Over the past few years, Fantasy Baseball match-up leagues have overtaken the traditional rotisserie style leagues in terms of popularity. Both leagues have their pros and cons – an interesting discussion but outside the scope of this article.
The focus of this write-up is match-up team strategies and team management. As always, before you draft your team – much less start managing it – be sure to know exactly what your league settings are. What are the scoring categories? How many players are active per day? Is there a maximum of starts per week? What is the minimum numbers of innings needed in order for your stats to count? You know the drill.
As mentioned elsewhere, the most important category in fantasy baseball is home runs. Draft with this in mind. In match-up baseball, the next most important category is starting pitching. Closers would be third but be sure to also pick up some speed in the draft. While you may be focusing on the key categories, never punt a category going into the week. Why start out behind?
To elaborate on that point, my offensive focus starting each week is home runs, RBI’s and Runs. Batting average follows after since it is less predictable. Finally, I field a team that will get a couple stolen bases per week. There are exceptions, like when I found Juan Pierre on the waiver wire in a shallow league. But even there, Pierre is a strong two category player who also helps BA. The high stolen base, medium run, low batting average player should find himself on someone else’s team – not yours.
As the week progresses, begin to narrow your focus to categories that are still in play. Remember you only need to win a category by one. So if you’re heading into Sunday up by five in home runs and down by a stolen base, play for the extra stolen base if your roster allows. Don’t go overboard. Make sure you hold your category while potentially swooping in and taking the other category.
The pitching side of match-up team management is largely a function of your league settings. If your league has a limit on starts and you find yourself with excess starts available, check the split stats of your starters. Most starters are more effective at home but there are exceptions. After reviewing the splits, take your best guess and don’t look back. Just as there is no crying in baseball, there is no regret or self-recrimination in fantasy. It’s all for fun, right? (Do as I say, not necessarily as I do here.)
Many match-up leagues have no limit on the number of pitching starts. For these leagues, you may want to draft an extra starter during the 5th through 7th round. Your roster needs to be pitching heavy – especially in leagues that reward the number of innings pitched.
I’m going to digress for a minute. Years ago I considered the inning pitched category to be rather lame. However, I view it now as one with a degree of legitimacy. It is fair for your team to be rewarded if you drafted pitchers who go deep into games. These pitchers are of great value in reality so why not throw a bone their way in fantasy? They will also deliver more K’s for you and typically more W’s than 5-6 inning starters.
Back to the ‘pitching heavy’ roster I mentioned… In leagues with no pitching limits, I often field teams with a total of only nine or ten position players. If your offense is good enough, you don’t need more position players than this. Play your guys every day with occasional schedule-related streaming of your weakest hitter.
Always remember that the end of the season is more important than the beginning in match-up leagues. All games are equal in rotisserie. All games are not equal in match-up. Keep your eye out for hot players – or check the splits for players who tend to finish strong. Example: Huroki Kuroda helped win a league for me. I thought about dropping him in July but his splits said to keep him. After August 1st, he was money for the games that were ‘more equal’.
Finally, do your best to get a first round bye but, if you can’t, no worries. Just pick up a few hot players or strong finishers, make the playoffs and win the league. Nothing is more satisfying than finishing 6th in the regular season and winning the playoffs…….