Crunch time

As the temperatures have risen, so has the intensity of the 2011 fantasy season. The end of the All-Star break marks the beginning of the crucial decisions that will separate us all from victory or defeat. As you examine your position in the league standings, you must account for your position in future stats.

What I mean by that is, if you find yourself 10 points out of first and are last in steals, then you obviously need to be scouring for cheap speed or trading for the elites.

There are, however, more subtle problems that tend to rear their heads at this time of year. For most of us, a trade deadline is looming, and any drastic moves must be made now. The amount of risk you are willing to take should directly correlate with your position in the league. If you are in the top four of a 12-plus team league, you must be calculating with every single move and lineup decision.

A bad week for a top-four team can really be devastating to championship aspirations. If you find yourself floundering in the mediocrity of 5-9, you are still in it but need to be very risk tolerant. You’re team should be completely flexible. In a roto format, you should take a look at categories where you have extreme depth and dangle some of your bigger names for holes that could drastically close the gaps in your league standings.

I am currently in five expert leagues. Of those five, I’m number one in three of them: Fantasy Pros 911 bloggers’ league, THT Fantasy Writers league, and a very high stakes league where I’m taking all their money. Shhh! They don’t know I’m an “expert” at this, and I’d prefer to keep it that way. I have by no means locked up the three leauges I am leading, but it’s still nice to be in the driver seat.

The fact that I’m number four in the Expert AL-only league is a miracle. I have had struggles with that team all season long. It might actually be the league that I’ve shown the most skill in that I took a bad draft and turned it into a contender. As I’m sure everyone would agree, sometimes our greatest displays of skill don’t necessarily translate into success stories.

So let’s talk about my fifth and final team. Alongside Derek Carty, we represent The Hardball Times in an expert league called the Fantasy Sports Invitational Challenge, or FSIC for short. It is a very distinguished league hosted by the guys at Fantasy Sports ‘R’ Us. Some of the past top-two finishers include the biggest names in the industry (Matthew Berry, Brendan Roberts, Tim Dierkes, and even our own Derek Carty).

I was a little hesitant to join a league as a sidekick, but after some urging from Derek, I felt that this was a great opportunity to see how the “big boys” play and get my feet wet playing against guys that have more experience than I.

It’s been tough at times. Derek and I have very differing styles of play. Derek is brilliant with numbers and calculations, so it’s no wonder he has seen the success that he has at such a young age, but I’m more of a gunslinger. I’ll shoot from the hip.

In the draft, we butted heads constantly as our styles of play constantly contradicted each other. Derek had researched the league with uncanny diligence and effort, far more than I would ever be willing to exert. Through his calculations, we arrived at the importance of locking down speed in an NL-only league of this nature and competitiveness. In my opinion, he was right.

Securing speed has allowed our team to lead the hitting categories in this rotisserie-formatted league, but we have reached the turning point of 2011 as the sixth-place team in this 12-team league. Obviously, you’re thinking our pitching must be weak, and you’d be right.

Take a look at our roster. This was actually the largest disagreement point for Derek and I during the draft, and it has been our Achilles’ heel all season long. With all due respect to Derek, we both figured our hitting would have performed better than it has to this point. Shane Victorino, Juan Uribe, Brandon Belt, and Marlon Byrd have all vastly underperformed both our expectations.

We had planned to have our hitting be so dominant that our pitching could be serviceable, and we’d still find success. Personally, I like a more balanced hitting/pitching team, but I will wait on pitching since I tend to have a better eye for cheap pitching than value hitting.

Now going back to what I said earlier, a team in the 5-9 positions of a league needs to be willing to move anybody on the roster. Risk is key here. Taking a big risk is not only the right move, it’s the only move. We need pitching, but we can also make up for some points by getting a power hitter.

Here are the standings. Now you see our predicament. Broxton was such a miss that we’ve had to punt saves all together. Several failed trade attempts later, we still haven’t been able to put together a consistent group of starters. Injuries have been somewhat to blame, but the underperformance of Ted Lilly and Clayton Richard has been the most detrimental to this point. Lilly should get better, and Zack Greinke has been the unluckiest pitcher in baseball. We traded Richard for Edinson Volquez three days before Edinson was sent down to Louisville.

Right now we’ve been packaging trade offers consisting of Brandon Beachy, Chase D’Arnaud, Mike Cameron, Tim Stauffer, Broxton, and Kyle McClellan. Right now we’re looking to chase down some wins and a bigger bat.

The Incompleat Starting Pitcher
The end of the nine-inning start and how we got here.

For obvious reasons, we don’t have the trade chips that you would likely want at this point in the season. Beachy has little love in this league even though Derek and I both have very high opinions of him. I know I thought he would really help us get that bat we needed, but we have had no breakthroughs to this point.

Persistence is key. There is really nothing you can do at this stage except believe in the guys you believe in. Do your research of your roster and the rosters around you. Sometimes finding out what other owners like/want will reveal better options than you may have even thought possible.

As an example from another league I’m in, I found out that a guy really loved Tommy Hanson and had Joey Votto listed on his trade block. So I couldn’t pass up the chance to make an offer. As a result, I walked out with Votto and Edwin Jackson for Hanson and Alex Gordon. Needless to say that was a good call on my part.

Back to the FSIC, I’m curious to see what you guys would do with our team.

C- Wilson Ramos
1B- Joey Votto
2B- Juan Uribe
3B- Sean Burroughs
SS- Stephen Drew
MI- Chase D’Arnaud
CI- Michael Morse
OF- Michael Bourn
OF- Jay Bruce
OF- Marlon Byrd
OF- Jon Jay
OF- Shane Victorino
U- Mike Cameron
B- Yonder Alonso
B- Brandon Belt
B- Juan Rivera
B- Wily Mo Pena

P- Zack Greinke
P- Brandon Beachy
P- Tim Stauffer
P- Kyle McClellan
P- Ted Lilly
P- Clay Hensley
P- Edinson Volquez
P- Mike Leake
P- Sergio Romo
B- Jonathan Broxton

Lastly, I would like to thank Al O’Harra and the guys at Fantasy Sports ‘R’ Us for being such great hosts and letting The Hardball Times compete against the best of the best in the FSIC. If you get a chance, check out their site. Whether you are new to the fantasy game or a long-time veteran, FSRU is a league-hosting site with the highest payouts without the rake of some of the other pay money sites.

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Can’t see your league; its private.

Here’s the error with your pitching strategy—you’re running out too many marginal starters.  You’d be looking better with the minimum SPs—say Greinke, Beachy, Lilly, Stauffer—while filling the remainder of the slots with studly MR guys.

Tom B
Tom B

“expert” and “H2H” in the same thought still makes me giggle.

Greinke was autodrafted for me, and I eventually traded him to a K-hungry guy for Ogando.  So far, a good move – unless they shut down The Big O early.  I also picked up Brandon Beachy off waivers when the same guy dropped him.  I’ve been happy with him as his homer proclivity effects only ERA (and wins), while his WHIP, K/BB and K/9 are still great.  I picked up Stauffer early but dropped him and was too slow to pick him back up when he got hot.  I don’t know much about the rest of your pitchers, except Romo… Read more »