Log in Register

Login to your account

Username *
Password *
Remember Me

Create an account

Fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required.
Name *
Username *
Password *
Verify password *
Email *
Verify email *

fb mb tw mb

Thursday 19th Oct 2017

Do you want to learn Mastersball's tricks of the trade to win at the NFBC?  The Masters of the NFBC is the place.
Another baseball season is almost in the books with only three weeks remaining.  Before the 2010 baseball season ends, take an account of all your teams, the strategies you used, and your successes or failures.  Do this while all the information is fresh in your mind.  I use two of my NFBC teams as examples just to get you thinking about your teams and strategies.

I had several NFBC teams this season.  In hindsight, my main event team was finished almost before the games started.  Selecting near the end of the first round, my first four selections were Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kendry Morales, and Mark Reynolds.  Sure Ellsbury and Morales were hurt early in the season but that is not the entire reason that my team is in 10th place.  Ellsbury was selected over prominent power hitters in order to secure stolen bases.  In hindsight, just the presence of Carl Crawford, along with some other later round acquisitions, has me in second in stolen bases.  So a healthy Ellsbury would get me exactly one more stolen base point.  Losing Morales hurt, but his power loss was essentially evened out by the late round selection of Mike Stanton.  As far as Mark Reynolds is concerned, I knew better than to take a guy with over 400 strikeouts in two seasons but I did it anyway.

My auction team has been another story.  I have been in first place in my league and floating around the top-ten overall for most of the season.  Although I was a little zealous on buying stolen bases, my strategy of buying all Tampa Rays hitters basically worked.  Couple the Rays hitters with Mike Stanton and Buster Posey, my only do over might be B.J. Upton for a bigger slugger.  Starting pitching helped keep me at or near the top.  And that is the root of my struggles right now.  Watching most of Marlins spring training games, I was very high on Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco.  I owned the “old” Colby Lewis so I had to have the “new” Colby Lewis.  And after living with Brandon Morrow last season, it was only fitting that I try and deal with him again.  First Nolasco goes down with a freak injury, then Morrow gets shut down to conserve innings, then Johnson is shut down with a bad back/shoulder.  My ERA and ratio, which was so strong all season, is now taking an absolute beating as I try to hold wins and strikeouts with bad pitchers.

As I put the finishing touches of my final NFBC Zone of the season, I am actually sweating out starts by Dillon Gee of the Mets, James McDonald of the Pirates, Chris Narveson of the Brewers, and Jeff Francis of the Rockies.  Talk about a nightmare that cannot possibly have a good ending…

But this is the perfect time of the season to go back and analyze what you did right. And more importantly, what you did wrong.

If you tried a new strategy, take a look at which parts worked. It was a strange year, no doubt about it. You could argue that only three of the top 12 hitters going into the season actually produced as expected. It seemed to be the year of the pitcher, and there were a lot of great ones. But if you went hitter-heavy and missed out on the countless break-out hurlers, you don’t necessarily have to change that for next year. Pitchers’ performance has never been easy to predict. You never know, maybe this year was just a fluke.

Or maybe it wasn’t.

It is hard to get the gumption to write a column about a team that is just plain putrid.

Since the last installment about my pathetic NFBC team, the team showed signs of life.  Mired in the basement for the first three months of the season, my team rebounded and rose to as high as fifth place, just nine points out of cashing position.  Of course, what goes up, must come down, and down my team went, yet again.

As of this writing, I am in the middle of the pack, just about as many points out of the lead as I am out of last place.  It’s a whole lot better than sitting in the cellar, but last I checked, only the top three cashed, so fourth place and fifteenth place are worth exactly the same, nothing.

Rather than bore you with details of the trials and tribulations of the team, I thought I’d devote today’s column to a quick rationale for the demise of my team.

Lousy draft.

OK, perhaps a little more detail is needed.  While the vast majority of my team has underperformed, the biggest problem has been at second base.  Often considered a position with a scarcity of talent, I made the decision to go deep at second base.  The thought process was two fold.  First, I’d fill a seemingly shallow spot, and at the same time, I’d make it more difficult for my league mates to fill that spot.

In following that “strategy,” I grabbed Ian Kinsler with my second round pick (#22), followed that up with Ben Zobrist in the third (#52), then Chone Figgins (with third base eligibility to start) in the fourth (#69), and Brian Roberts in the sixth (#82).  Oops.

Kinsler in front of Robinson Cano?  Like I said, lousy draft.  Kinsler was coming off of a year wherein he hit 31 home runs, stole 31 bases, scored 101 times, and drove in 86.  The previous year, Kinsler hit .318 with 18 home runs and 26 steals.  Great things were expected for 2010.  Those great things never arrived.  Instead, Kinsler has hit a whopping seven home runs, stole ten bases, and scored a total of just 59 times.  Add in his 39 runs batted in, and Kinsler’s been a total bust.

