The same holds true for fantasy baseball. You can assemble a team any way you want. Build a dominating starting pitching staff (the Carla Baughman-King model), focus on offense (Michelle Perry, Jenni Kirk), or shut down opponents with a strong bullpen (Leigh-Ann Wendling). The key is to have a plan and continue to execute that plan during the draft and throughout the season. There is more than one way to win a pennant.
Several factors will dictate your strategy, including:
- The league scoring system. In the SFRRC Fantasy Baseball League, your team's success is measured in 12 statistical categories. Offensively you need Home Runs, Runs Scored, Runs Batted In, Stolen Bases, On Base Percentage and Strikeouts (the fewer strikeouts the better). Your pitching staff is measured by Quality Starts, Saves, Holds, WHIP (Walks + Hits divided by Innings Pitched), Earned Runs Allowed, and Strikeouts (the more the better).
- Injuries. You can't control which players on your team remain healthy during the season but you do control how injured players are replaced. You have three spots available for Disabled List players. If a player is hurt and placed on the Disabled List by his MLB team, you can place him on your DL. Good fantasy baseball team owners are adept at managing their rosters.
- Scout Your Opponent. Every Sunday before you submit your starting roster for the week look at the team you are about to play. Where is it strong? Where is it weak? Can you shift somebody from your bench to the starting lineup to create a statistical mismatch in any category? It takes five minutes to look at your opponent's statistics but that small investment can be the difference in winning a category or two.
Because we're getting close to the Feb. 16 Keeper Draft and beginning the process of building our teams, I want to focus this post on our scoring system and the relationship it has to your roster. Each of the 12 statistical categories will favor certain types of players. Understanding those relationships can help you develop the strategy for developing your roster.
|Miguel Cabrera hits homers|
Runs Batted In - You'll need approximately 580 runs batted in over the course of a 23-week season to be competitive in this category. You'll want to target players that can drive in about 60 runs. Again, that's not easy for middle infielders. Jimmy Rollins, Derek Jeter and Elvis Andrus hovered around that mark last year and they are established stars. Your corner infielders and outfielders need to carry your team when it comes to RBIs. Look at the projected starting lineups for each team and target players batting third though sixth.
|Curtis Granderson scores|
On Base Percentage - Your team will need to reach base at a .345 clip to be competitive. I only look at players that are expected to get at least 350 at bats, otherwise they're not helping me in the other scoring categories (fewer at bats for catchers). Again, this statistic favors corner infielders (first/third basemen) and outfielders. Very few middle infielders can reach base this often and, when they do, they become very valuable.
Stolen Bases - This is where speedy outfielders and middle infielders shine. If your team can average just four stolen bases a week, you'll be competitive. One player can literally carry a team. Only 20 MLB players had 30 or more stolen bases last year. Just two corner infielders had more than 15 stolen bases.
|Reynolds K's again|
Strikeouts - Don't ignore this category. It's used to bring offensive players into balance. Of the 10 batters who struck out the most in 2011, eight had 20+ home runs. Home run hitters are valuable but that value is reduced if they strike out a third of their at-bats. Here's how you use the stat during the draft. Let's say you need a player that can hit 30 home runs. Your choices are David Ortiz or Josh Willingham. They both had 29 home runs, while Willingham had 98 RBI and Ortiz 96. But, Ortiz struck out just 83 times while Willingham whiffed 150 times. These players look completely different when adding the strikeout filter to bring them into focus. To be competitive, you want fewer than 750 strikeouts on the season, or about 32 per week. Ideally, your middle infielders will have 80 or fewer strikeouts to balance your corner infielders and outfielders.
Earned Run Average - Middle relievers can dominate both ERA and WHIP because they often pitch to a few batters in advantageous situations. You'll need to make a strategic decision - do you reduce your ERA and WHIP by using middle relievers in your three P positions or do you go with starters or a combination? This is where a quick peek at your opponent's roster can help you immensely. If your opponent places starting pitchers in the P slot, you can use middle relievers and hope to corner the Holds, ERA, and WHIP categories. You'll want to target a staff ERA of about 3.60 or less.
WHIP - Relief pitchers - both middle relievers and closers - will lower your WHIP. You'll need a staff WHIP of about 1.26 or less to win this category on a weekly basis. The more relief pitchers you start, the lower your WHIP should be (unless you have one of those unfortunate disaster outings from a relief pitcher). Of course, you'll be giving up Quality Starts and Strikeouts.
|Jonny Venters is a great middle reliever|
Saves - While middle relievers help you WHIP, ERA and holds, only closers can earn you saves. Like holds, you'll need about three saves per week to compete for the category win against your opponent (or about 60 saves for the year). That will likely take two closers. You have three RP slots - either middle relievers or closers can start in these slots - and, of course, you have the three P slots. Managing your bullpen is essential to your team's success.
|Justin Verlander adds strikeouts|
Based on the statistical categories used in the SFRRC Fantasy League, it's clear there are a number of different strategies you can use to win a pennant. The key is to analyze your roster, develop a plan, and stick to it during the course of the season.