Fantasy Baseball Strategy: Make It a September to Remember

When the calendar flips over to September, that signifies that there is approximately one month left in the MLB season and things in the fantasy baseball land for season long leagues become pretty tense. It is the time of the season where you really need to make some calculated moves and you can’t be afraid to take some risks depending on the position that you’re in. Whether you’re in a head-to-head league vying for playoff glory or if you’re in a roto league trying to squeeze out every extra roto point, intelligent decisions down the stretch (and some good fortune) will provide you the best opportunity to achieve fantasy greatness. Here are some September tips and nuances to be aware of to help guide you.

Pay Attention to September Call-Ups

Once September 1 rolls around, MLB rosters expand to the entire 40-man roster, as opposed to the 25-man roster that they normally play with up until that point. This means that any player that is on a team’s 40-man roster is eligible to be called up from the Minors without the team having to make a corresponding move to send another player down to the Minors or to place another player on the DL. This gives MLB teams the opportunity to give young players some Major League experience for the final month of the season and it also allows for MLB teams to have some extra reinforcements to give their regular starters more rest or to utilize players for specialty roles such as pinch-running, pinch-hitting, defensive replacement, or situational pitching.

So there are going to be some prospects who are promoted to the Majors during this period (whether it is on September 1 or later in the month) who are going to step into significant roles for their team to become very fantasy relevant and could potentially provide excellent returns.  Whether it is an out of contention team giving auditions to their prospects or a contending team trying to put their best players on the field to vie for a post-season berth, there’s always going to be players who are called up in September who can make a positive fantasy impact. So pay attention to who is being called up and what role they are going to have on their team because you may be able to snag them off the waiver wire.

As previously mentioned, September call-ups gives MLB teams more opportunity to give their regulars some more rest and also to utilize players in specialty roles such as pinch-hitting and pinch-running. So some of the regular big name players may end up losing some starts or being replaced late in the game. With some extra speed guys off the bench, players like David Ortiz or Albert Pujols will get pinch ran for even more often late in the game, which takes away run scoring opportunities. While this won’t significantly impact your fantasy decision making on which players to start, it is definitely something worth knowing and being aware of.

Player Injuries

Another impact of September call-ups that is often overlooked or never thought of until the situation actually arises is the situation pertaining to player injuries. If a player incurs an injury in the late days of August leading up to September or in the actual month of September, then that player likely will not be placed on the disabled list. This is because with the MLB rosters expanding to 40 players on September 1, there really is no incentive or necessity to place an injured player on the DL when teams can freely promote any player that is already on the 40-man roster. It is a real unfortunate and annoying situation to deal with when you have an injured player that you don’t want to waive because you want his potential production for when he is healthy again, but you also don’t want him clogging up a spot on your roster, especially when your league has DL slots. In this situation, you just need to use your best judgment and decide what would be best for your team.

Utilize Schedules and Matchups to Your Advantage

While this is a strategy that should be used all season long, it really comes pronounced in the final month of the season when you need to make that final push. Glance at teams’ schedules and see what the rest of the season has in store for them. If a team has a road trip to Coors Field then maybe there’s some available hitters from that team who should have the opportunity to produce in the thin air. If a pitcher who is dominant at home but horrible on the road is projected to make 4 of his final 5 starts on the road, then use that knowledge to your advantage whether it means you bench him for the road starts or just outright waive him, which brings us to the next section…

Don’t Be Afraid to Waive Players

In the right situation, even if it carries some risk, you have to be open to the idea of waiving certain players. With only a month left in the season, this is when you really want to ride the hot hands and/or those who have favorable matchups. Injured players, players in prolonged slumps, or players in unfavorable situations are not going to do your fantasy team much good. So with only a month left in the season, there is much less risk to waiving a star caliber player who is not producing. This notion becomes a bit more cloudy in keeper or dynasty leagues, but waiving star caliber players in redraft leagues definitely needs to be given thought.

This doesn’t mean because Mike Trout only hit .218 with 1 HR in August you go and waive him for Franklin Gutierrez who hit .339 with 7 HR in August (though Gutierrez does make for a nice player to utilize against left-handed pitching). But for a better example, let’s take a look at Hanley Ramirez in the 2015 season. Ramirez produced well early on, but then he was hit with various injuries and he has missed 26 games of the season through August 31 (without ever being placed on the DL) — at least 20 of those 26 games missed were due to injury with the remaining games being routine days off. At the writing of this article, Ramirez has missed the last 4 games due to shoulder fatigue and he has hit just .183 with 0 HR and 7 RBI since the All-Star break. If and when Ramirez does return to the starting lineup, there’s really no telling if he can begin to produce again considering his awful performance in the second half with his nagging injuries likely hampering him. And even if he does eventually return, with the Red Sox out of contention he will likely be given extra rest. So it just seems like a poor outlook for him and I wouldn’t be afraid to cut fantasy ties with him if a viable replacement is available (I already have waived Hanley in a league).

