I don’t know about you, but I hate getting hurt. I mean, I really hate it when I get hurt. The occurence is far from rare in my life; I’ve had surgery on my left elbow (bone spur), left knee (torn meniscus) and right shoulder (torn labrum) twice. Hell, I even have a metal anchor keeping the loose flap of cartilage down in my shoulder. It wasn’t until recently that learned how to keep a lot of recurring pain away.
With fantasy baseball, though, you start hating it when other people get hurt, namely the big studs on your roster who you drafted early. Last year, I took Jose Reyes as my first-round pick (fourth overall) and not only did Reyes go down for the rest of the year in early May, the rest of my team resembled the Mets M*A*S*H-unit: Ian Kinsler, Nate McLouth, Roy Oswalt, Aramis Ramirez, Joey Votto and so-on and so-on. Now this year, I already had seen Brett Anderson and Miguel Montero miss most of the year when the worst news hit on Thursday:
Colorado SS Troy Tulowitzki was placed on the DL with a fractured left wrist. Expected to miss six-to-eight weeks. My reaction?
Yeah, I guess you could say I was not terribly pleased with that news. But this is a point in the season that can determine whether or not you are, in fact, a good fantasy owner: a top player on your team in a shallow position goes down with a long-term injury. What do you do? How will you recover…if at all?
First things are first: who got hurt? If the answer is a first baseman or outfielder, you’ve got plenty of secondary options available. But, if the player in question is a shortstop or catcher, things get very difficult. Not only are there very few reliable options available in the free agent pool, but if you were to explore a trade for a replacement, the person you’d try to bargain with can command a higher-than-normal asking price. Simple supply-demand logic.
To combat this problem, you have to anticipate the catastrophic injury before it happens–and with injury-prone positions like catcher and shortstop, it would behoove one to do so. Every week or so, look through the free agent pool at the positions in question and add whichever players look interesting to your scout team or watch list. As the season goes on, if some players’ production tails off, don’t think you’re obligated to keep them on your watch list. I find that if you remove the failing players and keep the ones who are succeeding, you eliminate unnecessary options that could make you over-think your decision, make you hesitate and eventually lead you into selecting a regrettable choice.
Another thing to keep in mind is to lower your expectations for your replacement player, whether you’re activating him from the bench or picking him up out of the free agent pool. As in the case of Tulowitzki, you almost will certainly not find another shortstop capable of posting an OPS north of .850. The focus should be on finding a player who has shown a history of–and gives you a legitimate reason to believe–putting up above-average numbers. Then there are the usual splits you hopefully already consider when making any personnel move: how Player X does in such-and-such a month? Is Player X a first-half or second-half player? Who is batting ahead and/or behind Player X in the order? You get the picture.
Lastly, consider how much time your injured stud will miss. If he’s on the 15-day DL and not expected to stay beyond that amount of time, picking up a flavor-of-the-week won’t hurt you. But if the fallen soldier in question is set to miss a month or two of action, target more players who have a history of sustained production.
Will there be some compromise involved? Of course. Are you sorely lacking in one category or another? That would certainly come into play during the decision-making process. Also, consider where you are in the standings. If you’re far ahead or way behind, your decision probably won’t carry as much weight as it would if you were a game out of the playoffs or were holding on to first place by a thread.
