Thursday, May 8, 2008

An Abbreviated Declaration of Trading Rights for GMs

It is that time of year again. You know what I am talking about. The time of year when panicky GMs start throwing out trade offers in the hopes of lifting their team off the bottom or out of the middle.

But just a little word of advice to GMs. While everyone in your league should always be open to trades, please only make fair trade offers.

That means, before you send off several crappy trade offers, consider the possibility that your league mates are as knowledgeable about baseball as you think you are yourself. If you wouldn't accept a trade offer or would immediately recognize it for the crap that it is, then don't bother someone else with it. I know everyone wants to be on the winning side of a totally lopsided trade, but that rarely happens. Heck, few trades even help the teams involved.

Thus, with a even basis established: If you want a trade to happen, then offer fair value (and by fair, I mean value your players realistically compared to the guys you are trying to pick up. I don't care about ratings. They change daily and have no meaning this early in the season because they reflect a very small set of data--as in, less than 100IP and less than 150AB. The small subset is why a batting average can fluctuate 100 points from one day to the next or ERA jump from 1.12 to 6.56 with one bad outing).

Keeping these things in mind, I offer two last points

1) Don’t offer waiver wire fodder you just picked up for a solid player someone took the time to scout and draft.

2) Even more important, don't offer a crappy trade which includes your worst players& tell your trading partner that you are doing them a favor. I doubt they are stupid, but if you think these tactics will work, you clearly are.

Sorry for the recent break in posts

I am in the midst of finals week (which means lots of grading) and just haven’t had the time to write out advice. I will post one tonight and should be finished with my grading by the weekend, which means I hopefully will get back on a schedule next week.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Peel me a grape man

One of my biggest pet peeves in fantasy sports revolves around trading. I genuinely hate to be contacted for trades. Surprisingly, it isn’t that I am not open to a trade at any point in the season. In fact, I fondly adhere to the belief that a smart manager will trade any player if it helps their team, regardless of how awe inspiring the numbers they put up each week might be.

But therein lies the rub…no one ever even tries to make a fair offer. Every single trade offer I get starts with me giving up my best player for some smuck I wouldn’t play under any circumstances. I understand the theory of starting low to see if the manager is interested in a trade (or even getting the lucky chance when the manager you want to trade with is an idiot), but if you want to make a trade I firmly believe you should never start by insulting the opposing managers intelligence by making a trade offer so pathetically one side that they would have to be completely brain dead to accept it.

When managers initiate a trade with the low ball tactic, I tend to take the advice of the great jazz song Peel me a Grape. Once you insult my intelligence with a ridicules first offer, if you want a player from me, no matter how useless that player might be, you are going to have to go to extra-ordinary lengths to get it.

Peel me a grape, crush me some ice
Skin me a peach, save the fuzz for my pillow
Talk to me nice, talk to me nice
You've got to wine me and dine me

Don't try to fool me, bejewel me
Either amuse me or lose me
I'm getting hungry, peel me a grape

Lyrics from Peel Me a Grape
Written by David Frishberg

Instead of the low ball tactic, I recommend making offers to other managers which you yourself might actually accept. Sure we all want to be on the end of that great one-sided trade, but how often does that really happen? I assure you, my friends, it is rare. Consequently, treat trading as a way of fixing a problem with your team, not like it’s the freaking lottery. Make fair offers, and you will always get what you want in the end. That being said you don’t ever give away the kitchen sink. If a manager won’t make a fair trade or asks for more than you can safely give up, find someone else.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Managing Your Bench

It is probably too early (or too late) to start talking about this, since this problem usually emerges around midseason, but this year seems to be full of players with injuries and poor play. It happens every season. No matter how well you draft, one or more of the players who you were counting on as an integral part in your fantasy machine will go down. Hopefully, it will only be for a short time, and it won’t be someone who is irreplaceable like your first round pick. But it is something you should expect and prepare for.

If you were smart you drafted a couple backups and stashed on your bench. If not, you’ve have some work ahead of you. Regardless of where you fall in terms of preparation, it is important to start the season with a solid bench strategy. All leagues allow for bench space, but who you keep on your bench can be the key to your season. The more limited the bench space you have, the more difficult your decisions are going to become.

So what makes the ideal bench player in fantasy baseball? In truth, that depends a great deal. In a perfect world you would want to have the best player possible to replace any star player who might go down. Unfortunately, a GM rarely has one good stud player per position, let alone extras, which means that the bigger the guy who goes down the harder he is to replace. With that in mind, you should expect that your bench players are a step down from your starters, but it doesn’t have to be a drop to the bottom of the barrel.

If you use your bench properly, you should be able to fill holes in your roster with a solid replacement. In order to ensure that you come out on top after a downturn or injury you need to practice one or all of the following bench strategies:

1) Stockpiling guys who can help you in the most positions: Multi-position players can be the most valuable bench men in baseball because they can be slotted into several positions, and especially if they in positions that are traditionally weak. Someone like Yunel Escobar who can play second, shortstop and third base, or Kevin Youkilis who qualifies at 1st, and 3rd, or Ty Wiggington who qualifies for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd base are very good choices. If you can’t find a good multi-position player, then grab a player who you can slot into the position where you expect to have trouble. It is also important to consider whether these players can help you in lean areas, like stolen bases. If you have a second baseman on your bench who steals a lot, then slipping him in when you starter isn’t playing can to provide your team with steals. This is especially good in deep leagues where it is difficult to find free agent replacements.

2) Stockpiling the best player possible: This strategy works best during the draft, where you would fill out your roster and then just take the very best player available. Whoever he is will have trade value and can be slotted into a lineup if you need him. These guys are only valuable if other managers don’t have some better on their bench and no one comparable is a free agent. Value increases when another manager needs a substitute badly (so keep an eye on injuries affecting the other teams in your league).

3) Stockpiling guys who possess skills in short supply: Sometimes this might be a position, like catchers or outfielders this year. But don’t limit yourself by position; players who are superior quality at one category like base stealers or closers also make excellent choices. If you can’t use them, someone else probably can. But when it comes to closers, you should expect at least one of the top guys to go down at some point during the season, which makes replacements incredibly valuable. Although this kind of stockpiling is focused on acquiring trade bait, having a few one category guys on the bench you can add at the right moment could add a crucial boost to your stats.

4) Stockpiling players you know other managers will desperately want: This is a constricting and risky strategy. The idea is to grab players who you know other managers might want. This only works if you have a GM in your league that is a rabid fan of one specific team. The more the GM wants the hometown hero, then the more valuable that player becomes. Home- town fans often act irrationally when it comes to getting their favorite players. But the problem with this strategy is that if you can’t trade the hometown hero, then you just wasted a roster spot unless you can actually use him.

All of these strategies have some merit, and which one will work best for you will be based mostly on personal choice. What you need to remember is that fantasy baseball is about planning. If you plan well enough, then you will always be able to manage any single (and most multiple) problem as it appears. The only exception to this rule is if your team’s success depends on a single player, because then the loss is the harder to circumvent.

