I was born in Birmingham, Michigan. Technically it was Hazel Park since that was the closest hospital. But Birmingham was where I lived and grew up. That was my home for eighteen years until Uncle Sam came a’calling. It is one of the many suburbs of Detroit. Surrounding all big cities are numerous smaller ones like mine and the only to tell one from another is a road sign announcing the fact. They are really like one giant city.
So I grew up a Tiger fan. We all were. My mom, my grandfather, my friends. I listened to all the games and when they were on TV it was a special treat. For years I lived and died with the results of those games and actually cried at some of the losses. I remember a lesson my dad once told me upon seeing me upset one night. He said, “Do you think Al Kaline is crying right now because he struck out? No. He’s already put the game behind him and going home to his wife. He’ll come back tomorrow and try again.” Great lesson then…and now.
After my tour of duty in the Air Force, I went back “home” but only for a while. Soon it was off to college in Indiana and then my current home in Lexington, Kentucky. Aside from the occasional visit, I’ve not spent any time back home. I’m 61 now but still think of Detroit as my team. Being so close to Cincinnati, my friends here root for the Reds. I watch a game every now and then but there’s no connection like I had with the Tigers. I wonder if it’s like that with everybody who moves away from home? Do they still root for the team they grew up with or do they put that behind them and move on?
What does this have to do with fantasy baseball? Well, if you find out that a manager has a soft spot for a certain team you can…how can I put this…use that knowledge to your advantage. It doesn’t mean you take advantage of them but knowing that they like certain teams helps. I like having Tigers on my team and some of my competitors feel the same about Kansas City players, Cleveland, Baltimore and the Yankees. I even compete against another Detroit fan so between us we have to share the roster. J
Look for trades you can make with those managers. That’s the whole point. When you have one of “their” players, look over their roster and see if there’s someone you’d rather have on your team. It’s like you have a bargaining chip. They may be willing to part with someone of a little higher caliber in order to get their home town favorite. But they aren’t stupid. They aren’t going to trade you Verlander for Hochever even though they like Royals players. Nevertheless, you might get more than you expected AND you know you have a manager with a sympathetic ear if you find yourself in a position where you need to make a trade to cover an injury or something.
Last, you might want to check over your current fantasy team right now. Does your roster indicate that you have a favorite team? Have you tipped your hand and don’t even know it? Have people been making trades with you all these years getting the advantage over you because they know your “tell”? Everybody knows I like Tigers players so it’s no secret. Actually this year I wish they would try to take advantage of me. It would be 1968 all over again – the year of the Tiger.
It’s almost here. The Draft. This is what we’ve been waiting for and the fun is about to start. To help us avoid the post-draft blues, here’s a last minute checklist. This is a reminder for me as much as you.
- Injured players. Guys who are not going to play until mid-season or later should not be drafted. Exceptions are keeper leagues or games that have a designated roster space for players on the DL. There’s nothing worse than wasting a draft pick on a player you have to immediately release because he’s taking up a roster spot for nothing. The difficulty is knowing who is injured and who isn’t. It takes some work on your part to check pretty much every player’s status. Fortunately, in some of the games (like Baseball Manager) most of the injured players were kept off the draft lists.
- Position changes. Many fantasy games have eligibility requirements for a fielding position and some don’t. In those that do, you need to know those rules. Baseball Manager is very strict on its requirements – you can only play a guy at a position the same number of times he plays there in real life. So, if you draft someone at 2nd base and he ends up playing shortstop you’re in trouble. So check it out. Just because someone is located on the 2nd base draft list doesn’t necessarily mean he will play there.
- Starter or reserve. Another common mistake is drafting someone who ends up playing once a week…and you expected him to be in your starting lineup every day. Ouch. It happens. This is especially true if you look at spring training data. You’ll see a player having a good spring and he’s getting a start every day and think he must be the man. You draft him only to discover that he’s a bench player or been sent to the minors. Beware. Check some of the numerous depth charts so conveniently listed online for us. A new one I discovered this January is http://www.mlbdepthcharts.com/. Maybe it has been there for years but it was new to me. And it is updated constantly.
- Pitching role. Similar to the previous point, it is important to know which role the pitchers will play? Every year there seems to be a handful of relief pitchers making the transition to starter and this year is no exception. Determining which relievers are going to start this year isn’t always easy…especially in late March. There are still question marks for several American League players (Ogando, Ross, Crow, Bard). Chris Sale of Chicago seems a lock as a starter but those others are all still iffy. They may eventually be a starter but you need to know if it’s going to happen this season. My fantasy game needs at least five starting pitchers who get one or two starts a week so I sure don’t want to draft a reliever or two with my six picks.
- Relief role. This concern is valuable in Baseball Manager (BBM) fantasy game…not so much in any other games I know. In BBM the relief duties are split between long relief and short relief. It’s useful to have some of both. Good long relievers are the more difficult to find since the better pitchers are usually starters or closers. The thing is that if you can snare a couple of the good long relievers it will be beneficial to you in BBM. So, you may not want to purposely rank all the top closers at the top of your list. Move a few of those long guys up there and you’ll be glad you did.
- DH. Now only an American League concern but from what I read it will someday be everyone’s concern. It looks like the commissioner is determined to get the DH in the National League within a few years. Anyway, the concern is what to do about drafting players who only DH. David Ortiz and Travis Hafner are excellent hitters but should you draft them you may find yourself short on a regular 1st baseman. The same is true of the DH guys in the outfield. I remember one year drafting three of them with my six picks. Ouch. I had to scramble around trying to trade two and that is not easy. No team in BBM wants two DH’s so if you draft more than one you may end up releasing him with no return. In other words, drafting him was a complete waste and you lost out on someone else. Word to the wise is make sure that if you draft Montero of Seattle you have a backup plan in case he spends most of his time sitting on the bench instead of crouching behind the plate.
