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Rob Reed  
Subject:  Fantasy Roundtable 5: When is it time to panic when you have a poor performing team?
Date:  4/11/08, 8:56am (Last Edited: 4/11/08, 9:50am)
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In any given fantasy season, when is the time that a fantasy manager should decide that extreme measures are necessary (i.e., a fire sale or a free agent exodus) in order to improve a poorly performing team? Just when is it time, if ever, to lose trust in your draft and press the panic button?

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Zach Piso (Rotonomics, mlbfrontoffice.com)

I gave this some thought, and my best advice is that you can only drop a player when his value is equal to the free agency as far as trading goes. Until it is obvious that your league mates will not trade for a struggling player, you have to continue pushing for a trade. This obviously fails to imply a particular time in the season, but generally speaking "late May" and "early August" have no real substance in fantasy
baseball. It is the attitudes of the league members, and hence varies from league to league.

Economically, all draft picks are sunk costs, so I'm not big on overemphasizing draft skills. If a player will help your team from the free agency, there is someone on your team that you can drop (I generally advise making 2-for-1 deals early to get stars, so you have the flexibility to make acquisitions). So, it is time to take drastic measures when such measures might help you, and they can only help if the players you need are available, not simply because your team is struggling.

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Patrick DiCaprio (fantasybaseballgenerals.com)

I think the answer is July 12.

Seriously though, this is a very difficult question and it depends upon what your plan was coming into the season and the type of league. Assuming it is a keeper league then the answer should be clear; it depends upon your plan. If your plan was to rebuild then April is soon enough, if you plan was to compete then every single decision should be made with an eye to winning unless it is certain you will not cash, which cannot be true until at least the second half of the season. If you are not sure then your plan was almost certainly flawed.

Last year in my high-stakes league the guy who finished second was in sixth in early August, but made a huge run to finish second. For that he won significant money, so packing it in can be very costly unless you are sure that you have no chance. It really takes very detailed examination of your status in the league.

The stakes involved is a non-trivial factor. If the keeper league has relatively small prizes for non-champions then try to win all out even through the second half. The tougher scenario is when there is a big prize through fourth. In my high stakes league fourth place gets a four figure prize, so if that prize is in your sights then you shouold essentially never pack it in and try to rebuild; make sure you try to win at all costs with a significant prize as a fall back.

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Adam Ronis (newsday.com)

I can't remember being in this situation in quite some time. It really depends on the composition of your team. If you have a plethora of injuries, then a wave of trades is in order. If it's a keeper league, I would look to make moves to help towards the following season.

I don't think I would panic until late July.

If you have guys you believe in, I don't think you can make panic moves early in the season. I've had teams that were in the middle of the pack during June/July, but believed in my guys and won.

For example, I had Garrett Atkins in all my leagues and he had a terrible first half. I never thought of trading him and he finished strong. David Wright had no homers in April last season and finished with a very good year. I wouldn't panic at all for the first two months.

Even in June, I wouldn't be too worried, but that would be the earliest I would start getting an inkling of concern. It also depends of the track record of the players you have. If you went with a lot of youth and potential breakout players who aren't performing up to your lofty expectations, then I would have a fire sale earlier. If you have guys with great track records that are struggling, I'd usually stick with them. It also depends on how far you are trailing in certain categories. I see too many owner who panic in May and give up guys who struggle early and then go on to have big second halves. Don't do it.

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Tim Dierkes (rotoauthority.com, mlbtraderumors.com and hardballtimes.com)

The first question for me is: how much work did you do to prepare for your draft? Were your projections based on multiple sources, or did you just use last year's numbers and/or gut feel?

Assuming you used sound, conservative projections, then patience is necessary for most players. That means a good two months before dropping a guy. Caveats would be cases where players suffered injuries or lost starting roles. Then you have to cut bait more quickly. Additionally, late-draft players who were long shots from Day 1 can be cut much more quickly, perhaps after three weeks or so. And closers...I'll turn those over within days if I'm just fishing for guys based on opportunity.

One reason for a mass turnover might be a major category deficiency. If, after one month, you are well short in one category but your players aren't really underperforming expectations, you should look to use a surplus to fill a need. If you have no surpluses, well...you're screwed.

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Double Down (fantasybaseballgeeks.com)

There are several things to consider when thinking about this question. Are you H2H or roto? Is this a re-draft league, keeper league, or dynasty format? If we are talking about head to head then you don’t even need the best team to win in this format, so you can basically count the scoring periods and see if you can legitimately catch the competition.

You can have the best overall points for a season, but have a few bad scoring periods, which makes the best team finish out of the top slots at times. There it is; I have admitted my extreme hatred for this format.

