1) Make sure you know your rules, your opposition, inning limits, transaction limits and so on. You want to be able to maximize your stats and knowing things like the number of innings you can throw, how many games at a position you can have and where you stand in relation to them can help you figure out just how many points you could gain or lose in the stretch.
It’s also wise to check tiebreak rules in leagues that are highly contested (after all it might not hurt to concentrate on those categories if everything else is relative). If your league freezes you, or penalizes you after a certain number of transactions you should know that. In leagues where free agent/waiver wire money is used taking stock of who still has what is very important to end game transactions. 2) Check your matchups daily. This is especially important when it comes to pitching matchups. Take advantage of good ones for high probability of wins and Ks and avoid those where your pitching is likely to take a beating. For hitting look at splits and gauge if benching or platooning makes sense. After all it’s silly to waste good at bats on guys who struggle in situations when we are nearing the end game. 3) Don’t be afraid to drop a player especially if the fall-off isn’t a big one. At this point you should be trying to maximize at bats with your hitters -- 20 additional at bats which produce counting stats could mean the difference between winning your league or being an also ran.
It’s important to note that at this point the difference between a .270 hitter and a .290 hitter isn’t that great as the difference in number of at bats can more than offset that. (ie: statistically in 100 AB the .290 hitter is going to get 29 hits, the .270 hitter in his 120 AB is going to get 32 - thats the value of the 20 extra AB.).
4) Be very aware that as we go into the final days of the real (rather than fantasy baseball season), teams with locked up playoff spots are going to start resting regulars, allowing them fewer ABs or innings pitched and altering rotations so that their playoff matchups will be favorable. Good for them but it can suck for you if you happen to be an owner of some of those players. Ask yourself if losing 20 or more ABs or 5-6 IP makes certain players worth holding onto or if flipping them for someone who is going to play more makes sense.
5) See if you can figure out which, if any, teams have been “abandoned” in your league. Not having to worry that team x isn’t going to make a run at you in a category takes at least one worry off your mind. Of course it also means that players close behind them in stats should have an easier time gaining a point or two.
6) Churn: Teams still have off days, players get bumps and bruises and will miss games, some free agent pitchers will start in pitching havens, others at places like Coors Field or the Ballpark in Arlington. Try to add as many productive AB as you can and take advantage of pitching matchup if they fall within your inning and transaction limits. That means dropping and adding players to the best of your ability.
7) Make sure you use your full innings limit. Unless you are dominating in your pitching categories, don’t leave innings that can’t hurt you on the table. You can still gather K’s and wins. However the caveat here is “innings that can’t hurt you.” There is no reason to gain a point in K’s or W’s if it costs you 2 in a combination of WHIP or ERA, so make sure there is an advantage before throwing mediocre pitchers the last few days of the season.
Incidentally it’s worth reminding players in most leagues to check when their inning cutoff is. In Yahoo! leagues all innings that occur on the day you cross the inning threshold count. That means if you stacked your rotation right you could get another 20+ innings on the day you exhaust your innings. 8) Thwart the opposition if you can. Never forget taking points away from the guy ahead of you is as good as gaining them, as is taking points from someone close on your tail. Dropping a closer or starter or position player could make sense if the guy likely to catch your opponent in a category or two has waiver wire position or a FA/Waiver wire money advantage.
9) Don’t forget to use the squeeze play. If you have the roster flexibility, available transactions and a little foresight you can often throw your opponents’ pitching into chaos over the last few days of the season. Essentially just by picking up the best free agent pitchers holding them for a day, and then releasing them (forcing them to have to clear waivers which in most leagues takes 2-3 days) so that their starts are unavailable, It can prevent an opponent from loading up on quality pitching or finding favorable matchups down the stretch. It forces them to think, and pick up pitchers 4-5 days down the road to avoid this, which limits their roster flexibility.
10) lf you find yourself so far ahead, or behind your opponents in a category or categories that you can’t gain or lose points respectively in those categories, cut players who only, or mainly contribute to those categories to add more roster flexibility to your team. This usually applies to specialist categories like steals or saves, but if your offense or pitching is strong enough you can cut high quality players which may allow another fantasy owner to take points from your competition too. Just make sure that no key opponent, meaning someone you are trying to overtake, or someone trying to overtake you, can gain points from your drop. 11) If you have to, punt. With just over four weeks left be realistic about what your team is likely to be able to do. You aren’t likely to make up 30 steals or 15 saves, or catch the guy five points ahead of you in average. So don’t let guys who won’t help you in categories you can gain points in clog your roster. Toss them out, get guys who can help you. 12) Keep an eye on what’s going on in the real baseball world. A lot of intriguing things have been happening that can impact your fantasy life, and a lot more are likely to come up in the next few weeks. In the closing world alone there have been 2-3 changes in the last ten days. Erik Bedard was cut by the Pirates, while Josh Beckett has been getting a taste of NL hitters. A lot can happen that can change things dramatically. The more aware you are of what is going on in the majors the more likely you can take advantage of it.
And remember whatever happens, it’s just a game. Have fun!