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So, are you ready to make that final push to win your Fantasy Baseball league? Make it happen with a few trades. The biggest thing to understand in Fantasy Baseball at this point in any season, and I’m not exaggerating:  the categories you can move and the categories you can’t. You can understand player values, predict the guys who will breakout in the second half and the guys who face plant. However, if you do not have a knowledge of where your team’s strengths and weaknesses are, none of that will matter.

As a realist, I have come to grips with the fact that sometimes it is just not my year, and by the end of June, mid-way through the season, I can begin to make that assessment. By no means do I ever suggest to stop trying, as no team should be “counted out” of, at least, finishing in the top half of their league this early on, so you should always look to improve.

But knowing where and how to improve ultimately proves as the deciding factor in if you tread water for two more months, at which point it’s too late, or if you begin to make up ground. At which point everything comes to fruition in September and you look like the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays, instead of the 2011 Atlanta Braves.

Why do I say you can assess where you are at by July 1? How hard is it for a player to go from .250 to .275 in September after already logging 400 at-bats? Or, for a pitcher to lower his ERA from 4.45 to 4.00 after already tallying 180 innings pitched? Just imagine that same scenario, only your team has tallied six times that amount and it is only June.

Yes, I understand that if they tallied that many innings and at-bats in the first half, we can assume the same for the second half, so technically the time has not run out to turn things around in that category. With that being said, there is a reason a team has an ERA above 3.75 or a team batting average below .270 and I would imagine that reason is not because it is stacked with five Corey Kluber’s and a couple Gio Gonzalez’s (guys we have to assume will have a better second half).

Ratios vs. Counting Stats

With approximately 3,500 at-bats already logged for your team (14 position players multiplied by 250 at-bats) and somewhere between 700-750 innings pitched (80 innings multiplied by nine pitchers each week), the “ratio” categories are difficult to move as the numbers keep piling up. Even if five of your nine Corey Kluber’s bounce back, those other 250 innings (give or take) out of the pitchers that do not bounce back  and it will continue to push the team ERA and WHIP up, while knocking you down in the category.

Take this for an example.  My team in one league hit .281 from opening day to May 31. Since May 31 to June 30 my team now stands batting .280 (one point difference in a month). Meanwhile, in the 10 team league, only four total teams have changed their stance (two teams each flip flopping).

To save some time, first to tenth went:

  • On May 31 – .281, .278, .275, .274, .270, .267.265, .263, .262, .255
  • On June 30 – .280, .274, .273, .272, .269.268.265, .265, .263, .252

Granted, this is an absurdly small sample size, but it shows that batting average did not move a whole lot despite a third of the statistics not having been taken into account yet. I have noticed in my deeper leagues more fluctuation occurs from month to month, but the overall concept of trying to raise average and other “ratio” based statistics are much more difficult to gauge. Therefore, they are more difficult to ultimately “go after” in trying to raise your team’s point totals. Meanwhile, the counting stats (HRs, SBs, RBIs, Runs, Strikeouts, Wins and Saves), as Billy Hamilton showed with four stolen bases in one game, can move, and if you get the right player, they can move in a hurry. I am hesitant to put wins on the list, as in past experience, that category is much harder to move than one would think. Nevertheless, it does qualify as a counting stat.

How can you move up?

Cramming the analysis into a couple questions: You need to make up eight points, so how can you lower your team ERA of 3.98 to 3.49? Or, raise your team batting average from .263 to .273? Without doing a ton of math, and knowing how your team will truly perform from July to October, there’s no simple answer. On the other hand, how can you make up eight points by going from 107 Home Runs to 122, or 60 stolen bases to 80 stolen bases? The answer to those questions are far simpler. Determine your strengths (a category or a player you can trade that holds value) and move that piece for a guy with 15-20 home runs right now, or 20-25 stolen bases.

As a whole, even in acquiring “counting” stats, you will probably have to sacrifice some points in other categories, so don’t forget to take those lost points into account, obviously weighing the good with the bad. If you have a good sized lead in strikeouts, perhaps trading Kluber would only cost you two points, while Charlie Blackmon would gain you eight points in stolen bases alone. The other big thing, however, is to always account for the stats of who Blackmon replaces in the lineup. Perhaps he replaces Melky Cabrera (a guy currently producing nothing in counting stats) or perhaps he replaces Dexter Fowler, in which case his 21 additional steals you just acquired are really only 10 in terms of your team’s stolen base total (deducting Fowler’s 11).

Punt a category to optimize results

The one other strategy that can come from this involves “punting” a statistic. Say on opening day you drafted a closer, but so did everyone else and now three months in you are locked in the basement in saves even though you own a closer. Simply put, GIVE IT UP. If you can get value for your closer, perhaps find an owner with some points to gain in saves, and see if he’s interested in adding a closer. Even if, perhaps, that closer would gain you a point or two by season’s end, trading him will definitely lose you zero points, so any additional upgrade you can get elsewhere are simply free points.

In hindsight, yes I understand,. Whatever happened in the first three months can ideally be undone in the final three months. So, if hypothetically my team looks buried for the first three months, even in ratio based statistics, my team could be a first place team the next three.

Except for one factor:  THERE’S PROBABLY A REASON THE TEAM IS CURRENTLY IN LAST PLACE! Sure, there may be some guys under-performing that may bounce back to propel my team up in the standings, but more than likely, I probably just made some bad decisions back in March and my whole team probably does not fall under the category of “will bounce back.” So, brace yourself for what I’m about to say if you hate trading; changes need to happen. If you are absolutely dead set against trading, then scour the waiver wire, and again, be aware of your needs. Perhaps Leonys Martin and Marlon Byrd are both free agents, and you currently have Rajai Davis. Yes, Davis and Martin both may offer more upside at this point, but if you don’t need stolen bases and you have a few easy points to gain in home runs, you can easily gain a few points just with a simple waiver wire pick up.

Side note though. My sympathies do go out to those who stacked up a starting staff with Cleveland Indians and Washington Nationals pitchers. Here’s to better luck in the second half and let’s make that final push to win it all in 2015 while making a few trades.

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