Now that I've got you thinking a little bit about your team, analyzing the standings and how the points are distributed, not to mention pondering the trade market, it's time to take a look at some other factors which could make a big difference in how your team improves in the standings. Even if you are in first place the same factors in both of these pieces come into play.
(You can read Jon's first column in this two-part series here.)
A lot of us make the assumption that the guys on our roster are better than guys available via waivers or free agency or they wouldn't be out there. That's true enough to an extent, but not always and you need to look at players in more ways than one to find the gold amidst the dross on that waiver wire. While season statistics can tell you quite a bit about how a player is performing it often disguises the performance of those who are on an upswing or just catching fire.
Take advantage of the tools provided in your league to look at performance over the past month, the past week, even the production average at a particular statistic if that's one you are targeting. Historical performance is important too. There are plenty of veterans like Dan Haren who struggle in the second half almost every year, and plenty of guys who thrive when the weather heats up (Adam Jones).
One of the hardest things for many players to do is to throw out your biases when it comes not just to picking up players but to cutting ones on your roster. Sometimes it has to do with what a player did last year -- like Jason Bartlett (and I feel for those who were silly enough to expend a high pick or $20-odd auction dollars) who's .243-2-35-37-5 line has to just hurt, or over a career like Todd Helton, but have fallen flat in 2010. We all to a degree get caught up with names, but if you can't put that aside making a comeback could be very difficult.
Try to go into it with the attitude that you don't care what Cory Hart did last year, because last year's stats don't matter and I'd certainly be happy to take him over players like Manny Ramirez, Ben Zobrist or Curtis Granderson this year. Letting a name effect your judgment might very well cost you points except perhaps where you feel the production is unsustainable or that someone is in danger of losing their job.
Rookies are a gamble -- always. Plenty of can't miss rookies have. Plenty of first round picks never managed more than a cup of coffee in the majors and plenty of guys picked after the first 10 rounds have had long productive MLB careers with fantasy relevance. That doesn't mean that there aren't outstanding rookies who can't help you immediately, but wading through the hype to pick the best ones is tough. Especially since every big fantasy baseball site is paying guys to try to find the next best thing.
And you'll find plenty of articles touting youngsters on sites like Yahoo!, ESPN, CBS Sports, MLB.com, etc. Often they tout the right guys -- after all they are paid for their analysis, but that doesn't mean that they are always right. You shouldn't rely too much on those sites because that is where your opposition is getting their information too, often turning it into a race as to who can be first to grab a youngster rather than helping you make a well thought out decision.
Doing your own research, especially in the second half and sniffing around at some sites devoted to prospects or focusing on minor league ball will tip you off to the top prospects in a system and who's likely to get a shot in the second half as well as what kind of impact they are likely to make -- often before the so called experts.
When assessing rookies a good rule of thumb is to expect about a 10-25% decline in statistics on hard stats and a 20-30 point batting average shift when translating between Class AAA and the majors and even more when a Class AA player makes the jump.
That shouldn't dissuade you from gambling if the prospect seems good enough. After all Albert Pujols is the stand-out candidate who jumped straight from Class AA to the majors defying any rule of thumb, and impact players like Stephen Strasburg simply overawe those rules
There will, of course, be some times that a rookie may well be your best bet, especially at thin positions, or when you can't find a trading partner to help upgrade your team. But for every legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate you'll find 10 rookies who come and go very quietly, or are simply growing up and into fantasy players while at the big league level. Many will never find that mojo.
Let's talk about something that a lot of novice to mid level players forget about when trying to advance in the standings. The concept of addition by subtraction, although it's really about subtracting points from the guys ahead of you more than gaining some yourself.
Remember in this game, finishing ahead of as many opponents as you can in the final standings is your goal. How you get there isn't the most important thing and sometimes you can help yourself more in the standings by helping the player ahead of you lose points especially if you are already ahead of him in a category.
An example: In a 10 player league Player A has nine points in steals and is ahead of the next closest player by good margin, but is in fourth place overall with 68 points. The three players ahead of him -- X (71 points), Y (69 points) and Z (73 points) -- are all close in steals at 76, 81 and 82 respectively. Player B who is in sixth place (59 points) has 72 steals. If player A trades a speedster to player B, both A and B can benefit. B can gain three points in steals by passing X, Y, Z and moves up to 62 points and A gains in the overall standings as each loses a point (X going from 71 to 70, Y going from 69 to 68, Z going from 73 to 72) putting him into a tie for third and moving him closer in distance to the leaders.
In the example I used, Player A was fairly high point wise in steals, but that is irrelevant. They key point in using this tactic, which mainly comes into play in late August and September, is that as long as the guys ahead of you are losing points while you are not, you are narrowing the field and bringing players down points relative to you in the standings.
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