Fantasy Baseball Round Table: Tips for down the stretch

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on August 30, 2012 @ 13:21:08 PDT

 


Well, the knights took things in a little different direction this week, but that's OK because they hit on a couple of important points I like to emphasize at this point of the season and I can hit on some other stuff in the wrap.

Do you guys have any favorite tips for the home stretch?

Lawr Michaels

Milwaukee Brewers SP Marco Estrada
Estrada in the stream

Well, things differ for me depending upon my position in the standings, which this year is not really very good anywhere, largely thanks to injuries.

That said, I am trying to throw as many starters as I can out there in LABR and XFL, hoping that I can pick up some wins and some whiffs as those are actually categories where I can gain. In LABR my WHIP and ERA are among the leaders, but since I have four injured position players now on the DL, nothing to lose. While in the XFL, I am near the bottom in the same categories, so there is nothing to lose.

Basically, as with the regular season, I think the best one can do is simply stay on it and try to start as many everyday players as possible.

And, while my similarly injury riddled NFBC team is slowly starting to get healthy and maybe I can hit 80 points - good enough for a pathetic 9th place - in AL Tout, getting all my arms back, like CC Sabathia and Brandon McCarthy, plus some fortuitous spot starts now for David Phelps and Travis Blackley, along with my hitters coming alive suggest a late season surge.

Not that I think I can win, though statistically the points are there; it is more a question of whether too little too late. But, I certainly can act as the spoiler, as there are four categories where I can potentially pass leader Larry Schechter and that would boost my team, but also the second place team held by Jeff Erickson (into first). Of course nothing is simple as there is also a point I can grab from Jeff which would keep him vulnerable to Mr. Schechter.

But, back to the issue at hand: play them regulars everywhere!

Ryan Carey

Lawr is correct in pointing out that everything you do down the stretch is partly dictated by the league dynamics. This year I have been lucky to have a number of teams in first place heading into the final month. In these leagues I am focusing a lot on maximizing starts to try and pick up some points in K's and W's. You do have to be careful with your streaming or double-start options, but hopefully you have a little cushion built into your ratios at this point take some risks down the stretch. 

One thing I try to do each for my weekly NFBC teams is to kind of set my rotation in two week blocks. For instance, in my Online Championship League, I added J.A. Happ this week with the intention of starting him NEXT week, when he has double-starts. This week I'm rolling with Zach McAllister and Marco Estrada, but both will likely head back to the bench next week. The key to choosing double-starters for me beyond match-ups is to try and grab guys who can deliver a minimum of 10 K's for the two starts. Hopefully I can find guys who can deliver closer to 15.

There are instances where I will throw more caution to the wind with my pitching choices. For instance in Perry's JBL league, my offense is one of the best in the league, and my pitching has delivered nice counting stats. However, my ERA and WHIP are among the league's worst, and is holding this team back from a run at the title. Being a 15 team league, there is not a ton on the wire. I am really low on FAAB here as well, so lately I have been going with what I have there. Yes, I will throw out Francisco Liriano this week and hope for the best. I'm going to throw as many IP as I can and hope somebody else in my league has some meltdowns to let me move up. At the very least I will make sure those looking to move up in the counting stats earn any points they are looking to gain.

There's a lot more that we all do - but that's some of how I approach handling starters down the stretch.

Nick Minnix

I think these fellas have hit on the kind of things to keep in mind. Your league's dynamics and where you are in individual categories, plus - occasionally - matchups help to dictate your decisions.

There's no formula for handling the stretch, because you're always in circumstances that are impossible to be completely like some you've been in before. But, you've probably faced similar situations, so it's just about applying the logic that you used (or learning how your logic wasn't so logical) then.

I think some folks lose interest a little too easily. Not so much because of their actual interest. If they don't like it enough, so be it. But I think some would be surprised how their teams finish if they simply maintain a full lineup. If your league has money positions beyond first, it may actually matter.

