Ever hear of the phrase “patience is a virtue”? For fantasy baseball managers this proverb rings especially true given the length of the season and the amount of work needed to succeed. Since our society is based upon instant gratification managers often don’t exhibit enough self-restraint, which quickly leads to their downfall. Frequently I’ve seen situations where managers trade away players just before they emerge from their extended slumps, or make trades without thinking of the long-term consequences. I find myself repeating this phrase over and over to people on Twitter throughout the course of the day, especially during these first few weeks of the season. More often than not, the managers that demonstrate patience are the ones to reach the playoffs.
Patience is one of the seven heavenly virtues (the others being chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, kindness and humility) meant to offset the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride). The “deadly sins” were originally created to educate people about their vices and how to avoid them. I’ve found that not only are the deadly sins applicable to life in general, but they can be specifically applied to fantasy baseball. Avoiding each one of these sins will allow you to clear your mind and be a much more proficient manager. Without further ado..
Lust - Due to the recent success of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout from 2012, managers have become obsessed with adding unproven rookies to their team for the potential upside, and overlook proven veterans who have steadily produced for a number of years. People tend to not understand that 2012 was an anomaly which we will likely never see again. Rookies take time to develop and big league pitchers will quickly find ways of exploiting any and all weaknesses.
An example of “hopping on the prospect hype train” from this young season would be the case of Jackie Bradley Jr. . At the start of the 2013 season Bradley Jr. was an extremely sexy pickup since he surprisingly earned a spot with the Boston Red Sox coming out of Spring Training. Despite never having an at-bat in the major leagues, I observed managers starting Bradley Jr. over more proven players like Nick Swisher and Andre Ethier. Bradley Jr. was off to a hot start the first week, but pitchers quickly found holes in his swing and after April 6th he didn’t tally a hit. As soon as David Ortiz came off the DL he was quickly demoted back to the minors, where he will likely stay for the remainder of the year to gain more experience. This isn’t to suggest that Bradley should be completely off of a manager’s radar, but expecting instant success may have been slightly unrealistic.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the idea of keeping any prospects on your radar. I’d recommend placing players on your “watch list” first, and then observing how they perform in the minors. Read blogs that focus on top prospects from writers like Keith Law, who will provide additional insight on potential call-up timeframes. If the prospect is coming up soon, feel free to add them mid-season and hope that they take off. In the case of keeper or dynasty leagues, drafting prospects initially and letting them sit on your bench may be your only option. Just remember to temper your expectations when they do arrive.
Gluttony - One of the keys to fantasy baseball is to know your team’s strengths and weaknesses. If your staff has Kershaw, Verlander and Price but little in the way of hitting, don’t make a trade for more pitching. The key to winning fantasy championships is to have an even-keeled roster with as few holes as possible. Over-loading at a particular position may seem tempting, but usually leads to disastrous results. A team is only as good as its weakest player, especially in a league-specific formats where the player pools are very shallow. Trade from positions of strength to bolster your weaker spots if necessary.
The same holds true with team composition. Try to always balance out the number of young and old players that you have on your team. Younger players will typically offer high upside, but have high amounts of volatility. Older players will have less upside but higher floors. Having a mix of both will ensure that your team is covered should injuries or slumps occur. In several of my leagues, all that I can do is laugh at the manager who drafted Dylan Bundy, Will Myers, Gerrit Cole, Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt. Sure, he’ll have a great team in a few years if all of his prospects pan out, but as a fantasy baseball manager you always need to play for this year.
Greed - Have you ever opened up a notification e-mail where another manager offers you a trade like this:
You will trade away: Miguel Cabrera
You will receive: Rick Ankiel
Note from other manager: Ankiel is on a real hot streak and I can see him hitting 50 HRs this year! What do you think?
When in trade negotiations, don’t become “that guy” who overvalues his players and offers ridiculous trades. Don’t be greedy. I think that we have all received a trade which is completely outlandish and laughable, and it only puts us off towards making a deal. Always attempt to get the better end of the deal, but don’t offer anything offensive to other managers as it only makes you look bad.
Sloth - This one is fairly self-explanatory. If you want to succeed in fantasy baseball, you are going to need to do some research and be involved during the entire season. Don’t show up to a draft unprepared and expect to come away with a great team. You might be able to get away no preparation in fantasy football due to the limited player pool and smaller number of positions you draft, but doing your homework is critical to success in fantasy baseball. I suggest coming prepared with homemade tiers of each position. Purchasing a magazine or taking an experts opinion into account is important, but this is YOUR team, draft it how you want!
