“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.” – A. Bartlett Giamatti
Opening Day Excitement
- 2009 Indians – Coming off a 81-81 record with reigning AL Cy Young Winner, Cliff Lee, many were picking the Indians to come out of the AL Central.
- 2010 Mariners – Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, Junior Griffey and Ichiro. Everyone was predicting them to win the AL West.
- 2011 Twins – coming off a 94 win season while winning the AL Central and getting Joe Nathan back, things were looking good for a run at the postseason.
- 2012 Red Sox – coming off a historic collapse in 2011, Boston was favored to win the AL Pennant.
- 2013 White Sox – coming off 85 wins and just missing the playoffs with Chris Sale and Jake Peavy many were picking them to contend in the AL Central.
- 2014 Rangers – after winning 90+ games four seasons in a row, many were predicting Texas to be right in the thick of things.
- 2015 Athletics – coming off an 88 win season and losing a heartbreaking 1-0 Wild Card game to the Royals, some were expecting them to be a factor in the AL West.
- 2016 Diamondbacks – Adding Zack Greinke to a 79 win team had many predicting Arizona to make a move in the AL West.
- 2017 Giants – coming off three straight season with 84+ wins and a rotation with Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzija everyone was penciling them in for the playoffs.
All of the teams listed above* were expecting big things heading into the season. All of them finished with less than 70 wins. This goes to show you that Mr. Giamatti was right, baseball will break your heart. Many things will happen from now until the regular season ends on the last Sunday in September. I’m here to help you prepare with some fantasy baseball advice for the long road ahead.
* You are probably asking why there is no representative for 2018. There were eight teams with less than 70 wins last year (Orioles, Tigers, White Sox, Royals, Rangers, Marlins, Reds and Padres). None of them were expected to be much better than they actually were.
Fantasy Baseball Advice
When preparing for your fantasy baseball draft you evaluate players and what they are projected to do, at that particular point in time, for the upcoming season. Once the games begin, things will change. Injuries. Benchings. Trades. You get the picture. Loose screws fall out all the time; the world is an imperfect place. The roster you end up with in Autumn will not be the same one you drafted in the Spring.
I like to look over my roster daily and evaluate each of the starters by asking myself, “Is he a starter and is he a top starter?” What do I mean by that? A true starter in your fanasy baseball league should be one of the top N players at his position, where N is the number of teams in your league. For example, if you are in a 12 team league then your shortstop should be one of the top 12 shortstops. Otherwise you’re already in a hole.
For your corner, middle and utility slots you ultimately want to have players that are ranking as top N at their primary position. For example, if your corner infielder is evaluated as the 11th best 3B then you are taking that possible starter away from another team, making them weaker than yours.
A top starter is, not only top N but, in the top half. Using the same 12 team league again, in a perfect world you want a top 6 shortstop. In fact you want to be in the top half for all of your positions.
For outfield and pitching, where you start more than one typically, I tier them into SP1, SP2, SP3, etc. I then try and have a player in the top half of each tier, at a minimum. Ideally you would like to have your #2 SP evaluated as an SP1, or your #3 OF as an OF2. This gives you a nice advantage over many teams.
Turnover Your Bench
If you feel that all of your current starters are in the top half at their position then turn your attention to your bench. If you feel that 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.
My bench is typically fluid throughout the season. I’m constantly moving players in and out. I’m rostering latest callups to see if they produce. I’m rostering players that I evaluate as starters and should be rostered but are not currently. Again, this is weakening other teams, thereby making yours stronger.
Don’t fall into the trap that your roster is perfect the way it is… evaluate constantly.
When To Let Go
Early in the season, you must work to fix the mistakes you made in your draft. Trust me, you made some mistakes. Just don’t discover them too late.
Sometimes it is obvious like injury, benching or demotion when to drop a player. What about that underperformer that still gets playing time but just isn’t living up to his projections?
There is no hard or fast rule on when to “cut bait” on those guys. Your early draft picks you’re going to want to hang on to longer than your late round flyers. My general rule of thumb is to hand them their walking papers after X number of weeks; where X equals 24 minus the round the player was drafted. For example, you drafted an outfielder in the 17th round. Come week seven (24-17), I would look to replace him with someone better.
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 particular stats to help you move up in the standings. 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 of 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 it?
Making a trade that benefits both teams can be hard to accomplish. More often than not you will be forced to improve your team via the waiver wire. Relying on the players you drafted isn’t enough.
Below is the analysis I did on two leagues from last season. I determined the percentage of total stats that came from drafted players vs. players found on the wire.
|Hitting||Razzball Drafted||Razzball Wire||RotoBaller Drafted||RotoBall Wire||Both Drafted||Both Wire|
|Pitching||Razzball Drafted||Razzball Wire||RotoBaller Drafted||RotoBall Wire||Both Drafted||Both Wire|
Now, the first thing you should’ve noticed (I did) was that the ratio stats are quite a bit better from the drafted players as they are from those found on the wire.
Where the wire can really help you is the counting stats. For all but stolen bases you can find anywhere from 25-29% of what you’ll need on the wire. What you can’t see here are the raw numbers, but let’s look at runs. In the Razzball league there were 11,257 runs counted and 2,861 came from the wire. The difference between 1st place in runs and last place was 439 runs. You can make up ground in those counting stats… at the expense of your ratios.
The hardest counting stat to find on the wire is stolen bases. There are some out there but you will have to be quick as they are a very desired commodity. In fact, stolen base attempts has been declining every year over the past five seasons.
Drafting your ratios and steals becomes all the more clearer with this analysis.
Constantly evaluate and look for opportunities to improve your team. It is exciting today is Opening Day! Don’t let that excitement dissuade you from the marathon ahead. If you don’t put in the time, then baseball, and your fantasy baseball team, will surely break your heart.