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New Year’s Resolutions: Fantasy Baseball Edition

You’re supposed to have the resolutions in place when the new year starts, but, well, my family is still waiting for their Christmas cards from me…for 2010. I can hit print deadlines with no problem, but social deadlines apparently still confound me. C’est la vie.

Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, New Years is still some 45 days away anyway, so consider these early rather than late. With new calendars appearing all over the world and the lessons of last season well and truly learned, here are my resolutions for the 2012 fantasy season. Feel free to post yours in the comments.

1. Stick To The Plan

I spend months coming up with a draft strategy, that’s the whole point of doing mock drafts, reading up on other people’s mock drafts, making positional lists, etc. But when it comes to draft day, I find myself swayed by the shiny or the cheap. $10 for Carlos Lee? Yeah, I can make that work. Jonathan Papelbon going for $4-5 less than I had him on my board? Done and done. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional bargain grab, but when it limits your ability to compensate for risk at other positions, it’s the wrong move. Pedro Alvarez is an intriguing sleeper option, but if making a speculative grab at an underpriced Ryan Howard means Alvarez is your opening day starter, what was all the draft prep for?

2. Wait on Pitching

I’ve been beating this drum all offseason, but pitching is incredibly deep right now and it’s getting deeper. If the rumors of unofficial retirements are true, the talent pool will be shallower for the loss of fantasy stalwarts like Hong-Chih Kuo and possibly Javier Vazquez, but they’ll be replaced by Matt Moore, Jarrod Parker, Yu Darvish, and others coming up from the minors. I like Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Tim Lincecum, et al. as much as anyone, they’re amazing talents, but it’s pretty unlikely that any of those three will be on my teams this year just because of their ADP.

But when I say wait on pitching, I don’t just mean on draft day. The extra depth on the pitching waiver wire gives owners an excuse to be impulsive, but that could mean dropping quality to add a hot start, and that seldom turns out well. To wit, Verlander’s highest ERA, second lowest K/9, and second highest WHIP by month all come in April. I read reputable fantasy columns in 2009 suggesting that Verlander wasn’t worth rostering in mixed after his 1-2, 6.75 ERA, and 1.54 WHIP month of April, despite his 10.9 K/9 and history of substantial improvement in May. If you liked a player enough to draft him in March, don’t let 2-3 bad starts in April change that — unless, of course, someone else gets twitchy and drops someone with clear upside.

3.  Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Alex Rios was a dog last year, so was his teammate Adam Dunn. Ditto Carl Crawford, the aforementioned Alvarez, and any number of other players that fantasy owners hoped on, only to find them weighing teams — real and fantasy — down like an anchor. We all have our fantasy devils and the players we can’t seem to avoid — I wish I knew how to quit Dexter Fowler — and that’s all good and well, part of the game as it were, but I’m resolving to stop using “he killed me last year” as a reason not to draft someone.

Indeed, if you can successfully avoid the “once bitten, twice shy” trap, you can capitalize on other drafter’s reticence. Sure, Rios was abysmal last year, but if he hits .227/.265/.348 again in 2012, I’ll eat my hat and yours, too. He went in the 14th round of the RotoGraphs mock and in the 19th round of the next mock I did with other competent drafters. If, in looking at his stats, you find numbers that disconcert you or make you skeptical of his future production, by all means let him pass, but if the best you can do is “he was awful last year,” perhaps it’s time to remember the old stock brokerages’ mantra: past results are no guarantee of future performance.

So, those are my resolutions for 2012 — those and exercising more — we’ll see if I can stick to them. At least they’ll last longer than the year I went vegetarian.