MLB “Cinco de Mayo” Fantasy Points
It’s Cinco de Mayo. 30 games are in the books. You know what that means.
Time to begin critically evaluating your fantasy team.
What is your injury situation? Who has underperformed? Who has exceeded expectations? Do you have good balance between offense and pitching? What’s the greater makeup of the league you are competing in? How are you feeling about your squad?
Unless your team is sitting pretty at the top of the standings, chances are you have concerns; chances are most, if not all of the above stated questions are relevant.
Let’s tackle the most cut and dry topic first: Injuries. They are often unforeseen, and are usually unavoidable. That goes for real and fantasy teams alike. Whenever a blue-chipper goes down, a ripple effect ensues. What’s interesting so far this year is that injuries to big name players (Jimmy Rollins, Alfonso Soriano, Scott Kazmir, John Lackey) have had no negative impact on their clubs.
The Phillies and Angels have withstood the losses of Rollins and Lackey; both lead their respective divisions. The Cubs are two games ahead of their pace from last year (18-13 as opposed to 16-15) despite the loss/abysmal start of Soriano. And the Rays just polished off their best April in team history without the services of their ace, Kazmir. Even predictable injuries to Rich Harden and Pedro Martinez have not slowed down their clubs. The A’s and Mets are each within a game of first place in the loss column.
Fantasy owners haven’t been so lucky. While guys like Pedro and Harden have become mid to late round “high risk/high reward picks”, Rollins and Soriano are first and second rounders; Kazmir and Lackey are frequently among the top 10 or 15 starters chosen. Their absence has been an early critical blow to fantasy teams far and wide, specifically in roto leagues.
Even though Lackey and Rollins are close to coming back (Kazmir and Soriano are already playing again) their roto value is automatically diminished because of the time they missed. Barring a supersonic final five months from these guys, you can expect about a 15 percent drop-off in their 2008 stats. Because every fantasy team is built around a few choice stars like them, that can be the difference between a top-three finish and middle of the pack.
In head to head leagues, as long as your team isn’t buried in the standings today, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Since cumulative stats don’t matter in head to head, it’s of no consequence that Lackey finishes with 14 wins instead of 18 or that Rollins scores 108 runs as opposed to 135. You will still maximize their production from here on out.
The next major issue confronting fantasy owners is trying to diagnose the poor starts of established blue-chippers. Jose Reyes, David Ortiz, Ryan Howard, Justin Verlander and Travis Hafner headline this category. With the exception of Hafner–who seems to have lost his craft–roto owners should not be sweating the paltry numbers put up by those perennial fantasy catalysts. Play them everyday; when all is said and done the numbers will be there.
This time it’s the head to head owners who must start rethinking strategy. Since stats are only accrued on a weekly basis, consistently starting a slumping-Ortiz (.216/5/24) or Howard (.167/6/14 and 45 K’s) can be detrimental. They currently carry too much baggage to warrant putting them out there everyday. Of course there’s always the chance they’ll go off for multiple home runs on any given night, but so goes the double edged sword that is head to head fantasy management.
Be it head to head or roto, it is frustrating to managers that the Howards and Verlanders have been so unproductive, but baseball is a long season. The players we have talked about are too good at what they do to fizzle for longer than what equates to a small sample size (again, with the exception of Hafner).
Looking at the other end of that spectrum is important as well. That’s right; role players who have far exceeded expectations to the point of becoming overvalued. Xavier Nady (.347/4/30). Nate McLouth (.323/7/25). Josh Willingham (.341/6/16). Ryan Church (.318/4/22).
All are on ridiculous, career defining paces at the moment, but all will come back to earth sooner or later. This can be a delicate situation in roto leagues. Ideally for each fantasy manager employing a Nady, that manager also has a Howard. That way when the sample size becomes larger (ie when Howard turns it up and Nady levels off), the players will continue to offset one another and the overall team quality will be sustained.
However, if Nady is carrying your team and you’ve suffered no major injuries or slumps, it might be time to make a move. Maximize his selling value now and see if you can’t shore up a weakness (this is a good time to address bullpen issues). Of course, making deals requires having a feel for the climate of the league — are the managers generally tight, therefore hesitant to make deals (designated NBFT: Need Based Fantasy Trader)? Or are they ready and wanting to trade at will (designated CFT: Compulsive Fantasy Trader)?
If you’re in a league with primarily CFTs, don’t hesitate and wait for the other shoe to drop. Now is the time to sell high. If there are predominately NBFTs in your league, keep an eye on the waiver wire, maintain faith in the players you drafted, and wait another month or so before pondering deals. That’s what the real GMs do.