In a hobby filled with cliché advice, I am reticent to add more, but what the heck. Value does not win championships, rotisserie points win championships. This seems simple enough. In leagues that permit trading, the axiom is “draft for value, trade for balance.” The canned advice was “deal from strength to improve weakness.” Obviously, there is no trading in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship, so this balance must be achieved via other means. And it really is not balance that is the objective, but maximizing rotisserie points, because after all, it doesn’t matter if you have 1 more homer or 20 more than the next guy, you still get the same number of points. And that, my friends, puts me at the cliché limit for today.
The key to this is category management and that will be the topic of this essay, how to best manage the categories to attain the most possible points. We are far enough into the season so that the statistical distribution within each category can be studied, in an effort to determine where you can gain or lose points. This helps with lineup decisions as well as guiding your acquisition of free agents.
It must be emphasized that every league is unique. Each has their own distribution within each category, with differing areas of bunched teams and large gaps between teams. What will follow is some general information, shown over the years to be true in a global sense. This should be considered when evaluating your squad, but most important is your team’s placement within each category. In some leagues, the team with the 10th most homers may only be 6 behind the team with the 4th most. In other leagues, 20 homers may separate the 10th place team from the 9th place squad.
FACT: The most successful teams fare the better in homers and do not worry about steals as much. If you add up the category totals for all NFBC Classic winners, you will find that on the average, champions finish the highest in home runs and the lowest in steals. This is not to say champs ignore steals, just they finish a bit higher in homers. The point being, if you have more stolen base points than home run points, you may want to consider replacing a stolen base specialist with a player with more power, even if the speedster has more value in a vacuum. Remember, value does not win championships, points do. Hey, I only said I would not use a new cliché, I never said I would not repeat one. The intuitive reason power is favored over speed is a home run hitter also contributes to runs and RBI. A speed guy will only help in runs, so not only are you improving your stead in HR, you are also doing so in RBI, and maybe even runs.
FACT: While It is hard to make up a bunch of ground in ratio categories (batting average, ERA and WHIP), it is actually easier to make up a little ground, even as late as the final week of the season. While I realize this point is counterintuitive as we have been programmed to ignore improving in the ratios as the at bats and innings mount, I challenge you to see this for yourself and follow the weekly movement in your standings. Note which categories teams gain and lose on a daily and weekly basis. I promise you, many of you will be shocked at what you observe. There are two reasons for this “phenomenon”. The first is not only can you improve your ratios, your opponents can suffer damage to theirs. If you are in 6th place in saves starting the day and do not earn any saves, you will end the day in no better than 6th. But if you are 6th in WHIP or ERA, if someone ahead of you has a hurler that incurs a beating, you could jump them without a single arm you own throwing any pitches at all that day. Further aiding this ascension is if you normalize all the categories, giving the leader 100 units and scaling down, you will find that the ratio categories are much more tightly bunched. And not just by a little, the distribution is much closer. This means on a relative basis, even though you cannot move a ratio category that much as the season wears on, you do not need to move it that much. I know, you still do not believe me. Accept my challenge and get back to me in September.
FACT: When determining how many points you can still earn in a category, a very common mistake is made. Say it is exactly halfway through the season, and you note that 10 more homers would get you 5 more points. What many do is figure if they replace a guy expected to hit 5 more homers with a guy they anticipate will hit 15, all things being equal, they just made up those 10 homers. But here is the problem. All things being equal, that 10 homer difference will double to 20 by season’s end, so you actually need to add an additional 20 homers to make up the complete 5 points. Granted, this ditty is more apropos to those playing in trade leagues as it is much more likely you do this sort of upgrade via trade, but it is also applicable to a no-trade competition like the NFBC.
FACT: Even though it was just explained it is possible, if not probable you can make up a few points in the ratios, it is quite difficult to make up a bunch of points. As such, some of us have a decision to make. With the notion that the object is to net the maximum number of rotisserie points, some of us may have to make the difficult, yet necessary decision to cease worrying about our ERA and WHIP, and instead deploy as many starters as possible, concentrating on wins and strikeouts. This entails putting out non-biased glasses on and determining if we forgo ERA and WHIP, will we lose fewer points than we can gain in wins and strikeouts, with the obvious caveat that wins are a crapshoot. This is not a strategy that will result in a league championship and a run at the 100K, but if you have a superior offense and need to squeeze out a few more pitching points, it can mean the difference between a pat on the back finishing in 4th and a nice little 3rd place check from Fanball.
FACT: There are, and will always be dead teams. This is not the space to opine upon how I feel philosophically about this truism but rather the platform to point out that you can use this to your advantage in category management. Remember earlier I snuck in another cliché and said “all things being equal?” Well, the presence of a dead team renders things not as equal. That is, a dead team usually has some active players that are not generating stats, or perhaps pitchers really damaging ratios. When you do your categorical analysis, make appoint of identifying the dead teams and seeing if their lack of attention means you can leapfrog them easier. That is, under normal conditions, you may feel the team ahead of you is too far ahead to catch, so you focus your assets elsewhere. But if that team had a few players with stellar first halves, then slowed down, along with some injured players they never replaced, the difference may not be so daunting after all.
FACT: You never know what can happen. It is always best to keep grinding. So maybe you only manage to jump from 9th to 6th, big whoop, as my sister used to say. But you now have the experience of managing categories and the confidence you know it can make a difference. Next year, maybe you are presently in 6th or 5th. A like effort will propel you into 2nd or 3rd, and you know what that means. Ka-ching!! And a consult with a tax lawyer.