If you knew what was going to happen from week to week and season to season in fantasy baseball, there would be no point to it. That statement is Tim McCarver-esque in the fact that you’re all probably shouting “of course, you dope” in unison. However, there are certain players that have gained notoriety as being slow starters, strong finishers, or just plain streaky. Some of these have been disproved lately (see: Dan Haren and his horrible second halves), but many others have stayed true to the labels that have been placed upon them. Sometimes we tend to shy away from them because of their prolonged streaks or slow starts , but I’m here to show you how you can benefit from their tendencies. Few and far between are the players that have these dramatic splits, so I wouldn’t recommend this strategy for just any guy that posts a 2 for 25 week.
The Slow Starter: Mark Teixiera
Bench him. Sure, this is the last thing any fantasy baseball player wants to do right after they spend an early round pick or upwards of $30 on a stud like Tex, but sitting him down for the first two weeks could do wonders for your team. Teixiera hit 4 homers in the first two weeks of this season and left many critics saying that he had finally figured out how to get out of the gates running, but the reality is that he was only hitting .205 by April 15th in this, the year that supposedly had quieted his early season boo-birds. Instead of looking at a .248 average and 39 homers, his line would be a .253 average with 35 dingers. Now, had you replaced him with someone hitting .270 with 2 home runs over the span of those same two weeks, which would be about league average as far as fantasy relevant players go; your first baseman would have given you a .256 average with 37 long balls, or 8 percentage points higher and only 2 fewer home runs. This may not seem like a lot but it could be the difference between victory and shame. In 2010, when the slugger was hitting a paltry .114 with one round-tripper through the first two weeks, replacing him with a fantasy league-average player would have netted you a 13 point increase in average along with increases in runs, HR, and RBI. This was preceded by years of similarly slow starts.
The Prolonged Slumpers: Mark Reynolds, Dan Uggla, and B.J. Upton
What do these players have in common? They sometimes go weeks or even months looking like they have completely forgotten how to hit. They’re the guys most owners pick with a pained grimace and a pallid complexion, knowing that they’ll be fighting tooth and nail to get out of the roto batting average basement all stinking year. But just think, if you knew you’d be able to draft these habitual streakers (not that kind of streaking…let’s just move on) and add an extra 10-15 batting average points to their line, you’d surely feel better about doing so, correct? You might even (gasp) target them! It’s extremely hard to bench most mid to high round picks in fantasy baseball. It seems that more often than not, they start producing as soon as you bench them, but for some reason these three seem to get ice cold for weeks and weeks and then red hot. You have a better chance of them remaining cold for a few weeks as they contemplate their respective navels on your bench. There’s not a scientific equation to this; I’m merely stating that if you decide to bench these players for one, two, or even three weeks during the height of a prolonged slump, you have a better chance of them remaining in that slump on your bench, and therefore upping their season average and helping your team. I’ve had great success with this on many of my teams and when I click on the “active stats” button on my team’s page at the end of the year, more often than not, the players I did this with hit for a considerably higher average. By subtracting two weeks worth of stats from each of these batters’ stats during their worst slumps of this past year and adding in fantasy league average stats, the results are marked and in the case of these three players, could’ve turn them into respectable .250 to .260 hitters.
In conclusion, a lot of this strategy depends upon you, the fantasy owner, to see whether or not a 2 for 20 slump is due to a lot of bad luck on hardly hit balls or bad timing on a long swing that has left the player puzzled as to why he can’t make any solid contact whatsoever. By benching these notorious slumpers at opportune times, you’ll greaten their overall value, and with it, your chances at victory.