One of the greatest ironies of fantasy baseball is that regardless of how much attention is paid to drafting the best team, making shrewd and opportunistic trades, and aiming praise and vitriol and your studs and busts, many close races wind up in the hands of retreads, unknowns and disappointments. Occasionally, draft savvy and the stars will align to enable an owner to coast to the finish line. More often, however, an owner’s team puts that owner in contention down the stretch, and then the final month is governed by an entirely different paradigm, one where interests are narrowed and long-term goals take a backseat to short-term gains. The last week of the season is the epitome of this bizzaro world.
Perhaps the single most skewed dynamic of the season’s end is the drastic spike in the amount of spot starting that goes on. Owners who need to make up counting stats will aggressively stream starters in leagues with daily roster rotation. For owners who are chasing, one of the goals should be to force those ahead of you to react to your strategies. He who initiates engagement often has the advantage, as one always aims to act as opposed to react. For those trying to fend off challengers, it is wise to be judicious and prudent about the extent to which they alter their strategy to counter their opponents’. I spoke a bit more about this in the comments section to Eriq Gardner’s article earlier this week.
By now the battle lines have likely been drawn. Many owners have either initiated or have been pulled into spot-starting wars, leaving many of our seasons on the shoulders of the Francisco Lirianos of the world. Seeing as how (in non-keeper leagues) just about all pitchers are dropable, it’s important for owners to make the most of their roster spots and remaining innings. Even the studliest pitchers on playoff-bound teams are dropable, as the lack of pennant races imply that the final starts for many of these hurlers will be of the “tune-up” variety.
In some leagues, spot-starting runs so rampant that teams that are slowest to act are left to either choose from the worst among the possible options or pick up their better options more than 24 hours in advance. It is important to have as many active pitcher slots as possible if wins or strikeouts are what you are invested in at this point. If you can’t find palatable starting options, load up with relievers. If you aren’t in it, you can’t win it.
To the extent that there can be any long-term thinking at all going into the final week, let’s take a look at teams who face all below-league-average offenses in the last week of the season, and teams that face only above-league-average offenses. Obviously, all of the usual caveats apply including, park factor, handedness, and incentive.
|Facing below-lg-avg offenses|
|Facing above-lg-avg offenses|
At this point, strategy fully trumps player evaluation. Best of luck to all!