Maximize Games Played/Innings Output

In many types of fantasy leagues, especially those with daily lineup changes, there are set limits on how many games you can use at each fantasy position and how many innings your fantasy pitchers may accrue for a team. In the final month of the season, this is where you really have to make it count and try to use as many games and innings as possible in an intelligent way. This doesn’t mean you go and pick up just any player and insert them into your starting lineup just for the sake of using more games or innings. Rather be smart about it and utilize some of the tips that were previously mentioned here to build a starting lineup for each day or week that will also give you an opportunity to use up as many games and innings as possible.

GOOD LUCK!

Daily Fantasy Baseball Strategy: Introduction & Weather

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***This will be the first article in a series of posts that will discuss daily fantasy baseball strategy, and the topics are an introduction and how to factor in the elements of weather when constructing a lineup.

INTRODUCTION

The milestone development in fantasy sports came in 1980 with the advent of Rotisserie League Baseball, which was so aptly named after the restaurant (La Rotisserie Francaise in New York City) where the idea was formed and where the pioneer participants of the league would meet to play.  Of course today, we just simply refer to that type of fantasy scoring system as “roto,” short for “rotisserie.”  So if you have been playing fantasy sports for years and thought that the term “rotisserie” had some other special meaning besides a style of roasting meat, then think again.  It’s about as simple of a way to have given a moniker to the game, but sometimes simplicity is best.

From that New York City restaurant blossomed an addicting trend that really began to explode in the mid-1990’s coinciding with the internet boom.  For thousands upon thousands of enthusiastic sports fans, playing fantasy sports has made actual sports even more interesting to watch and follow throughout the season, and the industry just continued to grow when the new millennium began.  In 2006, a number of fantasy sports operating sites began to offer daily fantasy sports (DFS) games where participants could draft a team for a single day and win or lose money accordingly.  It has the same concept of season long fantasy sports leagues that are based on point scoring systems, (i.e. players earn or lose points based on their performance).  But it wasn’t until 2009 when daily fantasy sports began to garner more attention with the introduction of FanDuel who is considered to be the current leading DFS provider in the industry (though DraftKings is hot on their tail). Ever since then the daily fantasy sports industry has grown exponentially with several sites paying out millions of dollars in winnings each year.

Sports purists may argue that fantasy sports and daily fantasy sports in particular taint the purity of enjoying sports and rooting for your hometown or favorite teams, and that they bring in bandwagoneers and too many casual, unintelligent sports fans.  But the fact of it is daily fantasy sports games are helping the sports themselves grow so much by getting thousands of individuals more interested in a wider range of sports and in a variety of ways.  People attend more live sporting events and increase viewership via televsion and/or streaming app services for these sports that they may not otherwise pay attention to, and these individuals are becoming more familiar with the teams, players, and nuances of the games, which is good for the fan bases.

For instance, as a child I was introduced to the NHL by one of my childhood best friends whose aunt married the owner of an NHL franchise.  So I attended a lot of games with the perks of meeting the players in the locker room and getting free souvenirs and such (I’ve got Eric Lindros’ broken hockey stick still sitting in my closet after 20 years).  I enjoyed watching the sport and all, but never having played hockey myself, it wasn’t as interesting to me and it wasn’t a must for me to watch all the games.  But with the growth of daily fantasy sports, I have become increasingly interested in the NHL and have gotten to know a lot of the players’ and teams’ qualities and tendencies. And I even won a pair of tickets to the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend by getting 1st place in a tournament on DraftKings.

However, baseball is a sport that I have always been in love with, and fantasy baseball has been a hobby of mine since the mid-1990’s when I would log on to MSN on my father’s account via the dial-up network on the home’s second phone line. So recently, DFS for baseball has been engulfing me and I have learned a lot about playing the game and what it takes to win.  A lot of the things that I have learned have been through experience and now I would like to share some of the knowledge that I have gathered.

Generally speaking for most DFS sites out there, each player in the player pool is assigned a dollar amount which is his “player salary.”  When choosing players for your lineup, you have to fill each position slot in your lineup without going over the salary cap.  For baseball, the position slots that need to be filled will vary from site to site as some sites may require you to pick two starting pitchers, or some sites may require you to pick two corner and two middle infielders as opposed to a player from each separate infield position.  Also, the player salaries and point scoring systems will differ on each site.  So it is important to be familiar with these settings on whichever site that you choose to play on. Continue reading

Fantasy Impact of Uribe/Callaspo Swap for the Dodgers

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On Tuesday evening with the Braves in town visiting the Dodgers, the two teams agreed upon a multi-player trade with the most notable (I use the word “notable” loosely here) players involved being infielder Juan Uribe going to the Braves and infielder Alberto Callaspo heading to the City of Angels.  Ken Rosenthal is also reporting via Twitter that the Dodgers are going to acquire starting pitcher Eric Stults, relief pitcher Ian Thomas, and one more Minor Leaguer, and the Braves are also expected to get relief pitcher Chris Withrow.

So at first glance you see the “headline” of this trade being a swap of veteran infielders who both grew out of favor with their respected teams, and that it is really inconsequential for fantasy purposes since neither Uribe or Callaspo were setting the baseball world on fire anyway.  However, there are two underlying impacts to the fantasy folk, with one being much more intriguing than the other.  First, I will touch on the less exciting one.

