Written by Jonathan Leshanski
Published: 11 September 2008
At this point in the season fantasy baseball is no longer a marathon but a sprint.
If you are still in contention for your league at this point in the season its time to throw the standard rule book away. WIth just under 18 games left (per team) in the Major League season you no longer have the luxury of waiting guys to come out of slumps, get off the DL or for that nagging injury to finally heal. No its time for you to either make a push or try to hold your competition back.
That means that regulars, even stars, may need to be sacrificed at the altar of efficiency. It doesn’t matter what a Vladimir Guerrero did for you all last month, its all about what has he done for you lately. Unless you have already run out of games at a particular position you want that slot filled every game until you do. At this point the soft positions (ERA, WHIP, AVG are all pretty stable) even ten 0-4s in a day isn’t going to send your average wildly plunging, nor will a six earned run outing by a starting pitcher be likely to change your ERA by more than .01. While you still have time to improve in those categories its the hard categories, Runs, RBIs, Steals, Home Runs, Wins, Saves and Ks which offer the best chance for rolling the dice at a chance to move up in the league standings..
That getting as many quality at bats and innings pitched as possible and making some inspired guesses about who’s red hot, and who isn’t going to even be lukewarm at this point in the season. That means having the ability to make the call if John Lackey’s last two starts (both of which are likely to be less than 6 innings) make it worth holding onto him, or churning through 3-4 starters over that period of time in order to try to max out your Ks and Ws.
And its not just about maxing out your own stats but also about trying to sabotage the guy behind you. Yeah, all’s fair in love and fantasy baseball, and dropping quality players, knowing that the guy right behind you doesn’t have good waiver priority, so that players behind him can steal points from him and undermine his chance to catch you isn’t just legal, its smart.*
Every day at this point I’m mentally running through my lineup and asking three questions
- How much time each player is likely to play? Guys like Torii Hunter and Chone Figgins are already beginning to see more rest for the playoffs.
- Has this guy been losing time due to nagging injury? age? a youngster who’ll inherit his job next season? Any sign that a manager is taking at bats away from a player probably is a sign that it will continue the rest of the way.
- How has this guy been recently? I can’t wait a week ten days for a player to come of a slump, or to get his timing back. I’m looking for hot hands.
Then I look to see who is available to take his spot from the free agent pool and make the call, will I get more out of player A or player B with his limited at bats (or pitch counts, etc). Lists of who’s hot and who’s not are helpful, as are match ups and schedules for the upcoming week (examples: The Rockies bats have six home games next week - Sweet! A decent pitcher matches up against the Pirates, Giants, Mariners, A’s, Royals, Reds, Nationals - Sweet).
Cutting a John Lackey for a Chris Young may well make sense, especially if Young is just there for his matchup against San Fran, while the next day it’s Jered Weaver against Seattle in the same spot. By the same token, dropping Milton Bradley with his bum elbow, knee or head (depending on who you listen to) might not make sense even if he only plays 10 of the remaining games.
Now is the time to trust your gut, and to make your play. You don’t have a lot of time left to wait.
* be careful about how you do this - planning it with the guys behind him would be considered collusion by almost any league and could get you disqualified or thrown out of the league for the future, but dropping a guy on your own initiative and then pointing out in a post that he’d really benefit someone’s team would be perfectly legal.