All Star Repost: A Late Season Note for Non-Contenders

During the Baseball All-Star break we’ll be reposting some of our “All-Star” articles. This is a good midseason read if you find yourself somewhere lower than 1st place in your fantasy baseball league. It originally ran on September 4, 2012. Remember, you can always follow our articles on Twitter or on Facebook.

Throughout the course of the season, we’ve talked about an awful lot of things. Some people have agreed with strategy ideas that we’ve laid out, others haven’t. That’s fine. Remember, we need to keep in mind that everyone’s styles won’t always mesh with each other. So, when I talk about streaming, for example, I’m more than fine if you don’t like the strategy, or the pitchers I suggest.

There is one area where I do care, and this is not the first time I’ve brought it up. It won’t be the last either. But right now, what I do have is a specific example of why it’s so important.

In a head-to-head league that Nash and I play in, this is the final week of the regular season. At the top of the standings, we have a heated race.  Take a look:

Team Wins Losses Ties Pct. GB
Team 1 126 93 21 .569
Team 2 127 94 19 .569 – (Same percentage, loss of the tiebreaker)
Team 3 128 96 16 .567 0.5

We’ll take a look at the opponents for these teams in a second, but first I want to show everyone knows what’s at stake.

  • The regular season champion earns $50, which is twice the buy-in. 
  • The top two seeds earn a bye week for the first round of the playoffs. It doesn’t have quite the same impact that a bye week in the NFL does, but as a person who’s both earned a bye in that league and failed to earn it, I can tell you that a mental break is nice.
  • Higher seeds always win a tiebreaker, which has decided the league championship match every year of the league’s history.

Mathematically, there are six teams that can possibly earn the top seed. Realistically, these are the only three that have any chance, so we’ll keep our focus on them. Now, let’s take a look at the three opponents.

Team 1: Seventh place team. Mathematically alive for the playoffs, even if only barely.

Team 2: Last place team. Long since eliminated from any kind of contention.

Team 3: Playoff spot all but assured. Has an outside crack at earning the four seed, but is closer to falling into the sixth position, which is the last team in.

So, from the outside looking in, it appears as though Team 2 is at a big advantage. He’s facing the weakest team in the league and if all three teams repeat their performances against these opponents from earlier in the year, the top spot will be his.

That is not a problem. If all three opponents give their best effort and the opponent for Team 2 just doesn’t have the team to compete, that’s fine. If he gives a good effort, nobody has any right to complain about him.

But if he does things like leave starting pitchers on the bench, or leave injured position players in active spots, the other owners have a gripe. Heck, if the opponents of Team 1 and Team 3 do that kind of stuff, Team 2 has a right to gripe, even if those opponents own better teams.

Nash and I were having a conversation about this league, as we are both owners of a team vying for the top spot. I made the point that someone could win their matchup 8-4 but still end up in the third spot, with no bye week or guaranteed money coming their way.

So, it’s really important for the opponents of teams 1, 2, and 3 to play it out and go hard for the categories that they can win. Maybe that means you lose 8-3-1 as opposed to 9-2-1 but when you have three opponents within a half-game of each other, that’s a potentially huge difference.

Again, you can try to play spoiler and fail. Looking at the records, chances are that that will happen in all three matchups. But you owe it to your league to give it your best efforts in every category you can.

Look, I get it. Anyone who’s played any fantasy sports for long enough knows that in some years and some leagues, you just don’t have it. Maybe you drafted players like Matt Kemp, Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki, or Jose Bautista, and then spent a good amount of the year watching those guys on the DL. Maybe a strategy you tried didn’t pay off, or you’re not as strong of a fantasy player, at least not yet. The reasons don’t matter.

I also understand that the NFL starts on Wednesday night, so fantasy football season is also upon us. That’s also fine. I get that it’s very easy to shift your focus away from a fantasy baseball team that’s going nowhere, but you owe it to your league to keep at least one of your eyes on the league for as long as it takes to set a complete lineup every day.

The bottom line is that at one point, you made the decision to join a fantasy baseball league. When you made that decision, you committed a full year to your league’s members. I’m not saying that you need to go out and make trade offers (assuming you don’t have a trade deadline), or become a super-streamer. But at the least, you have to give it an effort until your season ends. You may not be anywhere near a title, but you do or fail to do will have a big impact on those who are.

Tags: Head To Head Strategy