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3 Strategies for the Discerning Fantasy Baseball Player

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Ah, March…The month we start to settle in on thoughts of spring, of fresh beginnings, and of course, green fields lined with soft brown diamonds.  

Yes folks, it is time to think Major League Baseball.

Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels Rookie of the Year

And as the players warm their arms, oil their gloves, and begin to stretch their cleats in the warmth of the Florida sun, baseball fans from all over the country are starting to prepare for their own competition.  A competition centered on beating down friends and acquaintances while talking more smack than Asante Samuel after a pick-six, during the playoffs.

The winner being the most cunning, most sly, and often the most deceitful one of the bunch; the one able to identify the next Mike Trout, spy this year’s Cy Young contenders, and trick you into trading them Prince Fielder for Dom Brown. I’m talking the game of the summer season… I’m talking Fantasy Baseball!

Whether you’re new to fantasy baseball, you’re looking for a competitive edge, or your team just flat out stunk last year, the three strategies defined in this article are sure to get you off and running this spring - from your draft through to the upper echelons of your league.

Before we get started, a quick note for readers at the periphery of the baseball world: If you don’t know a lot about baseball but would like to; or if you are someone trying to connect with a baseball enthusiast; or if you love baseball but are unsure about getting involved with fantasy, consider the following:  playing in fantasy helps bring you closer to the game.  When you play, you learn about players from all over MLB.  You become familiar with names, positions, averages, hot and cold streaks, break out rookies, and overachieving veterans.  You become connected with the game differently than just watching your team play and are transformed into an active participant.  

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Strategy Point 1:  Know your league’s scoring settings-  I can’t believe I have to mention this but every year somebody will say “I didn’t realize we had that category” or “when did we have to start tracking that.” It’s amazing but it happens.  Review your scoring settings first.

Strategy Point 2:  Decide how you want to win by selectively targeting certain stats and minimizing others-  In an effort to win every category, most people try to have a balanced team.  Take advantage of this tendency by examining which stats can be matched to accentuate certain player types, than work the draft to mine those players for your lineup.  Find players that maximize the preselected and targeted stats while consciously deciding to avoid players that aren’t efficient in that particular category.  For instance, most people build their team around HR’s and RBI’s.  Consider sacrificing these stats for a theme of contact: high averages, singles, runs, walks, and steals.  To do this, your team needs to be united under a statistically consistent theme.  Apply this to every guy that you target from 1st base to RF.  If you decide on building a team around batting average don’t go out and get a guy just because he’s a great base stealer but who averages .230.  The key is to establish which stats you want to conquer beforehand then selectively target players to fit that theme. Win the majority of the stats not all of the stats.

Strategy Point 3: Know the league-  Many people restrict themselves to top 100 lists or rely solely on expert advice.  Go beyond this and know the league by creating your own spreadsheet.  The best way to do this is by being “artsy” and writing out the positional players for each team.  A simple act like writing out player names instead of printing out their names can give you an extra advantage by forcing you to see every name, say every name, and write every name.  At that point, you’ll at least have a cursory knowledge of all potential starting players.

To get projected starting lineups, to include projected batting orders, do a simple search online for “projected starting lineups, MLB 2013.”  Understanding what the projected batting order is for each team will take you beyond the “experts’” opinions and tell you what the team is saying about their own players. After you have the players written out by team and position start having fun customizing your sheet to determine which players fit your league’s scoring and your own Strategy Point 2 scheme.  Another added benefit for creating your own spreadsheet is the insight you will gain, in case of injury, for potential backup players.  If one of your studs goes down for a few weeks, this could really make or break your team.  Once you’re comfortable with your spreadsheet you are ready to draft!

Remember, if Cousin Pauli’s team is the top ranked team in your league you’ll never hear the end of it.  So do your homework upfront and keep Pauli on ice where he belongs.

Chris Sweeney is a freelance writer and philly2philly.com contributor.  He grew up in Bucks County, played Division 2 basketball at East Stroudsburg University where he became interested in the media when he hosted a night time radio show.  He left ESU to join the Air Force, which he served in for five years (including 1 Middle Eastern Tour).  Chris was bred to be a passionate Philadelphia Sports fan and enjoys everything that the Philly sports scene has to offer (the competition, the news articles, the books, and talk radio).  He now resides in New Jersey with his wife and five children.
You can reach him at christopher_sweeney_02@yahoo.com   

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Photo: Getty Images/Otto Greule Jr.