It’s that time of year for weekly category leagues. Playoff time! If you are one of the top 4-6 teams in your league… Great Job! Now let’s see if we can help win you a round, or hopefully even a title this year!
Don’t be this guy: “I had the best team this year, but was just unlucky. The guy beat me 5-4-1 in the finals though because he eeked me out in holds and steals. My team had twice as many home runs and RBIs. Just bad luck. It happens.”
A win is a win and “flags fly forever.” The best team isn’t guaranteed to win a given week since the nature of H2H categories is more volatile than roto. That said, there are ways we can capitalize and use a matchup to our advantage:
Tip 1 – Scout your team as well as the team you are playing
Take a really honest look at your team. What are the strengths and weaknesses? Don’t be overly optimistic when assessing your outlook. For example, don’t assume Justin Upton is suddenly going to be the power staple you drafted him to be. Look at where you stand in each category and compare it to the roster you now have. Maybe you picked up some hot rookies and you’re better in a category than the standings suggest. Next, figure out which players on your roster are droppable. Sometimes this means dropping a “must own” player because they are cold, hurt, or just aren’t going to help you win this round. Filling the short-term need is more important than rostering a struggling brand name.
Now, take a deep look at your opposition. Maybe they’re stacked in 2 or 3 categories but they’re vulnerable elsewhere. For example, there’s one category league where my roster features Billy Hamilton, Trea Turner, Travis Jankowski, and 6 closers. You’re simply not likely to beat that team in steals or saves so don’t waste roster moves trying to keep pace. On that same team, there’s only 5 starting pitchers so it’s very vulnerable to losing strikeouts, wins and quality starts. If the team playing against me rosters more SPs or chooses to stream some guys, they have a great shot at stealing the volume categories. There are very few perfectly balanced squads out there. Identify their weaknesses.
Tip 2 – Scour the wire and make ruthless adds/drops
Make sure to Read Jim Finch’s columns about weekly waiver adds. Supplement that by doing your own research in each league you play in. Sometimes there are absolute gems that you might have missed. Someone dropped Billy Hamilton in one of my leagues. As much as I hate him as a real world baseball player – that is an absolute no-no in roto or cats. That move may well lead to a 2nd straight title in that league.
Here is where you execute on the information you found out in step 1. Let’s say the team you’re playing is stacked. They have four guys who are going to hit 30-40 home runs, a couple of aces, and good closers. BUT they’re weak on steals. Even if you have to drop a Hunter Pence, Justin Upton, Carlos Beltran, or some other well-known player… make the ruthless move that’s going to help you win the week. Guys like Travis Jankowski are still owned in under 40% of ESPN leagues, and even Trea Turner is still available in almost 40% of ESPN leagues.. Make these adds. Execute. No one will care that you dropped player X for player Y if you win the whole shebang.
Tip 3 – Exploit any loopholes
This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way, as I have been the victim of people taking advantage of loopholes when I had the better team. Guess what? They took home the trophy and the money. When there is money involved, or even just honor – there are no friends in Fantasy Baseball. If there is a loophole you can take advantage of to take home the gold – DO IT! Do not worry about being a nice guy. Do what you need to do to win. If it is an egregious loophole then it is the commissioner’s duty to close it the following year. Don’t ever feel bad for outworking your competition.
Maybe you are in a daily league and there are no limits on your moves in a given week. Feel free to stream extra pitchers to give yourself a better shot at winning Ks, Ws, QS, or any other categories where volume improves your odds. You can even stream hitters if you have a day where a large portion of your roster is off. Whatever makes sense for your particular matchup.
Tip 4 – Scout all streaming opportunities, not just pitching
Most people know to look for streaming pitchers. Under the radar pitchers in good ballparks or against teams that don’t match up well with them. That’s great and you should do that. You should also look for opportunities to stream hitters.
Looking for guys playing in Coors or against scrub pitchers is always great if not a bit obvious. In addition to this, try to look for platoon specialists. Brandon Guyer and Steve Pearce won me multiple weeks this year because of the fact that they demolish LHP. If you have an underperforming player or position on your roster – do not hesitate to replace that spot with a favorable platoon hitter. This is especially valuable in daily formats. I listed a handful of lightly owned platoon hitters that are known for faring well against LHP or RHP.
Platoon plays against LHP: Brandon Guyer, Paul Orlando, Didi Gregorius, Steve Pearce, and Jayson Werth
Platoon plays against RHP: Yasmani Grandal, Derek Dietrich, Seth Smith, and Joc Pederson
Tip 5 – Go streaking
Finally, look for players that appear to be at the beginning of a tear. Some players are even well documented for being streaky. These guys are ideal candidates. Think Brandon Moss, Chris Carter, Joc Pederson, and the like. These guys are hard to rely on for season long production, but they might be just what the doctor ordered to win your playoff round.
Chris Carter won me a playoff round a couple of years ago in my most important league. I suffered some tough losses this year thanks to streaks from players like Kendrys Morales, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Matt Wieters, and Pedro Alvarez. That’s the game. Ride the streak. There’s no more time to wait on struggling guys. There is no tomorrow unless you win. Make the move.
Tip 6 – Repeat until crowned or KO’d
Reassess and re-execute each one of these ideas after each round. Every round will bring a new opponent with different strengths/weaknesses to exploit. Keep working until you’ve vanquished all your competition or until you get knocked out. There’s nothing wrong with coming up a little short. Just don’t come up short because you didn’t put the work in.
Best of luck in your playoff endeavors, and hope that these tips and strategies help you bring home some hardware!
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