The title of this column, Chance Favors the Prepared Mind, was named to represent my philosophy when playing this game. Last week’s discussion served to reinforce that philosophy. In short, my belief is determining the highest percentage play and managing my squad accordingly. Of course this implies I am capably identifying the highest percentage play, which is a concept up for debate. But, that is a story for another day.
Lately, I have been really thinking about what has become commonplace and conventional advice with respect to in-season roster management. I am not so sure the masses are doing the right thing. I am referring to benching or reserving struggling players until they display signs of breaking out of their slump. On message forums I read frustrated owners say they are reserving their scuffling player as well as reading and hearing my fantasy brethren advise those seeking counsel to go down that path. Again, I am not convinced this is the sage way to go.
Intuitively, it makes sense. Keeping a slumping player on your active roster means you are accruing some hurtful stats. But the flip-side is also true. Assuming the player indeed turns it around, they do so while on your reserve, be it a hitter or a pitcher.
Here is my theory, with the emphasis on theory. I intend on putting this on my Toddy-do list for the off-season so I am better prepared to manage my squads in season next year. At the heart of my philosophy is by season’s end, water reaches its intended level. In other words, a player’s stats will be as projected, within a reasonable margin of error. There will be some good weeks and some bad weeks. But benching a player until they get hot means you are going to miss out on the stats that are good enough to get them back in your lineup. The question is, do you also miss out on enough bad stats previous to the turnaround to render the benching a wise decision, or do you end up missing out on positive production, so ultimately, even though the player indeed produced as expected, the contributions you realize are a bit less than expected?
I should point out that I am not referring to the fringe or what I like to call fungible players. My style is to always dedicate some roster spots to fringe players and I will use matchups to decide who plays and who sits. I am referring to those players I intended to pick and stick, only taking them out if they are hurt. It should also be noted that the decision to bench is also quite league contextual and depends on what you have to use instead.
By means of example, the sort of hitter I am talking about is Alexis Rios, someone taken pretty early in drafts or someone that cost a good amount in an auction while an example of such a pitcher would be Ricky Nolasco, a guy whose skills appear intact but the results are lacking. Actually, that gives me an idea. While I prefer not to restrict analysis to a couple of anecdotal examples, let us do the following. Let us pretend than we own Rios and Nolasco and decided to bench them this week and let us track their performance over the coming weeks until we get to a point we are comfortable putting them back in our hypothetical lineup. We will then calculate the total of their respective stats that were lost and compare that to reasonable free agents that are likely available. For kicks, let us pretend we are inserting Roger Bernadina into our hitting and Andrew Miller into our pitching. The results are strictly for entertainment purposes only as conclusions cannot be made from isolated scenarios such as these. Though, by adding some names, I am doing my editors a favor so now they can better select a photo to accompany the column.
Anyway, as mentioned, I intend on looking at ample instances to in fact draw significant conclusions in the off-season. But in the meantime, I do need to manage my squads. Long time readers know I am a big fan of using strikeouts and walks for hitters and pitchers to facilitate these types of decisions. Based on the hypothesis above, I am inclined to leave my struggling hitters active unless they are striking out at an excessive rate if I am blessed with a reasonable replacement. Similarly, I will start my pitchers when I normally would start then unless their peripherals from recent games are really poor. I am not so concerned about hits and homers, but if a pitcher is walking a bunch of guys and not fanning many, I may sit him if he is on the road. My thinking is as outlined above. By the end of the season, I am going to get what I paid for. And if I am not confident they will attain their numbers by the end of the season, they are not long for my roster, assuming I can find someone better. That is, I would rather find a replacement than try to time their positive production.