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In Season Management: Late Season and Playoff Strategy

As the season nears a close, you should basically manage in the same way, only more so. There are a few wrinkles that pop up late season, especially in rotisserie scoring leagues and playoff leagues.

In general, you want to play as many games as possible, which means hitting your games played/innings pitched limits (but not hitting the limit too soon). This means that you have to pay especially close attention to how many games you’ve played, how many there are left to play, and to either play as many players as possible or to bench players as called for. Often, a games/inning limit will give you credit for all statistics logged on the day you exceed it, and you should take that into account. For example, in a standard fantasy baseball league, you would be well advised to pitch all innings but a handful. Then, when you are about to hit your innings limit, acquire as many pitchers as possible who are scheduled to start on the same day. On that day, pitch everybody who is starting – with the result that you will get credit for all of the statistics your pitchers log on that day, despite the fact that you may have grossly exceeded the innings limit by day’s end.

Rotisserie Scoring: Late Season Theatrics

In a rotisserie scoring league, dynamics change as the season grows older. Essentially, the key battleground statistics become clearer. For example, in a fantasy hockey league, it may be clear that your team has the assists category just about sewn up. It is unlikely that any other team is going to catch your team in that category, because your lead there is so large. In the goals category however, there are several teams just ahead of yours and just behind yours. You should – at this point -- basically ignore assists as a category, maybe double-count the importance of goals in player values, and adjust your team accordingly. You’re going to win assists anyway, and whether you win by 50 assists or 250 assists will not benefit your team at all, while the goals category has significant potential for garnering some extra points. Trade away players who give you significant value from their assists and trade for players who score goals. Focus on picking up those waiver wire level players who are strong in goals and weak in assists, and drop the converse type of player.

This kind of trick is useful only in a rotisserie-type scoring system, because a team is awarded points only by its rank against other teams in a given category. The absolute numbers don’t matter, so if rank is unlikely to change much then your team does not benefit from getting more of that particular statistic. In a fantasy point league, you get points for every statistic – so there is no reason to stop acquiring them.

Playoff Tactics

Playoffs are the standard method of settling the winner of a head-to-head scoring league, and it is worth talking about them in specific. First, it is important to note how perilous playoffs can be. Your team can be the best team in the regular season by far, crushing your opponent each week, but in your first match in the playoffs you lose slightly. Your team will end up in third place – oh well. All season long, even during your pre-draft preparation, you should pay attention to which players should be best during the weeks of your league’s playoffs. In all fantasy sports with playoffs, you should play close attention to matchups during the playoff weeks. Which players would you expect to perform best based on the quality and nature of the opponents? In fantasy hockey, baseball and basketball you should also pay close attention to the number of games each team is playing in each playoff week. Players on teams who play more games during each of those weeks have more value. You should pay attention to these factors, during all points of the season, and during your pre-season draft rankings, but especially as the playoffs approach. It is frustrating to draft players who should be optimal during the playoff weeks and then have your team fall short of making the playoffs at all, so be careful with overemphasizing this issue early on in the season. Late in the season however, when it is clearer that yours will be a playoff team, focus all of your energy towards optimizing your team’s performance during those crucial weeks.

Most head-to-head fantasy basketball, baseball and hockey leagues do not have maximum game or inning limits. In a league that allows for daily transactions, it can be rational to pick up players who will be playing on the following day, and after they play, drop them in favor of players who will be playing the subsequent day. In this way, you can get a steady stream of waiver wire level players to fill many or even all of your position slots. In most cases, you are better off with waiver wire players playing every day instead of a marginally better player playing every three days or so. You can use this trick during the regular season as well, but you should recognize that there is a cost. If a significant number of your roster spots are reserved for the “player-of-the-day” who will be dropped for tomorrow, then you will be unable to retain the services of a large number of players who are of high quality. Essentially, it is a reasonable strategy, but one which should only be used for head-to-head matchups which are critical in nature. Playoff weeks, or weeks which determine whether your team will make the playoffs at all, are the sorts of weeks where you should seriously consider this sort of activity.

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