Fantasy Baseball Round Table: How to fix your last-place team

by Todd Zola, on May 28, 2014 @ 13:15:29 PDT


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OK, it's the end of May and you're in last place in one of the major industry leagues. Not only are you in last place, but you're over 20 points behind the team directly above you in the standings. What do (and don't) you do?

a. nothing

b. let things play out a little longer and re-assess

c. put your entire team on the trading block and shake things up immediately

d. something else 

OF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Trout no help for Lord Zola

Perry Van Hook

1) Assess all categories - especially counting stats

2) Read Wednesday's Captain's Log on Mastersball

3) Sell High, Buy Low & High but TRADE to the right teams (not contenders unless they are willing to overpay)

4) and most important HAVE SOME FUN

Rob Leibowitz

I play things out. It's not over in May. In Tout we have the thresholds to reach for keeping a full FAAB load the following season, plus the reserve draft order is based on final standings too. Even without those sticks, it's my duty as a member of an industry league to keep it competitive. Even if I don't trade, I would at a minimum pick up players, disable players when necessary and conduct roster maintenance in general. I might even pursue trades, but I would probably avoid trading with the teams that are contenders unless I was offered something I couldn't refuse which would be very unlikely to occur. 

Tim Heaney

You certainly can't sit with your thumb you-know-where. 

Definitely concur with Rob that you have to keep active, at least minimally, with pick-ups, ups/downs, etc. And as both of my fellow knights noted, don't just trade with anyone. Be careful to affect most deliberately, even if it proves futile, the avenues of helping other teams in best position to shake up the top of the standings. Pitch it to others that you can help each other move up together -- you're in that mess together, after all.

It's a fine time to experiment. Sell out to a certain strategy. Buy ultra-low on busts. Punt a column if it's the only way out. If you're first by a mile in a certain category, shift it to another team to disperse your resources. (That becomes easier to do in the second half because, well, time is running out.)

Ryan Carey

There obviously will be no quick fixes at this point, but if you have waited this long for certain struggling players to emerge from their slumber, then you almost have to wait a little longer just to see if the regression pendulum can finally swing your way.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't try and shake up your roster via trades, but putting your whole team on the block likely will send the wrong message and doesn't really help your competitors know what you are looking for or who you are really willing to move. You will need to embrace more risk, and be as proactive as you can on the waiver wire, looking for bargains or maybe stashing some names that could prove useful down the line. Most of all you keep active, making moves, submitting your lineups, etc. and hope that some of you bad luck shifts to your competitors.

Lawr Michaels

Welllll, it is almost June and my underperforming LABR team is almost in last place, 40 points out.

I need:

Mark Trumbo back.

Matt Kemp to get hot (I think he will, for sure, red hot for a month, a la E5).

Will Venable to do something.

Maikel Franco to be called up and have a great second half.

I need a good player to be traded to the NL so I can spend my $100 of FAAB.

If that happens, piece of cake. Right?

Todd Zola

We'll eschew Lord Zola's Wrap-up this week as this question isn't a hypothetical. It's my reality; my personal hell. It's my Mixed LABR squad.

You know the way everyone says injuries aren't an excuse? The job of a fantasy manager is to overcome? Everyone has injuries, it's how you deal with them that matters?

It's what we're supposed to say.

But you can't tell me deep down Bill Belichick would have preferred to have had Rob Gronkowksi during the playoffs the past few years.

And while I agree injuries aren't the only reason, they have certainly contributed to my team's woes. The following players have all either spent time or are still on the disabled list: Wilson Ramos, Jose Reyes, Adam LaRoche, Mark Trumbo, Carlos Beltran, Avisail Garcia, Will Middlebrooks, Kris Medlen, Doug Fister, Tony Cingrani, David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman. And that doesn't even consider that my first two picks, Mike Trout and Dustin Pedroia, are playing through some injuries which are likely curtailing their production.

Call me a whiner if you wish. I'm telling it like it is. However, I'm not giving up; I'm not throwing in the towel.

I finished in last place in this league two years ago and hated it. Let's be real; I'm not winning this year. But I'm not finishing in last either. Well, I might but it won't be for lack of trying.

I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do - a lot of which will be clear as I run through my colleague's comments. I'll summarize at the end. Here's my reaction to the various replies to the question posed. Please keep in mind it was staged to be a general question and not referencing a particular team. Had the Knights been privy to the true intent, their answers may have been a little different.

Perry's comments - While I agree big-picture wise, it is too early in my estimation to start micro-managing categories. Too much can happen within each category to do anything more than focus on accumulating as many stats as I can. Then later in the season, based on the distribution at the time, I'll trade from a category where I lose the fewest points in an effort to gain more elsewhere, using the rotisserie math discussed in the Captain's Log as part of the process. It's just too early to do the math now. More stats are what I need now.

The other notion I disagree with (and Perry wasn't the only one to mention it) is not dealing with a contender. It's not even June - with due respect to the research we discussed here, I'm treating everyone as a contender. Too much can still happen. This doesn't mean I'll be dealing all my assets to the same team but if a team at the top of the standings makes the most logical offer, I'll take it. What I do agree with is taking chances on buy low players. I don't care if I finish in last place with 40 points or with 10 points - last is last. I need to take chances to make up for lost ground.

Rob's comments - It's cliché, it's what we're supposed to say but it's also true. It's a privilege playing in an industry showcase league. As such, I owe it to my fellow league-mates and readers to keep fighting. That said, like with Perry, I dispute the contention not to deal with the top teams. Everyone is a potential dance partner.

Tim's comments - First off, I'd like to thank Tim for taking the high road and not saying “trade me Mike Trout” as he's one of the 14 teams ahead of me. As it happens, philosophically I agree the most with his comments. Basically, do whatever it takes to gain points.

Ryan's comments - Sorry Ryan, the time for action is now. No more waiting. I need more than a couple of slumbering players to emerge from hibernation. I'm way behind in at-bats. It's more than a correction from regression can fix. I'm also not sure what bad message I'm sending by putting my entire squad on the block. The message I want to convey is no one is off limits. I have no idea what kind of interest there is in some of my players. If I have a “do not deal” list, I may never know what I could have acquired. This doesn't mean I'll just deal willy-nilly; it has to make sense within the confines of what I'm trying to do. But there's no more loyalties; no holding onto my guys.

Lawr's comments - Dude, this isn't about you, it's about me (he says tongue firmly implanted in cheek). Read between the lines in Lawr's message. He's saying to honestly assess your team, but sardonically that may not be enough. The latent message is be proactive. At least that's my take.

So in summary - wait, I have an idea….

Lord Zola's Wrap-up

  • Don't give up, don't ever give up
  • Trade with anyone
  • Deal anyone
  • Take chances, buy dirt low
  • When the time comes, manage the categories to squeeze out all potential points
  • And like Perry says - HAVE FUN!
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About Todd Zola,

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, 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 and, 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. Fantasy Baseball

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