Applying 2008 fantasy baseball lessons to 2009

by Tim Heaney on December 18, 2008 @ 00:00:00 PDT


Whether you're an expert or a newbie, fantasy baseball is chock full of flubs at every level. Consistently successful fantasy players can't avoid making mistakes, but they learn to minimize them.

Like its annual predecessors, the 2008 fantasy baseball season made an ample number of players pay for their misjudgments. There isn't enough memory on this Web site to list the possible - no, probable - lessons fantasy players learned the hard way.

The most important messages to take from last season don't involve just miscalculating individual players. Focus on reworking your strategy - both in the draft and during the season - to maximize your returns. Be sure to apply these axioms to 2009.

Draft reliable power sources early.

It's the KFFL way, especially with power becoming premium. Remember that home runs factor into three of the four offensive counting categories.

Don't overspend for speed.

You want to account for a competitive number of stolen bases on draft day. The waiver wire can give you additional answers in that department during the season, including rentals of part-time players, though.

Reaching for speed causes you to miss out on Lesson No. 1, but if you're in position to draft a strong all-around player in the early rounds, you can start the process a bit earlier.

Closers make up the least stable position.

Last season 17 teams either outright replaced their stopper or instituted a closer by committee for an extended period of time due to injury or poor performance.

Thirty-seven pitchers saved at least 10 games last year. The past three seasons reveal a similar pattern: 36 in 2007, 33 in 2006 and 37 in 2007. Several options could appear on the fantasy waiver wire during a major league season.

Spending high picks on closers can come back to bite you in, well, the back end. At the time the elite stoppers go in most drafts, you should be focusing on taking bats or an ace; grab a stable closer near the top of the middle rounds for a source of stability, then acquire some bargain options later on. 

One caveat: If you choose to follow the path of drafting late-round closers, spend some of your late picks on sleepers with potential to earn saves and be quick to the waiver wire.

Obey the Cliff Lee Commandment.

Sure, many were skeptical to hop back on the bandwagon of mostly undrafted Cleveland Indians starter Cliff Lee early in 2008. Obviously, those hesitant owners were trampled underneath it as it steamrolled from start to finish (raising my hand sheepishly).

These cases spring up every year. An unknown or retread player goes on a great run, but being the almighty skeptic, you don't want to waste a roster spot on him.

You should have one or two bench spots on your team devoted to rotating streaking players. You don't necessarily have to recognize a trend in advance to be sure if a pickup is worth the trouble if you're giving up an uninspiring or sporadically effective player in the first place.

In this case, though, Lee showed sparks of talent in his past. You can't ignore those patterns if they spring up while he's on the waiver wire.

Pay attention to news on improvements and breakdowns - both physical and mechanical.

This applies to players of all talent levels.

The good: Cliff Lee and Florida Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco.

The bad: New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain and Detroit Tigers starter Justin Verlander.

The ugly: Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder/glutton Andruw Jones.

Sell high on players off to unsustainable hot starts.

Do so before the All-Star break when you anticipate second-half swoons for players who are relatively unproven, even if they show the skills. Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and Cincinnati Reds starter Edinson Volquez are guilty here. They're incredibly talented, but there will bumps in such a long season.

Look to peddle soft-tossing, low-strikeout pitchers, too. These types of players pitch to contact more than you want from a fantasy starter. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lefty Joe Saunders - we're looking at you. His second half dropoff wasn't terrible, but you might've been able to land a more statistically overpowering hurler with a better track record.

Anticipate the effects of the MLB trade deadline in AL- and NL-only setups

Save a fair amount of money or a high waiver priority for that time of year. If your non-mixed setup has a Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB), you should try to save a good chunk of that for the July 31 trade deadline as you may receive a shot at high-end talent via a real-world swap.

Last season, current free-agent outfielder Manny Ramirez (Los Angeles Dodgers), then-Milwaukee Brewers hurler CC Sabathia and current free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) were among the Christmas presents given out in July.

Many players in these formats tend to save upwards of, say, $750 of a $1,000 budget for this typically momentous event. You need to stay competitive to field a strong team for the first four months of the season, but be judicious when you can. Weigh the short-term and long-term prognoses for your team while trying to find the bargains.

For a non-bidding waiver system, stay conscious of where you stand. Gauge whether you want to use your waiver priority on certain players with the future in mind. Instead, when applicable, pick them up in any available first-come, first-serve (FCFS) periods.

Stay ahead of this game by paying attention to the news. Not every season will see superstars switching leagues midway, but you can find some indications of valuable mid-level players who may be traded simmering on the in-season Hot Stove. Keep a running list of those options to watch for.

To share your personal lessons learned from the 2008 fantasy baseball season, head over to's Fantasy Baseball Forums.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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