When using rotisserie scoring you will not know until August if your goose is truly cooked. If you prepared correctly for your draft then you should stay the course with the talent you have and await streaks. Faaaaaaaaar too many owners are focused on “the now” and have little patience. These are the people to attack and acquire their slumping talent. In redraft leagues you should stay the course with your draft strategy and only make tweaks to improve based on injury. Especially in deep leagues you can win while only making a handful of drop/adds and trades throughout the season.

Keeper and Dynasty leagues can create an interesting twist. Maybe you did have a sound strategy on draft day, but now it is early July and you are nowhere near contending. It is not time to give up – it is time to go get Jay Bruce or Colby Rasmus and put some pieces in place for 2009. A team can still be competitive while in rebuilding mode.

Jim Valvano said it best – “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up”.

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Eric Stashin (rotoprofessor.com)

This is an extremely tough question to answer, because I don't think there is any one, clear-cut answer to this. Each league and team is different and should be judged on it's own individual merits, not in one lump sum.

But, if I had to generalize things, I would say you definitely need to give things a month to develop before you really start looking to make changes. When the calendar turns to May, it's a good time to start looking at your team's strengths and weaknesses, and make some moves in order to fix things. Is it time to make a panic decision? No, not yet, but it's a good time to start tweaking things to try and improve your chances.

I'd say by mid-to-late June, that's the time to really make some drastic moves if necessary. If you are still in the bottom of the pack, it's not too late to make up the ground, but if you wait much longer, you could leave yourself in a hole that's way too deep to climb out of. Target the big home run hitter that you need or the ace pitcher your team is sorely lacking. Whatever it is, this is the time to go on moves, before the deficit becomes insurmountable.

As far as giving up on your draft, I don't really believe that making moves is losing faith in the draft I've had. Sometimes, things just happen and the draft doesn't go the way you envision it or maybe there are players that you wanted that get taken before you got the chance. Making trades does not mean you had a poor draft, it just means you see an opportunity to get better, or get players that you think will help your team a little bit more.

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Derek Carty (rotoworld.com and hardballtimes.com)

Personally, I don't think there is such a time in a fantasy league. I think team management is a continuous process that must be monitored at all times. You can't take the first two months off, see your team struggling, and go into panic mode. You need to constantly be looking to upgrade, to take advantage of your opponents' lapses in judgment.

I think it is important to look at luck indicators (i.e. BABIP, LOB%) and take each player on an individual basis. I don't think it is ever a good idea to say, "Hey, my team is only in sixth right now and it's the start of June, I'm going to make changes." And then go making trades just for the sake of it, or assuming that because the team as a whole is underperforming that everyone should/could be traded. Just because you're team isn't doing well doesn't mean you should put everyone on the trade block.

It is important to know which players to keep and which not to, which are playing up to their skill level and which are not. If a player on your team is the recipient of poor luck, it makes very little sense to trade him. You must assume that the luck will neutralize and he will be good going forward. If you try to trade the bad-luck player at his low-point, theoretically, you will only be able to receive - at best - another player who is having bad luck. More likely, you'll get an inferior player. Worst case scenario is you get a player that is receiving good luck and is still only playing up to the level that the player you are trading away is playing at under bad luck circumstances.

Even if every single one of your players is getting unlucky, you must stick with them - with the entire team in this instance. You have no choice if you hope to win. Sometimes we lose due to nothing other than bad luck. This is excusable. Losing with a team that is simply bad is not excusable, and allowing panic to overcome you and make your team bad is even more inexcusable.

If a player isn't getting unlucky and simply has poor skills... well, he probably shouldn't have been on your team to begin with. If you have someone like this, cut bait now if you can get someone with better skills. If a player is displaying different, inferior skills than he has in the past, then you have a dilemma. You must decide the probability that he will return to his old skill level. If you think this unlikely, see what you can get for him. If you think this likely, gauge the market, but be prepared to hang onto him.

Regardless of each individual player's situation, the fact that you are examining your team in this way, continuously, is exactly the type of thinking that can help you win. You can't let your team get to the point where you need to make rash decisions. You need to constantly be evaluating every player and constantly having discussions with other owners in your league, gauging market values.

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Jason Sarney (Greener on the Other Side, kobayashibaseball.blogspot.com)

Year after year, no matter how much I like or dislike the outcome of my drafts, I tend to use the same basic strategy. I look at players like stocks. I am not a shrewd financial investor by any stretch of the imagination, but I understand the value in a particular commodity when I see it. Much more so in fantasy baseball prospects than businesses let me point out.

Many people in leagues of mine would say that I tend to deal players, and utilize the waiver wire like a hyped up Wall Street trader after two and a half morning Red Bulls. That doesn't mean that I abandon my draft strategy, or find a need for a "fire-sale," however.

