Fantasy 101: In-Season Managing
Here we’ll continue our series on Fantasy 101. This article covers some really basic concepts that new owners may face across the 162 game grind. It’ll take the form of a basic Q and A.
What are these green and red numbers that appear in a table below my lineup?
Congratulations my friend, you have joined a rotisserie or “roto” league! We’re not in Kansas anymore. This is probably the most important thing to keep in mind for roto vs. head-to-head—you have a maximum amount of games played at each position. For example, assuming default Yahoo League Settings, the maximum is set at 486 for OF, of which there are three slots. So let’s look at your roster on opening day. Take a peek at the chart you’ll see 486 under the games remaining column. Assuming you choose to start a player in all three OF slots the following day, you’ll see 483 under the games remaining column. The color indicates if you’re projected over (red) and under (green) in games played for that position.
What about Pitchers?
It’s similar but slightly different. Instead of games played, your pitchers are tracked by innings. So again assuming default Yahoo league settings and a 1400 IP limit, let’s say you start Max Scherzer on opening day and he goes 7 innings. And you also have Craig Kimbrel and he slams the door to earn a 1 inning save. The following day you will have 8 fewer innings remaining, or 1392 IP remaining to stick with our original example.
How should I keep track of games played?
All you really have to do is keep an eye on the “projected” column. It’ll do the counting for you. Basically, you want to make sure that the number in parentheses under the projected column stays as close to (0) as possible. A few in either direction think “-3” or “+3” is not really a big concern, especially early in the season.
The disaster situation you want to avoid here is being unable to accrue stats at a spot in the final week or so because you maxed out your games played. On the other side of it, if you notice the green number getting big, you should consider grabbing a guy off the waiver wire at that position even if he’s not exciting. Keep in mind that any player is better than no player. You’re more or less shooting yourself in the foot every time you don’t start someone at a spot for an extended period while you’re league-mates are accruing stats in the spots that are vacant in your lineup.
One last thing about games played that’s good to know: suppose you find yourself on the penultimate day of the season and you have four games remaining to play in your three OF league. You can start all three OF that day and that will leave you with one game left at OF for the last day. On the last day though, as long you haven’t yet exceeded the games played limit, you can actually still start a player in all three OF slots even though technically speaking, you have just one game remaining. It’s kind of a weird nuance, but it’s very useful to know. The same thing applies with innings pitched too. Provided you are under the cap (1399/1400 IP for example) on the final day, you can start as many pitchers as you’d like and their stats will count.
Any general advice for setting lineups?
For those in daily leagues make sure to check lineups every night to make sure your guys are starting. This information is generally available a few hours prior to the game’s first pitch. Not everyone likes to do this, which is why weekly leagues are a thing. In those leagues, lineups are set—you guessed it—once every week.
One of the things to keep an eye on are hitters with big platoon splits (meaning they hit opposite handed pitchers really, really well) like Matt Adams, Joc Pederson and Mitch Moreland. When they are set to go against several poor right-handed pitchers in a row, they make for pretty decent short-term adds, provided, of course, that you have someone you don’t mind cutting.
Also, don’t be afraid to take a look at a hitter who is doing well and headed to Baltimore or Texas. Both the Rangers and Orioles feature gruesome pitching staffs that present really nice matchups for hitters.
One last thing—please, please make sure you start your catcher in the C spot and don’t clog up your utility spot with a Catcher.
Do I need to keep track of my innings pitched too?!
Yes. Yes, you do. Don’t be like me. In my first roto league, I hit the inning cap without realizing it. There were five days left. I’ll spare you the gory details, but it was agonizing and did not end well. Just be aware of where you’re at, more so as you approach the final weeks.
Should I always start my pitchers when they are slated to start?
It depends! You certainly don’t have to. In general, your top three or four Starting Pitchers are probably (hopefully) players you should feel comfortable starting every night. This ties into the previous question but for roto leagues—if you see that you’re ahead on projected innings (red numbers) it might not be a bad idea to sit your back end starters.
One of the things I like to do if I’m feeling ambivalent is to check the Vegas odds. Similar to the NFL, lines are set for each MLB game indicating which team is favored. Check your guy’s game. If he’s a solid favorite, the number next to him will be negative. The more negative, the better in this case. If he’s a solid underdog (+150 or something like that) then I’d feel just fine parking him on the bench for this one.
What about in head-to-head leagues?
After the first few weeks or so, keep an eye on how your team ranks relative to the other teams in your league in each category. For example, if you find yourself falling behind (last 3 or 4) in home runs, re-assess your team. If you feel like you may legitimately fall short in this category, explore first the waiver wire for options and then trades with other teams.
In H2H categories format, if you find yourself on a Sunday with a slim advantage in ratios (ERA/WHIP), it might not be a bad idea to sit your pitchers, provided you have a good lead in K’s and or Wins too.
Injuries! What to do?
This is a reason why I’m not generally too keen on stashing minor leaguers in re-drafts. More on that later. With the advent of the 10-day IL (formerly the DL), injuries can quickly stack up like firewood. The default for the standard Yahoo league is set to 2 IL (Injured List). I can almost assure you that at some point in the season, you’re going to have to have more than two players on the IL, so you’re going to have make some tough decisions. Your premium players get priority, so guys like Mookie Betts or Chris Sal are the easy calls when they get hurt—you shuffle them straight to the IL.