Planning for problems can be tough, but it can make the difference between being in contention at the end of the season and finishing at the bottom of the league. If you didn't include this contingency in your draft, then it is a good idea to start scouring the free agent list for players who went undrafted or poorly starting players who might get dropped by an impatient manager. The sooner you build your bench, the better. The free agent list is a great place to find replacements, but a little forethought about who is sitting on your bench can go a long way.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Managing Your Season: Active Managing & Keeping an eye on Prospects

Although I still think it is too early to be making any big moves in your fantasy league (in case you missed my earlier post, you should make any drastic moves until after a least at month, just to give players and teams a chance to set their season in order—unless of course a player gets a season ending injury, at which time you will have to find a replacement), there are a few things you need to be doing to help your team in the future.

The most important thing you need to do for fantasy success is that you must keep an eye on your team and actively track your players. This means that you need to find out how your players are doing by checking the Yahoo news blurbs and also going to a baseball news website (I prefer ESPN and, both of which I check daily). Yahoo and ESPN do a good job providing information about players during the course of the season, but I have found they are both a little slow and leave the same info listed as a new item for extended periods. Because you always want to know what is happening at this moment, rather than a few days from now. The earlier you have information, the sooner you can act upon it. The best case for this can be found with injuries. Nothing is more annoying than finding out after the game has started that your star player has an injury and will not be playing in the current game, while a perfectly good player who is playing wastes away on your bench and hits a grand slam.

The second thing you should do is keep an eye on future prospects. There are always a handful of players going on the DL, getting benched for poor play, or getting themselves into trouble and being benched. Now, I am not going to give you a list of prospects because you can get that from any of the experts, and frankly they have a lot more time to hunt the minor leagues than I do. Heck, we don’t even have a minor league team in close proximity to Atlanta. There is one is Rome, but it isn’t easy to get to one of their games (especially since tickets to the Braves are so cheap and the stadium is within walking distance to my house). But what I will do is direct you to a great website to find out important information about prospects in the minors. Minor League Baseball dot com ( is the website in question. Like, it provides information about minor league teams and players. Since it is run by MLB, they focus a lot of their attention on the players identified as the best prospects waiting to be called up to the big leagues. This slant gives you an easy way to keep an eye on up and coming players, but more importantly they sometimes give better clues that a player is about to be called up than the Majors focused media. In fact, I knew about Longoria being called up on Friday, April 11th, because of MiLB, while Yahoo and ESPN did not run the information until Saturday, April 12th. That crucial jump in time gave me an edge over my competition and made it possible for me to pick him up in most of my fantasy leagues.

And now, although I said I wouldn’t give a list, I am going to do so anyways. I compiled this list of prospects from several expert lists (so I apologize for any crossovers).

Jay Bruce, OF, Triple-A (Reds) - 11/33, 5 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 SB
Colby Rasmus, OF, Triple-A (Cardinals) - 8/35, 5 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SB
Fernando Martinez, OF, Double-A (Mets) - 7/31, 6 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SB
Cameron Maybin, OF, Double-A (Marlins) - 9/23, 4 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 SB
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Triple-A (Pirates) - 6/31, 6 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB
Matt LaPorta, OF, Double-A (Brewers) - 5/22, 3 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB
Brandon Wood, 3B, Triple-A (Angels) - 8/36, 5 R, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Triple-A (A's) - 7/24, 4 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB
Chase Headley, 3B/OF, Triple-A (Padres) - 5/27, 2 R, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB
Elvis Andrus, SS, Double-A (Rangers) - 10/29, 2 R, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB (and 3 CS)
Matt Antonelli, 2B, Triple-A (Padres) - 5/21, 4 R, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SB
Ian Stewart, 3B, Triple-A (Rockies) - 10/34, 7 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 2 SB
Jose Tabata, OF, Double-A (Yankees) - 7/28, 1 R, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 3 SB
Reid Brignac, SS, Triple-A (Rays) - 7/30, 7 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB

Clayton Kershaw, SP, Double-A (Dodgers) - 3.38 ERA, 8.0 IP, 4 BB, 12 K
Jake McGee, SP, Double-A (Rays) - 2.25 ERA, 8.0 IP, 4 BB, 11 K.
Homer Bailey, SP, Triple-A (Reds) - 0.71 ERA, 12.2 IP, 2 BB, 9 K (not really unknown)
Gio Gonzalez, SP, Triple-A (A's) - 3.00 ERA, 3.0 IP, 2 BB, 3
Nick Adenhart, SP, Triple-A (Angels) - 0.82 ERA, 11.0 IP, 5 BB, 8 K
Max Scherzer, SP, Triple-A (Diamondbacks) - 0.00 ERA, 5.0 IP, 2 BB, 7 K
Luke Hochevar, SP, Triple-A (Royals) - 3.97 ERA, 11.1 IP, 4 BB, 7 K

This short list should give you a small group of players to start watching, although there are many more out there (especially at pitcher). The great thing about prospects is it gives you insight into another level of Major League Baseball; it gives you a head start in terms of finding good players before they reach the BIGs; and, it gives you a chance to tell people that you’ve been watching guys like Braun and Longoria since they were in the minors.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What wins the Championship: The Draft or In Season Manuevering

For a great many of the people who participate in fantasy baseball, the draft represents the highest point in the season, an climactic end to hours or weeks of preparation and research. But is the draft really that important? The guys at the Fantasy 411 suggest that while one can’t win a league on draft day it is possible to lose one. While I understand their reasoning, as a historian I know an assertion like that needs intrinsic evidence to support the conclusion. In the hope of achieving this goal, I want to analyze some past leagues I played in to see how critical the draft was for a championship season.

Now before you start thinking that here I go again celebrating my past successes I should point out that I have never one a fantasy baseball league. I have come close, several times actually, but in the end I just couldn’t make it into the winner’s circle. Now that we established I am a loser, let’s take a look at how badly I lost and try to figure out whether the draft got the winner where he ended up.

For this article, I have three winning fantasy baseball teams in a league from the past three years. I have been playing in this league for the past 4 years. It is a competitive league of friends and family who live for no other purpose than to destroy each other in fantasy baseball. While we may get one or two managers who fall out before the season ends, most are active throughout the season, scouring the wires and looking for ways to screw over their competitors. Since this league goes from year to year, we have added and subtracted managers at various times, but the league format remains (12 teams, 5x5 rotisserie, 21-player teams).

Let’s start first with the 2005 League. This was my second year in the league and the first time I went into the draft really trying to win. My first year was not bad, with enough high points and trash talking to make me come back. Sadly, my team the Knights came in right in the middle of the pack at 6th, which means we won’t even bother trying to figure out how I got there. But if we look at the winning team, The Alexander Hamiltons, the first thing we notice is that the manager of the team made a lot of moves: thirty to be exact. The number two man made 65 moves. Simultaneously, the two teams at the bottom made virtually no moves. In fact, I think I remember that both dropped out part way into the season for personal reasons, leaving their teams to languish.

2005 league standings

For a great many of the people who participate in fantasy baseball, the draft represents the highest point in the season, an climactic end to hours or weeks of preparation and research. But is the draft really that important? The guys at the Fantasy 411 suggest that while one can’t win a league on draft day it is possible to lose one. While I understand their reasoning, as a historian I know an assertion like that needs intrinsic evidence to support the conclusion. In the hope of achieving this goal, I want to analyze some past leagues I played in to see how critical the draft was for a championship season.