- C: Carlos Santana — 5-for-6, HR, 2 2B, 4 RBI, 3 BB, K, R
- 1B: Justin Smoak — 7-for-14, 2 HR, 2 2B, 8 RBI, BB, 2 K, 4 R
- 2B: Chase Utley — 6-for-14, HR, 3B, 2B, 7 RBI, 0 BB, 0 K, 3 R
- 3B: Chipper Jones — 5-for-9, 0 HR, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, SB, 3 R
- SS: Jose Reyes — 4-for-13, 2 HR, 2B, 4 RBI, 0 BB, K, 3 R
- OF: Andrew McCutchen — 2-for-8, 0 HR, 3B, RBI, 5 BB, 2 K, SB, 6 R
- OF: Josh Hamilton — 9-for-15, 0 HR, 3B, 2B, 4 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K, 4 R
- OF: Carl Crawford — 7-for-13, HR, 3B, 2 RBI, BB, K, SB, 2 CS, 5 R
- UTL: Matt Holliday — 8-for-12, 4 HR, 2B, 8 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K, 4 R
- SP: Felix Hernandez — W, CG, QS, 9 IP, R, 5 H (no XBH), BB, WP, 9 K, 116/81 P/S
- SP: Carl Pavano — W, CG, QS, 9 IP, R, 4 H, 0 BB, HR, HBP, 2 K, 105/76 P/S
- SP: Jake Peavy — W, SHO, QS, 9 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 7 K, 107/71 P/S
- SP: Cliff Lee — W, SHO, QS, 9 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, WP, 7 K, 110/79 P/S
- RP: Billy Wagner — 3 G, 1-0, 2 SV, 3 IP, 0 R 2 H, BB, 4 K
- RP: Jose Valverde — 2 G, 2 SV, 2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K
- Bench: Miguel Montero – C, Ryan Howard – CI, Dustin Pedroia – MI, Corey Hart – OF, Torii Hunter – OF, Max Scherzer – SP, Josh Johnson – SP, CC Sabathia – SP, Jonathan Papelbon – RP
- OF Nelson Cruz (15-day DL, torn left hamstring; continuing rehab program … may return for June 22-24 series vs. Pirates)
- 3B Aramis Ramirez (15-day DL, left thumb contusion; began rehab on June 19 with Class A Peoria … eligible to return Wednesday, June 23)
- SS Troy Tulowitzki (15-day DL, broken left wrist; out until late July-early August)
- SS Erick Aybar (day-to-day, torn right meniscus; doubtful for June 22-24 series vs. Dodgers … plan of action unknown)
- OF J.D. Drew (day-to-day, strained right hamstring)
- OF Carlos Gonzalez (day-to-day, jammed left knee; missed games on June 18-20)
- OF Austin Jackson (day-to-day, back spasms; missed games on June 18-20)
- RP Bobby Jenks (day-to-day, soreness; held of out Sunday’s game … White Sox would not disclose further information about Jenks’ condition)
- SS Derek Jeter (day-to-day, bruised heel; held out of Saturday’s game, but returned on Sunday)
- C Jorge Posada (day-to-day, hairline fracture in right foot; questionable for June 22-24 series vs. Diamondbacks and possibly beyond)
- SS Hanley Ramirez (day-to-day, tight right hamstring; left Saturday’s game and sat on Sunday … status for June 22-24 series vs. Baltimore unknown)
- 3B Alex Rodriguez (day-to-day, hip; manager Joe Girardi said team will be cautious with Rodriguez during June 22-24 series vs. Diamondbacks)
- RP David Aardsma is NOT hurt or anything, but his wife is expecting their first child any day now (congrats, D & A!), so he may abruptly leave during the middle of game. Also, if his performance isn’t what it usually is, realize that there may be more pressing matters on his mind, so don’t go cutting him on a whim.
I’m starting to believe that the Blue Jays have it in for The Men Who Laugh, I really do. I draft Adam Lind in the third round and he performs like someone taken in the 30th round. I pick up Jose Bautista as he’s starting to get hot, cut him when he cools down a little, then he goes bonkers the very day I release him for Travis Snider (who gets DL’d the very next day). I hesitate for a day on Ricky Romero and miss out on one of the best pitchers in the AL. Now, I cut a then-slumping John Buck on Monday morning and he proceeds to score 27 points this week while I start Ivan Rodriguez (2 pts) and sit Miguel Montero (24.5 pts).
Still, I managed to pull out a come-from-behind victory, thanks in part to McCutchen and Neftali Feliz, who as a closer, outscored all but one of my opponents players. You know what they say: sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
There’s a reason why people play fantasy baseball: they love the game.
It probably started back when we were playing tee-ball and collecting baseball cards, trying to trick a friend into trading his Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card by saying that Melido Perez was actually a hitter and that 4.61 ERA was actually a .461 batting average (A hidden impetus for fantasy baseball? And no, that scenario didn’t happen to me.). We all want to prove to our buddies–and even total strangers–that though we don’t have the physical skills to play Major League Baseball, we know what a good one looks like, what kind of numbers he’s supposed to put up and that we can find the good ones better than you.
Now, as many (but not all) of us are long past college, the love of winning gradually crept into the picture. Where before a live fantasy draft might have looked like a frat party at the end, now you have what you see at the left: a bunch of guys (be it geeks, dorks, nerds, jocks, etc…) with their bleary eyes glued to either a laptop, print-out or magazine with a couple half-full beverages and an untouched pizza sitting on a table in the middle of the herd.
