Patience Can Payoff

By R. Gregory Scalf

Monday, May 3, 1999

For most the drafts are over and one can lean back in the lazy chair and watch the stats start to roll in. It is only the third week in a twenty-six week season and the early results are coming in. How much attention should an owner pay to these early results? Well, it depends on your projections. Last time I talked about learning your team's strengths and weaknesses from projections. They should tell you if you should wait or worry.

The most reliable categories when it comes to projections are three of the hitting categories, Home Runs, Runs Batted In, and Steals. Consequently, these projections are fairly reliable. The people making projections can't predict injuries and other variables, but generally these are the most consistent of the stats produced by players from year to year. So how do you use these at this time of year?

In most traditional leagues there have been two stat periods so far. Two weeks of the season is gone or seven percent. Some players are struggling and owners are getting giddy, wondering if they made a draft day mistake. Currently, most of my e-mail is centered on questions asking if an owner should dump a player already. My answer 99% of the time is "patience."

In 1998, Travis Fryman got off to an abysmal start with the Indians. Many owners worried that he was over the hill after a sub Mendoza line average after one month of play. However, Fryman is one of the most consistent hitters in baseball from year to year. Travis hit .301 the rest of the season and his end game numbers looked like they do year in and year out. This finish was despite a poor April performance. It was predictable that Fryman would "pick it up."

So now you are near the bottom in your league after two weeks, do you worry? Again, you have to do some comparisons against your projections. Do you have several players off to slow starts? Do you have several players injured? Do you have some pitchers that have gotten bombed early? Time will bring the numbers back to the expected performances. Some pitchers always gets bombed in April. Some players just don't do well in the cold or early. He will " pick it up" as the weather warms, and in all likelihood, so will your team. If your team projected to be a good team and you are at the bottom, you need to look and see why. Some players are off to slow starts and a couple injuries calls for one to be patient. They will come around.

Last year, in the now defunct Webmaster's League and in my league with my longtime friends, the first half of the season saw me with a mediocre team in both leagues. In the Webmaster's League I was in eighth place after thirteen weeks, the halfway point. I was in about the same shape at the same point in time in the other league. However, I ended the year winning my regular league and finishing third in Webmaster's. I held the lead for several weeks to only fade the last two weeks falling 2.5 points short.

The lesson to be learned here is that patience can payoff. I could have panicked in April or even at the halfway point and traded players off for next year, but my preseason report said to hang in there. I passed on trade offers that would have improved my team for next year. Instead I made trades to bolster my team for a stretch run. My projections showed me where I would be weak and I addressed those needs even though I was not outstanding in some categories I expected to be strong. As the gurus say, those stats will even out. My poor starters got hot. My injured players got healthy and my teams surged in the second half. Thanks to patience, it was a successful year.

So as you look at a top rookie and his sub-.200 batting average, be patient. When you look at an otherwise healthy veteran pitcher with a ten-plus ERA who has been solid in the past, be patient. It is easy to want to go for the hot guy in favor of the cold guy, but refrain. That hot guy will cool off. The numbers will average out. Don't trade him so someone else will reap the benefits of that upcoming hot streak.

So be patient in the early going. It is too soon to bail and take yourself out of possibly a good season just because you didn't wait long enough for those numbers to roll in.

R. Gregory Scalf is a former division I baseball player and associate scout for the Kansas City Royals. He currently is the webmaster at Fantasy Baseball Central and the assistant webmaster at John Mosey's Fantasy Baseball Home Page.

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