Now before you start thinking that here I go again celebrating my past successes I should point out that I have never one a fantasy baseball league. I have come close, several times actually, but in the end I just couldn’t make it into the winner’s circle. Now that we established I am a loser, let’s take a look at how badly I lost and try to figure out whether the draft got the winner where he ended up.

For this article, I have three winning fantasy baseball teams in a league from the past three years. I have been playing in this league for the past 4 years. It is a competitive league of friends and family who live for no other purpose than to destroy each other in fantasy baseball. While we may get one or two managers who fall out before the season ends, most are active throughout the season, scouring the wires and looking for ways to screw over their competitors. Since this league goes from year to year, we have added and subtracted managers at various times, but the league format remains (12 teams, 5x5 rotisserie, 21-player teams).

Let’s start first with the 2005 League. This was my second year in the league and the first time I went into the draft really trying to win. My first year was not bad, with enough high points and trash talking to make me come back. Sadly, my team the Knights came in right in the middle of the pack at 6th, which means we won’t even bother trying to figure out how I got there. But if we look at the winning team, The Alexander Hamiltons, the first thing we notice is that the manager of the team made a lot of moves: thirty to be exact. The number two man made 65 moves. Simultaneously, the two teams at the bottom made virtually no moves. In fact, I think I remember that both dropped out part way into the season for personal reasons, leaving their teams to languish.

2005 Winning Draft (6th pick)

When you look at the draft for the 2005 season, the winning team had a pretty good draft. He took 6 straight hitters before grabbing a closer and a pitcher, then went back to hitters. Most of his pitchers came from the middle to late rounds, a standard draft practice. But what is really revealing is that more than half of his draft picks (15 to be exact) were not be on his final roster.

2005 winning roster

With the winner of 2005 keeping 11 players on this team from the draft and having 15 drafted men either traded or dropped, it appears that two things made this success possible: 1) a solid draft where the first 6 guys provided value to the team either in production or as part of a trade. 2) the willingness to move players (including the first pick) in order to improve the team.

2006 League standings

In 2006, I actually placed higher than I have ever done before: 4th place. While I was still in the middle, a new GM and team (The Big Jew Hitting Crew) took the top spot in our league. This as one of our most actively years. Not a single manager bailed on his team, shockingly this included the guys at the bottom who were essentially out of the race by the June. The championship came down to the final game, and the winner only won by 0.5 pts. That being said, the two top teams were active throughout the season, with the winner making 28 moves to 2nd place team’s 55 moves. I really interesting event to point out is that the guy in third place only made 2 moves, which means he kept his draft team almost completely intact (a rare feat in my opinion).

2006 Wining Draft (1st pick)

When looking at the winning team’s draft in 2006, it is obvious the GM drafted well, albeit heavily focused on New York Yankees. He picked up his first pitcher in the 3rd round, and then two closers with the 4th and 5th picks. He went back to hitters for two more picks, but then grabbed a 3rd closer. This pattern was repeated two more times, then he seemed to just fill in whatever gaps he had. This is a very usual draft strategy. While people often grab 1 pitcher (and usually a starter at that) in the first 4 rounds, it is rare to see someone grab 3 closers in the first 5 rounds. Yet despite the unorthodox nature of his draft, it seemed to work since he won the league.

2006 Winning roster

The winning team in 2006 really seems to add further evidence to what occurred in 2005. The GM kept only 1 more man from the draft than he dropped. That’s right, he dropped or traded 12 drafted players, while keeping 13. Again, this adds further support to the previous conclusions: A solid draft sets the core of the team, but then calculated moves are needed to fill in the gaps.

2007 standings

In 2007 I remained firmly entrenched in the middle of the pack. I would love to actually win this league, but it never seems to happen. In fact, a trend has begun to emerge. For one week at the start of the season, I always hold the top spot. Then I fall to the middle and never shift upward again more than one spot. Another important trend to point out is that in each year the winner won the championship by less than 2 points.

The winner in 2007, Ho Fo-Sho, actually was at the bottom of the pack last year, which gives me hope that someday I might break free of the middle. Although most of the GMs made 30 or more moves in the season, the wining team only made 16 moves.

2007 Winning Draft (4th pick)

The wining team in 2007 had a good draft, but he had a very unusual draft strategy. In the first 5 picks, he took 2 starting pitchers. In the first 10 picks, he had 5 pitchers (1 of which was a closer). With so many pitchers taken in the early stages of the draft, he should have had a week hitting squad; but let’s not forget he won. What is interesting is that he kept more of the people he drafted than he traded or dropped (the first to do so in this sampling). Even more interesting, he kept exactly 8 hitters and 8 pitchers, which means he selected a solid core for his team at the draft, and then used moves to square away any weak areas.

2007 Winning Final roster

Is it a coincidence that despite what would appear to be a terrible draft, the 2007 team was the most successful team in the study? The team kept more players on its team than any other winner, while making the fewest moves for a winner. Perhaps this team was one of the best drafted in the grouping. When the 2007 draft is scrutinized deeper, the most apparent thing besides the fact that he took a lot of pitchers in the early rounds of the draft is that he seemed to be focusing on grabbing solid players in scarce positions. Last year it was hard to find a quality OF. Yet, his first 2 picks were OF. Another scarce position was 2nd base; his 5th pick. 1st base had a lot more good players, which explains why he was able to pick up Prince Fielder in the 5th round. Fielder was a bit of a stretch though, because no one could have known he would have such a great year.

All of this offers a lot to consider, but clearly the most obvious lesson here is that the most important thing a GM can do for success is stay active. Every one of the winning team made moves to adjust their team and fill in weaknesses during the course of the season. So while the draft may set the core players on the team, you still need to engage in trades and the waiver wire pick ups in order to secure the Championship.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The first week has ended

With the first week coming to an end, I want to offer a few points to consider.

1) Dont cry over spilled milk: So you had an awesome draft. You got that star player in the perfect round. Everything seemed to be going your way. And then he throws a couple pitches (can anyone say Putz?) or none (yes, Mike Hampton, I am looking squarely at you) or takes one swing, and then goes immediately on the DL. Unless the experts immediately start suggesting he will never play again, dont get too concerned. Just put him on the DL and find a replacement, preferably his replacement if no one else is available on the wire. It is way too early in the season to worry about a hurt player. Remember: there is still a lot of baseball to be played, injuries this early in the season usually work themselves out pretty quickly.

This takes me to my next point...
2) It aint over till it is over: So your star players are sucking at the plate or on the mound. Dont freak out and start dropping players who are known for years of solid play just because they are getting a slow start. Unless a player is hurt so bad they can never play again or tell the press they hate baseball (or their team) and have no intention of being productive, you have to be patient and let your stars get into their groove. Besides, it is still pretty cold in northern cities, much colder than anything these guys saw in spring training, which means at the very least they are still getting used to the change. So relax, and dont do anything stupid: like dropping a known star for someone hot at the moment or making a hasty trade--YOU WILL REGRET IT IN A FEW WEEKS.

