Pre-break strategies


By R. Gregory Scalf

The season is about fifty-five percent gone atall-star time. So how is your team doing? For most leagues the break is closeto trading deadline and represents the last chance to make major changes toyour roster. Here are some things to consider at this time.

The superstar pitcher

In fantasy/rotisserie baseball, try to stay awayfrom rookie pitchers. Predicting the next superstar pitcher is tough. Firstoff, some hurlers put up mediocre minor league numbers but prosper when calledup to the bigs. Their mental approach to the game may not be as strong as itshould be in the minors. Consequently, they don't give their best effort untilcalled up. Also, how a player reacts to pressure can't be measured either.There have been numerous "can't miss" prospects that have missedbecause of this. So there are factors that we can't measure. But even thoughthey can be misleading, statistics are our best measuring tool.

The best tool to use is strikeouts per inningspitched in rating the prospects. Each level a player moves up, the competitiongets tougher. Therefore, look for pitchers with over a strikeout per inning.These are the type of pitchers that have a chance to be a power pitcher. Whenyou look at minor league pitchers, you should look at this stat too.

Every year pitchers, and hitters, get hyped. Thisratio will help you see through that hype. If you need to pick a pitcher andyou are evaluating the call-ups from the minors, look into this ratio as atelltale sign of their ability. Avoid those pitchers that do not strikeout alot of guys and get billed as the next Greg Maddux. Sorry, but it takes yearsto become a "crafty" veteran. If a pitcher does not strikeout many inthe minors, they will strikeout less in the majors and the ball will be put intoplay.

Pretenders or Contenders?

At the break, you should be able to tell if yourteam can compete or not. It is time to decide whether to make a run for it orplay for next year. It is a tough decision as pride sometimes clouds the visionof a heartbroken fantasy player. If you are having trouble deciding, here are afew tips to help.

How many teams do I trail in the standings?This is probably the most important factor in making your decision. Themore teams you need to pass, the less of a chance you have to make it into thetop four positions. For example if you are in 10th place in a twelve-teamleague, you must pass six teams to make into fourth. It is difficult to passthat many teams, as your team must do better than all six you need to pass. Theodds are not in your favor as all six teams are unlikely to become a failure.Some of the teams will probably falter, but a couple will improve as well. Itis possible to make a big run and pass them all, but it is a rare occurrence atbest.

How tight are the categories?

How many points can you gain in certain categories?If the categories are tight and ten or fifteen RBI's will gain you a fewpoints, you are in business. However, if you are fifty RBI's behind the nextteam then you can't expect to gain many points. If it appears that thecategories are tight enough to gain some points, perhaps playing for this yearis in your interest.

Project your best-case scenario.

Add up the possible points you could gain in abest-case scenario. Then divide that number by half to get a realistic gain.Usually owners are too optimistic about their team and how much they can gain.If you, for example, have 40 points and project your best-case scenario as 60points, take the 20-point gain and divide by half for 10 points. Realisticallyyou will have 50 points. Evaluate this number and see if it puts you where youwant to be at season's end. If 50 points did not put you in the hypotheticalmoney or near it, then play for next year.

Projected statistics.

This is time consuming, but can be done with thehelp of a web site or software. Project the stats for the rest of the season ofyour players and those of your opponents and see where you end up in ahypothetical season. Do you have key players on the DL that will impactcategories? This will help you to see how much you can gain by their return.The same can be done to possible trades to see which would benefit you most.The projections should tell you if you would be in the hunt or not.

Unorthodox Trade Advice

There are so many factors involved in a trade thatit is difficult to give good advice. Most fantasy players are worried that thetrade is not even and are afraid of getting "ripped off." Well, insome cases it is okay because a trade can sometimes hurt your opponents morethan yourself.

For example, lets say you are in first in HR's andRBI's and have a comfortable lead in those categories. You can trade one ofyour power hitters to a team low in the standings that could take points awayfrom your opponent in the standings by passing them in the power categories. Amove that I call addition by subtraction and a plus for your team even thoughyou "lost" the trade.

Struggling Players

Finally, how long do you stick by a strugglingplayer? Personally, I like to play the odds - the more established a player thelonger I would stick with him hoping the numbers will stay consistent from yearto year.

Those on the last leg of their career, or that hasa hot prospect pushing them, would be candidates to move. But, if there is aregular that is playing poorly and his job appears safe, hang on to him as heshould come around. Watch how many owners will be willing to trade for your"bad" players. There is a reason for this, they expect a good secondhalf too.

R. Gregory Scalf is aformer division I baseball player and associate scout for the Kansas CityRoyals. He currently is the webmaster at Fantasy Baseball Central and the assistantwebmaster at John Mosey's Fantasy baseball Home Page.



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