As dedicated fantasy baseball managers, we love the grind that is the regular season. There are few better feelings than going wire to wire, from draft to playoffs, and running the gauntlet on the rest of your league by winning a championship. But as fantasy baseball managers, there are several things we need to consider and plan for in order to hoist that fantasy championship trophy up at the end of the year. I am here to break those strategies down in the latest edition of Fantasy 101.
Once you get to a certain point in the season (and that point is typically between the All-Star Game and the beginning of August), you need to take a hard look in the mirror—or at your fantasy team—and ask yourself, “Do I have a legitimate shot at making a playoff run?”. Now, a lot of factors go into answering this question appropriately, such as league standing, roster construction, remaining schedule, injuries, etc. If you find yourself floating around the final playoff spot in your league at this point, you are very much still in it, and frankly, only a move or two away from being a real threat come playoff time.
Planning ahead can really set you apart from the rest of the pack. This means taking a look at the waiver wire, as well as seeking out potential trade partners to improve your team. If you are a team who has cruised all year long, maintaining a position in the upper third of the standings, then you may want to rummage through the waiver wire for some potential long-term gold. Perhaps a manager from a bottom-feeding team dropped an injured established veteran who will not return until the end of August, thus not helping them in the immediate future. Here is where you can turn someone else’s trash into your very own treasure. As long as you have the roster flexibility, there is no harm in picking up that guy and stashing him for your playoff run. Do some research about some potential September call-ups, as well. Those high-upside impact arms and bats can single-handedly win you a championship if they get enough playing time upon arrival.
If you are one of the teams fighting for one of those final spots, you need to look back at your season thus far and assess your weaknesses. Once you pinpoint the weakest aspects of your roster, it is time to slide into those other owners’ DM’s and start wheeling and dealing. If you are in that situation, it is usually best to shop one of your best players and maximize your return to fill multiple holes. No matter how you slice it, planning ahead for a playoff run is a savvy move that can really help even the most novice of fantasy players.
Know Your Opponent
You made it! You’ve reached the playoffs in your head-to-head league and now you must face your initial obstacle: your first-round opponent. You have been grinding all year, day in and day out with these ladies and gents and now is your chance to put the fork in them and assert your dominance when it matters most. A huge key to victory in the fantasy playoffs is to know your opponent’s roster, including their strengths and weaknesses.
For instance, if when looking over the opposing team’s construct you notice that they are heavy-handed when it comes to relief pitchers, it might make sense to grab a couple of two-start pitchers to counteract and almost assure yourself those counting stats like wins and strikeouts. Having a plan of attack in each round of the playoffs is key and can be the difference between getting bumped right away or having a lengthy run.
Ride The Hot Hand… To An Extent
As Derek Jeter once said: “Good teams make the playoffs, hot teams win the playoffs”. This is certainly true when it comes to fantasy baseball, as well. You sometimes have to throw caution to the wind and ride the hot hand over a struggling veteran. While it may hurt to do so, it is often what separates you from a playoff pretender and a playoff contender.
Now, let it be known, I am a true believer in trusting your studs and leaning on the guys who brought you to the dance. I am not saying you need to bench Mike Trout because he is hitting .210 over the past week for Kevin Pillar who has hit four home runs and stolen five bags in that time. The upside of a player like Trout, who more or less carried you to the playoffs in the first place, is far too great to ever even consider benching. There are certain players who you just cannot risk sitting when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of the playoffs. I am talking about those fringe players who have been consistent for you, but not necessarily league-winning talents. Those are the guys you need to take a long look at and ask yourself, “Can this guy potentially win me a week?”. If you are uncertain in your internal response, then they should be on the chopping block for a hot waiver wire add or a guy on your bench who has been tearing it up for the past couple weeks.
I cannot stress enough that if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it. Trust your studs who got you there. But do not be afraid to take some chances on some week-winning players and play the matchups. If Ryan McMahon is out on the wire and you see he is playing the entire week at home in Coors Field, where he hit 18 of his 24 dingers in 2019, pull the trigger. That is the kind of difference-maker that I am referring to when I say play the matchups and ride the hot hand. Just don’t get too cute with it.
If you are someone who utilizes the streaming method all year long, then this is a no-brainer for you. As I mentioned before, snagging a couple of two-start pitchers at the beginning of the week, particularly in weekly lineup leagues, is a smart move to boost those counting stats. Streaming pitching is somewhat of a science and not nearly as simple as it may seem. There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right streamer, and in the playoffs, it can be a life or death decision.
One of the upsides of streaming pitchers in the playoffs is the increase in favorable matchups due to playoff contenders resting their stars. In the grand scheme of trying to find the right matchups, it helps when the normally stout lineup is missing a couple of bats due to rest or the potential of a nagging injury that management does not want to risk worsening, especially if they are playoff-bound. Your typical “shy away” matchup all of a sudden doesn’t look too shabby. If there is some potential for a quality start or a surplus of strikeouts, it may be worth a shot to take a chance on those matchups. So just keep tabs on lineups changes and nagging injuries during the final stretch run of the season as it could come in handy when it comes time to make a couple of moves.
All in all, you want to target the streamers who have at least one of the following:
- Favorable matchups (i.e. against the lower quartile offenses, lineups with resting stars)
- Two starts, with at least one super favorable matchup
- High swing-and-miss upside starter
- Consistent inning eaters
Keep Your Eye On The Prize
Remain focused. It is very easy to get distracted by other inferior fantasy sports by the time playoffs roll around. You have been grinding for six months and have earned your spot amongst the best in your league. It would be an absolute travesty to let all of your hard work go to waste and result in immediate elimination.
Set your weekly football lineup, get it out of the way, and focus all of your attention on your playoff matchup. Winning a fantasy baseball league is one of the most rewarding feelings one can experience. A baseball season is such a marathon that only the elite fantasy players have not only an immense attention span, but in my opinion, require a far more legitimate strategy to succeed. That being said, you have made it this far, do not let this opportunity to rule the fantasy baseball world slip through your fingers!
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)