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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

WINNING STRATEGIES FOR FANTASY BASEBALL

Major League Baseball (MLB) is the oldest of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States.  While baseball began as early as 1791, and the first professional team (Cincinnati) was formed in 1869, MLB officially was founded in 1903.

Who invented baseball?  While Abner Doubleday is here and there credited, in 1845 Alexander Joy Cartwright, a bank clerk, codified most of the rules that today still stand.  In 1849, at the age of 29, he moved to Hawaii, and set up a baseball field in Makiki, now called Cartwright Field.  He served as fire chief of Honolulu from 1850-1863 (left).  One of the leaders overthrowing the Hawaiian Monarch in 1893 was Lorrin Thurston, who played baseball at Punahou School with Cartwright's grandson, Alexander Joy Cartwright III.

There are 15 teams each in the American and National Leagues.  The big difference is that the NL is more traditional, and still has pitchers in the regular hitting line-up.  The AL has something called a designated  hitter.

The season starts with limited play on Sunday, April 2.  This is important, because if you subscribe to the "have every hitter slot filled everyday" strategy, you will need to, in the draft, select marginal players from the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Arizona, Chicago Cubs and St Louis.  These teams don't play on Monday, April 3, but all the other teams do, so get rid of them after the first day.  During week one, in that unusual 8-day period, only Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Colorado, Houston, LA Angels, LA Dodgers, Milwaukee, Oakland, San Diego and Seattle play 7 games.  The season ends on October 1 when every team plays.  That is a period of exactly six months.

Thus, in your picking strategy, it would be to your advantage to select an NL pitcher, for he will have an almost sure out when the pitcher comes up to the plate.  Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Madison Baumgartner, in the that order, are among the best hitting pitchers.  But this doesn't matter in fantasy baseball, because hitting statistics don't count for pitchers.

The best hitting ballparks are (figure stands for the number of runs scored at that home ballpark divided by the runs scored at away games):

1.  Coors Field (Rockies) 1.297
2.  The Ballpark at Arlington (Rangers) 1.125
3.  Chase Field (Diamondbacks) 1.111
4.  Fenway Park (Red Sox) 1.107
5.  Wrigley Field (Cubs) 1.101

The best pitching stadia are (lower the number, better the pitching park):

26.  Dodger Stadium 0.908
27.  Citi Field (Mets, 2009-2013) 0.897 [Shea Stadium, 2004-2008, 0.886]
28.  Tropicana Field (Rays) 0.895
29.  Safeco Field (Mariners) 0.882
30.  Petco Park (Padres) 0.811 (right)

Thus, never, never stack your line-up with pitchers from the Colorado Rockies.  San Diego Padres pitchers should be good, but the team is generally bad, so their pitchers do not win many games.

About hitters, these can vary, but generally, the only important statistics are:

Batting Average (AVG)Home Runs (HR)
Runs Scored (R)Runs Batted In (RBI)
Stolen Bases (SB)

In four of the five categories, theoretically, the more games you play, the higher should be your performance.  Thus, I generally have three to five hitters I interchange at will because on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, all teams do not play.  Thus, I always seek leagues where you have unlimited ACQUISITIONS.  Head to head leagues generally limit the number of acquisitions to 7/week.  
How you get a new player is to click on Player, located in the dark box at the top (I'm only using the standard ESPN fantasy baseball system, although most other competitions are similar).  When you get to that page, I usually click on the last 7 or 15 games played because hitters go hot and cold.  I then select, for the position, someone who has hit a lot of home runs or stolen a lot of recent bases, WITH A HIGH BATTING AVERAGE (that important fifth category).  Most leagues allow you to make any change to your lineup before the first game is played that day.

The counted pitching categories are:

Earned Run Average (ERA)*Strikeouts (K)
Walks plus Hits Per Innings Pitched (WHIP)*Wins (W)
Saves (SV)
*Minimum 10 IP

* The minimum 10 innings pitched is for head to head leagues.  For rotisserie leagues there generally is a 1000 innings minimum for the season.  This means you need to average 5.5 innings/day to end up at a minimum of 1000.  Nine relievers won't reach 1000 innings for the year.

But note that three of the five categories lean to the reliever's strengths:  ERA, WHIP and Saves.  Plus they do get a lot of strikeouts.  If you max out on those statistics, your odds of winning are improved.  What I then do is to pick the best pitchers available (this year I got Clayton Kershaw), then around mid-season have fun picking the best pitcher or two that day to gain wins and strikeouts, while trying to maintain my ERA and WHIP.  Some leagues permit only 200 starts/season, so that would improve my chances of gaining points in wins and strikeouts.  During the year, pitchers (and hitters) go good and bad.  Invariably, there are a lot starting pitchers available throughout the year on the free agent list.  In leagues of eight teams or more you won't find a decent closer available.

My final strategy is to pick players who play at more than one position.  For example, for one of my teams this year I have:

  Buster Posey  C (but might also play 1B this year)
  Trea Turner, 2B and OF
  Jonathan Villar, SS and 3B
  Jean Segura, SS and 2B
  Brad Miller, SS and 1B
  Eduardo Nunez, SS and 3B
  Wilson Contrares, C and OF
  Javier Baez, 2B, 3B and SS
  Jose Pedraza, SS and OF

I also have captured the market in stolen bases, with these projection expected for 2017:
  Trea Turner  44
  Jonathan Villar  57
  Jean Segura  29
  Eduardo Nunez  38
  Mookie Betts  24
  Starling Marte, 45
  Dee Gordon  58 (right...but will he do well without PEDs?)
  Billy Hamilton  67
  Jose Pedraza  41

You can of course go to something like Rotowire, which gives great fantasy baseball tips.  However, here are a few simple ones of mine:
  • On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, use the free agent list to fill up on your batting order.
  • Home run hitters are most important, for they count as HR, RBI and R, but attempt to get players who also steal bases, if they also have a good batting average and hit some home runs.
  • All teams play Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Consider a strategy based around stoppers, set-up pitchers and closers.
  • Keep up everyday, and be aware of injuries.
  • Enjoy yourself, for nothing much else occurs in the summertime
Tomorrow, Pearl's Ashes continues in Rio de Janeiro.  However, after that, my e-book on this subject goes on hiatus for two months, as I will be on my next around the world trip.

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