Tricks of the Trade – Tips for the Stretch Run

In lieu of a focused piece this afternoon, let’s compile some tips and tricks for the remainder of the season. I’ll categorize everything by platform or scoring type where applicable. We can discuss more ideas in the comments, and I’ll continue to build this post until we have something approaching a complete guide to the “second half.” I’m going to make a few assumptions to keep the bloating minimal. For example, I assume if you’re interested in ottoneu advice then you know the rules and quirks of that particular platform.

General Roto

Pacing: You’re running out of time to effectively manage your pacing. Most leagues have a limit for games played or innings pitched. Usually, the constraint is pretty loose for position players and tight for pitchers. If you’re behind pace for position players, you’ll want to pick up guys with doubleheaders and do your best to start a full slate on Mondays and Thursdays. Managing the pitchers is easier (more below). If you’re ahead of pace, you might want to sit the occasional bad matchup.

Reliever Time #1: Some of you have an innings cap and you’re ahead of pace. It’s time to flip a starter for a good reliever before your rivals realize you’re going to have to cut somebody. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you can use relievers to defend your lead or make up ground in ERA, WHIP, and K/9. Reliever-centric strategies can expose you to low win totals, but you don’t have much choice if you’re ahead of pace.

Ghost Points: As part of pacing, your team could have ghost points (I think I just coined that term). If you’re ahead or behind pace on innings, then your current place in the standings might not reflect reality. Ghost points can be exploited. Say you’ve thrown way too many innings – some owners will give up or pass on opportunities to improve when presented with an apparently insurmountable deficit. They don’t know that you have 10 ghost points because you’re 100 innings ahead of pace. Conversely, competitive teams might take you less seriously if you’re way behind pace and offer you more beneficial trades.

General H2H

Playoffs? Playoffs!?: The playoffs create an interesting dynamic for most H2H leagues. You don’t need to have the best team to “win.” You just need to be good enough to reach the postseason and then get lucky for two to four weeks. Now is the time to start shaping your roster for the inevitable playoff showdown. If you’re in a keeper league, start flipping those marginal keeper starters for better pitching. Shore up your starting position players so you need to spend less time streaming them. Be prepared to act decisively to injuries. Acquire depth when possible. Basically, do more of the things you should have been doing all along.


The Soft Innings Cap: Sometime in September, you’re probably going to come up on your innings cap. If you time things right, you can get a bunch of extra innings. There are two types of innings caps – hard and soft. Yahoo uses the soft variety.

A hard cap cuts off all point scoring at the time of the last inning pitched. It could be the third inning of an eight inning outing. A soft cap counts all stats from the day when the threshold is crossed. If you’re just a few innings short and start six pitchers, you could easily exceed your cap by 35 innings and pick up some extra strikeouts and wins in the process. You’ll usually hurt your ERA and WHIP.


Reliever Time #2: Anyone who follows my writing knows that I love using relievers to improve my rate stats. ESPN allows me to pursue my passion for relievers with vigor. While most platforms count innings pitched, ESPN has a games started cap as their default. An attentive owner can layer in a heavy volume of reliever innings without ever worrying about hitting their cap. This is an all-season activity, but if you find yourself ahead of pace on your games started and haven’t been streaming in a ton of relievers, now is a good time to do so. Unlike leagues with an innings cap, relievers in ESPN should help all five categories.

Starter Streaming: Specifically for 12 team leagues, I tend to find that ESPN owners are aware of the reliever dynamic. That puts a LOT of extra starting pitchers on the waiver wire. If you’re first to the wire, you can get starts from guys like Matt Garza, Phil Hughes, and Jason Hammel. If you pile those up when available, you can shift into a nine reliever strategy with a lot of time left in the season.


I’ve never played on the CBS platform, so I have no specific advice to offer. Anyone have any input?


