Part of my signature when I post on our forum is “I would rather be wrong for the right reason than right for the wrong reason.” Well, lately, I have been wrong a lot, but at least it was for the right reason. The bottom line is this game can be humbling at times. Our primary job as an in-season manager is to do our due diligence and base on our decisions on the positive outcome with the greatest probability of turning out in our favor. Then it is up to fate, but if you properly identify the favorable outcome with the greatest odds, over the long haul, you will be right more than you are wrong, and that my friends is all you can ask for.
Last week, one of my personal favorite fantasy hurlers, Ted Lilly, had a pair of road games on the docket. Not only were they away tilts, but his opponents were Philadelphia and Colorado, two of the more prolific attacks playing in two of the more generous hitting venues in the league. So what did I do? In leagues where I had a viable alternative, I reserved Lilly for the week. And what did Lilly do? The veteran lefty hurled 11 frames, fanning seven while sporting a 2.45 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Oh yeah, he won a game as well. Was I pissed? Of course, but I did take solace that if I make this decision ten times, I will benefit far more than I suffer.
Tuesday evening, James Shields was scheduled to take the bump against a scorching Red Sox offense. I have Shields in a daily transaction league that has a very reachable innings cap. In leagues with innings caps, the category of strikeouts is really K/9 and you want to maximize every inning, so I made the decision to keep Shields inactive. Of course, the veteran righty painted a masterpiece, spinning a complete game shutout allowing five hits, walking three and fanning five. If this was a league without an innings cap, I likely would have rolled the dice since Shields was at home, but I opted to take the safe path and got burned. But just like the Lilly decision, if I make this call ten times, I am pleased far more than I am disappointed.
I realize for some, part of the fun is making gut calls. We all do, myself included. In fact, I have been rather vocal lately that I am somewhat frustrated that what many call strategic roster management is nothing more than common sense or a gut call. Let’s be honest, what I did with Lilly and Shields was nothing more than common sense. Having either active would have been a gut call, in other words, pure speculation.
Granted, there are some decisions that boil down to a coin flip, but my philosophy is to go with the odds and manage accordingly. I have used this analogy before, even though it is not a perfect metaphor. If you are asked to predict a roll of a pair of dice, the “correct” answer is seven. Anything else is pure speculation. You are really going out on a limb if you guess two or twelve, not so much with six or eight, but anything other than seven and you are going against the odds.
What is the point of all this? Some feel the only way they can win is to take a chance, after all, “what have I got to lose?” I am even hearing my fantasy brethren advise people to go down that road. Maybe if this is September and there is no other way, I can see it. But we are not even halfway through the season. I know, it is boring, almost automaton like, but the smart play is still to guess seven. Those guessing snake eyes or box cars may hit occasionally, but over the long haul they will lose ground. If you don’t believe, Google Las Vegas and check out the pretty pictures of all the big buildings with flashing lights and half dressed showgirls dancing.