With the Dodgers acquiring Stults, a pitcher who they originally drafted and was with the organization from 2006-09, it indicates that they are not all that comfortable with Carlos Frias and/or Mike Bolsinger in their rotation as they attempt to deal with a pitching staff marred by injuries with Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu out for the season.  In the article “Is Bolsinger a Bullsh**ter?” I alluded to the possibility of the Dodgers looking to the trade market for other options for their rotation and it appears they have done just that.  With the way that Bolsinger has pitched so far, the Dodgers aren’t likely worried about him for the time being, but rather Frias is the guy who could be losing his rotation spot soon after seeing his ERA balloon to 5.34 in a painful beat down by the Padres.  However, Bolsinger may not have too much leash to play with either as the new Dodgers brass is dead set on winning this year and we know that they have the money and wherewithal to go out and acquire whatever player that they see fit. Continue reading

Fantasy Baseball Strategy: Player Multi-Functionality

Before I delve into the fantasy baseball strategy talk, let me take you back to September of 2014 when I discovered a television show on the FYI channel called Tiny House Nation hosted by John Weisbarth, a San Diego sports broadcaster and former host of Yahoo Fantasy Football Live, and Zack Giffin, a tiny house expert and builder.  If you don’t know what Tiny House Nation is or what tiny houses are all about, you are missing out!  As John Weisbarth proclaims in the opening of the show, “Tiny homes are the next big thing!”

I’ll give you a brief insight into what tiny houses are and then show you how it relates to fantasy baseball.  The tiny house movement is a social phenomena where people are downsizing the space that they live in (to houses less than 600 square feet in size), and subsequently pairing down their belongings as well, to enjoy a more simplified way of life, often influenced by environmental and/or financial concerns, or just to have more freedom from the materialistic things in life.  But in order to accomplish the design of these homes and to live efficiently, there is one keyword that is incredibly important within the tiny house community, and that word is multi-functionality.

With pieces of furniture or parts of the home that are multi-functional in tiny houses, the use of the limited space is maximized for a high level of efficiency, allowing for many of the same conveniences and amenities that a traditional home may have the space for.  In fantasy baseball, I believe that multi-functionality is also a very important thing to have.  With multi-functional players, a fantasy baseball team owner is able to maximize the efficient use of a roster.  What I mean by a multi-functional player is a player that is eligible to fill more than one position on a fantasy roster.

Let’s first take a look out how multi-functionality comes into play with hitters on a fantasy baseball team and then we will examine how it helps with pitchers. Continue reading

Fantasy Baseball Strategy: Using Platoons to Your Advantage

Platoon is a 1986 Oliver Stone film about the horror of wars and duality of man for a young soldier in the Vietnam War, starring the always amazing Tom Berenger (or since this is a baseball site, you may know him better as Jake Taylor of the Cleveland Indians).  Sadly, I cannot say that I have seen the movie, but perhaps I should.  I did enjoy another Tom Berenger soldier movie called Sniper where ***SPOILER ALERT*** his character was a sniper.  But I just like sniper movies in general.  Don’t worry though, I am not some guy who is gung ho about firearms.  Instead, they actually frighten me quite much.  I am just a camping sniper when I play Call of Duty so these sniper movies fascinate me.  But back to the topic that I am here to talk about.

The platoon that we need to be talking about here is a situation in baseball where two players share the same position on the same team and split time in the lineup at that position.  The most common usage for a platoon by baseball managers is to use a right-handed hitter at a position when there is a left-handed opposing starting pitcher on the mound, and to use a left-handed hitter at that same position when there is a right-handed opposing starting pitcher on the mound.  The reasoning for this is that the majority of hitters have more success versus pitchers of the opposite handedness.  There are various reasons that would seem to back up this fact, some of which include that versus pitchers of the same handedness, breaking pitches break away from the batter which a lot of players have difficulties with, and hitters tend to have an easier time seeing the ball come out of the hand of a pitcher of opposite handedness.  The extreme to which a player is better versus one-handedness than the other varies from player to player, and some may even have “reverse splits” where they are actually better against same handed pitching.  But generally speaking, hitters are more successful versus opposite handed pitching and this is something that is exploitable in fantasy baseball.

Players that are part of a platoon situation obviously are not going to play every day, which often leads to season long fantasy owners to turn their heads in another direction when drafting or perusing the waiver wire looking for that extra bench bat or to replace an injured player.  However, I am here to tell you that utilizing these types of platoon players in fantasy baseball can be very savvy, if used correctly, and can provide a ton of positive value.  However, it does depend on your league type to fully implement this strategy at its optimum.

We’ll take a look at a couple of real life scenarios to show the benefit of creating a fantasy platoon by examining players that are relegated to a platoon situation in real life, whether it be by using two players who are in a real life platoon on their Major League team, or by using two players from different teams that have favorable splits versus one handedness.  For the first scenario, let’s look at the center field situation in Detroit. Continue reading