It’s Time To Win Your Fantasy Baseball Championship… Here’s How

Fantasy Baseball BeltNe-glect (ni-‘glekt) tr.v.

1. To pay little attention to; fail to heed; disregard
2. To fail to care for or attend to properly
3. To fail to do or carry out, as through carelessness or oversight

– The Dictionary

Neglect can be a horrible thing. Like when children are involved. Some feel animals fall in the same spectrum of seriousness, but those people are unhinged. Crippling credit card debt hangs from the rung below, followed by a sliding scale of depreciating gravity beginning with the current status of the endangered Ethiopian Eel through personal hygiene bottoming out with the upkeep of household plants – life’s forgotten victims. And somewhere on this list your Fantasy baseball team has recently been etched. Where it lands is a unique blend of you current position in the standings fused with your interest in Fantasy football. The calendar flip from July to August has been collectively agreed upon as the date when Fantasy football is officially more back than sexy. Plus, it’s summer, also known as the brief three-month period when we can all be coaxed out of the house and away from our TV/Computer/iPad/iPhone/Comfy-chair-with-custom-ass-groove home set up for brief periods. Fantasy baseball can quickly become an afterthought. It happens. We’re all guilty.

Now, I’m not talking about the type of neglect that infuriates my leaguemates. I’ll never be the guy that continues trotting out the All-DL team as an excuse for a starting roster. People legitimately hate that guy. It’s just the little things, like randomly catching the end of an Astros/Red Sox game at a bar and noticing Josh Fields pick up a save and making the drunken iPhone play to grab him before anyone else can. Not realizing, of course, Chia-Jen Lo was the better choice. Well, not better, just the guy who’d see more save opportunities. In reality they both reek, and probably shouldn’t be on anyone’s team. I wasted that move on Fields only to burn another one days later grabbing Lo. That doesn’t happen on April 23, especially not to me, someone who once streamed Nelson Figueroa on the last day of the season, flipping three categories and willing myself to a title. Then proceeded to wake up early the next morning and stormed off to the print shop, solely for the purposes of handing the runner-up a business card reading “Pat Mayo: Waiver Wire Savant” later that afternoon. Oh, the fun you make for yourself when you’re jobless. Yet, this exact situation seems to crop up every August. Your shortstop needs an upgrade and you fail to realize Xander Bogarts joined Red Sox days ago – POOF. Terrific. How many more – potentially – impactful middle infielders are realistically going to get called up – None? Negative one?

Fortunately, I only said neglect can be a horrible thing. It’s not applicable in all cases. As cracked as it sounds, sometimes managing your roster like Chris Croker would have you treat Britney (too late) is the best medicine. In a lab, if you tamper with an experiment too much you may end up with an endothermic reaction instead of the desired exothermic outcome. At least, I think that can happen. If not, my first-year chemistry prof. may have failed me for kicks. Basically, if you don’t pick your scab it heals quicker. Yes… that makes more sense. Not a optimal long-term strategy, but taking a step back every now and again before the season’s final stretch has its benefits. If nothing else, it lends you the opportunity to evaluate your team, because knowing where your strengths and deficiencies lay is the path to winning a championship. No time left for lethargy. Every pick up, every bench move, every stat needs to be properly planned – starting with a cast of bums that need to be exorcised to the inferno of waiver wire hell.

Owning B.J. Upton, Starlin Castro, Paul Konerko, Chase Headley, Ike Davis and/or Jimmy Rollins has been like being in an abusive relationship. They have no redeeming qualities and continuously pain you, but they’re kept around anyway. Cut the cord. Use September as a fresh start. Don’t let them hurt you any longer. We have five months of quantitative evidence that they all suck. Banking on them turning it around now is sheer insanity. Not only are they torturing your totals, they’re occupying valuable roster real estate that should be leased to the likes of Will Venable, Khris Davis, Matt Dominguez, L.J. Boats & Hoes, Justin Ruggiano, Denard Span and other wildly available options currently riding hot streaks. It’s twofold: You get an influx of stats over the nothing those “name” players were generating, and there’s no hesitation dropping them when the streak has run its course for some new hot thang. For example, as I’m writing, this info pops up on my timeline:

Take a guess who was first to the scene in my leagues? I don’t know how Walker’s going to perform or even if he’s actually going to be called up, but it’s worth the risk over Edwin Jackson at this point. And if he doesn’t join the Mariners this weekend, so be it. Return from whence you came. Although, I feel like Taijuan could be a superb Fantasy clubhouse glue guy… did you know he also dabbles in movie reviewing?

Just remember to cool it now; every new addition needs be tailored to your current situation. Without an understanding of your status in each category, pickups won’t make the slightest difference. And it’s not as simple seeing you’re last in home runs and handing Mark Reynolds your team’s fictional jersey. Find out how many long flies you’ll need to gain points in the stat before making the move. Sure, being in last theoretically means there’s a full complement of roto points to be made up, but if you’re 30 behind the next closest competitor, the effort will be futile. When you’re asked on September 29 how you finished in the category, you’ll respond, “dead last.” Target the stats where feasibility to make up ground is on this plane of existence – steals is usually a better place to focus. Speed is the most readily available stat to pluck from free agency. Acquiring 30 SBs off the wire is far easier than 30 HRs.

And this still applies in head-to-head leagues. The playoffs loom, and it’s no longer necessary to try and win 10-0 every week. If you can, that’s great, but probably not pragmatic. If you’re limping into the post season with a fairly average team – aka most of us – it’s time to take a fearless moral inventory and really figure out the six categories you can procure from here on out. Of course, it’s far more difficult to do in this format with stats being so random from week-to-week, but there are tiny advantages to be had. If you only have one closer, just tank saves and focus on wins and strikeouts with more starters. ERA and WHIP are too random to gameplan for; the other two can be achieved through attrition. If you always lose steals and Emilio Bonifacio is your second baseman, go gamble on Chris Nelson, Scooter Gennett or someone else at the position with an ounce of power potential; you’ll be better off.

Same thing goes with pitching; more so when it pertains to innings limits. If you’re approaching that magic number you need to be ultra cognizant of who on your staff gets starts. Frankly, the best play is dropping all your non-aces and littering the lineup with middle receivers with sublime strikeout rates. This way, you can conserve innings while still padding the category. Just make sure to select hurlers that get lots of work, so their Ks and top notch ratios actually have a meaningful impact. From the past month – and for the foreseeable future – here are your best bets:

Nate Jones: 13.27 K/9, 19.2 IP, 2.29 ERA
David Carpenter: 12.56 K/9, 14.1 IP, 1.88 ERA
Neal Cotts: 12.0 K.9, 12 IP, 2.25 ERA
Kevin Zigrist: 11.77 K/9, 13 IP, 0.69 ERA
Yoervus Medina: 11.57 K/9, 14 IP, 1.93 ERA. Also, GREAT NAME!

Again, in head-to-head leagues if you need to come back in pitching and it’s the weekend, you may have to drop the Adam Wainwrights and Madison Bumgarners of the world. Sure, you give your opponents a chance to scoop up an elite starter, but I’d rather face my former ace in the next round than be eliminated. Any means necessary.

Just implementing a few of these changes can be the difference.  They won’t guarantee a championship, but you’ll certainly give yourself a better chance. Snap out of the malaise and break the cycle of neglect. While everyone else spending hours deciding between Miles Austin and Lance Moore as their WR3 – both great PPR options btw – use that time out-strategizing your opponents, because winning is what matters, and you’ll have another three months to focus on football anyway.

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