It’s Time to Start Making Sharp Decisions

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It’s August 11th. Every team has played at least 110 games leaving just about a third of the season left at most.

That is still plenty of time to make a lot of movement in your standings, but the margin for error has slimmed considerably and for those of you out of the money/in the back half of your standings it is time to start making decisions that directly impact your standings as opposed to simply acquiring the best talent available. Threading the needle and making considerable gains in all 10 categories (assuming a standard 5×5 setup for this discussion) is unlikely in most cases. It’s time to start narrowing the focus and making some tough cuts.

AUDIT THE STANDINGS

Start by seeing exactly where you stand. Go through the standings and count the realistic points available to you. These are the ones you get when you have 3 pitchers going in a night or when you hit .400 with a handful of HRs, but they are volatile unless you can pull away from the pack in those categories. Then take a look at your dream points. These ones are legitimately in range but will require strong play from your team the rest of the way and some good old-fashioned luck! These will also be the points that you hope to acquire with some roster reconstruction that might include punting a category that is a lost cause in order to hyperfocus on a couple others.

To figure out your upper reach for dream points, see how much you need to gain each week on that team to get there with 9 weeks left (well, that’s how many are left in the NFBC, check your league, of course). Ratio categories are bit harder to figure because they have the unique element where teams can come back to you as you are climbing up the standings. I tend to be a bit conservative in my expectations with the ratios – even on the dream points – while knowing in the back of my head that they could be more fruitful than expected if my team really goes off and one or more teams ahead of me also fall back.

Go back and look at your performance by week in these categories, too, so you know what you’ve been averaging to get here. Obviously, you can take your count and divide it by 18 (the number of weeks in most leagues so far, but always check your league), but I like to see all 18 data points to get a feel for the ups and downs. That helps a lot in determining if the dream points are truly in reach or if they require like a 1-2% potential outcome run. If it’s the latter, don’t even include those in the dream plan. If you need 45 runs a week to catch someone you’ve labeled as a dream point and you’ve only eclipsed 40 twice, it ain’t happenin’!!

CREATE THE GAMEPLAN

The next step is mapping out how you are going to gain those points. Prioritize the most fruitful categories. This is where the sharp decisions really start to come into play. Find the guys on the roster who aren’t going to contribute to the categories most in need and then seek replacements on the wire (or via trade, but I’m focused mostly on waiver wire leagues as trades are such an unpredictable X-factor and not even allowed in all leagues). In most cases where you are planning to over-index on a couple categories, this will result in cutting guys who would otherwise be viable if you were just collecting the best players available.

Do not be afraid to cut these guys!

Often these gameplans will including punting saves because the standings have stratified in a way where your 1.5 closers just aren’t going to close the gap while there are points aplenty in wins and strikeouts, making it worth going for 9 SPs and moving on from your relievers. This might include cutting a legitimately good closer and there is nothing wrong with that, even if it will be jarring to see such a name on the wire. There is also strategy upside to the FAAB dollars this kind of player will eat up being acquired by someone else which could make it easier for you to acquire your guys down the stretch, too.

I bring this up because you will sometimes see these moves cause consternation, usually because someone is mad that their competitor might get a very strong player and catch them in said category. So what? If you are making the best moves to put yourself in position to win or cash, that’s all that matters. I’ve talked with fantasy managers who have been reluctant to make moves like that due to potential backlash. I file it under the same sour grapes as trade vetoes. Unless it’s collusion, no trade should be vetoed. And if it’s collusion, instantly remove those players from the league. Otherwise, it’s just impressing one person’s (if the commish unilaterally decides) or a group of people’s valuations onto the 2 other players making the trade.

If Jordan Romano is your only legit closer and you’re 6 saves from gaining 1 point and 4 saves from losing 1 point, he doesn’t really need to be on your team anymore at this point in the season. You’re unlikely to find a SVs game-changer who is going to join Romano and shoot you up those standings. Let’s use my league standings for a quick example of why doing the legwork is better than just ballparking it.

I have 33 SVs and I’m 12 behind Michael Govier at 45. Closing a 12-SV gap in 9 weeks seems doable on the surface, but that’s why you have to dig in. I’ve averaged 1.8 per week, he’s at 2.5. I need 4 per week to his 5 every other week (he can’t get a half save in a week, so 5 every 2 weeks on average). That means I need 18 saves apiece from 2 guys the rest of the way. There are only 8 guys projected to reach 10 the rest of the way with a high of 11! In other words, I’m not catching him! If I was adding a third closer to my pair, I could see that as a dream point, but not with just 2 guys.

ATTACK! ATTACK! ATTACK!

Go all in on your gameplan. Because this plan is for teams out of the money and lower, you don’t really have anything to lose by going all in. Continuing at your current pace would likely just result in a middling finish barring some sort of unforeseen turnaround by your players so once you make the plan, stay the course. The results won’t all happen in a week or two. You will likely have to churn some of the players you initially acquire for a plan, too. If Bubba Thompson can’t figure out how to get on 1st base soon, he will start losing playing time and won’t be the SB savior we think he can be after 49 SBs in 375 PA at Triple-A. There is no set time for those decisions, it depends on too many variable to account for here including your standings, how much FAAB you have left, and who’s on the wire to replace the guy in question.

Overall, this is about 1200 words telling you to stay diligent. That’s the universal takeaway with some suggestions on how you can go about doing that. I return to the somewhat contradictory notion I started with: time is both plentiful and quickly running out on the season. The former is to stress that you can still make substantial moves in your standings while the latter underscores that it is time to get aggressive and go take those points from your leaguemates.

Good luck and let’s go win some titles!





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Babsatronmember
1 month ago

Diligence is key. I’ve had years where I muffed the auction and worked the waiver/trade angles to end up doing well and winning sometimes. All season long.

Lots of managers start to fade with interest and it is possible to take advantage of that (FAAB for example).

I would be interested in knowing what specific strategies might be employed for Only leagues. The rosters can get really tight. Once the league trade deadline is over, dropping and faab’ing players is the only way to change your roster and the pickings are slim.