There are a lot of times throughout the year where the differences between real baseball and fantasy baseball show up. There are however no times when the differences are more transparent than right now, especially when comparing real baseball to roto leagues. Real contenders are trying to identify their strengths and weaknesses and exploring trade options based on that. Head-to-head teams are similar. But in the wonderful world of fantasy baseball roto leagues, things are a little different.
If a real team lacks a power bat, it makes sense that they’ll look to acquire the best available bat between now and July 31. If they need pitching, they’ll go for pitching. If they have a problem playing small ball, look for them to acquire a base stealer. In head-to-head, it’s similar. If a team is losing home runs every week, they’ll look to improve their power. But in roto, where points dominate, it’s not that simple.
To illustrate this, let’s take a look a fantasy baseball roto team of mine. To give you an idea, this team has spent the last few days fluctuating between first and second place. The third place team is not far behind and while the fourth place team is a good distance back, it’s one to keep a close eye on. In total, this is a 13-team, 7×7 league. But before we break down the points, let’s take a look at where I stand.
When I first looked at my offense, my thought was to improve my stolen bases. But in reality, you have to look a little deeper. In a weird way, my low placement in steals is almost an advantage. If I hit rock bottom in steals, I only lose two points. More realistically, I have a pretty good lead on the last place guy, so I am only risking one point.
But why not try to bring in some high steals guys? After all, I can afford for some of the top teams to catch up in home runs and RBI. While I am at it, the hits race seems pretty secure. As Clave has pointed out, winning a category by one gives you the same amount of points that winning by 100 gives. So, why am I unwilling to bench some of my mashers for some steals guys? It’s not that simple.
When looking at potential roster moves, you have to determine not only how many points you can pick up in a category, but also what you risk if you don’t? More importantly, what do you risk if you do?
In the case of steals, guys who could help me in that category would probably not help me much in others. Even someone as strong as Michael Bourn is going to bring my team down in the power categories, while a Melky Cabrera type wouldn’t provide a big enough jolt. I would have to look for a Mike Trout type of player in a trade, and I am not willing to move what it would take to get him.
So, I would be looking at waiver wire steals guy who in most cases, they would probably hurt other stronghold categories.. So, I could catch the guy in front of me, but getting the next guy would mean eight more steals from there, with the one after that being another six ahead. Realistically, I could get up to five total points in steals, or two more.
Again, if I let it ride, the worst I do is lose two points. If I hold as is, I go a long way in securing the current totals in my strong areas, and could possibly pick up at least one point in steals. It’s a gamble worth taking, and it comes down to math.
Sure, I have a cushion in homers and RBI. But my best home run hitters and RBI men also lead my team in runs, average, and OPB, which are close categories. Going too hard for steals puts my points in those categories at risk. So, while I could pick up two points, if I fall from first to second in those categories, I could lose three. If I go beyond that, I lose four or more. In the end, the total points are all that matters. Balance is nice, but having eight points in two categories is no better than having 13 in one and three in another. Picking up a few points in one category only makes sense if you don’t lose them in another.
My pitching is a little simpler. In a nutshell, what I need to do is be very selective with who I start, bring in some holds guys, and maybe make a trade for a closer.
I could just stream like crazy for the counted stats, but that puts my current point totals in ERA and WHIP at risk. Again, picking up points in one category only matters if you at least hold them in other areas.
Good relief pitchers tend to keep ERA and WHIP totals down, while of course also picking up holds, saves, and even an occasional win. Now, I certainly can’t abandon starters, but I would be smart to stream less and avoid bad matchups for the rest of the season with my staple guys.
Now break my team down in the same way that I just did. I am sure that you’re looking at potential trades and waiver wire additions, which is fine. But don’t automatically look for the guys to bolster your weak categories. Dig a little deeper. If you’re in contention with low totals in those categories, you can continue to contend. It’s okay to look to improve, but don’t make a weak category average if it means making a good category average as well. Protecting the points you have is as important as finding points that you don’t.
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