I like to keep a core of players, usually my "money" guys in a given season, then spend the rest of the year mixing and matching imports and exports to better my chances at that point in the season.

So I would say in most cases, I usually end up with 5-10 drafted players on my roster at seasons end. So...let's just say I am running a season long "fire sale," to some extent.

I will use a current 5x5 roto league with my college buddies as an example to my strategy. Keep in mind, last season we went to a keeper format, and we each kept five from last season.

My draft saw some early hits in Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit, Mark Reynolds, Jeff Keppinger, Lastings Milledge, and James Loney, so I knew a week in early trades were inevitable.

I have a lot of faith in Mark Reynolds to be at least a top 10 3B, enough faith to realize that my current 3B, Chipper Jones is off to a hot start and in the heart of a contending line-up. Even though a healthy Chipper can equal a Braves post-season and MVP like numbers, I needed to trade him.

Why you ask? I needed to get Reynolds in the lineup everyday, and I saw a good opportunity to upgrade my team. Lets put James Loney and Derrick Lee in the same comparison, and I had the making for a potentially monster deal.

Keep in mind...keeper league.

Earlier this week, I dealt Lee and Jones, along with Felix Hernandez for Carlos Beltran, C.C. Sabathia and Edgar Renteria. I wanted to trade potential injury risks, even though both off to smoking hot starts, for two sure-fire keepers. Renteria was simply a MI need. Sure King Felix has loads of potential, but C.C. is a notch above.

So basically, I traded old reliables like IBM and Apple(Lee and Chipper) in order to make room for other fresher investments in Reynolds and Loney, who in short time could be the next Yahoo and Google, so to speak.

Add C.C., Carlos and Edgar in the mix, and I would say I bettered my team for sure.

As for pick-ups, a day or so into the season, I scooped up Eugenio Valez, and recently I nabbed David Murphy, so like any owner who wants to win should be doing, I always scour the wire looking for the next Microsoft.

That's how I approach the majority of my leagues. Some may do the same, while I am sure some will disagree. Nevertheless, this is one of the best aspects of the game in my opinion, and why I love fantasy baseball.

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Rob Reed (baseballgeeks.com and playertrack.com)

My foremost fantasy philosophy is that past statistics are a key indicator in determining future success or failure. Even if there is a drop off from a player's last year performance, it is usually not a substantial drop off. Hence, the concept of a player's career "bell curve."

So, my opinion is that if you are happy with the balance of your team in all categories after your draft, stick with that. Trust in your stars to lead you through the long haul. See Lance Berkman's 2007 season for the perfect example of "holding out on a hero 'til the end of the night." (Thank you Bonnie Tyler!)

I understand the pain, however. Currently, on my money league team, I am sitting in last place among ten teams. With 26 points. The ninth place team has 41 points. I am a goat. I am a sad case. I am Jack's salty tears.

But, on the optimistic side: I have Jose Reyes (who was leading my squad at the end of Week 1 with his 5 RBI, but tied for last in SBs with 0), Matt Holliday (slowly coming out of his fog), Miguel Cabrera (hit a HR on the first day, and I thought I was a genius for spending $44 on him at the auction), Gary Sheffield (got an ouchy, but luckily hasn't hit the DL… yet), Huston Street (3 HRs in as many games pitched to start the season), Trevor Hoffman (blown two saves so far), Placido Polanco (AL third-place league leader in BA is currently hitting .103), Hunter Pence (.186 through 40+ abs, with no HRs and 1 SB), C.C. Sabathia (quite a lousy pair of games coming off a Cy Young year -- especially considering that this is his walk year), and Ichiro (who could have predicted that I would have Jose Reyes and Ichiro and be last in a ten team league in SBs heading into the end of Week 2). And, oh yah, I just lost Rafael Soriano to the DL.

Am I scared? Damn right I'm scared. Should I panic? Heck no.

I made some moves to try and salve some wounds, because I could. My farm team was filled with some gambles. So, bye bye, Juan Rivera. Hello, Carlos Gomez. Bye bye, Pat Neshek. Hello, Manny Acosta (it was him or Moylan… I decided to go with professional baseball experience and cross my fingers -- I wish I could keep Neshek, but I have to try to salvage a few saves while Soriano is away). Bye bye, Rocco Baldelli. Hello, Cody Ross. I wish this last one was a joke. In a way, I suppose it was (podcast listeners will know why). Report me to the fantasy authorities, however, and I'll claim temporary, panic-induced insanity.

So, in sum, I leave you with this tidbit of freshly learned wisdom: when you are trolling waiver wires for Cody Rosses, perhaps you should consider looking into yoga? Goose-fraba. Ohm. [Insert your favorite meditation here, or go out and buy you some Bonnie Tyler immediately].

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