Zobrist had a break out 2009, hitting .297 with 27 home runs, stealing 17 bases, driving in 91 and scoring 91 times.  With Tampa looking like a solid team this year, certainly Zobrist would at least repeat those numbers, right?  Wrong.  Zobrist has hit just eight home runs thus far.  He’s driven in 60 and scored just 66 times.  His 23 stolen bases are helpful, but his .245 average isn’t.

Figgins signed a lucrative contract to play in the revamped Mariner lineup.  Coming of a year where he scored 114 times, hit .298 and stole 44 bases, you might expect similar, but slightly reduced numbers in Seattle .  Reduced is right, slightly is not.  Figgins is hitting .244 and has scored just 54 times.  He hasn’t scored less than 72 runs since 2004, and has never scored less than 72 in a full season.  Until now.  Figgins’ 35 stolen bases are about right, but they don’t make up for the average drain and the lack of runs.  If you draft a “Judy” hitter, he better do something other than just run.  Figgins hasn’t.

Brian Roberts has been solid, if not spectacular, since 2003.  That is, until this year.  Roberts hit 16 home runs last year.  This year, he has three. Roberts drove in 79 runs last year.  This year, he’s driven in 13.  Roberts scored 110 runs last year.  He scored more than 100 three years running.  This year, he has scored 19.  Robert’s averaged 40 steals per season for the past three.  This year, he’s stolen eight.  Much of this decline is due to injuries, but the reason doesn’t help a fantasy team.  Bottom line, Roberts has been a bust.

Combine my poor second basemen with a disappointing season from Ryan Howard, debilitating injuries to Mark DeRosa and David DeJesus, and underwhelming performances from Scott Baker and Justin Verlander, and middle of the pack is about as good as it gets.


It is nearly September. While we all have been saying it to some degree throughout our respective seasons, this time of year the feeling really intensifies. You realize you have something in common with Han Solo, coaxing your Millennium Falcon of a team to “Come on baby, hold together”  while trying to run away from a group of tie fighters and a death star, or in our cases, a bunch of owners all seeking the same thing – our league crown.

In most leagues, the end of August marks the end of trading season. By all means if you are reading this article and today is your deadline, do not sit back if there is something you can do to either help your own team directly in the standings or indirectly by confounding others in an attempt to block or have some other non-threatening team leap over them in a key category – especially the counting stat categories whose outcomes are easier to impact. So be aggressive, get in there, and make something happen if you can. Sitting back and crossing your fingers is not enough. If you have a laid back natural tendency, you are going to need to embrace your shark/hunter instincts.

Too often I see guys in leagues who are content to just go with the flow. The result is the same every season – they did not aggressively trade enough to compete nor did they aggressively trade enough to have a great keeper squad, so maybe they win a fifth place prize and recoup their entry fee, but was that a fun exercise? The best players are those know when to be aggressive, whether it is for the current season or the next season.

Once your trade deadline is up, this feeling and perhaps a higher level of spirituality set in, willing to offer up whatever it takes for your players to stay healthy and produce, keeping you ahead or moving you up the ladder. Still, you are not helpless and you can do more than pray, especially if your league allows a reserve roster.

This time of year you have to be even more careful and judicious in your selection of lineups. If you are trying to come back or hold tight in the pitching categories of ERA and WHIP it cannot be business as usual. Small sample sizes can have huge impacts on the final standings, so watch those match-ups and consider the ballpark a game is being held at.

I have found it difficult at best to rely on my starting staff to make a push towards the end of the season to make up ground. You have to remember that this is the end of the year. Your starting pitchers are tired. They simply are not necessarily going to be as effective or reliable. Pay particular attention to rookies and/or younger pitchers who have increased their workload. Not so smart organizations will continue to put them out there even though they should be shut down while other organizations will start to clamp down, limiting their pitches and innings – capping them for a season total of work. In other words, their opportunities for wins will be reduced and if they are only allowed to pitch a lesser amount of innings they will not be able to reduce the damage of a sub-par early inning s by pitching into the sixth or seventh inning, even if they have bounced back and are pitching well for the rest of the game. This however, goes beyond youngsters, veterans feel it too. I know I have been on the wrong-end of a Roy Halladay poor late-season outing or two in my time for that matter.

Meanwhile, for those of you are the opposite end of the spectrum, September can is a delight to be hold. You can care less about the standings. Your opponents who are in the hunt have rosters full of veterans and if you have a cap, are likely close to it or may simply be in a situation where they just cannot afford to give a rookie a try. So remember what I said earlier, stay aggressive. Do not fall asleep as you will have the opportunity to snag potential keepers throughout the month. Additionally you can get involved in another game given the constraints of the competitive, cap-restrained teams called waive your expensive veteran. Unless you have rules that preclude the cutting of certain players, and I do not see why you would in a keeper league, your third and second to last transaction periods can be great fun as you will have the opportunity to waive or release a veteran, hope they clear waivers and potentially sign them for the following season to a keep able price.

