Managing a Team When You Can’t Manage a Team

I spent the last nine days in a baseball-less haze, wandering the fjords of Norway and promising my wife (as those of us with significant others have to do from time to time) that fantasy baseball would not interrupt our vacation the way it does many (okay, okay…all) of our other nights. Sadly, the commissioners of my leagues did not agree to my recommended “everyone takes a hiatus and stats don’t count this week because Chad is out of the country” rule.

Baseball is Summer and Summer is a heavy time for vacationing, which means that most owners will, at some point, have to go a few days without maniacally checking their rosters on a daily basis. How do you go about doing this without suffering a free fall in the standings?

Clearly part of this depends on your format, and I took different approaches in my weekly and roto/points leagues. Here is a quick look at how I handled my rosters in each format.

Roto/Points Leagues
Prior to leaving the country, I went through and set my lineups for each day. For the first couple days, when I knew who was scheduled to be on the mound, I set my rotation as normal. After that, I ignored matchups and benched most of my pitchers, leaving in only those guys who I would start against anyone at any time (the Clayton Kershaws and Justin Verlanders of the world).

Typically I would play matchups with less sure-thing pitchers, but in this case, I just passed. Rotations get moved around too often, people miss expected starts, get pushed back a day, have rain outs, etc. and without the ability to adjust on the fly, I felt I was better off missing a start I would have liked than getting one I would have skipped. If you are used to managing your rotation daily, trying to do it a week out is probably not a good idea.

For hitters, I used a similar approach. Especially in ottoneu, I love players like Allen Craig – big bats that you can get cheap because they don’t play every day. The problem is you have to manage them closely and check their lineups daily. When I can’t do that, I bench them. I might miss some good games, but I wouldn’t get stuck using one of my 162 games at 1B on an 0-1 pinch hit appearance from Brandon Belt.

This meant not fielding a full lineup most of the week, but I am okay with that. I will make up those games over the course of the year.

Matchup League
In a weekly matchup league (at least in the ones I have played in) there are not annual innings or games played limits, meaning that a guy coming in and playing one inning as a defensive replacement doesn’t hurt you in the long run. Similarly, you have to be more aggressive with your pitchers because losing a win or a few strike outs can be the difference between winning or losing the week. Over a season, these things wash out…not over a week.

So for these leagues, I started a full-lineup of my best players every day, favoring those most likely to play, but willing to take four days of a stud part-timer over seven days of a mediocre starter. I also ran out a full rotation all week, and this time I DID play matchups with my starters, trying my best to keep guys in the day before, the day of and the day after any start I expected them to get.

Any Format
Before you go, scour the waiver wires and make sure you aren’t missing anyone you might want or need. Over the next week, there will assuredly be injuries, promotions, demotions, etc. and you’ll be behind on taking advantage. Make sure you have a leg up the few days before you fall behind.

After you get back, review each team and league – see who on your team was hurt or came back, who on other teams got cut, etc. and, again, scour the waiver wire. Make sure you are aware what went on while you were gone.

Finally, while you are gone (and when you get back) don’t stress about the results. In the big picture, it is just one week and that won’t sink your team in any format.

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Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

10 Responses to “Managing a Team When You Can’t Manage a Team”

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  1. Nick says:

    Go through and set your lineups sure, but get someone outside of the league you trust and let them co manage while you’re gone. In competitive leagues, your entire league can be ruined with a bad week of managing.

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    • Chad Young says:

      I dislike this approach because I think it is asking too much of someone to be as focused on my team as I am. Plus, I tend to have complicated scenarios I count on – Allen Craig is my starting MI most of the time in ottoneu, but when he doesn’t play, I move in someone else, often Kyle Seager. With Zimmerman out, Seager has been at 3B for me a lot, which complicates matters. And in some cases, if an OF or two have bad matchups, I might prefer starting one of my other MI over that OF, moving Craig to the OF to make room. This is just a lot of information to share. And that is for one of 12 offensive positions.

      Besides, as long as you are conservative with your lineups, one bad week should not sink you in any format. In a roto league, you can effectively turn that week, with partial lineup use, into 5ish days and make up the other days on Mondays/Thursdays during the season. In a matchup league, its the playoffs that matter anyway.

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      • Jay29 says:

        But you don’t need that person to focus in on all the details. When I go away I just get a friend to make sure all my SPs get put into the lineup and that my FAAB adds don’t result in an illegal roster. Don’t worry about matchups, just play batters who have a game, and if not, no big deal. It’s about 1/5th the effort I’d normally put in.

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  2. Ralph says:

    Having spent significant time wandering the world, and not having a wife, I have to ask, you couldn’t have negotiated a 30 minute window with internet access halfway through your trip? There are very few places where internet access isn’t available in some form, unless you’re in remote Africa or the Amazon there’s always a hotel with wifi, or someone’s unsecured wireless connection, or an internet cafe, or a disposable cellphone SIM card with data access. I’ve even accessed the internet smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

    I can’t really think of a whole lot of scenarios where you would be unable to access a team for a significant period of time. I guess if you were going for an extended hospital stay you could wind up with no internet access (or do hospitals have wireless internet these days?). Maybe hardcore outdoor activity types that go on week long wilderness hunting/fishing/canoeing/rock climbing/etc type trips.

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    • Chad Young says:

      I think there are a few issues here: 1) I assure you, having a wife makes a very large difference. Managing all my teams every day takes time and when we go on vacation, it is definitely in the best interest of my marriage (and my long-term happiness) to just assume fantasy baseball is off the table for that week. 2) When I am on vacation, I don’t really WANT to spend time on the internet checking up closely on things like lineups. Maybe I check enough to set my rotation, but I am not worrying about whether or not a random guy is getting an off day or a start on a Wednesday when looking up lineups means less time exploring wherever it is I am for the week.

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    • byron says:

      I do have a wife, and the only problem with getting a half-hour window of internet time on vacation is when there’s only one computer.

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  3. Johnny Come Lately says:

    I’m facing this dilemma in a month. We’re headed to Italy for 16 days. I know, woe is me. I’m attempting to talk the wife into purchasing an iPad under the guise of we should have internet access in order to confirm our plans and find restaurants and the like, when really, I want to be able to access my currently 1st place fantasy team. Not every day mind you, but just 10 minutes on 3 or 4 days out of the 16 will make a huge difference.

    Without that, I’ll likely do as you recommend — put any fringe players on the bench and just roll with possibly depleted lineups for 2 weeks.

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    • Chad Young says:

      If it helps your cause, my wife will readily agree that having an iPad was a huge help on our trip. It’s not a global mobile device, so the 3G won’t work overseas, but when we needed to check train schedules, restaurant reviews, etc. it really helped to be able to hop on wi-fi for a few minutes and check things out!

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  4. Shaun Catron says:

    I thought this was an article about Robin Ventura. :(

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  5. Jose says:

    Pretend you have extreme diarrhea and set your lineups with your phone in the bathroom?

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