At this point in the season, we all know our team’s strengths and weaknesses. But it isn’t enough to simply know that your team is third to last in home runs and could possibly benefit from additional power, or fourth in steals with potentially no need to add a speedster. Knowing only your place in the categorial standings isn’t actually all that useful. So here’s an exercise for you to perform on your league’s categorical standings to give you a good idea about how you should set your roster moving forward.
We still have about 7 1/2 weeks left in the season, which is more than enough time to make some significant point gains. To determine what categories to focus on, start by opening Excel or just a blank word document. Type the 10 categories in the first column. Then, look at where you stand in each individual category and estimate how many points you could realistically gain or lose. Type the number you can gain in the second column and the number you can lose in the third. Do this for each category. You can add up all the potential points gained and compare it to the potential points lost and if you’re not in first, then the optimal result would be more (hopefully many more!) points to gain than lose.
You’re not done yet. In fact, that was just the first step. Now you should have numbers like 1 and 3 next to each category and you have to figure out what to do with them. The categories with both minimal gain and loss potential are the candidates to punt. Since most categories are related in some way, steals would probably be the best to get this result in. If you cannot gain or lose much in the category, it’s time to jettison the Cameron Maybins of the world or look to trade someone like Alejandro de Aza for someone who will contribute more to your team during the stretch run. Batting average is also another good result for this scenario. Adam Dunn, here we come!
The next set of numbers that require action are the categories with high figures in both the potential gain and potential loss columns. These are your ultimate focus categories as you need to be on the offensive here, which will provide the side benefit of staying defensive so you don’t lose any precious points.
Last, you will see several categories that you cannot gain much, but can lose a lot, and vice versa. There is no easy answer here for what exactly you should do. If you have high potential gain with minimal loss potential, it wouldn’t hurt to do nothing and focus more on the categories with high figures in both. However, the high loss with minimal gain potential scenario presents a problem. You’ll have to be defensive and consider adding that category simply so you don’t lose points, but with no hope to gain anything, it might feel like there is little benefit to your team.
After going through this exercise and analyzing your players, you might reach some surprising conclusions on who may be best to keep active. All set in steals, but need home runs and RBI? To the bench you go Shane Victorino. Clearly, this is something you would never do early in the season. But right now, a hitter’s overall projected value for the rest of the season isn’t very meaningful, as their actual value to your team currently may be drastically different. Don’t need home runs, but are in the thick of things in both batting average and steals? Corey Hart might be better off on your bench.
Of course, as I alluded to earlier, most of the categories are interrelated. It is rare to find a player who only contributes positively in one category, so you’ll have to compare options and estimate how many points you could potentially gain by making a switch. Although I only used offensive categories for my examples, this obviously applies to pitching as well. However, between having two ratio categories and both closers and starters, the exercise isn’t as beneficial. Basically, you want your starters to pitch well, and if you still need saves, keep your closers active. That’s what you were doing all season anyway, so nothing changes.