Be active throughout the course of the season. The most successful managers are those who scout prospects, work trades and scour the waiver wire all year. Not only will putting in the extra work familiarize yourself with each and every player, but it will ultimately allow you to have the best team possible and put yourself in the best position to win.
Seasons aren’t won or lost in April. Don’t give up early in the season just because you are struggling or have caught the injury bug. Active leagues are always the most fun and challenging, and having “dead” teams who aren’t being actively managed not only is unfair, its isn’t fun. And if you aren’t having fun, what is the point of playing in the first place?
Wrath - I’ll admit that this is the sin that I am guilty of the most. One of the most frustrating things in fantasy baseball is starting a pitcher when they have a terrible game, and then proceed to bench them the next week while they have the game of their life. Don’t be rash to make quick decisions with pitchers. A prime example of this would be Tim Lincecum from his past start.
As a Lincecum owner, I bought into the idea that he would correct his struggles from last year and have a bounce-back campaign in 2013. I drafted him as my 4th starter in a 12 team mixed league that I run with the expectations of a good season. His first few starts infuriated me as he failed to get out of the sixth inning, was walking batters at an alarming rate, and was getting shelled. I was so fed up with him that I benched him for his most recent start against the Padres on 4/20, which (of course) was his best game of the season so far:
6.2 IP 4H 8K and a QS. ARGH!
Patience is key to success in the fantasy baseball season, and if I would have trusted my initial judgment with Lincecum instead of getting angry and benching him, I would have benefitted from a good start. Don’t be rash to bench players because of their struggles, especially those who are coming off of injuries.
Envy - In that same league (12 team head to head mixed) I’m sitting in dead last place, and it is driving me absolutely insane. I drafted a very good team on paper, but unfortunately due to slow starts (BJ Upton, Matt Kemp) and injuries (Ryan Zimmerman, Brian McCann) I’ve struggled out of the gate. Rather than get angry at the other managers who are ahead of me and be frustrated with my predicament, I’ve learned that it is best to take a step back and figure out what is wrong.
After looking at the totals for the year thus far, I observed that I’m dead last in both ERA and WHIP. What is the cause of this? Blowups by my middle relievers (Kelvin Herrera) and closers (Mitchell Boggs, Steve Cishek) have resulted in terrible and inflated numbers across the board. These blowups have required me to start all of my pitchers in each game in an attempt to lower my averages, which has resulted in more homeruns allowed (another category I’ve struggled in) and a poor K/9 ratio. So how can I fix this? Simple. Trade or cut the folks which are the root of the problem and bolster my team.
To combat the problem, I cut bait with Herrera and added Shaun Marcum (a proven vet who should benefit from pitching at Citi Field and provide good WHIP and ERA) and cut Mitchell Boggs (who lost the closer gig anyway) and traded excess infield depth for Glen Perkins, who will add saves and lower my ERA and WHIP. Rather than get frustrated by my initial struggles and be envious of the teams in front of me, I took a step back, gathered my thoughts and fixed the problems before they spiraled out of control.
Pride - Pride may be the deadliest of all the sins, as it will cloud your judgment and act rashly. I’m proud of the team that I drafted in each and every one of the leagues, but I’m not so vain to think that I wouldn’t benefit from trading with my fellow managers. No team is perfect, and taking advantage of opportunities other managers offer is a key to success.
If a player is slumping, don’t be afraid to bench him for someone who is currently on a hot streak. If its mid-June and your first round pick still isn’t performing up to expectations, don’t hesitate to trade them. Having too much pride in our teams can lead to self-complacency, which will kill your chances of reaching the playoffs.
In closing, just remember that patience is a key to success with fantasy baseball. Be open to changing the structure of your team but don’t make rash decisions. Be active, but don’t overload your team at a particular position or favor rookies over proven veterans. Above all, have fun and remember that fantasy baseball is just a game!
A veteran fantasy sports player/commissioner for the better part of a decade, I am a contributing writer for several major fantasy websites including FantasyTrade411.com and Going9baseball.com. I am always willing to share my advice and opinions on your questions and the latest fantasy news. Feel free to contact me with any sports related inquires on twitter @Roto_Wizard, or by e-mail at RotoWizard01@yahoo.com.