The tough decisions come when guys on the periphery of your roster get hurt and your IL is full. At this point basically, the only thing fantasy leaguers can do is to try and gauge the severity of the injury and the opportunity cost of burning an active roster spot. The best thing to do with injuries is to keep track of the team’s beat writer on Twitter, as they are the best source for any injury updates. Keep an eye on the standings. If you start to fall and notice someone on the waiver wire that could help you then you have to make the tough cut. Remember: the goal is to win. Someone can’t help you if they are hurt.
The other tough situation is when players are hurt but not sent to the IL. In this case, the injury is usually minor enough that the team anticipates the player to be back relatively soon (2-3 days or so), or even more annoyingly for fantasy owners, they could just hold him out of the lineup for a few days, then retroactively send him to the IL when their condition doesn’t improve. Remember to check out the team’s beat writer on Twitter for updates.
Streaming pitchers – what does this mean?
Basically, it means grabbing a pitcher off the waiver wire who has a favorable matchup against a team with a weak lineup hoping for an easy win and dropping him afterward. The Padres have been a favorable matchup in recent years and the Giants, last year in particular, were beyond awful offensively and a good target for streaming. The Marlins and Royals this year figure to be prime targets to stream pitchers against. Every Sunday Nick writes a start/sit article that you can check out for potential pitchers to stream.
Star player is struggling. What to do?
Baseball is a very long season, so I would not do anything hasty that you might regret. If you have a player with a long track record of being productive and he has been doing a whole lot of nothing lately, I’d bench him first. If it continues (as in weeks), I’d recommend doing a little research.
You can get a better idea of what is going on by exploring a player’s advanced stats. Baseball Savant is a great resource to look at if you want to delve into more advanced statistics. You can find an introduction to advanced stats here.
Don’t want to do this? No worries! We’ve also got you covered here at PitcherList. Throughout the season, there will be a series of articles addressing underperforming players and what to do.
Let 2018 Matt Carpenter be a cautionary tale for you. Trust me, I learned that one the hard way. More often than not, practicing patience tends to pay off in baseball.
In general, I’d avoid trying to sell a player who is really struggling. Conversely, it may not be a bad idea to try and acquire an underperforming player from a frustrated manager if you think you can get him at a cheap price. The old “buy-low.” For more on trades, look here.
What about waivers and free agents?
As long as you’re not dropping anybody that you might regret, as in, early picks or guys with any appreciable upside, I’d be all for it.
If you’re wondering if a guy is the real deal or just a can of beans having a hot week, we’ve got you covered in the “Is it Legit” series throughout the year.
One thing to keep in mind for add/drops: your league settings! Some leagues have same-day add/drop, meaning you can use the player the same day you add him, and some don’t. It’s especially important to know when you’re grabbing a pitcher to stream. Nothing is worse than grabbing a pitcher and realizing you can’t use him for his start today because your league doesn’t have same-day add/drop.
And prospect stashing?
I’m a little conservative when it comes to stashing prospects in standard redrafts. Roster spots are really precious in these formats, so generally speaking, I’m hesitant to do so. Unless it’s a clear service time manipulation deal and we know with relative certainty that he’ll be called up soon—think Kris Bryant in 2015, Ronald Acuna last year or Eloy Jimenez and Vlad Guerrero Jr this year—then I’d probably hold off in most cases. Those guys are drafted anyways, but you get the point I’m trying to make. Trying to guess when someone is going to get called up can quickly lead to frustration. For more on service time and what it means for fantasy look here.
Keep in mind a lot has to go right for a prospect stash to work. One, you need the team to actually call them up soon and two, said prospect needs to hit the ground running once in the show. Cases like Juan Soto are not the norm. If you’re ahead in the standings and doing really well, by all means, go for it. But keep a close eye on how your team is doing. If you start losing ground or get hit by injuries, you have to be ready to give up the ghost so to speak and either trade the prospect if you can or cut him and add someone who can help you now.
Better yet, instead of burning a roster spot if you’re really intrigued by a particular prospect, I’d recommend following that team’s beat writer on Twitter. That way you’ll be one of the first to know if a call-up is imminent. If you’re worried you’ll get beat to the punch, I’d avoid free agent leagues. Instead, make sure your league is a waiver wire only league. In those leagues, waivers run, generally speaking, once or twice a week, allowing every team ample time to set a list of claims. Those leagues are fairer for everyone, especially those who can’t afford to have their eyes glued to a screen every day.
And about pitching prospects—they are even more volatile, generally speaking. I would, for the most part, avoid stashing any pitching prospects entirely in re-drafts. Rookie pitchers are tough investments and not something I usually want to bank on in re-drafts. Ok, we can make an exception for Chris Paddack. Keep in mind though young arms are often treated with extra caution by teams, as workloads are constantly being monitored. Remember, there are no guarantees with rookies, so don’t hang on too long. There’s no shame in opting for crusty veterans who can help you now versus guys that are still sitting in the minors. Never forget, flags fly forever!
Cover Graphic by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)