I recently had an reader ask me about which player he should play over the course of a week. The two players are Nationals’ teammates Michael Morse and Bryce Harper. We ultimately decided that Harper is the way to go, as he is more likely to steal a base if he reaches. As this is the playoffs in a head-to-head league, that’s an important distinction.
But it got me to thinking about something else. Let’s say that someone else is in a similar quandary, and Harper’s extra steal potential was not a factor. What would he do?
After giving it some thought, I arrived at a scenario: It depends on how you see yourself. Let’s take a deeper look.
Scenario 1: You’re the favorite
This is a little easier to determine in a roto league. If you’re being chased, you’re the favorite. In a head-to-head league, you can look at the standings, but they don’t necessarily tell a complete story. In that case, if you don’t trust yourself to make an accurate assessment of whether you’re the favorite or underdog, as someone you trust for their take. Heck, ask one of us, we’ll give you an honest take.
Because if you’re the favorite, Morse is your guy. Of course all of this depends on health, but as Morse started on Tuesday, I am assuming that’s no longer an issue. While Morse is not familiar with being in a playoff race, he’s not a rookie either, which is an important distinction this time of the year.
You see, rookies often fade a little bit at this time of the year, especially if they’ve been up with the big club for most of the regular season, as Harper has. They’re just not accustomed to playing this many games.
Morse is a steadier option because he’s been there before. So, if you’re in this dilemma and see yourself as the one that should prevail, go with the safe bet. Your opponents need to do something extraordinary to beat you, so go with the reliable option and make that option.
Scenario 2: You’re the underdog
Since I’m writing about this issue, you probably figured out that there are different answers to the two scenarios. So, I’ll end any suspense and say that if you shouldn’t win, Harper is your guy.
In this spot, you have to be willing to take a chance. Sure, if you’re in second place, maybe you drop to third or fourth, but this is also your best chance to win the whole thing.
It’s quite simple, really. Ask anyone who follows the game who the more talented player between Harper and Morse is, and the answer will be Harper. Ask them who will be the better player five years from now, or even one year from now, and the answer’s Harper. Harper has one of the highest ceilings I have ever seen from a baseball player.
So, in that spot, you gamble. You go with the guy who’s more talented. Yes, between Harper and Morse, Harper is the more likely person to collapse down the stretch, but he’s also the more likely candidate to do something phenomenal. Heck, as we said earlier, he’s even more likely to steal a few bases. He already has more than double Morse’s career stolen bases (Harper 13, Morse 6), and Morse has played in more than four times the amount of games.
Yes, in addition to having a higher ceiling, Harper also has a lower floor, but what does that matter? You’re already in a spot where you shouldn’t win.
Think of this like a golf tournament. If you’re facing the second shot on the par-five 18th hole over water, how are you going to play it?
If you’re nursing a one-shot lead, you’ll probably lay it up and take the water out of play. Sure, you won’t make an eagle and your chances of making birdie are greatly diminished, but you’re taking the bogey out of play, as well.
If you’re trailing, you go for it. Maybe you bring bogey or worse into play, but if you execute that shot, a birdie is nearly in the bag and you have a chance at an eagle. So, maybe you risk falling out of second place, but that’s not what you’re playing for, is it?
So, if you have more to lose than to gain, take the veteran player. In this case, that’s Morse.
If you have nothing to lose and potentially everything to gain, take the gamble. In this case, that’s Harper.