We're just a week from the halfway mark. No, that doesn't necessarily mean that each team has played 81 games, or that we've reached the All-Star break, but that we've put three months of a six-month season behind us. There have been some major disappointments due to injury, due to slumps or due simply to bad luck. That's left a lot of teams that looked great on paper looking up at teams ahead of them.
But not to worry -- even if you are sitting at the bottom of your league there are things you can do to improve your outlook.
1) Don't give up. Walk away and you'll almost certainly end up at the tail end of your league's standings when the season ends. Keep playing and maybe you'll have a chance to pull yourself back into contention but at the very least you'll be playing for respect and a chance to be the spoiler.
2) Take a look at the standings.
a. Make note of your strengths: Remember it doesn't mater if you win a category by a tiny margin or if you run away in a given category leaving everyone else in the dust. Trade away excess in categories for things you need.
b. Make note of your weaknesses: Where do you need the most help? Is it something single category guys (closers, some base stealers) can help you with? Or are you in need of a big hitter or starting pitcher who can help you in two to four categories?
c. Make note of which categories you are likely to be able to gain points in and which ones are contested tightly enough that you could lose points. Use this information to prioritize which points you are going to chase, which ones you are going to fight to keep your place in, and which ones you might need to just give up on. *
*While I don't ordinarily recommend giving up a category, there are times and places it is appropriate, for example if you don't have closers and don't feel you can trade for them, or are behind by so much in those category that you think it's impossible to catch up in.
3) Keep your eye on the waiver wire and minor league news. Even in deep leagues there are opportunities to grab players who can help address your needs you can get for free. You can't beat the price, and panning for fantasy gold this way does pay off a number of times every single year.
a. If you are going to do this, especially with minor leaguers make sure you do your research. Check their minor league stats and see what they have to offer. Don't expect guys to suddenly develop power or speed, or for guys who struggle with control to all of a sudden have it at the big league level.
a. It's all about potential. You need to find players who will outperform the guys you currently have on your team. That means you need to find guys with big upsides, often players who've struggled mightily in the first half or have been injured (like Vlad Guerrero, Geovany Soto, David Ortiz, Ervin Santana and so on) who you might be able to get cheap and who could bounce back).
5) Don't play too much of a waiting game: You can't live off undelivered potential. Every player you gamble on should have a shelf life in your mind. If they don't start delivering by that date -- be it 21 days after you acquire them, or by the time someone else you could use comes available -- get rid of them. Ideally by trade.
6) Try to improve incrementally: Don't look to hit a home run with every deal, but every move no matter how small should be aimed at improvement for your team, even if just a small one. Of course those home run type deals don't suck either.
7) Keep an eye on your inning limits and game limits: Don't leave them unused. Try to milk every inning and every possible at bat from every spot you have. That might mean churning some players toward the end of the season, but those at bats could add crucial stats at the last minute.
8) Don't get caught up by "Name" Players: If they don't produce it doesn't matter what the name is -- be it Alex Rodriguez or Joe Smith. Trade "Names" to someone who believes in them and will pay a premium for what the player has done in the past. You need guys who will produce now and who look like the can produce the rest of the season long.
9) Watch Match Ups. Get your best hitters in against weak pitchers and pay attention to platoons and park factors. You don't want to find that someone who smokes the ball in Colorado is sitting on the bench, or that your right fielder never plays against lefties if you haven't already compensated with you bench moves.
10) Remember to have fun.
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