For example, I notice in my local league one team failed to dump Mark Teixeira due in part to his so-s season and in more in part due to his $43 contract. He isn’t keepable at that price, so why not go for it and what happens. Just remember tat you are cutting Mark Teixeria and that even though you are trying to get him at a discount, you cannot expect a super discount, just a reasonable one, so you’ll still have to be aggressive in your bidding. This way the worst case scenario is someone outbid you, but they did so again at a likely non-keeper worthy price. In that situation you have given it your best shot, but you really had nothing to lose once you are past the trade deadline and are certain not to keep a certain player.

Whatever path you are on for the rest of the season, remember to be aggressive and have fun. I wish you good luck.

I received a text message from a friend the other day that read, “These last few weeks are going to be tight. Every run counts… Good luck!”

I thought about it for a second and then looked at my calendar. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it’s almost the end of August already, which means just about a month of the fantasy baseball season remains. It’s pretty sad too, considering how much time we spend in the offseason preparing and anxiously waiting for opening day. And then the season flies by.

I think one of the reasons so many people love fantasy baseball is that it takes place during the best time of the year. The weather is the nicest, people are usually the happiest, and fantasy baseball only adds to that. But with the calendar about to flip away from August, that means only one thing: September call-ups.

And per NFBC rules, unless someone in your league drafted that particular player, you can’t pick them up until they see major league action. But you know what it’s like at the end of that long, 15-team draft. People are drafting prospects all over the place, scattering the names throughout their roster to either, 1) hold on the bench for the majority of the season, or 2) at least boost their ego by showing off their knowledge.

Aroldis Chapman was drafted in a whole bunch of leagues, and so were Jeremy Hellickson and Desmond Jennings. And most of the people who drafted these players eventually dropped them when they realized they needed the roster spot.

That means you can pick them up before they actually get the call (or re-call, in Hellickson’s case). And if they went undrafted, at least you’ll know who to look for with this handy guide to this year’s September call-ups.

Aroldis Chapman, RP, CIN: A popular pick before the season began, Chapman’s time as a starter lasted just 13 games before the Reds realized they should have listened to the scouts who said his command was a serious issue. He struggled in that role, walking 40 guys in 65.2 innings with a 4.11 ERA. But since he’s moved to the bullpen, the hard-throwing 22-year-old has collected 46 strikeouts in just 29 innings of work, earning a 2.48 ERA in the process. The Reds have already said they’ll add him to the roster on Sep. 1, and with reports that his fastball has been touching 103 miles per hour, he should be a valuable asset despite a likely role in middle relief.

Desmond Jennings, OF, TB: The Rays have been grooming their center fielder and leadoff-hitter of the future in Triple-A this year and Jennings has proved that he can handle the role. With eye-popping speed, the 23-year-old has swiped 34 bags and been caught just three times, scored 80 runs in 102 games, and hit .287 with a 63:41 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It likely won’t be long before he pushes the arrogant B.J. Upton over to right field and starts collecting at bats with the big-league club, and Jennings could be a solid source of steals in the final month.

Jordan Zimmermann, SP, WAS: Zimmermann made a dashing comeback from Tommy John Surgery in time to post a 0.53 ERA in four starts at Triple-A Syracuse this year. Even more impressive, he’s walked just three guys and allowed just eight hits (no HRs) in 17 innings. He was well on his way to becoming a household name in Washington last year, led by an impressive June/July in which he fanned a batter per inning. Now Zimmermann has his velocity back and appears to be healthy, and he’ll make his 2010 debut this Thursday. They’ll want to give him a test and let him stretch out during this last month of the season, so if you’re hurting with the loss of Strasburg, don’t be afraid to jump to his teammate who could very possibly have just as good a career.

Wilson Ramos, C, WAS: Another young stud who appears primed for a long career in a Nationals uniform (that sounds like punishment doesn’t it?), Ramos was acquired from the Twins in July for closer Matt Capps. Regarded as one of the top catching prospects in baseball, many Twins fans were puzzled by the deal, but with Joe Mauer locked in at Target Field for years to come, the Twins felt they had to make a move. Ramos has shown the ability to be a consistent hitter in the minor leagues (career .285 average), but the power has never really materialized and he’s had a tough time with plate discipline at the Triple-A level. After a short try with the Nats last week, he’s back in AAA for a few days but will get another chance with the big-league club on Sep. 1.

