So, this is the home stretch. There isn’t much to advise at this point. Most of you who are still regularly reading fantasy baseball content are either trying to protect a slim lead or are fighting an uphill battle and embracing your puncher’s chance. As we approach endgame, I want to advise you of two tactics that some may consider a bit uncouth, but are fully above board in my book.
The first tactic is for those protecting leads. One of the primary ways those nipping at your heels will try to claim key points (from you or third parties) will be by streaming starters in pursuit of Ks and Ws—a good run of luck can even yield rate-stat help. Though fantasy strategy rarely summons defensive ambition, it is perfectly acceptable to play such dominant strategies. When I’ve been in this situation I’ve been known to beat my competitors to the wire and gobble up the most attractive streamer options, only to hoard them on my bench for their starts. You do not have to intend to play a player to pick him up; removing him from the pool of options is a fully valid and ethical motivation. We pick up offensive players with the intent of using them as bench depth all the time. If you can’t be the first to the wire for tomorrow, you can look a day or two out.
This strategy also gives you flexibility to respond to extreme play from your opponents. The chaser’s imperative should be to play in such a way as to force you to alter your own play in a way that could prove suboptimal. A good run of spot starts by an opponent may force you to react to the chaser’s moves by streaming a starter or two of your own. If you already have the best options on your roster, you’re in the best position to benefit from—or at least weather—a strategic deviation, should you be forced to employ one.
For those chasing these points, remember that the inherent systematic loophole (in Yahoo! at least) is your best way to gain an opportunity advantage. Here is your yearly reminder that the innings pitched cap tracker does not update in real-time. This means that if you have a single IP remaining on the final day of the season, you can start as many pitchers as you want and get as many free innings as you are willing to take from pitchers decreasingly likely to offer redeeming performances.
This day is often a free-for-all in my home league, so at times certain owners have chosen to go all-in on the second to last day to ensure a less-contested chance at the best streamer options in the pool. That may be worth considering if the cat is out of the bag in your league as well.
I’ve seen crazy things happen on the last day. Last year, I was in second place and had a big cushion to third, I went all in with five or six final day starts and made up five pitching points across various categories with an improbable flurry of gems from veritable retreads, train wrecks and unknowns. I almost pulled off a miracle final-hour coup on the backs of a regimen of outcasts, finishing just one point shy of a title.
This is the day the marginal leaders fear and those at the precipice of cashing out lust—the true puncher’s chance. Don’t miss out on your free lotto ticket, and prepare for it by doing what you have to do to get first choice of the options. There is nothing afoul about this—it is an inherent system-based loophole that is equally available to all. If some in your league are unaware of it, too bad; asymmetry of information is not an ethical issue.
Best of luck to all those throwing the haymakers, as well as to those trying to dodge or counter them. Our tomorrows are nearly gone and desperation rules today. There’s both profound beauty and ugliness in someone with nothing to fear—but the victors write history, so your ultimate standing will determine whether way your actions are remembered as genius or petty.