And finally, this leads to my third point....
3) Dont count your chickens before they hatch: It has been just over one week. While I would like to say that you are guaranteed to win your league just because you are in first place today, in reality what happens in the first weeks really means nothing. it can be a precursor to things to come, but just like spring training it is too small of a sample set to make accurate predictions. Maybe every guy on your team gets started quick and then slumps. Maybe they have been lucky enough to start against teams that suck or start slow or whatever. Remember: the first week means nothing. There is still an incredibly long season ahead of us. Start looking at the players on your team to assess to see why they are doing so well. If they are early starters and late slumpers, your early success might be short lived...

I am going to try to post 2-3 times a week now that the season is underway, but it is really hard to spend time with my family, manage my teams, and work. If I cant keep the schedule going, I may have to just post on sundays.

Good luck this week in your leagues, unless of course you are in one of my leagues.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Can you hear that? That, my friends, is the sound of baseball. The first pitch has officially been thrown, and the first home runs have been struck. Although none of this happened where any American fan can view it and I can't even see it on tv because DirectTv's satellite is down, the A's and BoSox game is going strong with the game tied at 4 and going into the 10th inning. What a great way to start the season. Just wish I could see it...

Now that drafts are over and spring break is done, I should have more time to write. Not sure if I can continue day to day as I am looking for another job, but I should be able to post at least once a week. More on this later. Now, let's just enjoy the start of another season.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Some basic information you need for drafting

In preparation for my own drafts this week, I put together a data base of all pertinent information for all of the leagues I have played in. By calculating the tabulated scores attained for the main categories in every league I played in, I was able to tabulate the amount needed to win each if the main categories for pitching and hitting. See below:























Since I tabulated this information from nearly 20 leagues worth of data from the past 5 years, it stands as a pretty representative group for a standard 5x5 roto league with default settings in Yahoo!. Just to make sense of these numbers, it is essentially safe to assume that in order to win the runs category you would need to have projected numbers near 850 for your combined players; and so on down the list.

These are important numbers to have when trying to organize your team during the draft. If you select players which let you meet these numbers, you should do well to win your league.

Sorry for the break

For those reading my posts, I apologize for the recent break. I am drafting every day this week, which is taking up much of my free time. In preparation for my drafts, I have developed several pieces of information which others may want to know and will try transmit it in the next few days.

Good luck on your drafts!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Having a draft plan

For my last discussion of drafting in Fantasy Baseball, I want to impress upon you the need to have a plan when you go into a draft. While you certainly need to have a solid idea about players and a strategy for the draft, all of your preparation will be entirely wasted if you do not go into the draft with a plan of action. With that in mind, I want to walk through a plan of action for a basic draft strategy in the standard default Yahoo Rotisserie league setup: 5x5 with C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OF, Util for position players, and 2 SP, 2 RP, and 3 P for pitchers.
  • The Early Rounds (1-5): At the end of the first five rounds you should have 2 power hitters (potential for 40 HRs), 1 five category guy, 1 SPs, and 1 good SB player with decent stats in at least one or two other categories. Due to our understanding of scarcity theory, we know that it will be best to grab the power hitters and five cat guy first, then look for an good SB guy and an SP. Now when I say you should grab a good SB guy with decent stats in other categories, I am talking about players such as Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, and Ichiro Suzuki. They always have lot’s of SB's, runs, and a good average, while putting up average stats when it comes to HR's and RBI's.
  • The Early Middle Rounds (6-10): Once you have a solid base, you should target 2 more SPs, 1-2 saves guys, and make sure you have at least 1 other player with good SBs on your roster. Otherwise, continue to focus on power potential and guys who contribute in as many categories as possible.Typically in a draft, no more than 6-8 SP's will be off the board by Round 6, so there is still plenty of Pitching value available. At the same time, if you already drafted someone with top SB numbers in the early rounds (such as a Reyes or Crawford), you don't have to worry about picking up SBs in these early middle rounds, and can concentrate on finding more power.
  • The Late Middle Rounds (11-16): Fill your all position needs. You want to make sure you have 2 RP's starting the season as closers. Although 2 closers usually will not be enough for the saves category, you can pick up help either in the late rounds by speculating on a player who is in a fight to be a closer, or by picking up someone after the season begins.
  • The Late Rounds (17-21): Time to focus on sleeper prospects and pick up some additional SP's for depth. You should also consider grabbing any RP's who are either fighting to be a closer or has the potential to be a closer, But keep in mind there are always good SP's available in late rounds.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Drafting for Scarcity

Having a successful draft in Fantasy Baseball has a lot in common with understanding our current spate of high gas prices: it's all about scarcity. The more scarce a certain type of player is, the more valuable he comes and the quicker he will be drafted.

While I have already talked about position scarcity, which will be especially important this year, there is another important type of scarcity which Fantasy managers need to consider: Category scarcity. In order to understand category scarcity it is important to group players based on the following categories which are the mainstay of the fantasy game: 1) Power (HR), 2) Speed (SB), 3) Starting pitchers (W, K, ERA<>

The best way to look at scarcity in categories is to see how easy it is to pick up a premium player of that type during the season:

  • Saves are the easiest category to pick up after draft day. As the season progresses, many teams will change closers either due to injuries or ineffectiveness. This means there are ample opportunities for a perceptive manager to pick up saves.
  • Speed is the next easiest category to find post-draft. As the season gets going, it's not hard to find someone who will steal 20-25 bases—heck if you really pay attention it's even possible to pick up a premium base stealer after the draft (just ask those who picked Hanley Ramirez last year).
  • Starting pitchers are the third category group, and here things become a lot less certain once the draft is over. Truly dominant pitchers (ones who get Wins, Ks, and with a low ERA and WHIP) never come available during the season. But a good manager can pick up a 12-13 win pitcher with decent K's and reasonable ERA/WHIP once the season has started. Sometimes an ace is called up from the minors and sticks, other times a ace will emerge as the season progresses. At the very least, the categories present by a good SP can be had even as single contributions from just a solid Middle Reliever.
  • With the exception of Ryan Braun last year, true power hitters (those who will hit 40 HRs) are damned near impossible to pick up from the waiver wire. But there are always several 25-30 HR guys available.

Of course there are several categories that I am not mentioning. Keep in mind that I am trying to demonstrate how easy it is to find quality players after the draft. By looking at scarcity in terms of categories, it becomes apparent that it isn’t impossible to make up for losses due to an injury, a freak accident, a bad year, or even a bad draft. While the line between different categories, especially between power hitters and speed players, is not absolute, it is always possible to find players to fill in where you are deficient. A good place to start is to consider players who pick up stats in several categories, since those players become increasing valuable with every stat they contribute in. But new guys like this emerge every season.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Luck & the Draft

I believe that luck makes up 20% of everyone’s draft strategy. As with all games, Fantasy Baseball players must factor in random events and chance occurrences in their quest to win a Fantasy Baseball League. While some players carry the injury mark with them everywhere they go, you normally won’t be able to accurately pick whether a player will get hurt during the season. Therefore, you have to take chances during the 6 month long season to win. You will need to decide between two Free Agents to replace injured or under-achieving players, or you will need to decide which of your stud players you will deal in order to boost a stat for the stretch run.