Jeremy Hellickson, RP, TB: After teasing us with his impressive stuff in four starts with the Rays, the pride of Des Moins, Iowa was sent back to Single-A for the time being to work out of the bullpen. It’s simply temporary as Jeff Nieman and Wade Davis are due back to the rotation this week. Tampa plans on recalling Hellickson on Sep. 1 to work in relief, and while it’s certainly a downgrade in value from being a starter, his high K-rate and impressive ratios make him a must-add anyway.

Dustin Ackley, 2B, SEA: Mr. Irrelevant after being drafted No. 2 overall behind Strasburg last year, Ackley has excelled quickly through the minors for Seattle and successfully converted from first to second base. He’s been hitting leadoff at Triple-A Tacoma and has been doing a solid job of getting on base, collecting a 21:15 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .300 average. While the power has been scarce (five minor league homers in 439 at bats), Ackley’s great approach at the plate and superb talent makes him an intriguing prospect to watch as the Mariners should give him a chance when rosters expand.

Justin Smoak, 1B, SEA: Don’t forget about Smoak, who was sent down to the minors to work out some kinks at the end of July. He’s walked 16 times to just 18 strikeouts in August with four homers, but hit just .231. He’ll likely get another shot soon and with minimal talent blocking him at first base, he should get his fair share of starts down the stretch.


A few top prospects who probably won’t get the call this year:

Kansas City’s third base prospect Mike Moustakas has been killing the ball in the minors this season, hitting .325 with 28 homers and 99 RBIs between AA and AAA. But Omaha is in the middle of a playoff run at the moment and with Wilson Betemit actually playing well at third for the Royals, Moustakas may have to wait until next year.

Everyone thought Freddie Freeman (.310, 17 HR, 80 RBI at Triple-A) was ready to take over at first base for the Braves this season, but after the acquisition of Derek Lee, it looks like the hard-hitting Freeman will have to wait just a little while longer.

And while fans in Cleveland were looking forward to seeing the talented Jared Goedert suit up at third base once Jhonny Peralta packed his bags for Detroit, the Indians claim to be happy with the arrangement of Jayson Nix, Andy Marte, and Luis Valbuena at the hot corner for the remainder of the year. Between two levels, Goedert has hit 35 doubles and 25 homers this season and looks primed to take over at third in 2011.

We are at the time of the season where it is all about points.   You reserve a more valuable player for a less valuable player if activating the less valuable player can net you more rotisserie points.   Since the National Fantasy Baseball Championship is a no-trade contest, all the manager really has at their disposal is liberal use of their reserve list and the free agent wire.   But the shrewd manager also has history on their side, which if exploited properly, can aid in amassing the maximum number of points.

The conventional advice in an essay such as this is to examine your categories in an effort to decide where you can gain the most points while losing the fewest.  It is pointed out, as if you did not know, that every league is different.  Each league has its own statistical distribution within each category.  Where you sit within each category dictated your mode of action, where to attack and where to back off.

And of course, all of this is true and sound advice, but it really is not anything every owner who is still paying attention does not already do.  So instead, we will focus on a concept that may be new, but uses history as an ally to help you manage your squad down the stretch.

What we are going to do is take a look at normalized end of the season standings.  While the numbers change a bit year to year, the general distribution within average NFBC standings if consistent.  Average NFBC standings are generated by averaging the first place through the last place total in each category.  This is how you would generate category drafting targets.  Most like to target draft by aiming for the second or third place total in each category.  We are going to use these totals in a different manner.

Normalizing the average standings converts the real categorical totals so that the sum of all 15 teams adds up to the same number, we will use 1000.  In other words, instead of there being fewer total homers than say RBI, and instead of batting average, ERA and WHIP being expressed as a decimal, the sum total of all 15 team’s normalized totals will be the same, in this instance 1000.  This allows us to do determine the relative distribution of stats within each category.  Doing it this way helps debunk a myth or two about category management.  Of course, we are going to look at average standings.  As suggested, what is paramount is where you lie within your particular league.

For the ease of formatting, only the first place and last place normalized totals will be presented.  Difference is between first and last place while regression is a least squares linear regression from 2nd place to 14th place, to eliminate the outliers from owners punting or overloading categories.   The smaller the difference and regression are, the more tightly bunched the category sits, suggesting it may be more possible to gain ground in those specific areas.
























































Let us start at the categories with the largest distribution, steals and saves.  There are a couple of things to keep in mind here.  First, of all the stats, these are the two that are most frequently strategically punted by some owners, rendering the last place total artificially low.  In addition, even though the spread is quite large, both these categories are dominated by players that earn their respective stat in bunches, that is a smaller percentage of the player pool contributes a huge proportion of the stats, making the big gaps easier to overcome.

