Ottoneu 201: Roster Management Strategies

Last week I wrote about a few lesser known opportunities within Ottoneu to maximize salary cap space, which is important to understand before your fantasy season begins.  However, by the time you read this post the fantasy season will have already begun, so I want to focus your attention today on strategies that will help you in-season as you attempt to squeeze every bit of value out of your team during what is sure to be a long but very fun Ottoneu season.

As an active member of the growing Ottoneu community, I’m often asked for advice by those new to the game since Year One comes with a steep (but very rewarding) learning curve.  My #1 recommendation over the past few years has been consistent: draft and build a roster specifically designed to hit the games played (162 games x 12 lineup positions) and innings pitched (1,500) maximums Ottoneu suggests.

I.e. A team’s starting lineup consists of one slot at each infield position (catcher, first base, second base, third base, and shortstop), five outfielder slot, one additional middle infielder (second base or shortstop) slot, one additional hitter from any position (utility slot), five starting pitcher slots, and five relief pitcher slots.

In other words, if you build a roster (40 man) deep and flexible enough with MLB talent to meet these positional game targets, (almost) everything else will take care of itself.  In my experience, while most owners believe they are prepared to hit these key targets right out of the gate each season, only a handful per league master the combination of careful planning, daily engagement, and roster management efficiency needed to complete what proves to be a very difficult challenge when factoring in player injuries, cold streaks, and all the other real life intricacies that can (surprise) get in the way of fantasy.  I believe so strongly in hitting these game and innings caps that I’m (almost) willing to bet you’ll finish in no worse than 3rd place if you do so (or at least put yourself in a position to take advantage of the luck usually needed to propel you up the last few rungs of the standings).

If this is your first season of Ottoneu, it could take some time (maybe a couple of months) to realize that it’s much easier to make up innings (towards your seasonal cap of 1,500) than it is games played (1,944 total).  You never want to leave unused innings or games on the table by season’s end, but because there are far more pitchers in MLB than shortstops (for example), you’ll have more control over toggling the usage of pitchers in your active lineup than you will hitters.

Resource: The Math of Winning Ottoneu

For auction prep Justin recently outlined his roster construction strategy, but for in-season management here are few additional tips and ideas to consider when pushing your team to top of the standings on that final day in October.

  • Build a roster that can reach 162 games played at every position and 1,500 total innings
  • Monitor your projected games played and innings pitched on a regular basis (this can be found at the bottom of your lineup page)
  • As a general rule, play an active offensive player at every position every day until the All-Star Break – then take note of where you need to adjust.  You’ll want to track at 162 games projected (or slightly higher) at each position for most of the season (probably until September)
  • For starting pitchers, feel free to be more selective when sitting them (even elite SP) in the first month of the season (starting at Yankee Stadium, for example), because you can often make up these innings throughout the season.  Tracking between 1,250 and 1,800 innings projected is a good barometer
  • Throw as many of your total innings (1,500 max) as you can with your relievers because the average point per inning of a reliever is much higher than the average for starting pitchers.  At a minimum, you want to target 325 innings with your bullpen (most full time relievers throw about 65 innings per season, so 65 x 5 RP slots).  Rostering and cycling more than five relievers will help you maximize your overall points per inning pitched in FanGraphs and SABR points leagues
  • In 2017, the top 60 starting pitchers (overall FGPTS) averaged 177 innings each.  If throwing 325 innings with your bullpen (aim higher), you’ll need at least seven starting pitchers to throw all the innings outside of your bullpen.  Odds are you will actually use 10-12 different SP over the course of a full season
  • For elite relievers, pay attention to bullpen usage rates – managers generally do not pitch their relievers four days in a row and you can often “guess correctly” which relievers to sit on this information alone.  When in doubt, leave your best relievers active in your rotation
  • For elite hitters, play them every day while healthy, even in tough matchups, early in the season.  It’s better to play an elite hitter against an elite pitcher than it is to play an injury replacement for that player later in the season against a mediocre pitcher
  • Prioritize playing hitters in specific lineup slots (SS, 2B, OF, for example) over flex positions like MI and DH on off days when fewer MLB teams are active.  For instance, on a day when only four of your outfielders are active, make sure to play them all in an OF slot instead of using the DH slot since the DH slot can be filled by any player during the season (thus easier to meet the game cap that OF).  Likewise, make sure your best players are active in the hardest spots to fill.  For instance, if you own both Carlos Correa and Addison Russell, play Correa at SS whenever possible (using Russell at MI).
  • In non-H2H leagues, the catcher position allows for two slots but still caps the position at 162 games overall.  Some owners will roster and play two catchers as often as possible early in the season so they can cut one catcher when they hit the cap and utilize that roster spot for another player.  Other owners will do the opposite, conservatively playing matchups early in the season, knowing they can more easily make up catcher games than any other offensive position.
  • It is very common for owners to platoon hitters at various positions (most commonly at OF and 1B), but in general owners are more optimistic about their ability to maximize this strategy than what actually occurs during the season.  Try not to overthink it too much!

Hopefully these small tips will help give you the edge you need this season to inch your way up the standings.  Are there other roster strategies you use to get ahead? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

We hoped you liked reading Ottoneu 201: Roster Management Strategies by Trey Baughn!

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Trey is a 20+ year fantasy veteran and an early adopter of Ottoneu fantasy sports. He currently administers the Ottoneu community, a network of ~1,200 fantasy baseball and football fans talking sports daily. More resources here: http://community.ottoneu.com

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Kyle H
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Kyle H

Just as a note, this is way less important in 4×4 leagues ottoneu leagues (even though there is only like 20 of them), where counting stats only account for 3 of the 8 categories (and 1/4 Pitching cats).