No one knows what is going to happen during the season, but there are a few things you can do during your draft to reduce the impact of luck on your season. Every player you draft is a risk, but the key to winning is minimizing your risk while maximizing your value. For instance, a lot of people drafted SP Chris Carpenter in the Top 5 rounds of their drafts last year, and when healthy, he is worthy of such a high selection, but he got injured after just 6 innings and didn’t play again last year. Clearly, that should carry over into 2008, and yet some people actually included him in the top 100. I happened to be one of those skeptics, and wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole.

By always thinking about a worst-case scenario when compiling my draft order, I try to remove every risk possible from my draft. Simply reducing the number of "one-year wonders" and “injury-prone” players on your teams from 5 to 2 can make a big impact on the success of your draft. That being said, if by some chance one of my favorite “high risk” guys is still around in the late rounds of the draft, I will take a chance on him, because I will have reduced my risk and increased his potential value to my team. Of course, I am still not touching Chris Carpenter this year.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Position Specific Draft Tips

When it comes to the draft, there are certain things you need to consider when selecting players for each position. While it is always important to go for the best players available regardless of position at the beginning of the draft, as the draft goes along, you will probably find that your best bet is to concentrate on a couple of categories or to ignore a couple of categories altogether. It is essential to remain flexible and be willing to improvise as the draft plays out. With that in mind, here are some position specific tips:

Pitchers: I do not recommend picking a pitcher in the first 2 rounds. If you feel you have to break this rule, then make sure the pitcher you draft is a hardy and reliable player. I grabbed Chris Carpenter early last year, only to have him play 6 innings for the whole year! Never forget that pitchers are incredibly fragile players. If a right fielder gets a sore arm, the manager will move him to left. If a pitcher gets a sore arm, he may be gone for the entire year. With that in mind, avoid the urge to take a pitcher early, even if it is a reliever. It is inevitable that a couple of good closers will lose their job to a youngster that went undrafted at the season’s beginning. While you want solid pitchers, you shouldn’t grab them too early.

What to look for when drafting a Starting Pitcher: Look at walks allowed per nine innings (WHIP); look for strikeout pitchers because they fail less often than a finesse pitchers; look for pitchers from winning teams because run support is a major factor in wins; try to anchor your staff with a tier one pitcher who will get you 200 plus innings with a good ERA.; and finally, beware of prospects because it usually takes several years for a pitcher to establish himself in the majors.

What to look for when drafting a Closer: Look for players with high strike numbers, a low WHIP and ERA, and the most saves. Relief pitching is the most difficult to predict. It has a direct impact on saves as well as innings pitched, wins, walks/hits per inning and ERA, so make sure you take two quality relievers if you want to win or be competitive in most leagues. Don't be afraid to pay full value for a quality reliever. It is imperative to pay close attention to setup pitchers (as they may be the closer at the end of the season if a closer is hurt or ineffective; and they also will pick up a few saves during the course of the season) and teams that use "closing by committee" because they have multiple players getting saves in any given week

Infielders: Each infield spot requires a different strategy, but at the most basic level it is important to consider multi-positional players when possible. When in doubt, take the guy who can play 2 or more positions. Lineup flexibility can help you through little injuries and scheduling oddities. Multi-positional players are not highly sought after on draft day, but their flexibility allows them to have more value to your team than one would give you if they only played at one spot.

Catchers: This year catchers are a scarce position, because the difference between the top 5 and those below them is huge. Only 11 catchers had 450 at bats last year and only 6 drove in at least 80 runs. This means you need to sntch up one of these top catchers will they are available, so be sure to snag one of them. American league catchers are preferable because they often play at DH (Piazza) and a few guys are listed as catchers but may play more often at first (Saltimaccia).

First Base: Regardless of the team, first basemen in major league baseball today must be good hitters, so yours should be one as well. Look for a full time player and consider drafting another first baseman to fill your corner infielder and/or DH slot.

Second Base: There are many all star second basemen, but top tier players always go at a premium so draft carefully and don’t get attached to one player. You will also want to grab a second baseman to fill your middle infielder slot. Look for sound everyday players who have solid batting averages and get at least 10-20 SBs.

Shortstops: Traditionally, shortstops and catchers are two of the weakest hitting positions on the team. But there are currently a large number of solid SS available, so much so that you won’t have to pay top dollar for a top tier player. As with 2B, avoid drafting a SS with a bad batting average.

Third Base: Like SS, there are a lot of good 3Bs who hit big numbers. Look for sound everyday player. While A-Rod will cost you a fortune (for good reason after last year), there are enough strong 3Bs that you don’t have to spend everything at this position.

Outfielders: In the past, there were always a lot of good outfielders who could address a teams offensive/hitting needs, but this year (2008) it seems like there are only 2o top guys and rest are just spot fillers. With that in mind, you want to leave the draft with 2 good everyday players from the top 20. Your third man can be multi-positional players, although you may want to corner 3 top players this year since you want to have a balanced team rather than run away with one category. With that in mind you should look at players who have speed, power and a high batting average. Remember there are only a limited amount of 5 category players.

Prospects & Sleepers: Once you filled out your roster, you want to look toward drafting a couple of bargain players near the end of the draft to fill any empty slots or to find that break out player the. Players drafted early tend to be over priced and there tends to be a lot of depth in the outfield. If you don’t have the time to track down your own prospects, then consult one of the lists provided by the sole called experts on nearly any of the big websites. By looking at a few of their projections, it isn’t hard to come up with a consensus opinion on the best prospects and sleepers for the upcoming season.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Basic Tips to Consider Before Your Draft

Before going into a draft, it is essential that you prepare well in advance. Here are a few basic Pre-Draft tips:

Research, research, and then, do some more research. Nothing is more important than solid research. Find sites and sources with player news. Read columns. Evaluate draft guides. Check out as much information as you can in order to determine which draft guides can help you the most. Just when you think you are finished, do some more. Trust me, every time you look at the information again you’ll learn something you didn’t know.

Don’t put too much into spring training. Every year, players post monster numbers in spring training or completely fall apart. Sadly, such play is rarely a projection for the regular season. In 2003, Mike Sweeney belted seven homers in spring training, but that was almost half of the 16 he ended up hitting for the entire season. Byun-Hyung Kim had the lowest springtime ERA of anyone that pitched 27 innings in 2004, only to post a 6.24 for the season. What more needs to be said? I’m not saying you ignore spring stats altogether, as they are useful in determining potential sleepers or understanding how a player might fit into the lineup. But the season is 162 games long, and there is no telling what might come of it.

Pay careful attention to your league’s settings. You must know what categories count in your league’s scoring system or how many pitchers you are allowed to start or whether your league includes a DH, etc. This are vital information you must know before determining your draft strategy. For instance, if you only start two pitchers, but half of the categories are pitching-related, a good hurler suddenly becomes far more valuable than a homerun hitter.