Now let us jump to the other end of the spectrum and take a gander at the categories that are most tightly grouped.  Lo and behold, it is the ratio categories, especially batting average.  Truth be told, this is the real crux of this discussion, as this suggests to me that it may be easier to gain points in batting average, ERA and WHIP than many perceive, due to the tightly grouped distribution.  Granted, as the innings and at bats mount, the ratios do not move very much, but what also is true is they do not need to move very much in order to pass a competitor.  In addition, unless you owned George Brett, circa 1983, once you get a counting stat, it is yours to keep.  You do not lose stats.  But your ratios can in fact get worse.  So not only are the ratio categories tightly bunched, but you can gain rotisserie points without any of your hurlers throwing a single pitch if a competitor ahead of you has a pitcher get lit up.  If you glean anything from this discussion, the take-home lesson is not to automatically assume you are locked into place in batting average, ERA and WHIP.  The truth is globally, more points will be gained (hence lost) in the ratio categories.  How you look to take advantage rests with how you stand in the counting categories.  Perhaps deploying a solid middle reliever can help you net a couple more ratio points if you are situated at a point where you cannot gain or lose points in wins and strikeouts.  The point is, too many brush off the possibility due to feeling they have too many innings accrued to have a middle reliever make a difference.   This is a myth; he still can contribute in a positive manner to ERA and WHIP.

Looking at the pitching counting stats, the common advice is not to chase wins as they are unpredictable and out of the player’s control.  And that is true.  But additionally, based on difference and regression data, it is a wee bit more difficult to make up ground as the spread between teams is broader.  Of course, this can be overcome by deploying more starters, but that brings you back to the unpredictability of wins and how chasing them may cost you more in ratios, for even if you are fortunate to pad your win total, on a relative basis you may need more of them to propel yourself up in the standings.  Strikeouts is probably the most reliable pitching stat to project, but again based on the difference and regression data, you will really need to ratchet up your total, hopefully not at the expense of your ratios, which as just explained, are not as stable as you may have thought.

It is not too surprising that runs and RBI show similar profiles as they are both team dependent stats, reliant as much on how many at bats your team totals as it does the quality of your hitting attack.  Next to the ratios, runs and RBI points are the easiest to earn based on difference and regression data.  What this means is it is imperative that you maximize your at bats down the stretch, making liberal use of the Friday activation rule and continually scouring the free agent pool for hitters with the most playing time.  Something else to keep in mind is movement in the counting stats is facilitated by some dormant squads no longer interested in managing their team to optimal efficiency.  When “doing the math” and adding up potential points you can gain, it behooves the attentive owner to go the extra yard and look for teams whose totals will suffer down the stretch as they have some roster holes.  This makes catching them that much easier.

So while the overriding factor is still where you are nestled in each category, there are some global nuances you can employ to help you gain the most points.  At the forefront is not ignoring ratios, followed by maximizing at bats.  Then the trick is balancing the pitching ratios versus wins and strikeouts and batting power versus speed.

Todd Zola won the 2008 and 2009 NFBC $1300 Auction Las Vegas National League only championships.  After a one-year hiatus, he intends to return in 2011 to reclaim his title.


When the 2010 NFBC draws were announced, I received a number of sympathy notes. Among the competitors in my league, Classic Weekend 2, New York 1, are Ron Shandler and his assistant Dave Adler from Baseball HQ, plus three-time Tout Wars Mixed League champion Larry Schechter. There is the dynamic duo of ESPN’s Nate Ravitz and three-time LABR co-champ Glenn Colton.

Then, there is me - and oh yeah, 11 other owners.

For those who are reluctant to participate in these kinds of leagues because of the “name” fantasy industry competition, don’t be.

None of the top three teams in the league, those with over 90 points, are led by the industry people. Schechter, Ravitz/Colton and I are among a pack in the upper-middle of the standings with scores in the 80’s. The Shandler/Adler team is lodged in the group bringing up the rear.

My team is about as imbalanced as they come. I have the second-highest total in pitching with 61 points, but am just two points from having the fewest hitting points at 23.

While I thought I had a very good draft (but who doesn’t?) my two major free agent acquisitions since the season began have been busts. San Diego’s former outfielder Kyle Blanks drew a $202 bid that took me nowhere. Ineffectiveness followed by injuries were the culprits.

The health questions surrounding Rockies closer Huston Street caused me to hop on former ninth-inning man Manny Corpas in late June. The speculative move itself was not bad, but bidding $203 clearly was.

Overpaying badly for both Corpas and Blanks wasted considerable FAAB. On the mound, Corpas was so awful that I don’t think I have had the confidence to even play him more than a week or two and I surely will drop him as I did Blanks.

