So You Lost at Fantasy Baseball … Now What?
Seven months. You put in seven months of work. Seven months of setting your lineup, looking at trade offers, bookmarking FanGraphs and BaseballSavant, and figuring out exactly how much FAAB you needed for the latest waiver wire gem. If you factor in your prep work while listening to podcasts, reading articles, and looking for anomalies, we’re talking about 12 months.
Then, all of that work is gone, just like that. Your season is over, and someone else is holding that trophy and taking their partner out to a fancy dinner with their fantasy winnings. Losing sucks.
We play this game because it’s fun — please, please let that be the driving force behind fantasy sports for you — but that doesn’t mean that when we lose, it doesn’t hurt. Fortunately, as soon as that final pitch of the season is thrown, a new season begins. Now’s the time to take stock of your team and see what the future holds.
What Went Wrong
Self-reflection is never an easy thing in any walk of life, but it’s needed. It’s OK to admit your flaws and try to find solutions to improve going forward. When it comes to fantasy baseball, a slew of things could cause a season to turn upside down. What caused your downfall this year?
Was it poor drafting? Depending on the approach, a team can turn out a number of ways. If you pushed pitching up, you might have run into some injury problems from starters. If you went super hitter-heavy early on, you might not have had the arms to keep up with the rest of the league. Alternatively, maybe you expected too much out of prospects in your draft.
Perhaps it was injury luck. If it was that, there’s not much you can do about it … or is there? You can minimize injury risk by not targeting players who have a chronic injury history, which makes them more susceptible to more of them down the road. There’s also avoiding players who are injured in drafts because they come at a discount. Look at 2019, for instance. If you targeted Luis Severino, you were playing from behind the entire year. You could have taken Francisco Lindor or Clayton Kershaw, to play devil’s advocate, and would have made out with their sunken value, but taking on injury risk is a risky approach.
Maybe you didn’t play the waiver wire correctly. Does your league use FAAB? If so, go back and look at the percentages that you spent on players. Look at the breakouts who ended up producing for the season at a high level, and ask yourself why you missed out on them. Did you have FOMO, so you overspent on the next blip on the radar, who ended up being a dud? Study the bids carefully of your competition and see if there are any trends you can take away. Do they round to $5 increments? Do pitchers go for more?
What about your approach to categories? If you’re in a category-based league, did you sacrifice average and power so that you could dominate in stolen bases? Did you think that you had enough time to make up the gap in runs, leading you to put off picking up another player for a few weeks? It all adds up.
Did Your Team Perform up to Par?
Take a look at your team, regardless of the format, and truly look to see if it performed as it should have, or if it over or underperformed instead. You didn’t make the playoffs or championship game, but should you have? Was strength of schedule in your favor, or was it against you? What was your points margin between points for and points against?
Maybe you missed the playoffs, or you got the fifth seed, despite having one of the highest-scoring teams in the league. Don’t tear down your approach because of something that was out of your control.
Likewise, look at the winner’s team. What went right for them? It’s a copycat league, so did they take an approach that you should consider next year, or did their team just happen to get hot at the right time? Remember, the goal is making the playoffs, and from there, you just ride the wave and hope for the best.
Looking at the Future
In dynasty leagues, it’s important to do a reset each year. The approach I take in my dynasty leagues is to focus on the present and the future, but not to have one foot and one foot out.
I either want to be one of the top three teams in the league, or I want to be one of the bottom three — no in between. I’m OK with moving prospects to get me the help I need now, but I’m not going to move them for the sake of moving them. The return needs to be right, and it needs to fit my window.
In your dynasty league, there are going to be prospect hounds who fall in love with each prospect, projecting the ceiling for each one of them. Target them. There’s also going to be the person who doesn’t care about prospects, and they only want the people performing at the big-league level to help them now — not some “kid.” Target them, too.
For your own team, look at what you’re carrying into the new year. What opportunities do you have to improve? Your team, as constructed now, can it compete in the upcoming year, or are there decisions to make? The first thing I do is look at the players on my team who overachieved or underachieved, and then I do a deep dive on them.
If there’s enough data, compare what they did this past year to their previous years and spot the differences. If it’s encouraging, I’d try to hold on to them and hope for some course correction in the following year. If it isn’t, though, I’d try to sell them, especially if someone still believes in their name and past performances. The same goes for the overachievers. Is there an opportunity to sell high on them? Update your trade block and put them on there to see what the market is. If someone is willing to pay me for a historic performance or something that is clearly unsustainable, they are all yours.
I take this approach with every team in the league, too. Look at the other rosters and look at potential sell-high, buy-low opportunities. During your offseason prep, get a feel for who the hot names are in the industry. If it’s December, and a path has cleared for someone to get playing time, try to get a jump on that player before the rest of the league can react. If it’s February, though, and everyone is getting into the groove for the upcoming season and you have one of those said players, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to shop them around to see what the value is.