Rank players by tiers. Although ranking players can be a very imprecise process, it is an essential part of draft preparation. Don’t just count on rankings provided by an expert sight. If you skip this step, you really have no idea what kind of talent is out there. But keep in mind, it isn’t enough to rank players an all-inclusive list, you must take the time to rank them by position and divide them into tiers. Then come draft time, the tiers will guide your selections. If all the second-tier shortstops are on the board at the time of your third-round pick, you can afford to hold off on selecting one in order to use your pick to get a top-tier guy at another position and still probably get one of those second-tier shortstops in the next round.

Start developing a draft strategy. To have a successful draft, you have to establish a plan of action before the draft begins. How will you select you pitchers, by wins and strikeouts or ERA and WHIP? Will you ignore steals and concentrate on power, or do you want 5 category guys? Should you wait on pitching? Or, maybe should just go with the best player available and worry about trading for position players later. Whatever you decided, the most important thing is that you have a plan. Otherwise, you’ll be as lost on draft day.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Basic Draft Strategies

Although no one wins a league on draft day, it is possible to lose one. Drafting is one of the most important aspects of fantasy sports, so important that fantasy players spend countless hours preparing for draft day. Since we have covered the basic types of drafts, let’s take a look at a few draft strategies for the typical 5x5 rotisserie baseball league. Here are the most popular draft strategies, in no particular order:

Position Scarcity: Drafting the best players possible in the early rounds in positions with few star quality players. Examples of position scarcity this year include catchers, and out field. Once you fill these positions with few star players, you would then look for the best value picks, while always keeping position scarcity in mind concerning the remaining players available to be drafted. Positions like third base, first base and starting pitchers would be chosen later in the draft because there is a much larger pool of quality players at these positions this year.

The Balanced Team: Drafting a team to be as balanced as it can be in all batting and pitching scoring categories. The idea is not to win any single scoring category, but to place in the top four in all of the scoring categories. Therefore, you draft as many players as possible who score well in four or five of the scoring categories. You also need to blend in pitchers, although your mix should include slightly more batters than pitchers, but not many more. For this strategy to be successful, you must stick to it through the first 10-12 rounds, then it is crucial to fill any holes where you may be weak in a scoring category, although you should shy away from players who only score good in one or two categories.

Best Player Available: Draft the highest ranked players available without concern over position. While you may have the best overall talent after the draft, you may be deficient at a few positions If you have too many players in one position and not another, then you simply trade for what you need. This strategy is one of the simplest in terms of preparation if you just rely on the expert rankings. In my opinion, if you use this system why bother to show up at all, you should just let the computer auto draft for you. The biggest variation on this strategy is to come up with your own rankings, which can make it one of the most time consuming plans out there.

Controlling Offense: Draft only hitting through the first 10 rounds, focusing in the first five rounds on 4 and 5 tool players. For rounds 6 through 10, pick the best batters in a given category, like steals or home runs, where you are the weakest. Once you fill out the offensive positions, you then draft the best available pitchers concentrating on pitchers that have the best combination of ERA, Ks, WHIP and saves. By the 11th round, you probably won’t find many solid starting pitchers, but you should be able to draft enough to show up in the pitching categories.

If pitching is scarce, you could modify this strategy to secure the top starters in a given year. In the book Fantasyland, Sam Walker employed this tactic and called it REMA. The only problem is that pitchers are notoriously fragile players, prone to injuries. If you cannot get enough offense to be in the top 5, one injury could ruin your team.

Punting a Category: With this strategy, you intentionally ignore one of the scoring categories, concentrating instead on the others. For hitters, stolen bases are often punted. Since the guys who usually get the highest number of SBs often do poorly in other categories, having them in your line up limits production in other categories. For pitchers, saves is most often punted. In all honesty, I don’t recommend you start the draft using this strategy, but if you find part way though the draft that you have few producers in one category, you can use it to your advantage by concentrating your remaining picks to strengthen the scoring categories you want to score high in.

Specialist Drafting: The opposite of Punting, here you draft players who are the best producer in a single category in order to dominate a few categories, and then move on to another player who dominates a different category until you have players covering all categories in your league. This is much more common and useful in Head to Head leagues than roto, since you can rarely draft the best single category guys. With just that in mind, for this strategy to be successful, you must limit your domination to 2-3 categories and not worry too much about the others.

Conclusion: There are more strategies which fantasy players employ at their draft than this, and even combination approaches, but they all boiled down these simple approaches. When it comes to fantasy sports (regardless of the type), everyone incorporated their favorite draft strategy into their Drafting plan. Whichever strategy you decide to employ, keep in my no strategy is fool proof. How a draft strategy is implemented, executed and the "expertise" of the other team owners also affect how successful a draft strategy will be. What is most important is that you come into the draft with a plan of execution.

Friday, February 29, 2008

So, how are Fantasy Baseball teams formed? It’s all about the draft, Baby!

Now that we’ve discussed the basics concerning the types of leagues available for fantasy baseball, it is important to discuss how teams are selected. All leagues hold a draft before the season begins. Drafts are either live or auto-pick. The most common types of drafts are auction drafts and serpentine drafts.

In the auction draft, teams all receive a fictional (or maybe not fictional) amount of money in which to bid on players that are “auctioned.” Teams are not allowed to go over their assigned amount, and team mangers take turns nominating players for selection.

In a serpentine draft, a draft order is assigned (usually at random), and the last manager to choose his first player in the first round becomes the first manager to choose his second player in the second round and the draft proceeds back up the order.

There are advantages to both types of draft. An auction draft is more time-consuming, but owners tend to be able to acquire more of the players they really want because they can bid on them and there's more strategy involved on how to spend your money. A serpentine draft doesn't take nearly as long to compete, and it's a little easier to prepare since a player has an idea of which players might be drafted when, especially in the first couple of rounds of the draft. But the downside to a serpentine draft is that managers may not get every player they want.

In almost all leagues, each owner picks a team based in the players' real-life positions, with catchers, first basemen, second basemen, shortstops, third basemen, outfielders, starting pitchers and relief pitchers.

Many drafts are held in person and others are held online on one of many internet services. In serpentine drafts, it is common for players who cannot attend the draft to let the computer system auto-pick their team, but this is not recommended as the computer does not always recognize what you consider to be a good player when your drafting turn arrives.

There are also a few leagues where all teams in the league use the auto-draft mode, which gives everyone an equal opportunity to have the computer supply them with bad picks. But again, these types of leagues are not recommended. I will cover this in more detail in a later post.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What are the different types of Fantasy Baseball?

Anyone reading this realizes that the Internet and real-time information has opened fantasy baseball to virtually everyone. No longer is it a game of baseball fanatics and experts. The internet has also led to the creation of thousands of different formats, rules and styles.

Therefore, for those who have never played fantasy baseball and as a refresher for those who have, I am going to take some time to review a few of the basics of fantasy baseball in order to take a look at the many different ways to play. Some you may never have thought of before…

The first basic principle of FBB is that players (called managers or GMs) build a team and rack up points based on the players' real-life performances during the season. Everything centers on a GM’s ability to spot the players who will have strong statistical seasons, which can earn praise and a few dollars depending on the league. There are two basic formats: free, and pay leagues for prizes.