Earlier, all the way back in April, I had bid over one-quarter of my FAAB in an attempt to get either Justin Smoak or Ike Davis. I failed at both. I haven’t looked at the numbers this year, but in the past, I am usually among the league leaders in bids lost, as I am constantly bargain-shopping.

Fast forward to the here and now. As we headed into the final trimester of the season, I decided to undertake a major overhaul of my underperforming offense with the goal of reaching third place in my 15-team league.

To do so, I would need to pick up just eight more points. In that case, I would most likely finish ahead of my industry friends and rivals; but this isn’t about showing well, it is about cashing in.

Out went the hugely-disappointing Nate McLouth, injured hitters Blanks and Brandon Inge and the Rockies’ fill-in infielder Jonathan Herrera. In came Royals prospect Kila Ka’aihue, previously leading the Pacific Coast League in a number of offensive categories, streaking St. Louis shortstop Brendan Ryan, a steady veteran in Pat Burrell and an injury opportunity player in Tampa Bay’s Dan Johnson. The veteran first baseman, hot as the summer in the minors, should play most every day while Carlos Pena is out. With John Buck on the disabled list, his replacement, J.P. Arencibia, joined my squad as well. I spent less than $100 in acquiring the five.

Time will tell if my revamped roster will make a difference, but I am giving it my full attention and best effort. Consider a similar set of actions in your league if you are close, but not quite close enough.

An overhaul certainly couldn’t hurt and maybe you can pass your rivals to gain some always-valuable bragging rights in the process, as well. Most importantly, if you are like me and are still within striking distance of the money, it’s time to go get it!


Brian Walton is the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 12-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC last season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.


Way back the last time I checked in here, our NFBC team was languishing at the bottom of the league, our pitching dying largely thanks to Jake Peavy and Javy Vazquez.

At the time, our hitting was OK, but the pitching? Well, if you remember how both hurlers began the year, then you understand. In fact on our message board right here at Mastersball, there were a number of folks who were asking if they should drop Vazquez after all the pounding he was taking.

I was pretty adamant not to let him go for a couple of reasons. First, all pitchers do struggle from time-to-time and Vazquez was readjusting to being in the AL. Next, Vazquez was likely a high draft selection or moderately priced starter in auction leagues, and just jettisoning a guy like that when there were still over four months to go in the season was a mistake.

As was trading him for with the investment, letting Vazquez go would have made him a loss leader to another team. For, Vazquez' trade value was marginal at the time of his slumping. So, if you did trade him--maybe for a then hot Mike Sweeney--say, what you wound up with was the double screw.

First you would have been stuck with Vazquez lousy totals, and had to search for someone who would ideally balance them. Then you had to hope Sweeney would keep it up.

What happened was since then Vazquez has been terrific, and Sweeney pretty much on the DL.

Which means whoever you traded with would have been able to get all those good numbers, and would have dumped Sweeney just at the right time. Which means your team would still be languishing.

So, Lord Zola and I hung, and threw Javy out there, and got Peavy's improved starts, and low and behold, we find ourselves amongst the top five teams in our league now, bouncing around between 89-94 points, awaiting an August surge that could add the final 10-15 points that would indeed put us in the money.

Of course losing Peavy was a blow, as was losing Troy Tulowitzki and Asdrubal Cabrera for a time, but, we have done well with Carl Pavano and CC Sabathia and we're currently second in WHIP and fourth in ERA in the league.

It is fun to be among the leaders, though winning the league will indeed be tough, but the point here is trust your instincts and the players you selected to be the core of your team when the season starts.

True, often players do have off years and disappoint, and our teams suffer accordingly, and that means sometimes we just have a bad year. Every team does--be it our heads or on the field--and that is part of the game and life.

But, the reason a guy like Vazquez is generally thought of as a good pick is that he has delivered a body of good stats with consistency, and that suggests he will deliver a baseline of good numbers to help your team.

If you don't give him the chance--and that means over two-thirds of the season, and sometimes hiding him on your reserve list--to do what he can, chances are you will not only lose, but you will hand your opponents a title.


The first time I wrote this piece back in May, I was dead last, had what looked to be zero power, and I was sure that the inability to make trades would doom any legit shot at respectability. I harped on and on about the importance of getting power in the draft. I even tossed out the (now standard) notion that managing the wire for pitching was my only hope going forward.

My how things have changed! Not that I’m in contention or anything, but what I find truly shocking, standing here from my newly claimed perch in the 11th position, is how much power I put up in the first half. In fact, my efforts to manage my pitching staff repeatedly blew up in my face (Carlos Zambrano anyone?). At just past the halfway point in the season, I have 46 hitting points against a ridiculously laughable 9.5 points in pitching. I managed 11 points in each of the R, HR, and RBI categories, 10 points in batting average and a weak three points in stolen bases. The question I’m now facing is, given the incredibly unlikely possibility of gaining any major ground in the pitching categories, how do I at least manage them so as to avoid losing any more points there? As you’ll see later, the plan to pick up hitting points is pretty much a no-brainer, as there are multiple categories with multi-owner bottlenecks going on. If my guys keep hitting, I can really only tweak two or three slots based on matchups and injury. But the pitching, that’s going to take some work.

