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RotoAuthority Unscripted: Your Guide to the End of the World

Okay, maybe “end of the world” is too dramatic. Technically we still have the playoffs to look forward to, and I guess some of you probably have those new “fantasy football” teams to manage in the fall. But for us at RotoAuthority (or, at least me, I actually didn’t think to ask the other guys) fantasy baseball has been life since January and the nail-biting end-of-the-season pennant races carry with them an air of finality. Win or lose, the game will be over soon. 

Well, that’s kind of depressing. Fortunately, it gets worse. 

That’s right, just like in the times before the real end of the world (as depicted in the movies), a time of anarchy and social breakdown is upon us in the fantasy baseball realm. Check out your league’s transaction pages. Seriously, tab over to your league home and scroll through your league’s transactions. They’re crazy.

Proof that the World is Ending

My personal favorites are the ones where somebody picks up an injured star like David Wright or Starlin Castro…and then drops them in their next waiver move.

But some are more illustrative: one team picked up Mike Zunino and dropped Jacoby Ellsbury.  The latter might be back this week, but who can take a chance on his return for injury? And given the choice of pickup, I’m willing to bet this owner needed power anyway.

Here’s another: this owner dropped suddenly-awesome pitcher Carlos Carrasco for Jake Marisnick. Not only is the speedy outfielder surging in popularity, but Carrasco won’t pitch again until the last day of the season…and you really never know what will happen on the season’s final day. For this owner, the possibility of one last Carrasco start in five days wasn’t enough to keep them from getting almost a week’s worth of Marisnick. Plus, maybe Carrasco will still be on the waiver wire in a couple days....

How about this: Alejandro De Aza added, Michael Morse dropped. This owner is riding De Aza’s hot streak (which is getting him playing time) and enjoying De Aza’s speed. As for Morse? How well will his power play in the last week? Probably not too good, as he gets to fight for the NL Wild Card on the California coast.

One owner added Steve Pearce and dropped Juan Lagares. This one interests me because it would be totally reasonable the other way around. Clearly, this owner doesn’t need speed and does need power—if someone needs speed, I’d expect Lagares to find his way onto another team pretty quick.

Jay Bruce got picked up and Josh Hamilton dropped. Bruce actually stuck around on the waiver wire for a long time—it wasn’t until now that someone was willing to take the batting average risk. 

Closers (especially of the newly-minted variety) are showing up in a lot of transactions too, as owners sort out who can actually use a few more saves from the likes of Ken Giles, Zach Putnam, and Edward Mujica.

Owners who are coming close to their innings cap are shedding starters like…well, like stuff you shed. I was gonna say flies, but that didn’t make sense and it was gross. Many of those with daylight between their team’s IP total and the league cap are streaming starters to gain ground in wins and strikeouts. If you’ve got a shallow league, you might even be able to target nothing but the next day’s best matchups and help your ERA and WHIP too.

How to Thrive in the Apocalypse

When I was in college, I had some friends that, I think, actually would have welcomed a zombie apocalypse for its survival challenge. Maybe this feeling wasn’t so uncommon given how many movies and TV shows are out there on exactly this topic, but thriving in the fantasy baseball apocalypse was never really on anyone’s radar. Until now.

Step One: Take stock of the situation. There are no actual zombies here, so take the opportunity to check your place in the standings of each category carefully. Where can you move up in less than a week? Where might you lose ground? Or, if you’re playing for your life in the playoffs, what are your opponents’ strengths?

Do they have Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon? Forget about steals. Do they have seven closers? Maybe toss yours and concentrate on starts. Where will your squad be playing? Your Colorado guys might have killed it for you last week (I know that I enjoyed the five combined homers from Michael Cuddyer and Wilin Rosario)…but the Rockies are on the road for the rest of the season, and in extreme California pitchers’ parks, so you know how I repaid ‘em? By sending them to the waiver wire, of course. Hey, the end of the world is a cutthroat place.

Step Two: Think Short-Term. Very short term. You aren’t trying to build a new civilization underground—you’re just trying to go out with the biggest bang you can. That might well mean having an unconventional-looking team. Maybe you need to make up ten steals, so you pick up Lagares, Marisnick, Jarrod Dyson, Jordan Schaeffer, Emilio Bonifacio, and Lorenzo Cain. Maybe you can snag a couple points in homers an RBI, so you go after Pearce, Arismendy Alcantara, Tyler Flowers, Wilmer Flores, and Kennys Vargas. Or maybe you actually need to take care of your batting average, so you don’t do either of those things.

Short-term thinking is most important with your pitchers, however. With just one or two starts left, none of these pitchers will be throwing at their true talent level; instead they’ll be rooted in particular parks and against particular opposing hitters. Some of those situations will be a lot better than others. Sure Taijuan Walker is an electric arm and a great strikeout generator…but do you really want him against Toronto? Sonny Gray has had an excellent year…but his last two games are against the Angels and in Texas. Maybe that’s not so good. Danny Salazar’s got his last game today against the Royals—that’s not bad. Derek Holland has just one more start, at home, against Oakland. That’s pretty bad. Yusmeiro Petit will face the Padres. Got to love that, even if it’s in San Francisco.

You get the idea. Good pitchers may be a bad idea. If you’d leave them on your bench, it’s time to drop them. Lesser pitchers with good matchups may be a good idea. There is a tomorrow, but there’s no next week. Go get ‘em.

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