Good things can happen to your team, and some bad things that happened to yours can happen to those above you. As a player who doesn't let his teams die, I've been pleasantly surprised with how some have finished. I view it as a challenge, I guess, just because I'm competitive and I don't like let teams die on their own.

That last part, of course, doesn't do much for most people, I'm sure, haha.

Ryan

Well - there is a lot of truth to your point of not letting your teams die, and sometimes that requires altering your goals. In the CBS AL-Only Analysts league I'm in, first place hasn't been an option for quite awhile, however through some diligent work I have gotten myself into 5th place with an outside shot at second place with a hot finish. And again, you never know what can happen. 

As for my teams that are out of it, I keep on trying to throw competitive lineups out there, because believe it or not, there is still pleasure to be had from playing spoiler, and you want to try and do your part to make the league title mean something. I have lost titles on the last day of a season by 1 stolen base and by fractional points in WHIP, so every point from every team matters. 

If you have teams that are out of it, set some new goals for yourself to try and achieve. Trust me it is great practice for the times you actually find yourself battling it out for first place. You will have a better feel for what works and what doesn't. Want to see what happens when you throw out 9 double-start pitchers for a week? Now is the time to give that a whirl. Get creative and experiment, 

Another thing you can do, if winning your league is no longer an option, is to use the last month of the season to start doing some prep for next year. Keep an eye on the many September call-ups and see how they perform. Many of these players will be key late-round targets next spring. Go back and look at your drafts that didn't work, and see what you could have done differently. Get a notebook out and jot down some thoughts you can look at again when it comes time to draft again. There is always something to learn, and since only one team per league will win the crown, most often you learn from losing.

Nick

Great points, I think. I like to practice in the same way, setting an odd goal sometimes or testing a type of lineup, kinda fun stuff, just to see what happens.

Lord Zola's Wrap-up

Truth be told I purposely left the question a bit vague to let my colleagues take it in whatever direction they want. Perhaps I should have said "given that the number one rule is never give up, what are some of your personal tricks to gain points?" But by not doing so, the fact you should fight to the end has been reiterated which is never a bad thing. Along these lines, one of my pet ploys is to take a peek and see which teams have in fact packed it in and turned their attention elsewhere, as this affords a better opportunity to catch that team since they will not be accruing counting stats as rapidly as others. Sometimes this can help you eek out a point where normally would eyeball that it wasn't possible.

I got a real kick out of the suggestions to basically practice accruing points in an effort to gain experience. This is something I have advised for years. Right now, you only may move from 9th to 7th, but you may do so by trying something a bit unorthodox. The experience you gain may help ease some reticence when trying to do the same thing to get from 3rd to 1st, especially in industry leagues where second place is first loser.

Fully realizing this is only apropos for leagues with late trade deadlines, a great trick to use is making a trade to take points away from those in front of you and not just focus on gaining points yourself. Perhaps you are locked into your spot in saves and won't be gaining or losing any more points, or perhaps you have an extra closer on reserve you now feel comfortable dealing. If a team ahead of you in the standings can lose some points in saves, try dealing a closer to a team capable to catching them. A point lost for your opponent is as good as a point gained for you.

Some general advice I like to harp on this time of the season is it is by no means too late to gain or lose points in the ratio categories. Everything depends on the actual points distribution in your league. In fact, if you follow the categorical movement down the stretch, there is a very good chance there is more swapping or standings places in batting average, ERA and WHIP than the counting categories. If you don't believe me, check it out yourself as we head into September.

And finally, Ryan hit upon another integral point and that is you need to be a couple steps ahead of your competition, especially when it comes to starting pitching as teams will be scrambling to make up innings or catch up in wind and K's. Don't wait until the last minute to find the useful starters, think ahead. This is also true for position players. Older players, especially those with injury concerns, may be shut down early. Being proactive and picking up their likely replacement before the shut down occurs can often sneak in an extra couple week's worth of full time at bats.

Good luck to everyone down the stretch.

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About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.

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