The 2013 fantasy baseball season ends this Sunday. Right now some teams are celebrating their upcoming championship win as the opposing manager licks their wounds from an agonizing defeat. If you won your league, Congratulations are in order for a well-played season. But if you were one of those teams that were lucky enough to sneak into that final playoff spot or worse yet, one of those bottom teams; hope is still out there for you. Maybe there is nothing you can do about this season, but you can do something about next season and beyond. First let’s start by asking the question, what went wrong?
Let us start off by taking a look at your draft. Did you draft too many injury prone players? Did you take too many chances with rookies or youthful players while ignoring more established players? Did you wait too long to draft starting pitchers or draft pitchers to early and wait too long on hitters? Did you jump too early to fill a position and miss out on a better player who could have helped you more? Granted it’s all 20/20 hindsight but if you see a pattern, and you’re able to look back at past seasons and see a similar pattern, it might be time to change your strategy or way of thinking.
How many players did you lose to the dreaded disabled list? All of us at one time or another have lost a player or multiple players due to injuries, it’s all part of the game. Some people will sit there and complain and point to those injuries as the reason why they lost, but that’s just an excuse. In one of my H2H leagues we keep 8 players. In 2012 I placed 13 players on the disabled list in the first 12 weeks. Of those 13 players, 7 of them were keepers and 6 of the 13 were outfielders. I could have called it a season right there. Instead I traded injured players at a discount for useful healthy ones, I patched my team together using the waiver wire and I limped through until my stars returned. How did my year turn out? I finished in fourth place and went to the World Series. Granted I lost but I got there. Injuries happen, but it’s how you react to those injuries that separate the good managers from the average ones. So if you had injuries on your team, how did you react? Did you point fingers and make excuses or did you move forward with the aid of free agents and the trade desk?
The next thing you need to look at would be the free agents that you’ve acquired, but first a quick question. We’re you active enough on the waiver wire and more importantly, were you active early? The waiver wire is basically your minor league system, and it has to be monitored as closely as your own roster. If you acted quickly on a player with a hot start you might have been rewarded with several months’ worth of very good numbers. If you waited too long or looked at a player and said to yourself “he’s never going to keep this up”, you watched as your opponent scooped them up and reaped the rewards (Bartolo Colon Anyone?)
Also how well did you monitor the players you picked up. You can look at players overall numbers and they may seem good, but their week to week and monthly splits may tell you a different story. A perfect example would be Matt Joyce who batted .299 with 5 home runs and 17 runs and RBIs in the month of May. You may have picked him up during this hot streak but how much longer did you keep him? You might have seen some home runs from in June and looked at his bottom line and thought all was well. Unfortunately he batted .211 in June and .222 in July. You probably could have gotten better production from one of your bench players or someone else from the waiver wire. And while we are talking about free agents, this rule should apply to everyone on your roster. Dexter Fowler was drafted in 100% of Yahoo leagues and was the man in April but went downhill from there and was worthless in the second half.
Now when I first mentioned free agents I asked a question, “were you active on the waiver wire?” Some teams can get away with only making a few moves, but if you’re going to be successful, you have to be active on the waiver wire. If you made less than 20 moves and your team finished on the bottom, odds are you have some dead weight on your team that you could have traded in for something else. You don’t need to be the owner who finishes the year with 100+ transactions. You do however have to make some moves or the league will pass you by. Take some chances and throw some darts at the board, a few of them will stick.
Free Agents aren’t the only way to improve your team. Did you make any trades this year and how much did they improve your team? Trades aren’t necessary but the waiver wire doesn’t always have what you need. If you did make a trade, did you need the player you were getting in return or was it a player at a position where you were already strong. I can’t tell you how many times in the past somebody would offer me a very good first baseman when I already had 2 of them in my starting lineup. The trade being offered may have been fair on paper, but trading a player that is in your starting lineup for a good player that has no place to play in your lineup makes no sense. Also trading a strong player at a weak position for a better player at a position you’re already strong at makes little sense. You may have 2 good shortstops, but if someone offers you an outfielder for one of them and your outfield is strong, this doesn’t help you if you have a weakness someplace else. Examine your trades and see if they were just big name trades or if they actually help improve one of your weaknesses (or helped fill a hole).
