The combination of 40-man rosters and per-position game limits creates an interesting conundrum for owners on days with limited games played. Even when there are a more typical 12 games on a Monday or Thursday, rather than the four that were played last night, filling out a lineup can be difficult.
In most leagues, you either have a rather limited bench, leaving you with few choices to fill in for starters on off days, or you have no limits on games played (in head-to-head leagues, for example) allowing you to play anyone you can. But ottoneu forces you to think – do I really want to play my 8th OF and my 5th MI today? Just because they are on my roster, does that make them a good play?
Only in ottoneu, and handful of other deep leagues, do you have 30+ MLB players on your roster. The result is that when a night like last night pops up, you inevitably have some guy on your roster that you don’t typically play, or maybe you only platoon, but…well…no one else is playing and you don’t want to just leave the spot empty, do you?
Brandon Belt is a great example. He is not likely the starting 1B for too many ottoneu teams, but he is rostered almost universally. I own him in one of the FanGraphs Staff Leagues where he typically rides the pine behind Paul Goldschmidt and a parade of Util options. Last night, with only eight teams in action, he was one of only six players on my roster who took the field, but he did so against Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has been extremely strong this year, in a pitcher-friendly park.
I made the decision to keep Belt on the bench, but the decision was not easy. Earlier in the season, I would have almost definitely benched him, preferring to save games played for better players or better match-ups. Late in the season, it may be an easy choice to use Belt, if I need to fill games played before the end of the season.
But now we are in the middle part of the year, and it’s a bit less clear what the right course of action is. This is where the “Games Played” section, at the bottom of your lineups page comes in handy.
As of the start of action last night, I was on pace to get 160 games played at both 1B and Util. This means that over the course of the next 3+ months, I will need to find two games worth playing a guy I typically wouldn’t in order to fill out my allotment.
These games will come in one of two situations – either a Monday or Thursday in which my typical 1B starter has the day off but Belt (or another option) plays, or another day on which the Diamondbacks play but Goldschmidt sits out, while Belt is in the lineup. Over the course of the rest of the year, there will be maybe 15-20 opportunities to make up those games, and the question I had to ask myself prior to game time on Monday was, “Is Belt vs. Ryu at Dodger Stadium likely to be one of the 2-3 best situations out of those 15-20 opportunities?”
I decided no on Belt, but did start Andre Ethier, Carlos Quentin and Kyle Blanks (all guys who platoon for me) in less than ideal match-ups to keep up the pace in the OF. In other leagues, I benched Yasmani Grandal and started J.P. Arencibia (a note on this later), started Nick Markakis (another platoon guy), and gave Mark Reynolds a start despite the fact that his current slump has him on my bench much more often than I would have guessed a few weeks ago.
My goal right now is to play someone as often as possible if I am on pace for 155 or fewer games, but to be more selective if I am on pace for any more than that. That line, though, is a bit fuzzy. For example, a league in which I just traded for Dan Uggla and have Jedd Gyorko on the DL, I am going to be less aggressive about filling out 2B and MI – I’ll have ample opportunity to make that up with better talent later in the year.
As for the Grandal/JPA decision, it is worth noting that C needs to be treated differently. Because you have two catcher slots but only 162 games to be played, you can make up games much quicker than at any other position. If you have 2-3 solid catchers, you can put up two games a day, and that can close a gap quickly.
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