Posted: 10:00 a.m. Friday, May 3, 2013
Time for our weekly fantasy chat. I'll pose a hypothetical situation to you: let's pretend your name is Anthony Boyer and you find yourself 15 games back in the standings of the Astros Bloggers League going into Week 5. What are your options, so that you haven't wasted a season of fantasy baseball? What can a manager do to improve a team that looks a lot crappier now than it did the day after the draft?
My first suggestion comes via the Oracle, delivered to Neo with a plate of cookies: "Know Thyself." Why hast thy team hit the skids? Does your pitching stink? Have you been blasted by the injury bug? Did you gamble on upside players, only to see them flop? Yahoo! has a little-known link on the home page of every league titled "Team Stats". The first thing I do if my team is struggling (as it is in the TCB Auction League) is glance at the team stat Totals and learn where my team is good and where it is bad. If I'm Anthony, I take note that my team is leading the league in Home Runs, but is dead last in ERA, WHIP, and Quality Starts.
Then I work on some lopsided trades. Here's the thing a lot of manages don't realize - it's okay to come out on the worse end of a deal, value-wise, if the trade makes your team better. Sure, Prince Fielder is an elite 1B, and he's been a beast on a struggling team. But if I can deal Fielder for, say, Jon Lester (who I threw some love at in our column last week) and Huroki Kuroda, and slide Chris Carter in at 1B, haven't I made my overall team better? Sure, I gave up a bit in HR, RBI, and OPS, but those were categories I was dominating in anyway. The substantial gain in pitching categories makes such a swap beneficial, even though Fielder is clearly more valuable than those two pitchers in a vacuum.
Falling in love with star players is the best way for a bad team to remain bad. Using them as currency is a fast way to improve.
I'm sure Anthony will appreciate us dropping him in the grease! In non-keeper leagues like the two you referenced, there are only two ways to improve your team a month into the season: through trades, and through free agent pickups. Since you discussed the first, I will tackle the second.
Now that players are approaching 100 ab's on the season, the wheat is starting to separate from the chaff. In a league like the Astros Bloggers League, which is a 12 team mixed, there are LOTS of options to choose from to improve one's team. The key is figuring out, to the best of your ability:
In the Blogger league for instance, i have been keeping an eye on Nate McLouth, Josh Donaldson, Everth Cabera and even Vernon Wells, all of whom are off to good starts, and are outperforming many players on current rosters. The question is: who's for real? I subscribe to the "once you have displayed a skill, you own it" theory, suggesting Wells will continue to perform if healthy and when getting ab's, and Cabera will steal 40 or 50 bases. McLouth has been the subject of much speculation, as he has not done anything in his career to suggest this is who he is. Donaldson started hitting in the second half of last year, and keeps on hitting, I'm a believer.
Many fantasy players will drop a player who is underperforming after 75 at-bats, then watch in wonderment as he takes off after someone else picks him up. Is Victor Martinez done? Is his power awol, never to be seen again? I dropped him in a league for Jason Castro recently, we shall see.
Knowing which under-performer should be dropped is the hard part, particularly if that player is one that Yahoo! hyped during pre-season and assigned a high O-Rank to. Examples of such players that I am personally struggling to cut bait on are Ben Revere, Jedd Gyorko, Roy Halladay (sigh...), Jason Kipnis, Brandon Morrow...the list goes on and on. Kipnis in particular is infuriating - wasn't that guy supposed to be a Top-5 2B? Instead, he's hitting .189 with a .535 OPS.
But this points to a third way to improve your team: do nothing. Well, besides rotating those bench guys with free agents who might be worth something. Some teams start poorly because their biggest stars start poorly. Let's be nice to Anthony now. Is B.J. Upton really a .485 OPS player? Of course not! He'll come around. Is Yovani Gallardo going to carry a 1.47 WHIP all season? Obviously not. How about Shaun Marcum's 2.12 WHIP? Some teams also have a rash of injuries, and in such cases the correct course is to be patient, providing those players are coming back mid-season or so. If a team can hang around until its injured stars get back into their lineups, it is perfectly reasonable that the team can climb into the playoffs during the second half of the season. Once in the playoffs, it's anybody's game. In a keeper league, it's a little different because you have to balance your slumping/injured stars with their value in the future. But oftentimes, if I know my team should be performing better, then in all likelihood, it probably will perform better at some point during the season. Patience is a virtue, one that is hard to put into practice while watching your team struggle.
Finally, sometimes you have to recognize when you've been victimized by bad luck. Your Team Stats may show that your team should have a better record than it does. In a Head-to-Head league, your opponent may have one of those weeks where two of his hitters club six homers apiece and one of his starters throws a no-hitter. Chalk that up to bad luck and know that your team will climb the standings when you're not playing against a team living a charmed week.
How far out your team is on May 1st, and how many injuries led to the slow start should tell an owner how aggressive he should be with taking risks. I , too own Jason Kipnis, he sits on my bench in the Bloggers league while Jose Alt2ve continues to rake. He's got no trade value, so I just sit on him. But I'm in 3rd place this morning, if I was in 10th, i might have a different outlook.
So, in conclusion: