Prime Time: Hold on Fantasy Football, Baseball Season is just hitting its Stride!

Posted on August 30, 2011

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By Geoff “The Commish” Ratliff and Jeremy “J-Rock” Sickel

We can all cite countless examples throughout history of people who had tremendous success in one field, and assumed that they could duplicate that success in another field, only to see themselves not only fail in their new pursuit, but miss out on tremendous opportunities during their prime. Today’s post is dedicated to making sure that you don’t join that list. We want you to be Justin Timberlake (successful transition to film without jeopardizing his music credibility); hell, you can even be Eddie Murphy (realized his music sucked early enough to successfully transition back to his comedic roots), but don’t be Michael Jordan (sure MJ came back after that minor league baseball debacle and won three more rings, but how much better would his legacy be had he won 8 straight?) You can never get back missed championships, and you DO care about your legacy right?

Now that the NFL lockout is well behind us and the calendar is set to change from August into September, most of you have already hit the mental switch from fantasy baseball to fantasy football, and you’ve likely participated in a football draft or two by now. If you’re out of the baseball playoff race, fine, proceed full speed ahead into preparing for football. This column is devoted to those of you who are competing for more immediate fantasy hardware.

There is no doubt that in these final 5 weeks of the baseball season there will be a great opportunity to catch a manager or two slipping. They’ll be so focused on figuring out who to take with that third pick in their football draft that they’ll forget to insert a starting pitcher into their lineup or miss that last minute lineup change that cost them some crucial ABs. Sure, many of the keys to fantasy success are transferrable from sport to sport, but we wanted to give you a few crucial tips to ensure that all the hard work that you’ve put in during the first 5 months of the baseball season doesn’t go to waste because you failed to keep your eyes on the prize!

1) Stay on top of late season injuries. This is actually one skill that requires a similar talent to managing injuries in fantasy football. Early in the baseball season, teams are pretty liberal about their use of the Disabled List, however, once the calendar hits September 1 and the rosters expand to 40 players, you rarely see teams using the DL. This is HUGE because it forces you to pay much closer attention to the extent of a player’s injuries so you know when, and if, to replace him in your lineup. There’s nothing worse than not being on top of a late season injury and then immediately having a two or three day void in your lineup because of that mental lapse. Your league rules on handling such injuries will affect how much control you have over this, but make sure you do your part by staying informed!

2) Work the Waiver Wire and Free Agent Pools! You know that saying about leaving with the girl that brought you? When it comes to success in the fantasy baseball playoffs, that doesn’t necessarily apply. If you rode the Michael Pineda, Cory Luebke, or Jordan Zimmerman horses up to this point, good for you for having a good scouting eye, but if you weren’t also preparing for the possibility that these guys could either be shut down because of predetermined pitch counts, or simply tail off as they handled unprecedented workloads, to quote Tommy from the sitcom Martin, “You stupid!”

This obviously doesn’t apply to just young pitchers. There are likely many of you who rode that Asdrubal Cabrera train hard during the first half of the season, but have noticed a big drop off in the second half. You should be constantly paying attention to who the hottest players are in your league and, unless you are in a keeper league that limits your roster flexibility, don’t be afraid to drop big names in favor of the guys who are going to finish the season strong. Most people were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Desmond Jennings, but it’s the Jesus Guzmans and the Peter Bourjos of the world that lead you to fantasy gold! To this point, make sure you know which players are riding hot streaks over the past month and the last two weeks. If you use Yahoo to run your league, this information is easily sortable so use it!

2A) Know your league’s format. This may seem obvious but knowing the structure of your league will have a tremendous effect on your ability to work the waiver wire and free agent pool. I own B.J. Upton in a 12-team, auction-keeper league, and I’ve got him signed for two more years at $17 and $20 (In this same league I also own Jason Heyward and have him signed through next season at $23). The fact that I’d almost certainly lose the future rights to these guys by dropping them severely handcuffs my ability to make moves. By contrast, my buddy Andrew just dropped Upton in an 8-team, non-keeper league. Easy decision, not only because there are no implications for future years, but also because the pool of available players in this league is much deeper.

3) Effectively exploit match ups. This is easily one of the biggest differences between fantasy baseball and fantasy football, and as such, it’s really important that you be aware of the difference if you’re straddling the line between both sports at this time of the year. Conventional wisdom in football says that you always start your best players, regardless of match ups. If Peyton Manning is facing the league’s best pass defense, you start Peyton Manning. Don’t follow this mantra in fantasy baseball!

When Albert Pujols is 1 for 18 against that day’s starting pitcher, and also happens to be in a recent slump, it’s better to bench him that day in favor of a better match up, assuming you have a decent enough option on your bench. Let’s be clear, the numbers have to be extremely unfavorable to justify the benching, but the key is that this level of analysis is much more available to you in baseball than it is in football. Use it to your advantage.

4) Don’t waste time prepping for football at the expense of studying late season baseball performances. This last bit of advice is a compilation of the previous tidbits, but we cannot be more emphatic about this! Fantasy football seasons are not made or broken on draft day – so don’t be one of those message board gangsters boldly proclaiming that you have your league on lock 5 minutes after your draft ends – but your fantasy baseball season can be lost based on one absent minded day.

Football has only one game a week, whereas most baseball leagues allow for daily transactions. Until your fantasy baseball season is over, pick one day – even a set time during that day – that you will devote to prepping for the next week’s fantasy football match up. Other than that, you need to be all in on the fantasy baseball playoffs.

We are literally talking about two weeks of overlap between the end of the fantasy baseball playoffs and the start of the NFL season. You’ll need at least that much time to figure out what your football team is looking like anyway, so let that thing marinate, and spend your time making sure that pot of fantasy baseball gumbo cooks up just right!

Posted in: Fantasy Baseball