My team ERA is a whopping 4.49, good for one point. Now I haven’t researched how much ground you can make up in ratios over time, but for the sake of putting a plan together, let’s say I should realistically target something as close to 4.00 as possible.  Between me and the guy in 11th with a 4.03 ERA are five potential points. Given the no trade rule in NFBC play, strategies designed around trading to make your competitors lose points isn’t an option. So realistically I need the pitching staffs on the four teams above me to tank while my guys, ideally, pitch out of their heads from here on out. Of course that is not very likely, nor is it a particularly controllable plan of attack. I could load up on middle relievers (which I’ve already done) and watch them suddenly blow up one month (Tyler Clippard - You’re killing me lately!). As of today I have Matt Belisle, Sean Marshall, and J.J. Putz holding down three spots, Brad Lidge and Carlos Marmol closing in two, and Josh Beckett, Mike Pelfrey, Javy Vazquez, and Jeremy Bonderman establishing the standard for mediocrity to fill out the staff. Erik Bedard, Rich Harden and Bud Norris wallow on my bench waiting to be healthy/effective.  The WHIP category looks much the same as ERA, so I won’t say more on that or than that it’s another uphill battle. Of course the good news is that I can’t lose any points in either category. Did I mention that I named the team Sonofapitch?

Wins and saves are categories where I could legitimately pick up two to four points each. One of the reasons I picked up Clippard, Marshall and Putz was that each were pitching extremely well for teams that have found themselves in plenty of close games. I know its chasing wins, but given the MASH unit I have for a pitching staff, it’s at least a plausibly legitimate gamble. Sounds like a sure bet to me! I really don’t see myself gaining any more than a point in strikeouts given my starters, but if Bedard and Harden return marginally effective, I could be moderately surprised.

Since I can’t lose points in the ratios, saves (only one guy behind me with half the saves), or strikeouts, it looks like the best plan is to continue to deploy stud middle relievers who tend to get vulture wins or saves, while keeping an eye out for effective starters on the wire.

Now for the fun stuff! Somehow I managed to rack up 140 HR over the first half, 26 behind the leader, but only 10 behind the guy in second. Catching him would give me a three point jump. I have 578 RBI, good for 11 points, but I can realistically only hope to gain two points there where I would need a 50 RBI jump to catch the guy in second. Now the two guys sitting in the 580s are doable. Runs looks much like RBI… after a block of two guys ahead, I’m pretty much maxed out. The BA category is a train wreck. There are at least seven guys hovering around my .270, so that cat could go either way. Finally, in the stolen bases category, I am at the bottom of a bunch of owners all sitting somewhere between 70 and 85 swipes. I’m keeping my eye out for a speedster, but with Scott Podsednik and a bunch of double digit steals guys on the roster, I could very well gain some ground there with the players I have.

Mike Napoli, Prince Fielder, Ian Kinsler, Brandon Phillips, Adam LaRoche, Jason Kubel, Juan Rivera, Delmon Young and Michael Young are my best bets for power going forward. In the last week I picked up Dayan Viciedo to plug in at CI until LaRoche remembers he’s a second half player. I also have Justin Smoak who lost value moving to Seattle, but offered me some hope by hitting two bombs over the last week.  With the power comes production in three categories. Needless to say, I’m very excited to see I totally underestimated that aspect of my squad back in May.

I’m not going to catch up to Fred Zinke up at the top of the standings. But climbing out of dead last up to 11th, with a chance at finishing in the top 10 by the end of the year will definitely make my first NFBC experience a much more enjoyable one. If nothing else, I can at least try to finish ahead of Team Ravitz.



It’s a good news, bad news situation for Buster and the NFBC at the All Star break.

The good news is that the NFBC website is up and running and most of the features are working well.  While the website started off rough, things have rebounded well.  Live scoring is accurate, team rosters can be modified with a mouse click, and waiver wire transactions are easy to locate and analyze.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Team Buster.  Team Buster, for lack of a better word, stinks.  While I knew leaving the draft that I would need some help to win the league, I didn’t think that I would need help just to get out of the cellar.  As of the All-Star break, I’m a lot closer to the cellar than the top, but at least I’m not in last.  I’m sitting in 13th place (out of 15), which obviously isn’t good.  I’m also in 304th place overall (out of 435), which again isn’t any good.

