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Split Squad: The Playoff Approach

Conan Hines

Conan Hines

Conan Hines writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Justin Green

Justin Green

Justin Green writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

The trade deadline in most leagues has past, so there’s not much more you can do except throw the best squad out there. For those of you having prosperous H2H seasons, the fun has just begun. There’s not a whole lot you can do beyond what you’ve already been doing. However, here are some things to keep in mind when preparing for the postseason. You’ve already done the most important one, and that’s make the cut.

Win the Series (by Conan Hines)

The title says it all. Sounds easy enough, right? We all know a dominant regular season in H2H doesn’t mean squat in the playoffs. So make sure you stay keen and know your opponent.

Don’t be afraid to release mid-tier performers. This especially applies to those players who don’t have a lot of “breakout” potential. There’s something to be said for a consistent performer, but when you need to boost another category sometimes it’s best to look for “specialists”. You can always use steals. It might be worth dropping Manny Ramirez (who is only playing about 4 times per week), or Aaron Hill, for Will Venable (only owned in 8% Yahoo! leagues) or Eric Young, Jr. (4%). If you need an edge, pursue those unique players who could put you over the top in a category that your opponent may currently have the edge in. Heck, even Coco Crisp is only owned in 36% of leagues and is hitting .308 with 10 steals over the last month.

Be a “save scavenger”. So you already are a solid contender in saves with 3 closers? That may very well be. But saves come in bunches, and you can’t afford to take any chances. Just because you own 3 good to above average closers doesn’t mean they’ll get the opportunities during your fantasy playoffs. But beyond boosting your closing strength, you are taking away save potential from your opponent (and future opponents when you move on). Go pick up Koji Uehara (9% owned) and/or Juan Gutierrez (6%) for a chance to block your opponent and give you some insurance. You don’t even necessarily need to throw these guys later in the week if you’re able to build a nice lead in saves and you’re battling in ERA and WHIP (especially Gutierrez, what D-Backs reliever can you really trust at this point?)

Just win. Whatever it takes, do it. If you are a lower seed a tie will put you in the grandstands. Now, you may have been half interested in this league and gotten lucky (which can and will happen in H2H), or you’re in 10 other leagues; but now’s the time to take action. Watch the numbers closely every day and tailor your roster as the week goes on to fight off your opponent. In addition, you may even want to find out their account password and “muddle around” with their roster. (OK, that may be a bit too far, but I’m just saying).

Be Proactive (by Justin Green)

What scares me about fantasy playoffs is the fact it is single elimination. In a head-to-head league, you can have one bad week and you’re watching the rest of the season from the bench. With that in mind, here are some strategies to align your team in the best possible manner to avoid going one and done.

Pick up two-start pitchers. It’s a basic concept, but before the first playoff week starts, look to see who has two starts during playoff weeks. Owners can’t be happy winning ERA and WHIP but losing wins and Ks. You have to go for guys that will get you the most stats possible. An easy spot to find this is the ‘Projected Starters’ link under MLB Fantasy Tools on the Rotowire MLB page. This strategy should help you win a few pitching categories, and if your offense falters, racking up a lot of starts during the week can make up for losses in a few offensive categories. In theory, this idea can be applied to hitters as well. If you are making a waiver claim and have to decide between a few guys, look at those players’ upcoming schedules and see how many days off each will have.

Keep an eye out for expanded roster candidates. MLB rosters expand on September 1st and call ups can affect fantasy rosters in two ways. One, these players can be a great addition to your fantasy lineup. Secondly, they can take away playing time from a player who has had a mediocre regular season. When evaluating your team, take a look at some of your weak positions and check to see if that player’s MLB team has a young prospect coming up who will take over. Scouting reports are light on most September call ups, so there is the potential for early success. At the same time, cover yourself against guys in your lineup who may lose some playing time. A lot of non-contenders will take a look at their young talent to see if a certain player makes a veteran expendable. This means a decent fantasy player may lose time as his MLB team evaluates his potential replacement. You don’t want to be stuck with a dead spot in your roster because you weren’t looking ahead.

Don’t Lose. I sound like a sports broadcaster by advising teams to not lose, but the statement is slightly deeper than that. There are no second chances in the playoffs and owners need to do everything in their power to win in a given playoff week. This means do more research than usual, spend time thinking about what short-term things you can do to improve your team, and don’t be afraid to be aggressive in dropping and adding players. Sometimes you need to drop a quality pitcher in order to add another pitcher who can help you win your week. The damage is not as bad with only a few weeks left in the year. Also, if you’re in a league that limits the number of add/drops you can make in a given week, make moves before your playoff week starts. Don’t get stuck with just three adds in your playoff week. Use an add or two from the current week so you can save moves for the next week, when you need them most. It is a simple concept but many people forget about add/drop limitations and don’t realize it until too late.