Scrounging for dollars: Most of the top owners across ottoneu are probably running a little short on dollars to spend on free agents. There are three ways you can acquire more money to spend – cut an expensive player, trade somebody for cash, or trade somebody for an expensive player to cut. Assuming you’ve already cut your Allen Craig‘s, let’s look at the other two options.

The weak teams will often have additional budget AND a busted asset. If you offer them a marginal prospect for $10, they’ll probably ask themselves “couldn’t I just buy a similar prospect for $1?” Yes, they could. If you offer them your marginal prospect for a $30 Billy Butler plus offsetting cash, they might say “well, I’m not going to get better.” Then you can cut Butler for $15. It could be better for the team to just cut Butler themselves, but such owners usually have trouble finding a place to use their dollars. There’s no point bidding $8 for Kyle Schwarber just because they have the money; he’s not useful if you don’t win him for $1.

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Brad is a former collegiate player who writes for FanGraphs, MLB Trade Rumors, The Hardball Times, RotoWorld, and The Fake Baseball. He's also the lead MLB editor for RotoBaller. Follow him on Twitter @BaseballATeam or email him here.

10 Responses to “Tricks of the Trade – Tips for the Stretch Run”

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  1. eliasll says:

    It is hard to calculate but a good tip is to look at SP matchups for at least the upcoming month. With about 13 starts left for every pitcher every outing becomes more important and you might be able to trade an elite SP with tough matchups for HRs or SBs. Also believe counting stats become more relevant than rates. 60% of the season is gone. A .300 hitter will not solve your problems with 200 at bats…

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    • GFuzz says:

      I’m not sure about the rate stats advice. If I had to bet I’d say a team is just as likely to make a rate stat comeback as they are a comparable counting stat comeback at this point in the season. To counter your point, a 90 run player is also not going to solve your problems in that category, but it helps. From experience I also just feel that era and whip are subject to wild swings. A recent 2 week hot streak shaved around 0.4 off my era and put me back in the pack. Also, if I’m right about this, it could be exploitable, because I think many people believe in your conclusion.

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      • BigCat says:

        also disagree with the rate stats advice. You still have yet to earn 40% of your counting stats just as you have yet to earn 40% of your rate stats. Like any category, you have to figure out which leads are insurmountable.

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  2. asdfasdf says:

    Thanks for the article, I never really thought about the ghost points idea before. I just saw that Huston Street is possibly about to be traded to the Angels. Would you drop Santiago Casilla, Mejia, or LaTroy for Benoit? Of course Benoit could be traded too so I’m not sure. Thanks!

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  3. Jacob says:

    My preferred platform is CBS.

    My advice is to have as many starting ptichers as possible. The two best teams in my league both have at least two relief-eligible pitchers and no benched position players. They basically always have at least 9 starts.

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    • Victimize says:

      I prefer CBS as well, my strategy is to stack my lineup first and have 5 pitchers on the bench. As the season progresses i try trade pitchers in 2for1 deals for aces like kershaw, strasburg, felix etc. If your lineups stacked and you have a couple aces on your staff you can rotate other pitchers in based on matchups&2starts. Having good
      RP/SP’s always helps too.

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  4. Dylan-Ernst says:

    Speaking of the stretch run…and the future!

    12-team dynasty. I need 1B/OF help for the stretch run. Ship Hoz/Anibal for Crush Davis/Heyward? Thinking that’s a no-brainer, right?

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  5. Jay says:

    Yahoo – Roto. What’s the strategy if you’re behind on the combo of Wins, ERA, and WHIP but you’re up near the top with almost everything else? 14 team 6×6 OPS+HLD.

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    • Brad Johnson says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Try to trade for top pitchers with high octane offenses. i.e. Jeff Samardzija might be a better fit than Felix (and cheaper).

      Remember, with your SP, the most important uncounted stat is IP/G.

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  6. The Dude says:

    Regarding ghost points – I always calculate K’s per IP to evaluate my true standing in strikeouts.

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