Fantasy Baseball Tumbling Dice: A period of adjustment

by Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com on May 10, 2011 @ 09:39:36 PDT

 


Baseball is, as they say, a game of adjustments.

Locally, I can think of no better example than San Francisco Giants third sacker Pablo Sandoval.

The Kung Fu Panda, as Sandoval is known, burst onto the scene with a quick bat in 2008, and carried the big stick through 2009, making him a top tier fantasy pick.

Which, we all know spelled disaster for more than a few teams, not to mention Sandoval in 2010.

Truth is, I pegged Pablo as a lost cause for 2011 because I have seen him swing too many times at not just first pitches, but subsequent bad pitches, and the pitchers in the National League now had a book on him.

I did not think Pablo could learn the discipline of at least not always swinging at that first pitch 90% of the time. And, it appears this year that he has indeed - at least up to the recent hamate bone injury - changed his approach at the plate.

Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco Giants
Adjusting Panda

In other words, he adjusted, just like the pitchers who a season earlier figured if the third baseman was going to swing at the first pitch all the time, they could adjust and give him junk.

Well, baseball is full of such adjustments, and one of them is tweaking the lineup and batting order, and another is setting the rotation, and also the order in the bullpen.

For though it often seems obvious who should do what on which team, we all know the reality of baseball-and also not just the charm, but often the frustration-is that rarely does anything happen the way it is supposed to.

Same can be said of our fantasy teams.

In order to have a successful team, we all tweak our rosters, activating a bench player who may be on a streak, sitting a pitcher who does not do well against a certain team, or even benching starting pitchers to keep WHIP and ERA numbers stable.

It does, though, take a little while into the season to understand and take advantage of the rhythm of all your teams.

Well, it takes me a bit anyway, and in no league more than my Strat-O-Matic dynasty team, The Berkeley Liberators.

I do have a solid squad in the Mid-West Strat League, which is a perennial keeper format that has 30 teams, and wherein we can keep any 29 players, year-to-year.

The Liberators, whose home park is ATT, have a strong lineup with Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman, Shane Victorino, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Carlos Marmol as the anchors. And last year, sensing my team was not deep enough to win a title in this very difficult format, I traded for 2011 draft picks.

So, this year during the free agent draft, with three first-rounders, I selected Joulys Chacin, Ike Davis, and Jose Tabata.

So, with those new young stars, and the remaining solid players like Jonathan Sanchez, Mark Ellis, and Jeff Niemann, I knew I had a contender.

Still, as the season started this month, I have played my first nine games (we play the Major League schedule, so I play the Giants home games each month, with my opponents providing a computer managed squad), and though my pitching has been quite good, my hitters have been terrible.

It took six games, for example, for Shane Victorino to nab his first hit (a triple) and three more for his second (another triple), while Ike Davis similarly has just a pair of hits. And, though Ryan Zimmerman does have three homers, so is he hitting a lusty .174. In fact the team does not have a hitter batting over .288 at present.

Well, Strat-O-Matic is where I really learned the value of on-base percentage, and though I tried to stack both my right- and left-handed lineups to take advantage, that does not always work, and it takes a month of tweaking and adjustments to really learn how the players work in which spot, and how to get the most from my team.

 In fact in talking to league co-founder, STATS Inc. programming wizard, and Palatine News Anchors owner Dean Peterson, he confided the same: that each season you have to play a few games with your team to road test.

In fact some league members pre-program complete seasons and play them out with different rotations and batting orders just to get that feel.

I am not sure if that helps over the long haul, but it does remind me again that the game on the field as well as the one in your head really do have a lot of parallels.

It is also reassuring to know that all of us who love baseball in every way, shape, and form, have to struggle with the same decisions and choices.

I think it is precisely those things that make the whole affair so intriguing and satisfying. It is also what makes it so much fun.

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About Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com

Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.

Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.

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