Veteran fantasy leaguers know that a key secret to success in standard Rotisserie is to avoid paying too much for starting pitching. A corollary to this theorem is that 4x4 Roto leagues can be won with just three starters. In fact, drafting just three SPs (two for really daring GMs) has distinct advantages, because it permits Roto-heads to:
- Pay less for pitching
- Pay more for hitting
- Improve ERA and WHIP through the acquisition of good relievers at cheap prices
- Accumulate fewer IP (thus making mid-season adjustments easier)
The LIMA Plan (Low Investment Mound Aces) is the perfect tactical mechanism for implementing this strategy. In a nutshell, the LIMA plan requires budgeting no more than $60 for pitching, including up to $30 for acquiring saves. This is accomplished by acquiring high skills pitchers without clearly defined roles, at low prices.
While the LIMA Plan can force an owner to punts wins, it allows fantasy leaguers to ace the batting categories and achieve upper division finishes in ERA, WHIP and saves. This is frequently enough to earn a trophy in standard Roto.
But strict adherence to this tactic seldom leads to a 5x5 championship, because a three-starter staff is also doomed to the cellar in strikeouts. Punting two categories makes it difficult to achieve victory, though it is still possible to finish in the money.
In 5x5 fantasy leagues with the standard 12 teams, at least five decent starters (on a nine-man staff) are typically required to be competitive in Ks.
That's why most 5x5 teams will draft six, seven, even eight SPs in an attempt to maximize strikeouts (and wins). But to save money on those pitchers, they often shoot themselves in the foot by picking #4 and #5 starters that drag down their stats with crappy averages. There's still no guarantee if even one punchout artist in the rotation misses substantial time with injuries.
Of course, instead of going for a sixth SP, the team could go for more strikeouts for less money, but it is likely to lose far more standings gain points in projected ERA and WHIP.
So what's to be done? A variant on the LIMA Plan that we'll call "LIMA-5" seems to work, based on these five keys to 5x5 success:
- Do draft LIMA Plan starters when possible. If you can pick up high skills pitchers at bargain basement prices, your team should do as well in Ks as in the pitching ratio categories. However, there are likely to be fewer LIMA SPs available in 5x5 - in part because nearly all starters will be scooped up on draft day, except in smaller leagues.
- Don't be afraid to draft an upper tier pitcher at a reasonable price.
- Do select LIMA Plan relievers - just don't pick as many. Where possible, choose RPs with high strikeout ratios.
- Do pick pitchers with higher strikeout ratios generally. More innings do not necessarily correlate to more Ks. A hard throwing RP will rack up more strikeouts than a soft-tossing starter despite the fact that the latter throws more than twice as many innings. Using LIMA-5, it's especially important to go for the strikeout artists among SPs, because they will earn the bulk of the numbers in this category.
- Do draft at least five starters and be prepared to pay more than $60 for pitching. With the LIMA-5 strategy, a more realistic goal is to keep your pitching budget between $80 and $100 - or under $70 if you punt saves.
Remember, there are not enough good LIMA Plan pitchers to go around, so some will be overpriced, forcing you to shop elsewhere.
Relievers are correspondingly easier to pick up in 5x5 leagues since demand is lessened. With the possible exception of closer, you should be able to fill all your RP slots with LIMA Plan hurlers that can boast of K/9 rates of 7.0 or better.
Each type of fantasy baseball demands its own strategy. In national challenge contests, teams need to own 10-12 starters to win, while just three works fine in standard Roto. The 5x5 game also has its own ethos, with teams requiring at least five to six SPs to pull off a championship.
About Ron Shandler
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