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Fantasy Baseball is a game of strategy. It's been proven year after year that preparation and research is a must to give yourself the best chance to win a championship! Sometimes we're so wrapped up on finding great advice that we miss out on some important aspects of the game. Many manager go into a season home runs, speed, wins and K's while we let slip the importance of the percentage categories like Batting Average, ERA and Ratio (WHIP). Why is this? Quite simply, the percentage categories are not the sexy categories in fantasy baseball but they count the same and are much more difficult to navigate through then the others.
Why are the percentage categories more difficult for a fantasy owner? Well, for example, if on May 1st your team has 50 Home runs, the next day your home runs don't slip to 45. With percentage categories like batting average, your team percentages move up or down on a daily basis. Also, especially on the pitching side, a disastrous day or two and your numbers can plummet over that span. Basically, these categories are so volatile, it's tough to project what players to draft so we tend to shy away from spending time on them.
First rule of thumb for the percentage categories is you do not want to fall too far behind in these categories over the first couple of months of the season. Frankly, these categories are too hard to come back from and in most instances when I see a team who by Memorial Day is far behind in these categories, they never recovery. You really need all your players to help in these categories or at least not hurt it. Even a trade can only help so much because you are only talking about a player or two. Remember, it's 14 hitters who help push that average up and it's 9 pitchers who do the same for the ERA & Ratio. Just to illustrate how hard it is to come back from the percentage categories, if in your NL league a .270 batting average gets you in the upper third of the category and you have a .250 batting average at the half way point, for your team to hit that .270 batting average they have to hit .290 as a team in the 2nd half. Do you know how difficult that is?
Second rule of thumb, go back the last 3 years in your league and look at the final standings to see your league averages in Avg, ERA and Ratio. Try to see what it will take to finish in the upper third of these categories for 2011.
Let's break it down further..
There are a lot of players who can really help you in the hitting categories but produce poor batting averages. Someone like Will Venable, who last year had nice numbers in HR, R, RBI and 29 steals, can still contribute despite hitting .245. You have to pick your spots on players who will have a bad batting average but help you in the other categories.
If the player hits in the .250's that's actually manageable. If the player hits in the .240's I wouldn't want more than 1 or 2 of these hitters on my team and if so they better be making big contributions in the other categories. I personally do not believe in having any hitter who hits below .240. While Mark Reynolds had strong power numbers last year his .198 batting average was a killer, let someone else draft him. For every bad batting average hitter you have on your squad you should have an exceptional average hitter to offset that player.
One final point on batting average is you have more wiggle room here than ERA or Ratio. In batting average, you have 14 hitters where as in ERA and Ratio you have 9 pitchers, If the hitter is a every day player he can get 4 or 5 AB's every day. Where as a starting pitcher pitches once every 5 days and a reliever at most pitches 4 innings a week. So more movement more often means you can affect that category more quickly.
ERA & Ratio:
We want to make sure we have a solid ERA and Ratio for our team to stay competitive. How do we do that? My next article will be on putting together a pitching staff which will go into further detail. We do not want any pitcher who is at worst a push ERA and or a push Ratio, unless he is a closer who is going to get us at least 30 saves. In 2008, I had Brian Wilson who had a bad ERA and Ratio but gave me 41 saves. Remember, with a closer we are only talking about 60 to 70 innings, so the effect he had on my team ERA and Ratio was not as severe.
By the way a push ERA or Ratio is one where it doesn't hurt you but doesn't help you. To me 4.20 ERA and 1.36 Ratio are pushes. We really don't want any pitcher with numbers much higher than that. Under no circumstances should you draft a pitcher who is going to give you a era of 4.50 or higher or a ratio of 1.40 or higher. Again forget about the extra couple of wins or strikeouts from a starter who is going to really hurt our ERA and Ratio. It's not worth it. Remember we only have 9 slots for pitchers so we do not want to fill any of those slots with players who are going to really hurt our ERA & Ratio.
Everyone needs to respect these categories because they are very volatile and it's so hard to make up ground when you fall way behind the pack. Like I said my next article "Putting Together a Pitching Staff" will go into more detail for ERA and Ratio as well the other pitching categories.
At the end of the day, our ERA & Ratio will come from our dominant starter(s), very good starters, our closer and our secret weapon .... our great middle relievers. Not to mention, these pitchers will do great in Wins, K's and our reliable closer will come through with saves. Our push starters won't hurt our ERA and Ratio but will help us comply stats in Wins and K's which is very important. This model will enable us to be towards the top of Wins, Saves and K's but also we will have a huge leg up on the competition on ERA and Ratio where we should dominant
NL King - C.Lizza