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Sunday 17th Dec 2017

Anyone who is serious about fantasy baseball knows that barely three weeks into any baseball season is far too soon to be agonizing over league standings. And, after all, if you are reading this column at Mastersball, you are almost surely among that population.

We have all heard that ideally, we would be best served to wait until Memorial Day to see how our teams are doing. That way, we can be protected from ourselves overreacting too soon by making short-sighted drops or maybe even pulling the trigger on an early-season trade.

In one of my local leagues, I won last season. It wasn’t because of my draft, which was good, but not great. I don’t think I made a trade all season long. All I had to do was keep my eyes open and work the waiver wire. My frustrated peer owners, also limited by a one-man disabled list, were often guilty of having very short attention spans and being overanxious.

Among the players I snared off the waiver wire last year were Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Carl Crawford, to name just a few. This season, I just put in my first claim – for Prince Fielder. Do we really believe that Fielder is going to finish with a .164 average and one home run every three weeks?

Of course, here in the real world, we cannot afford to sit back for two months without looking at the standings. We need to constantly evaluate needs, whether the league has daily, weekly or monthly free agent acquisitions.

There is a reason I said all that.

In the two leagues for which I care about the results the most, as of this Thursday, I was sitting in last place in each. Yes, it was only April 17th, but still, it hurts.

Making matters worse is the diversity of the formats. One is a 15-man keeper league, the other a redraft. One has 40-man major and minor league rosters, the other a National League-only population. One has monthly free agent acquisitions by reverse standings order, the other has weekly FAAB. One is the Xperts Fantasy League, XFL. The other is National League Tout Wars. I do not think I have a common player across both leagues.

Not checking live results from Thursday evening, I went to bed depressed. Understanding all the things I said above did not make me feel better. At least, I had made the decision to write about it here – for the therapeutic value if nothing else.

Much to my surprise, the new day Friday brought a major change - for one of my clubs. I am sure I have had days in the past with a bigger swing in the standings, but I don’t recall when.

My XFL roster picked up a whopping 18.5 points on Thursday, vaulting me from 15th place all the way up to sixth. The vast majority of improvement came from pitching. The confluence of various team’s rotations aligned such that I had three starters going the same night and all three delivered.

Two are aces, expected to perform, in Adam Wainwright and Justin Verlander. The other is an up-and-comer, but likely pitching over his potential, in Kyle Gibson. The three combined for 21 strikeouts and one earned run over 23 frames. Each added a win.

In his one inning of work, Kenley Jansen allowed as many runs as the three starters combined. Even so, the Dodgers closer contributed a save.

These aren’t my only pitchers, obviously, but it is only natural to expect some erosion in the standings over the next four days until they throw again. Yet I feel like April 17 is going to be my XFL low-water mark for the season.

On the other hand, Thursday was another day of desperation in Tout. With no innings thrown, I lost two pitching points. The offense was pretty much non-existent, too. Given I had a .208 average for the evening with one run scored and one RBI, it is surprising I did not lose more ground. Then again, I was already in last place in runs, home runs, RBI and on-base percentage.

When you learn my team’s home run and RBI leader is Jimmy Rollins, you know why I am in trouble. To top it off, with Tout having moved to on-base percentage from batting average for 2014, the same hitters not producing power have also been dragging my OBP deep into the league’s cellar.

I spent $108 on five hitters that have logged the following OBP’s to date: .210, .222, .261, .271 and .286, respectively. That is really painful.

Even including their dismal 2014 starts, the career on-base marks of the same five are: .352, .348, .332, .349 and .339.

In other words, these are quality players. I bought them with an expectation they can and will perform. I still believe that. I cannot and will not let three bad weeks trump years of collective performance while destroying my confidence and shattering my dreams.

The names are not important to my main message to not get discouraged early and stay the course. (Yet I will include them because I know you will be curious otherwise. They are Allen Craig, Chase Headley, Carl Crawford, Jason Heyward and Curtis Granderson.) 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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