Leagues form in many fashions. You either get a group of friends and make your own league (a buddy league) or join a contest where you complete against others over the web. The easiest way to get started is to join a free online league. There are several providers out there, although I prefer Yahoo! Each provider offers various league types, and a myriad of rule configurations.

The two most common formats are rotisserie (roto) and head-to-head (H2H). Roto is the grandfather of most fantasy sports games. In it’s most basic configuration, it revolves around 10 basic countable statistics (Home Runs, Runs, RBIs, Steals, Batting Average, Wins, Saves, Strikeouts, WHIP [Walks + Hits/innings pitched], and ERA), and would be compared in teams drafted by would be “owners.” Points are awarded based on the number of “owners” playing and how their team ranked in that category. Thus, in a 10 team league whoever leads in a category gets 10 points, second best gets 9, third gets 8, and so on. This gives players a total score based upon the 10 categories and the number of players involved. In a theoretical 10 player league the maximum points could be 100 (10x10=80) and the minimum would be 10 (1x10=10). The game has a great pennant race type feel to it, where each days games can effect ones score in each category, and change the next days standings. The champion is whoever finishes at the top after the normal season of baseball.

The second league format for fantasy baseball is called Head to head (H2H). In a head to head league, each manager is matched up against another manager for a period of time (usually a week). This means that each teams’ statistics are matched against the oponent’s statistics for that period of time. For each category a team wins they are credited with a win, and for each statistic one loses they are credited with a loss. A tie is also possible. Scoring is registered in games won and lost, just like in MLB. Using this system a team develops a record. Standings are just like those found in any newspaper. In the most common variation of H2H, whoever is at the top at the end of the season wins the league. Another popular H2H variation depends on a 2 to 3 week playoff period involving the top teams in the league.

For either format, there are many variations. The standard category structure is often called a 5x5 (five offensive, and five defensive). But any category can be used. Some leagues play with as many as 30 categories, while others don’t use traditional categories at all. Some leagues only use positive categories (like home runs, steals, saves) which add points, some use negative categories (like errors, hit by pitches, and unearned runs)and subtract points.

Next time, we will look at the different draft types.

The plan til the season

For those of you who have played fantasy baseball before, I know what you really want to know is what is happening right now in baseball, but that isn’t what I intend to provide. In my opinion little happens during spring training that means anything (other than injuries). Sure, you could track every pitch and hit (or lack thereof), but it is such a strange subset of the games since the games are mostly about warming up and showcasing talent that nothing that happens in spring training that will necessarily translate into the main season. Besides, I can’t compete with the likes of ESPN and such, and won’t even bother. If that is what you want, there are several sites to check into. Instead, I want to spend some time looking at Fantasy Baseball as a game.

Thus since spring training isn’t of much interest to me, I am going to take the next few weeks to go over the basics: types of leagues, draft strategies, etc. Since my first draft this year is not until March 15, I plan to use the next few weeks as a chance for preparation.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Strolling through the Fantasy Past

Although there are many arguments over who discovered fantasy baseball, nearly every one aggress that the earliest forms of fantasy baseball was "tabletop baseball.” The best-known of these games was the Strat-o-Matic, whose 1963 game used customized baseball cards of Major League Baseball players with their stats from recent seasons. Participants either re-created previous seasons using the game rules and the statistics, or compose fantasy teams from the cards in order to play against each other.

As a kid in the 80s, I played a tabletop game called Pursue the Pennant which took the baseball board game to new (And supposedly realistic) level of play thru ball park effects, clutch hitting and pitching and various other nuances of the game. It wasn’t a bad game, but not really as fun as FBB in my opinion. Of course, it took about as much time to finish one game as a real baseball game. There are several other table top games out there, if you are interested in them check out:

The origins of Fantasy baseball in the incarnation that we would recognize today is highly disputed. According to Wikipedia, the Canadian-American writer Jack Kerouac played his own form of fantasy baseball starting quite young and continued developing and playing this perhaps private version of fantasy baseball during most of his life. Several other informal personal games also claim to be the first and stretch back as early as the 1950s.

Regardless of who was first, the development of Rotisserie League Baseball occurred in 1980 and was the creation of magazine writer/editor Daniel Okrent. The name coming from the New York City restaurant La Rotisserie Francaise where he and friends first met to play. Okrent's innovation was that "owners" in a Rotisserie league drafted teams from the list of active Major League Baseball players and would follow their statistics during the ongoing season to compile their scores. Thus rather than rely on past statistics, owners make predictions for players' playing time, health, and expected performance just like real baseball managers. Because Okrent was a journalists, other journalists were introduced to the game and it became a subject to write about during the 1981 baseball strike, which spread the phenomena.

Rotisserie league baseball proved to be hugely popular. Traditional statistics used in early leagues were often chosen because they were easy to compile from newspaper box scores. Scoring was done entirely by hand. Computers and the Internet revolutionized fantasy baseball. Scoring was now done by computer, which opened it to anyone on the world wide web and let leagues to develop their own scoring system, often based on less popular statistics. In this way, fantasy baseball has become a sort of real-time simulation of baseball, allowing fans to develop a more sophisticated understanding of how the real-world game works.

And that brings us up to today. Millions of people play fantasy baseball (although it has been surpassed in popularity by Fantasy Football). It is so popular that many companies block providers to keep their employees from playing. The situation is so bad that many experts suggest that millions of dollars are lost each week to employees wasting time with fantasy sports. Of course, the past time is so popular that several industries serve the commuting, making billions of dollars each year on other company’s waste. With so much money being won and lost, clearly Fantasy baseball is here to stay.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

time to shift gears

Now that I have traced the entirety of my fantasy football league from last season, I really want to put FFB on the back burner until the summer. Don t get me wrong, I will still cover information and stories of note (like the fact that Randy Moss did not get the franchise tag from the Patriots--what the hell are they thinking?), but it really is time to focus on Fantasy Baseball.

For the football purists who think FBB is not the same as FFB and a waste of time, I say fooey! Not only if FBB as good as FFB, but I think in some ways it is much harder. And here is why: 1) the season lasts much longer, seems like forever really. 2) while there are still a lot of sleepers in FBB, the number is much smaller and less certain than in FFB. Baseball players are so streaky, that there often seems like no certainty from one day to the next. 3) it really is all about the individual stats, so a crappy team isnt as limiting to a players accrual as it is in FFB. 4) It is a daily sport, which means you have to keep constant attention on your players and how they are doing. And in head to head leagues, you have to constantly tweak your roster every day of the week. I spend far more time on FBB than I ever do on FFB. 5) Baseball remains affordable. So I can actually go to the ballpark and see players from my team anytime I want. Here in Atlanta, cheap seats for the Braves are just $1-15, while you cant see the Falcons play for less than $50 and they suck.

Now that I have laid out the reasons I love to play FBB, I want to spend the remaining weeks before the start of the season looking at subjects ranging from the history of FBB to who you should draft. As before, I write this (or collect this) information as much for myself as I do for my audience. If you find something you like or are interested in, please drop me a comment. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy my posts and wish you th ebest in your fantasy leagues (unless you are in one of my leagues, cuz then I hope you have a horrible year!).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Week 16—The Championship!