Good luck in your draft. May you get who you want and not regret who you get.
Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the birth of Jesus and if you don’t, Season’s Greetings to you. May we all live in peace and accept each other in friendship and love.
Baseball. Hmm, hard to think about the game right now what with all the activity this time of year. Gift buying, travel, family traditions. Speaking of traditions, Christmas seems to be the season with the most traditions. Certain foods, certain movies to watch, certain music (that must be the original renditions we remember as a kid)…the list goes on and on. Great fun, but baseball? About the only tradition I can think of relating to baseball this time of year is who gets traded and who gets claimed as a free agent.
Those can be big events when playing fantasy baseball…especially for those who play in keeper leagues. When one of your star players disappears from your roster due to no cause of your own, it can hurt. I remember losing Roy Halladay when he went from Toronto to Philadelphia in 2010. That changed my entire off-season strategy on who to keep for the following season.
It happened again this year with Albert Pujols leaving the National League to play in LA. I feel for all of you who lost him. That’s a blow that will be hard to overcome. But the lump of coal in your stocking means a diamond in another. Those of us who play the American League game now get to turn our attention to how we can best position ourselves to acquiring his services. This will be the second year in row we get to play this game. Last year it was Adrian Gonzalez and it was fun watching us try to out-maneuver each other to get him. I suspect the same again this spring…only more so. That will be one sweet belated Christmas gift.
Ah yes, ‘tis a season of joy for some and here’s hoping each of you find something or someone to celebrate year.
Okay, we’ve talked about commitment and the need to make an effort the whole season. We said that giving up even when you think the season is lost is a mistake because teams come back (and some of the other guys give up). But now let’s talk strategy. How do you win at these fantasy games?
Over the next few weeks we’ll explore some of the dos and don’ts of fantasy sports. Let’s start with one of the most obvious traps managers fall into.
Rule #1 – Do not fill your team with home town players
You’re a Royal fan, you’re a Cub fan. Fine, root for them all you want but if you load up your team with home town players you better hope they win the pennant this year because if not neither are you!
It’s fun to root for your home town players knowing that when they do well, so do you. It’s like double the pleasure. But if you want to win in fantasy sports this is not the way to do it.
Take a tough no-nonsense attitude right from the start. Quit ranking your home town guys so high in the draft. Are they really that good? Should Ordonez really be ranked higher than Choo? Detroit fans might think so, but come on.
These same managers then compound their mistake right after the draft by running around trying to make trades for all the home town players they missed in the draft. You should see some of the deals they make. Ouch. They often sabotage a draft just for the sake of collecting their homies. Not good strategy.
I’ve been guilty of this myself so I know from whence I speak. I’m from Detroit and yes I like it when I have some Tigers on my team but only the likes of Cabrera or Verlander. You have to be brutally honest in evaluating players. Just because a guy is a starter for the home team doesn’t mean he’s better than the other team’s starter. You won’t get far with Inge and Bonderman cluttering up your roster. I mean they are nice guys and have had their moments but when there are other better players available you have to go after the better players.
There’s nothing wrong with filling your roster with your favorite players and then rooting for them all season. Some managers do that and are perfectly content if their fantasy team hangs around the middle of the pack or lower. That’s fine. They’re having fun, it’s their money and they can do what they want. But you need to make up your mind right from the start…are you playing to have fun so you can root for your home town players or do you want to win at fantasy baseball? Rarely can you have both.
This can be a tough time of year. On the one hand there are great things to celebrate but on the other there’s no baseball. And no baseball can make fantasy junkies jumpy. So what to do? Well, if you’re in a keeper league you can sit around the fire drinking your hot cocoa thinking about which players to keep come spring. I’ve done lots of that…well, actually I don’t have a fireplace and rarely drink cocoa…but I do think about my teams in the off-season. Honestly, this is one of the reasons why I joined keeper leagues….there’s something to do in the off-season. Last year I had four teams and they were all in keeper leagues.
Another nice thing about these leagues is contemplating and depending on your game, making some off-season trades. Once you add that element into your game the strategy sessions can go well into the night. You can have endless combinations of who to keep and who to trade. One of the things I like about Baseball Manager is that it’s not just players you’re thinking about…it’s salaries. Should you trade away the high-priced star for a couple of cheap but promising rookies? Sometimes people are so willing to dump a high salaried guy you can get him for next to nothing. This is where hard work can really pay off. If you want to put in the effort it can really pay off.
Take the time to download the rosters of all your opponents…including their salaries. Then go through their roster as if you were managing that team. Who would you keep? Who do they have with high salaries that could be coaxed away in a deal? Who are their obvious keepers (low-priced star players)? Do they have two stars at an infield position? I like that one because you can often get one of them for a song. Do they have any cheap starting pitchers (assuming you play a fantasy game that utilizes pitching)? Some guys don’t value pitching at all and are more than happy to trade away those players.
After you compile your lists for each team it’s time to start looking at how those players could fit on your roster. And that’s where endless scenarios play out. But I tell you what, there are some managers who are wizards at this. I’ve played against this one opponent for a dozen years and every spring I sit amazed at how he flips his roster during the last week or so before the draft and ends up looking like the champ that he is even before we start drafting. Unfortunately, I’ve been the recipient of a couple of those trade offers that at the moment looked good to me…only to realize later I was snookered. Can you say trade away Justin Morneau the year he became THE MAN? Or how about trading away J.J. Hardy last spring? Gee, what did he do last year? 30 home runs, 80 RBIs, .491 slugging percentage. Grrrr……
Anyway I like to think I’m learning. How about you? Don’t let the snow get you down. Think about joining a keeper league next year and chase those blahs away.