Misery loving company and all, I’m a bit heartened that fantasy guru Ron Shandler’s team is in 378th place.  This is not a knock on Ron, at all.  It just shows that even the smartest, brightest, and best prepared can have their troubles, too.

Looking back at the draft, there are obvious reasons why I am failing.  Too much emphasis on speed (Chone Figgins in the 5th round and Brian Roberts in the 6th) gave me two gaping holes in the power department when others were drafting guys who would hit 20+ home runs.  Like it or not, home runs pretty much equate to RBI, and with two holes early in the draft in home runs and RBI, I created a problem.

Compounding that problem is Ian Kinsler, who was my second pick.  Kinsler hit 31 home runs last year.  This year he has four.  Want more guys who have lost the ability to go yard?  Try Ben Zobrist, my fourth round pick.  Last year, Zobrist knocked out 27 in just 501 at bats.  This year, “Big” Ben has a grand total of five home runs.

My third round pick was a pitcher, Justin Verlander, and my first round pick was the somewhat disappointing Ryan Howard. My first five hitters have combined for a total of 26 home runs. To put that in perspective, undrafted Jose Bautista has hit 24 by himself.

In previous seasons, the waiver wire has produced a number of contributors.  This year, I haven’t been nearly as successful, and indeed, there haven’t been as many players out there making an immediate impact.  Bautista’s been good, but is hitting .237. Alex Gonzales has 17 home runs, but is hitting .259.  Ty Wigginton is hitting just .252 to go along with his 14 home runs.  In a year when I am in need of an impact hitter or three, I’ve picked up, in order, Jeff Keppinger (since cut), Joaquin Arias (since cut), Brandon Wood (twice, and cut twice), Tyler Colvin (since cut, major mistake there), Randy Winn (since cut), Travis Hafner (hey, I’m desperate), Mike Sweeney (since cut), Scott Hairston (after I had cut him), Andy LaRoche (since cut), Casey Kochman (since cut), Jose Tabata, Yuniesky Betancourt (since cut), and this week, Dayan Viciedo.

It’s not for a lack of trying, obviously.  The bottom line is simple, while there may be a power hitter or two available on the waiver wire in the NFBC, it is impossible to make up for a draft that is so sorely lacking in power.

Best of luck in your seasons.


Let’s face it. A 15-team mixed league without trading leaves your ability to make up significant ground difficult. Note that I did not say impossible! There is indeed a method at your disposal that can help you make up significant ground, perhaps in a hurry, if you do it just right. I call this method the “overload approach”.

This is nothing new and you may have not done it before, but often in leagues were trading is allowed or there are not many teams, you choose a more conservative approach. In a situation with limited options, this is the ideal environment. It is very simple – you see which categories you can most easily move up in, often the categories that are most tightly bunched together, and you attempt to overload your roster in attempt to move up the standings. Now there is a balancing act required here as you have to judge which categories you may slide in as a result of attempting to overload and judge on your own as to whether the points you gain are worth the potential sacrifice.

For example, in my NFBC league, I have a few options:

Batting average – I am at .2682 with five teams all closely bunched together, but realistically I can only move up one or two points in a short period of time. There are players available who I could sacrifice some power for who make more consistent contact. It is quite possible you have this flexibility within our substantial 7-man reserve rosters.  There are hitters with this ability out there in most league free agent markets including Dustin Nava and Nate Schierholtz (just reinstated into the starting lineup with the trade of Bengie Molina)

Stolen Bases – I am tied for seventh with 80. There are two teams tied ahead of me at 81, a team behind me at 79 and the fourth and third place teams are only at 86 and 89. There are speedsters available out there like Michael Brantley, Darnell McDonald, and Eric Patterson who all are getting substantial playing time due to for example.

Wins and strikeouts are two categories you can simultaneously overload, especially if you are not worried about your ERA or saves. Simply load up on starters, checking the match-ups while watching two-start options of course. If you suddenly switch to 9 starters, you will notice a fairly significant move, at least in strikeouts, quite quickly. Wins are more fickle and depend on run support, but given enough options, you will pick up some. For example, I am at 41 wins, second to last in my league, with one team behind me at 40. Two teams ahead of me at 42, one at 43, and so on. Saves are tight, but if I chose to sit one or both my closers, I might be more able to make up ground in wins  then later be able to make up any ground in saves, owning Jon Rauch and Francisco Rodriguez

When it comes down to it in this type of league sitting back and trying to stick with a balanced approach unless you comfortably in the lead and without injuries, is not the best idea. You have to take some risks and be willing to do things like overload categories. Just be sure to not get carried away and to constantly reassess whether you need to focus on overloading a different category or perhaps returning to a more balanced approach once you have gained a comfortable amount of ground as a result of your overload move.

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.


Latest Tweets





Our Authors