|Fantasy Baseball: Be Patient Early in the Season||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on April 29, 2010
Don't Panic.Â Yes, those were the words on the cover of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and they'll stand you in just as good stead in fantasy baseball during the early part of the season as they did for Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent in the book.
Simply put, the first few weeks, even the first six or so are very fluid.Â Huge swings of over 20 points (and in some cases 30 or even 40) are possible as the numbers begin to come in game after game.Â Early in the season, a good or bad start, a blown save, or a guy having an 0-fer has a huge impact on your bottom line and most of it is illusion that will be erased as the number of games played becomes larger.
Fantasy baseball is rarely won by teams who just chase the hot hands.Â The key to the game is having a fundamental core of producers who you can count on year after year and supplementing them with guys who are either developing, having freakishly good years, or are just plain lucky.Â No matter the reason, the need to perform not just during that hot streak that all players seem to have now and again, but consistently when you need them to.
The first few weeks of a fantasy season are the time you should be assessing your team, figuring out your needs, and figuring out if your players can meet them.Â Occasionally we all find a player or two who are either in decline or who seemingly just can't figure out how to contribute to their real or fantasy team.Â The old hands generally will work it out provided the skill set isn't in too bad a decline, but younger guys can fall off the edge of the fantasy world rather quickly (just take a look at guys like Geovany Soto or Alex Rios last year).
Identifying these problem players and keeping a keen eye on them is a key factor in the success of many a fantasy team.Â If you really don't like what you see (and you should be seeing them either in person or via video, not just their stats), check their splits to make sure they aren't historically slow starters, and if they aren't you have to decide how long you are going to give them to come around.
If you are unsure, the rule of thumb I always use is give a player roughly 40 games (especially if you can keep him on the bench and prevent him from hurting your team) before deciding if it's time to cut bait.Â The disadvantage in waiting so long is that by the time you are ready to make a move, other owners can statistically see that you've got a guy who's been struggling and won't give you much, if anything for him.
If you think that trading a guy early is to your advantage then, be careful, especially if you drafted the guy based on his upside.Â If you jump too quickly, and the player manifests that upside it's easy to get badly burned unless you get fair market value based on history, position scarcity and ADP/auction value.Â It's even worse if you just cut the guy and you watch another owner scoop him up and cackle with glee when he suddenly is doing an Albert Pujols imitation for 5 months out of the year.
Basically what I'm saying here is that if you put your time in building a draft plan, targeting players who you believed in and then did your best to execute that plan, trust your initial judgment provided you built a solid core.Â A solid core of players will keep you in the mix while you wait and pass a fair judgment on those players you think are going to struggle. If you are right you won't have lost too much statistically, but if you were wrong you'd still have the upside on your bench, rather than seeing it on someone else's.
So unless you didn't build a solid core of veteran fantasy players there is no reason to panic.Â Just keep an eye on your players, bench the ones who are struggling badly (if you planned well enough to give yourself a bench better than what is available in the free agent pool) and give them a little time to turn it around.Â It won't cost you much and it will help you make a smart decision rather than a rash one which can bite you later in the season.