Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fantasy Strategy: Dealing with a bad April

Many fantasy luminaries got off to horrible starts this year ... more so than I can ever recall, actually. Other than preying on the impatient or weak-minded, experienced fantasy owners know to weather the storm and trust that their draft picks will eventually turn it around. Which, as a Prince Fielder owner, will hopefully happen any day now.

In a standard 5x5 league, three or four weeks of bad stats isn't something to worry about so long as your players are healthy and producing. Even the ratio categories -- batting average, ERA, and WHIP -- can typically be corrected with a month or two of productive play. Don't panic with stars that have proven track records. With marginal players whose playing time is eroding, however, I'm usually pretty quick on the draw.

"Returning to the mean," while a very real phenomenon, does not mean you're going to get .400 averages in May to make up for the .200 Aprils. It means your guys will probably return to their career norms. Baseball players will typically do whatever their career says they'll do, with slight downturns or upticks due to age, injury, or small sample size.

There's one category, however, that I do tend to panic a bit about this early in the season. If you're getting buried in the wins department after one month, you've got a problem on your hands.

Wins is a troublesome category for fantasy players. You can do everything right and still end up middle of the pack ... or worse. I am in the top three in ERA and WHIP in just about every league I'm in and either dead last or tied for dead last in wins. Over three squads, I have one win from a relief slot. One. And there's about 10 different relievers spread around those three squads. In my two money leagues, I have zero wins from relievers. They've had their chances, but chance did not favor my prepared mind.

In my big-money league, one opponent already has 17 wins and another has a mere six. I have eight. And there's not much I can do about it. It's not as though I can target a starting pitcher, or a relief pitcher, for wins. Trying to trade a starter from an awful team for an equivalent starter on a good team usually doesn't work. And even if I could pull that off, it's still a crapshoot.

Wins are by far the most precious commodity in fantasy baseball. If your closer gives up a run or two but ends up with a win, you should be happy (so long as he isn't doing it every other day). With an innings maximum of 1200-1500 innings, if someone gets to 95-100 wins they're probably going to win the category outright. I think a number in the 80s last year put you in the mid to upper tier in most leagues.

Jose Valverde has more wins than Felix Hernandez, for god's sake! If by the end of April, you're double digits behind in wins, I wouldn't be so sure that you'll be making up ground in a hurry.


Bob Taylor said...

Yeah, I was starting to get a bit concerned about wins in my weekly-lineup money league, but I've nabbed three wins from four starts so far this week -- Shields, Buchholz and Maholm -- and things are looking much better now.

Mike Bock said...

Wins can come in spurts, just like ... never mind.