While we like to give advice on players or transactions and that kind of stuff, we here at Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks also like to give gentle reminders. Let’s call this a hybrid.
We’ve talked a lot about non-contenders and what they do with injured superstars. While you want to play the season out, there is absolutely no reason for the Rockies to rush Troy Tulowitzki back to the field, or for the Blue Jays to bring someone like Jose Bautista back. Those teams are long out of contention and are thinking about 2013. Since 2012 is a lost season already, they’re just not going to risk 2013 (and beyond) to get some star back on the field to play out a lost season while risking a greater injury.
Yes, teams have a responsibility to keep the playoff races as honest as possible, but not at the expense of their own seasons. So, while it may be frustrating if you’re a fan of Team A and battling Team B for a playoff spot, to see Team C trot out a glorified minor league team against Team B, the fact is that those managers and front offices have a responsibility to their own franchise first and the pennant race second.
But we’ve already established that. You should know by know that banged up stars for bad teams aren’t going to see much of the field. But there are another group of stars that you’re going to soon become aware of. Star players on good teams. Confused? Allow me to elaborate. Let’s take a look at the three National League division races through play on Saturday, September 15.
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While the Braves and Red Sox in 2011 showed us that anything is possible, it is nearly a foregone conclusion that these will be your NL division winners this year. By this time next week, those divisions can all be clinched, as the Nationals and Reds each host the Giants’ nearest pursuer. If they aren’t clinched, it won’t take long from there.
So, what does that mean for your fantasy team? Offensively, I wouldn’t worry a heck of a lot, unless you have a banged up star on those teams, or someone at a grueling position (Buster Posey, for example). Generally, hitters are going to stay in the lineup. If they get a day off, it likely will be just a day. In terms of the pitching, things could quite possibly get weird for you.
We’ve already seen the Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg. If they have the division race wrapped up, don’t be surprised if they start skipping starts of guys like Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez. The same goes for Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto of the Reds, and Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner of the Giants. Actually, the same goes for all of the pitchers on those teams, at least the starters.
See, these teams are trying to do three things.
- Get their September rookies some big league action.
- Get their big guns some rest to be sure they’re not tired.
- Set up their playoff rotations. So, things can get a little weird in terms of their playing time.
Like with non-contending teams, they do want to keep the Wild Card races honest, Davey Johnson, Dusty Baker, and Bruce Bochy have a responsibility to put their teams in the best possible position to win a World Series. Unfortunately, that means your fantasy team can suffer a little bit.
What do you do about this?
The easy answer is to go out and bring in some of the better free agents available if you have these players. Unfortunately, this can get a little tricky. After all, teams aren’t worried about keeping their player’s fantasy owners abreast of things. But, there are a few steps that you can take to get yourself some knowledge.
- If you haven’t done so, get a Twitter page. No, I am not trying to sell Twitter. As a matter of fact, I don’t tweet an awful lot. Clave handles most of our tweets. But Clave, Nash and myself are all there.
- Find the beat writers for the teams in question and follow as many of them as possible. For the Nationals, I would follow Amanda Comak or William Ladson. For the Reds, take a look at John Fay, or Tom Groeschen. As for the Giants, Andrew Baggarly and Henry Schulman are good follows. The local guys will generally post lineups a few hours before the game, giving you some reaction time, especially for the Reds and Nats. The Giants are a little tougher in that regard, as even a few hours before West Coast games, play has already started on the East Coast and rosters generally lock when the first pitch of the day is thrown. But they can also give some good inside information as to who the manager plans to bench. Barring a last-minute injury, players generally know at least a day in advance if they’re not going to play. With these guys at your disposal, you could get those notices. Each team generally has several beat writers and I only named two from each.
- You can find plenty of other National guys (not to be confused with Nationals’ guys). People like Buster Olney, Ken Rosenthal, and Peter Gammons aren’t as on top of a given team as the beat writers, but they’re not bad follows.
Again, my goal here isn’t to get people more involved in Twitter. But unless you’re directly competing with me, I do want to give you the best chance to win your fantasy baseball leagues. This time of the year, winning is based on a few things.
- Of course having the best team, but we’re long past that point.
- Getting a little lucky or hoping your opponent’s get unlucky. As much as we like to believe that luck is minimal, you have no control over your players. The hit or they don’t. They pitch or they don’t. It’s that simple.
- Guessing right with the players you can bring in. Seriously, the Kyle Kendrick has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball since mid-August. I would have put money on him at least extending his quality start streak on Saturday against the Astros. I would have lost money as Kendrick failed both in terms of innings and earned runs allowed. The Astros. Seriously? As you can probably tell, this is not the first time this has come up in my head. Oh well.
- Perhaps the most important thing is that you know what’s going to happen in terms of who plays and who doesn’t well before the games. Remember, it’s September. Teams have big benches and can easily afford to give someone a game off if they can survive a loss. You obviously can’t predict that Buster Posey will go 0-for-4, or that Matt Cain will get shelled. That’s a given. But if you know that they’re not going to play, you can plan ahead. So, give yourself the best chance to stay informed.