That has happened because we know there are many statistical markers and traits that, most of the time, signal whether or not a particular player is going to break out. We analyze these patters, study the player’s history, look at the environment he will be playing in and try to make the best possible decision from all this information.
But at some points during the draft, and far more often during the season, the passion comes back out, refusing to be caged in. That part makes you create certain “rules” you abide by when deciding which player you draft or pick up off the waiver wire. For me, I steadfastedly refuse to acquire any player currently on the Boston Red Sox or who was part of the 2004 team (take a wild guess as to who my favorite team is, and it isn’t the Cardinals). I mean, if you have these players on your team, you want to be able to root for them to do well, correct?
Yet that passion may cause some problems for you down the road. Let’s say that I had Adrian Gonzalez and with my team in the thick of the playoff race in late July, he gets traded to the Red Sox. Now you find yourself in a sticky situation: you desperately want to win this season, but at the same time, you cannot possible stomach the possibility of wanting someone on the Red Sox to do well. What now? This is where you can use passion to your favor, with said passion being someone else’s.
Every league has at least a couple “homers” in their ranks: guys who blindly go after almost anyone on their favorite team, even if a particular players makes Nick Johnson look like the second coming of Lou Gehrig. If you have a player who you absolutely want no part of, you must do two things:
- Pretend that it doesn’t even bother you (if the level of your rooting interests are not known) and keep any and all reactions bland & the same as if the one player was traded to a different team.
- Find that “homer” in your league and make him your new buddy.
The point? You want to rob him blind, of course! Now if the player you’re trying to give away is a first-round talent like Gonzalez, that makes negotiations much easier than if he were someone you picked up later on in the draft, like say (for argument’s sake) Vladimir Guerrero. The objective is to tantalize the “homer” so much that he would give up just about anyone to obtain the player you’re dangling in the wind.
Casually mention about the year Player X is having to the “homer.” Remark about how fortunate you were to draft or pick him up. Ask the “homer” if his biggest regret from the draft was not selecting this guy? Then you drop the hammer:
You can have Player X, if you want.
Play it coy, but let it be known that for this player, you need someone from him that can produce A, B and C for you in return. Let the homer throw an offer out there, appear mildly interested, but then say it’s going to take a little bit more. Rinse & repeat, but always make sure you have his interest level up. Eventually, you should be able to have him offer up a package that is in your favor.
Now every once in a while, you have an incredible offer just fall into your lap like manna from the fantasy gods. It happened not just once to me (I got Paul Konerko in return for Barry Zito, straight up. You just HAVE to make that, especially in a points league.) but twice, though the second instance was too good to be true, which is something all fantasy owners should be aware of.
I was offered the great Zack Greinke for Tommy Hanson…and Rafael Soriano. Initially, I nearly jumped out of my skin to accept that deal. But I hesitated, and I’m glad that I did. Thankfully, the reason in me got up and smacked the passion in the back of its head. Without getting into the nitty-gritty details and stats, Greinke and Hanson are (value-wise) pretty much the same pitcher. Greinke may give you a lower WHIP and more quality starts (if applicable), but Hanson has the luxury of pitching in the NL, creating better opportunities for more strikeouts and he plays on the Braves versus the Royals (read: more wins).
Oh, and I’d also be giving up the fifth-best closer without a useful player available to replace him.
The moral of the story is this: ALWAYS DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE DOING A DEAL! The numbers don’t lie, but it’s up to you to find them and interpret them correctly.
Lastly, as I climb up on my soap box, you always want to have players you can root for on your roster. It’s more fun that way. But let’s say you have the pleasure of owning someone like Hanley Ramirez on your roster, who’s quickly becoming the poster child for immaturity and self-centeredness among today’s athletes. This is just my personal opinion, but I feel that if you think a particular player is someone you personally wouldn’t want to be associated with, you are under no obligation whatsoever to keep him.
Oh, but he was my top pick, you say? Shouldn’t have to matter. If Ramirez (or whoever is creating your minor moral dilemma) was a first pick or high pick, that gives you all the more leverage to get high-quality players back in a trade.
Some of the unofficial rules of fantasy baseball are useful, but others, like never sit your top players, for example, I feel will end up hurting a team in the long run. Like the title of the post says, it’s all about finding the proper balance between your passion and your reason. When you achieve that, you won’t automatically walk away with a league championship, but it’ll certainly help improve your chances.