Fantasy Baseball: Worst to (almost) First


Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia. Photo courtesy of Keith Allison.

In a recent Ask Nash, I was mostly asked about the real life Pirates, how do they become relevant? It was a fun question to kick around, then I started to think. I was the Pirates in the Roto league I started in for the first two seasons, then I broke out and got to the top-five, and have taken second the past two seasons with a lot of input from my brother.

I did this with a few easy steps:

  1. I learned the league.
  2. I took our draft VERY seriously.
  3. I built for balance and I took care of my weakest areas first.

Learning the league

I did this in two ways, first I sat down and studied the league parameters, settings, categories and most importantly what stats were getting what points per category (I could do a whole post about this). However the bullet points on these are.

  • Settings are your friend. Innings caps, games played maximums, and trade deadlines will help you if you understand them. For example, if your league maxes at 1400 innings for total pitching, then you need to plan to get to 1400 on the very last day. That isn’t a joke, you need to monitor your innings pace (most sites have a function that tells you easily) because you do not want to be two weeks out and have zero innings left. I have seen it happen many a times.
  • If your league has unique categories (i.e. holds, walks issued, strikeouts against batters) then you need to take full advantage of them.  (again, a whole post coming on that!)
  • Lastly, you need to see what numbers people are putting up to finish on the top part of categories. (Clave wrote a terrific post about how to win a league going for mediocrity)  It is important to set goals for your team.
  • Then I learned the players in our league. It is no secret I like trade, I live to trade. Even with how much I have written of my affinity for striking a deal, I continue to make a ton of trades in my leagues, because I have taken a lot of time to learn my fellow league mates and who they like and dislike as players. You don’t need to trade to win a league, but if you do trade, you need to make good trades!

Drafting to win

Set up a budget, make an extensive cheat sheet of tiers of players you want, and stick to the plan. It is important to pay attention all year, a fantasy baseball team is like owning a pet, it needs a lot of attention or else it will die (okay, that was a little dramatic, but you get the point).
If you are in a snake draft, then obviously you do not need a budget, BUT I say mock draft, mock draft and mock draft some more!!  You need to know where guys are falling!

Building a winner

Okay, so this last one is a little unique to me, and I have asked Dixon to give his take on how he built his team the year following his last place finish as well. If you haven’t done so, I’d suggest you read his take as soon as you’re done with mine.

First, I built for balance and took care of my weaknesses. I was HORRIFIC in the pitching categories the year that I finished dead last. So what did I do? I kept four pitchers and just one hitter. Admittedly I have changed my keeper strategy since then and for the better, BUT the first year it was important to know where I was weak and to take those worries off of the plate first.

Secondly my biggest money player was Brian Roberts for $22, sadly that was the year he was out basically the entire season and thus the end of his solid career to date. However because I built my team with balance in mind I had good enough players to trade for a good replacement second baseman.

Good strategy is one that is fluid, and as I started that year emphasizing balance and strong pitching I was able to adapt to my more current style of building a team. However, if you have any glaring weak spots on your team, I would always suggest taking care of those with your keepers then drafting and picking up guys throughout the season. If you had a glut of home runs the year before, it’s most likely because you like mashers and can pick out a masher easily. Whereas if you struggled in steals, it’s most likely that you are inclined to forego steals again, so it’s wise to go after a Michael Bourn as a keeper to give yourself a head start.

That is also where my brother came in. Some guys would NEVER take on a co-manager, and that is fine, it is not for everyone. However, my brother can identify a good pitcher like Billy Beane, no joke. So again, knowing my weakness, I asked him to team up with me as my pitching consultant and co-manager.

If you can follow these steps then you can take your team from lovable loser (trust me, your league loves you) to a team in the money in one offseason!

Topics: Strategy

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