Opening Day. All you have to do is say the words and you feel the shutters thrown wide, the room air out, the light pour in. In baseball, no other day is so pure with possibility. No scores yet, no losses, no blame or disappointment. No hangover, at least until the game’s over.
Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune
Opening Day is here, my friends. We’ve all drafted our squads and are prepared for battle. We’re all in first place and (fingers crossed) everyone is still healthy. Everything counts from here on out.
Our little hobby is simple. It is your job as the fantasy GM of your fantasy team to win a fantasy championship. Hopefully, you have put your team in the best position to succeed from your draft. But there is so much more, my friend. So much more. You must continue to make your team better each and every day.
When you draft you are evaluating the players and what they are going to do in the upcoming season at that particular point in time, but there are many things that can change. Injuries. Benchings. Trades. Dirt bike accidents. Tropical storms. You get the picture. Screws fall out all the time; the world is an imperfect place. You’re going to have to make changes to your roster.
I like to go down my roster and evaluate each of the starters by asking myself, “Is he a Top N shortstop?” where N is the number of teams in the league (ESPN Player Rater comes in handy). At a minimum you should have “starter” quality at each position. For outfield and pitching, where you start more than one player typically, I tier them into OF1, OF2 or SP1, SP2, etc. My overall goal is to have players that “rank” in the top half at each position.
If you feel that all of your starters are in the top half at their position then look at your bench. Make some upgrades there. If you feel you have a surplus of talent. Look to make a trade with another team to shore up a spot where you feel you are weak.
Never fall into the trap that your roster is perfect the way it is… evaluate constantly.
When to Let Go
Early on in the season, you must work to fix the mistakes you made in the draft… and you will discover some mistakes. Just don’t discover them too late.
When do you “cut bait” on an underperformer? The guys you draft in earlier rounds you’re going to want to hang on to longer than guys you draft in the later rounds. My general rule of thumb is to cut’em loose after X number of weeks; where X equals 24 minus the round that the player was drafted. For example, if you drafted your middle infielder in the 18th round. Come week six (24-18) I’d look to replace him with someone better if he is underperforming.
Again, this is just a guideline. Obviously other factors like injuries, demotion or benching can come in to play.
Theoretically, after your draft the players out on the wire are there for a reason. They were not “draft worthy.” That means that the best way to improve your team early in the season is with trades as you are hoping to obtain other “draft worthy” talent. Unfortunately, most owners are attached to the players they drafted and overestimate the worth of their players while underestimating the value of yours. As the season goes on and owners distance themselves from the draft they tend to more reasonably value their drafted players.
Later in the season I’ve found that most trades are for stats. You might be low in stolen bases or steals but high in ERA and WHIP so you swap a pitcher for a closer or speed merchant. In keeper leagues, be on the lookout for the fire sale when an owner gives up on his team and tries to trade away all his players for future assets.
My best trade advice is to always look at your offer from both sides. Ask yourself if the other owner would make the trade. How does it help them? The best trades are those that help both teams. Don’t offer three players that can be found on the wire for one stud player. Would you trade away one of your studs for three guys that you could find on the wire? Why would you expect anyone else to do so, if you wouldn’t?
Trading can be hard. More often than not, no deals are made. And when you can’t strike a deal with another owner you’ll go for a swim in the waiver wire pool. In fact, relying on your drafted players isn’t enough.
|AB||82,864||63,365 (76.5%)||19,499 (23.5%)|
|R||12,110||9,329 (77.0%)||2,781 (23.0%)|
|HR||3,517||2,718 (77.3%)||799 (22.7%)|
|RBI||11,692||9,027 (77.2%)||2,665 (22.8%)|
|SB||1,471||1,147 (78.0%)||324 (22.0%)|
|IP||13,995||9765.7 (69.8%)||4229.3 (30.2%)|
|W||922||645 (70.0%)||277 (30.0%)|
|SV||956||762 (79.7%)||194 (20.3%)|
|K||14,199||10242 (72.1%)||3957 (27.9%)|
Those are stats from one of my leagues last year, the same one in my Target Percentages article, 12-team 5×5 roto with 13 hitters using 1 catcher and 5 outfielders, 9 pitchers and 3 bench spots.
Now, you can clearly see that the ratio stats from drafted players are better than from the wire, especially pitching. Where the wire can really help you is the counting stats. The difference between first and last place in RBI was 356… there were 2,665 RBI out on the wire! The difference between first and last in strikeouts was 593… there were 3,957 out on the wire. You can make up ground in the counting stats at the expense of your ratios.
Using this small sample size of one league it appears that the easiest stats to find on the wire were wins (30.0%) and strikeouts (27.9%). The hardest stats to find were saves (20.3%) and stolen bases (22.0%). Now, I know you are saying, “Chris, every league is different” and you’re right… but, every league drafts and allows for pickups. Jeff Zimmerman over at RotoGraphs came to similar conclusions when he analyzed the 2017 Tout Wars leagues.
Quick tip: If you haven’t drafted yet, use this information to focus slightly more on the ratios in your draft knowing that you can get counting stats on the wire (again, at the expense of your ratios).
The point of this article is that you have to constantly be looking to improve your fantasy team.
One year I was sitting in last place on June 1st with 46 lowly points (46.5 points out of first). For the final four months I worked the wire and made a few trades to get my team into second place (8.5 points out of first). So even if you fall into the deepest of holes, there is hope.
And Opening Day is all about hope. Play ball, indeed.