The fantasy baseball playoffs began for me last week in two leagues, and today I’d like to focus on one of my leagues (Old MLB Style Rules League). I unfortunately did not do a draft review for the league, so I’ll do a generalized version of how the season has played out so far.
|Draft type||Snake (3rd pick)|
|Roster positions||C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, OF, OF, Util, SP, SP, SP, RP, RP, BN, BN, BN, BN, BN, BN, DL, DL, DL, NA|
I came out of the draft with what I thought was a strong team compared to my league opponents. Not only did I get a position player who could end the season as the #1 hitter in Kris Bryant, but I got a pitcher who could also very well end up at the top of the pitching chart in Madison Bumgarner. Getting Andrew McCutchen late in the fourth round seemed like a value pick considering he was drafted as a top-three overall pick just a few years ago, but getting a top catcher in Jonathan Lucroy gave me competency at the hard-to-fill catcher position. Here is how I drafted (* denotes player still on my team at end of the regular season):
|1.||(3)||Kris Bryant (ChC – 1B,3B,OF)*|
|2.||(18)||Madison Bumgarner (SF – SP)*|
|3.||(23)||Starling Marte (Pit – OF)|
|4.||(38)||Andrew McCutchen (Pit – OF)|
|5.||(43)||Johnny Cueto (SF – SP)*|
|6.||(58)||Matt Carpenter (StL – 1B,2B,3B)|
|7.||(63)||Jonathan Lucroy (Col – C,1B)|
|8.||(78)||Alex Bregman (Hou – 3B,SS)|
|9.||(83)||Adam Jones (Bal – OF)|
|10.||(98)||Addison Russell (ChC – SS)|
|11.||(103)||Craig Kimbrel (Bos – RP)*|
|12.||(118)||Danny Salazar (Cle – SP)|
|13.||(123)||Matt Harvey (NYM – SP)|
|14.||(138)||Kevin Gausman (Bal – SP)|
|15.||(143)||Brandon Belt (SF – 1B,OF)|
|16.||(158)||Dellin Betances (NYY – RP)|
|17.||(163)||Vince Velasquez (Phi – SP)|
|18.||(178)||Francisco Liriano (Hou – SP,RP)|
|19.||(183)||Jorge Soler (KC – OF)|
|20.||(198)||Sean Manaea (Oak – SP)|
Things went downhill shortly after the season began. Bryant did not hit for power early on in the season and was only a little better than average. Marte was hit with an 80-game suspension in April which forced me to drop him. In the same month, Bumgarner got hurt in a dirt bike accident and had to go on the DL for two months. Lucroy, Matt Carpenter, and Johnny Cueto all had off years, and Alex Bregman did not materialize into the premier third basemen that I had hoped for. And lastly, McCutchen started out so poorly that on May 23, he had a pathetic .200 batting average. I ended cutting him soon thereafter.
Despite the troubles of my drafted team, several key pickups helped prop-up my team so that I enjoyed some early success. Feasting on the waiver wire, I took Greg Holland, who provided me with a bounty of saves early in the season; Mike Leake provided wins and a low ERA through the month of May; Steven Souza, Mark Reynolds, Justin Bour, and Justin Smoak were cheap sources of power; and relief pitchers like Chris Devenski and Raisel Iglesisas also qualified as starting pitchers, which meant I enjoyed a sneaky source of points. I also can’t forget Zack Cozart, Paul DeJong, and Whit Merrifield who ended up providing a lot of value for my infield positions.
Making the playoffs
By the middle of the season, my record was 8-3. The rest of the season was mediocre, though, and my record at seasons-end was 13-9. Several teams had surpassed me in wins and my season looked rather bleak. In the last week of the regular season (September 3-9), I was the #5 team in the league and was about to get knocked out of playoff contention (only four teams made the playoffs). A last-ditch push by my team, and a floundering by the #4 team, meant that I snuck in to the playoffs by the skin of my teeth.
In the first round of the playoffs (semi-finals), I faced CinciRedlegs, a team that went 18-4 during the regular season and that beat me convincingly three times already. It was close to a David-vs.-Goliath match, and I knew I had to be scrappy in order to win. To do this, I had to max-out my six weekly acquisitions by streaming pitchers who were starting on particular days when my regular starting pitchers were not playing. This strategy requires some planning to implement, and the key is to start early in the week and pick-and-choose favorable matchups to maximize results (I use Fantasypros’ pitcher planner to help anticipate favorable games). Chances are that the pitchers on the waiver wire who are available to stream are inferior to begin with and are potential liabilities on days when they play difficult opponents. If you wait until the end of the week to start streaming pitchers your selection of players to choose from is really limited, and you also run into the problem of lacking enough roster spots for them.
I was able to benefit from the Cleveland Indians real-life baseball team’s ultra-long winning streak by streaming Indians pitchers, and by the end of the playoff week I had surprisingly built a comfortable lead in points over my opponent. In the middle of the week, CinciRedlegs apparently took note of my push toward streaming pitchers, and he followed suit. However, it was too little too late, and I held on for the victory in points.
On to the championship round
Having made it to the final round of the playoffs, I am continuing to stream pitchers with promising matchups. In the one-week championship matchup, I am facing Water Boyz, another strong team that finished the season with a record of 18-4. It will be a feat to overcome this opponent, but I have pulled out to around a 35-point lead as of today (Wednesday, September 20).
Streaming pitchers in this round presents a new issue because it’s the final week of the season. During prior weeks, I would have a set core of good starting pitchers on my team that I would hold (Bumgarner, Cueto, etc.), and if I needed to stream a pitcher I would drop the worst starting pitcher on my roster. But in the championship round, when I pick up a new starting pitcher, I tend to drop any pitcher who will not make another start for me for the rest of the week. I am limited to picking up six players in any one week, so if I want to maximize the points my team can generate I need to hold just about any pitcher who will make another start before the end of the week. This becomes tricky when I have to forecast whether or not a certain pitcher will make one last start before the end of the week, but I think it’s truly a way to maximize the number of points my team will put up.
We’ll see how all of this plays out in a few days. I would not be surprised if Water Boyz comes charging back in the next few days given the strength of his pitching, and I have already used up four of six of my acquisitions for this week. I anticipate picking up two more starting pitchers between now and Sunday when the season comes to a close. Hopefully I’ll be able to hold him off.