you might consider loading up on starting pitching in hopes of giving yourself an advantage in the other categories. In the shortened season that is the playoffs, you need to make sure you give yourself every edge possible to win. One wrong roster move can literally cost you a title. This gets vastly overlooked and is definitely one of the more important aspects of fantasy baseball. A good general always studies his enemy before battle.
The Age Old Question: Do you ride the hot hand or go with the guys who got you there? There is no definitive answer. Fantasy baseball is so much a situational strategy game that this question can’t be answered without some context. In daily leagues, the answers are much easier as you can exploit matchups with much more frequency. In weekly leagues though, the choice is much more difficult. Use all of your information in conjunction to make an informed decision. You want to start the player that gives you the best chance to win your week. Look over your opponent’s roster, how his team has been performing, what categories you need to manipulate and go from there. One thing is certain though, never bench your studs.
Don’t Be Afraid To Take Risks: Not blind or “gut feeling” risks like I mentioned before, but calculated, informed ones. Always play to win your match. If taking a gigantic size risk is the only real way to win, then you should do it. Many owners make the mistake of confusing this with playing to stay close, which they perceive as playing to win. In a situation where it is likely you will lose anyway, what is the harm? Why add an older player who is just surviving than a young player who is trying to make a name for himself? In that scenario, the bigger the risk, the better. In some cases the reward can actually erase the deficit and if it doesn’t, you still lose. Always play to win and always go down swinging.
Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Comment below!
Timothy King is a staff writer for RotoAnalysis. Follow him on Twitter @TKing978 and his work all season long on RotoAnalysis.com & DobberBaseball.com!
Photo Credit: http://www.rantsports.com/fantasy/2013/04/07/fantasy-baseball-spotlight-on-catcher-john-buck/