Player stats and fantasy points
Now you’ve examined your draft, picked through your injuries, looked at the free agents you picked up (or missed on) and covered trades, so now we move on to players in general. Good fantasy owners know what most players are doing in general. Unfortunately there are those that don’t venture out much past their own team (or beyond the waiver wire). Sure they may check out their opponent’s players during their matchup, but if you play a team in week 12 and ignore what the players on that team are doing in fantasy from that point on, you’re already at a disadvantage. If you didn’t keep up during the season, take a few days and do so NOW. Go back to your league and sort the players by how they finished in fantasy scoring. Sort them out by position so you can see where the most fantasy points come from. Also see whose numbers were down or who was injured and keep a few notes, you may be able to get a few bargains come draft day.
Also if you have never done something like this before or you’re somewhat new to fantasy baseball, click on a few of the names of players you’re not too familiar with. Look at their age and history and see if this is someone worth remembering or someone you might want to pass on next season. Remember that you’re not going to learn everything about everyone, but if you do this enough over the years you eventually have a good idea which makes things easier.
Now if you do all of this between now and the World Series you should have a pretty good idea of maybe what went wrong and what you might have to do to improve. But guess what, you’re not done yet. Baseball may end in October but for true fantasy players it’s a year round sport.
Rankings and Research for Next Season
Some sites (like this one) will start printing articles with projections and rankings for next season. Find a few that are making these early lists and read through them. Yes it’s early and anything can change between now and March, but at least you’ll have some clue on who may go where in the draft. You may also see some names that could be late round sleepers that you might not have considered. Granted you can do what you’ve always done and wait for the rankings to come out in February, but that’s like waiting until the day before a test and trying to cram as much information in the night before. You remember when you did that, you got a C if you were lucky. If you’re only looking for a passing grade than by all means continue on with the way you were doing thing, but if you want a better grade you’re going to have to do a little extra homework and maybe some extra credit.
Free Agent Signings
So is that it…well, almost. Once the baseball season comes to an end, the free agent signing period begins. Some of the players will have minor or little implications in the world of fantasy, but others could be very important in planning your draft strategy. Carlos Ruiz and A.J. Pierzynski probably aren’t high on your list of catchers for next year’s draft, but if one of them were to sign with say Seattle, they will probably be starting over Mike Zunino which would lower/kill his draft value. Shin-Soo Choo will be a free agent next season and it appears Cincinnati will give Billy Hamilton a chance to be the starting center fielder. If The Reds decide to go out and sign someone like Jacoby Ellsbury, not only does that increase the value of Ellsbury and raise his draft position but it also decreases the value of Hamilton (who would likely begin the season in AAA).
Every player signed not only has their own value at stake, but potentially other players as well. Keeping an eye on the free agent signings isn’t something that is time-consuming either. We have a news ticker at the top of the page and will make every effort to keep you up to date with all player signings, but you can easily find this information on MLB, ESPN and a variety of other sites. It only takes a few minutes a day, and you know you’re going to be online anyway so take a minute or two.
So if I do all that will I win my league? Maybe not, but I can almost guarantee you won’t be one of the bottom feeders anymore. Remember that good fantasy teams are created during the draft, improved through trades and maintained through the waiver wire. If you buy a new car but don’t keep up on the maintenance it’s going to break down before it’s supposed to.
And if you do all of these things and you end up on the bottom, maybe it was just bad luck and it was your time to lose. This year I crawled out of the basement in one of my H2H leagues to finish in tenth place, but if you add up the roto points I would have finished in third. Sometimes you can do everything right and still have everything turn out wrong. The only thing you can do is go back to the drawing board, start at the top of this list and begin the process all over again. Anyone can make a team good enough to make it to the playoffs; a good fantasy owner can make a team that can get you to the World Series.
How good do YOU want to be?