Here we are: the final game of the season. In my league, that means two teams with 8-6 records are playing for the title, having beat teams with much better records. Go figure.

In my mind, going into the final, the match up was far from even. My opponent had the last pick in the draft, he had been hit by numerous injuries over the course of the season which depleted his roster and he had not picked up enough solid replacements from the waivers to beat me. As a result, I felt way too confident. And over confidence almost always leads us to make foolish mistakes. In my case, my over confidence led me to pay more attention to my opponent’s trash talking than I ever should have done. My opponent was the same jerk who always won our league, and he started trash talking me before it was even guaranteed that we would be matched up in the final game. It continued for the entire week. If I had been smart, I would have ignored the guy. But instead, I wanted to make him pay. I wanted to beat him so badly that he would be embarrassed. And that foolish, emotional response almost cost me the Championship.

In response to my opponent’s trash talking, I began to actively seek out players who were on teams still looking to get into the playoffs, which led me to make some risky moves to tweak my roster to exact my opponent’s devastation.

Looking back at my line up in the final game, it is surprising I won. My opponent sent out his regular guys—the ones who got him to the final game in the first place. He was projected to get 68 points, which isn’t great, but higher than my 65. I, on the other hand, put together a roster which included a mixed group of solid players who helped get me to the playoffs and some guys who may or may not have big games this week. It was beyond risky—it was down right foolish. Fantasy Rule: Unless there is a valid reason not to play the guys who got you into the playoffs (like injury or a secured playoff berth), you always start your best players.

Through out the season, I had a solid group of players who consistently put up 70+ numbers from week to week. This was why I had a winning record, and made it into the playoffs. To abandon those guys for the final game was a major risk. So why did I do it? Partly it was a desire to destroy my trash talking opponent. But it was also due to what had happened this season. Most teams with play offs berths were sitting their best players, while teams still trying to make the playoffs were posting huge numbers. I knew I had to get 70 points to even be in contention, so I had to find players who would give me a chance. As a result, I dropped Harrison (despite rumors he would play this week) and I benched Housh, Crayton, and Williams because I didn’t think they would play much.

In the end, I had some successes and some failures with my final roster. Cutler got destroyed against SD (which turned out okay since I had them as my DEF). I picked up 2 guys from NO: Steckner was dominant and off set Patten’s low numbers. Addai and Clark did excellent, which is surprising since they were both on a team with a playoff spot and a couch who is notorious for benching stars in such a situation. My mistakes though revolve around not playing solid players, over guys who may or may not even play. Housh and Williams had solid games, while Gonzo barely played (a situation nearly every one by me expected). I really knew Housh would do well this week since they were playing the browns, but since he had done little in the last few weeks, I just didn’t trust him. Do I need to say how dumb this was? I also never should have played Dayne. There was talk that he was injured, although no one could tell how serious it was, this should have been a good indication to me not to play him since the Texans had no chance to make it into the play offs. This brings me to another Fantasy Rule: Don’t play a possibly injured player if his team has no reason to play (as in, no chance to get into the playoffs). Like Housh and the Benglas, Peterson and the Bears were playing their arch nemesis GB. I should have known this would be a good match up. The Bears would want revenge for the earlier loss this season, while GB could care less about this game and should be looking toward the playoffs. Peterson had 12 points, Dayne 0. Lesson learned.

Despite my mistakes this week, I won the Championship. It is my first for football, and all the more satisfying since I beat the guy who dominated our league since its creation. It is also nice to take a team, which has just a 8-6 record, into the winner’s circle. Especially when there were two teams with 10+ wins in the playoffs. Having now gone back through each week, I think I have learned a great deal. Now, I just have to wait until next year to put them into practice, and of course, defend my title.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Week 15—It’s Playoff time Baby!

No matter what people can say to the contrary, there is nothing better than making it into the playoffs—even if you expect to make an early exit like I did. Due to last week’s performance, I really had no expectations this week. I scoured the waivers, listened to the experts, and sent out my best line up. In the end, I ran out a solidly projected team: 79 points. Of course, it wasn’t going to be enough to beat my opponent’s 84 projected points.

But even though I expected to lose this week, I figured after a lot of re-considering that I had done well this year and had a lot to be happy about. I put together a solid team which consistently accrued 75 points or more. I had a winning record, and I made it into the play offs. It may not be a championship, but things could have been worse. For the first season where I actively tried to win, keeping regular tabs on my team, the league, and football in general, making it into the top 4 for my league isn’t too bad. Heck, there were far more dedicated managers out there who do much worse. Not just in my league, but in the fantasy world at large.

Enough already with the waxing philosophical, let’s take a look at the match up. Against all odds and common sense, I FUCKING WON THE FIRST WEEK OF THE PLAY OFFS. Some how, some way, the fantasy gods allowed me to beat the best team in my league. A team which hadn’t scored less than 70 point all season, stumbled and faltered, barely accruing 64.

My team did precisely as it had done all season long, racking up a solid 70+ total. Some players did better than others, without any sense of why or how. Housh, for the third strait week, did nothing. Clark and Clayton didn’t show up. Portis and Addai flip flopped, but still contributed. Gonzo came out of no where and had an awesome week, as did SD at defense. Cutler actually played well, just failing short of predictions. What more could I ask for?

The real reason I won is that my opponent had a bad week. Players who had consistently racked up solid points, just didn’t this week. In reality, this shouldn’t have been much of a surprise as my opponent had a half his players from teams guaranteed to make the playoffs. As always happens this time of year, the teams who made it into the playoffs didn’t play their best guys much this week. I suffered the same problem with Clark, Crayton, and Addai. The difference was that I had fewer guys in this situation than he did. Luck, it seems, was on my side.

Looking at my roster, there are two lessons to be learn from what I should have done differently.

1) Always play your RBs. Addai and Portis were solid plays, since Washington was trying to get into the playoffs and the Colts would want Addai to get at least one touch down before then benched him. But I knew Dayne would have a big week (and at least assumed Peterson would do well enough). Yet I still didn’t play an RB—picking a WR instead. This was a stupid move. No player on the field has a better chance of making big fantasy points than the RB, which is why it is so important to draft at least 2 solid guys and why all first round drafts are RBs.

2) In the last weeks of the season, it is usually better to play guys on teams still looking to make it into the playoffs, than those on teams already guaranteed a play off position. Every year, NFL teams who have a play off spot, sit their best players in the final weeks of the regular season in the hopes they can avoid injuries. This might be good for real football, but it is a fantasy nightmare and the best reason to constantly look for waiver players on teams seeking a play of spot. In my case, I played Crayton over Williams or MacDonald, even though I knew JAC were trying to secure a play off berth and DET wanted to complete a winning season, while it didn’t matter whether Dallas won or not this week.

A similar argument could be made for Housh, although I contend that his situation was different. The Bengals couldn’t make it into the playoffs, but they still had reasons to play hard. Besides, Housh is just too good to ever bench in my opinion.

Regardless of my mistakes, I won the week. Now, on to the championship.