Friday, April 25, 2008

Fantasy Faceoff: Punting a category?

Editor's note: Today's post is the first in a series of Faceoff questions with other fantasy "experts" in the Observer newsroom. News/features reporter Peter St. Onge goes toe-to-toe on the somewhat delicate subject of punting a category to win your league.


It’s April. Your closers are blowing saves. Your co-owners are picking up your closer’s replacements. You think: “I’m going to finish at the bottom in saves. Why not punt the category?”



Punting a category in April is like paying off one credit card with another. It feels good momentarily, but it only puts you further behind.

This is a matter of basic math. In a 12-team, 5x5 league, the winner usually finishes in the high 90s. If you punt a category in such a league, you will need to average better than a top 3 finish in every other category. One big injury, a few slumps, and you’re done.

In 4x4 leagues, the math is worse.

Here’s your solution. If the want-to-punt category is saves - and it almost always is - replace your bad closers with the best possibilities for new saves. Right now, that’s Mota/Turnbull in Milwaukee, Bell in San Diego, Fuentes in Colorado.

Wait. Fuentes just got named closer. See how easy it is?

Those names will change, especially at the trading deadline, when the closers of bad teams become the setup men of better teams. Pay attention. Be ready to pounce.

Or, suck it up and make a trade.

There’s always someone else ready to punt.


Don't punt saves. It's too early. You'll never win that way.

Where have I heard this broken record before?

Oh yeah, from Mr. St. Onge, about five years ago, when I first put my ingenious category-punting theory to the test.

So, how did it work? Well, that's not important to talk about right now.

What's important is that I strongly believe punting a category can work, but there are a few rules you must abide by:

1). For best results, decide before your draft to punt a category and tailor your picks this way. So if saves is the category of choice, you don't spend 3 of your top 12 picks on closers, instead, you snatch up Jonathan Braxton, Scott Linebrink and Pat Neshek in the 23rd, 24th and 25th rounds to fill out your RP slots. Or, forget your average and stock up on Adam Dunn-type players.

2). If you don't draft with scrapping a certain category in mind, decide as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it is to gain in every other category. If you decide your team just doesn't have any speed besides Jose Reyes, and you're destined for last, then cash him out for a big bat and completely tank the category. Go big. You'll still get the same 1 point.

3). If you're going to punt a category, and this is the most important tip, you must go all out. There's no halfway punting. That's called a shank. It's an all-or-nothing proposition. Last year, I had the trio of Alfonso Soriano, Derek Lee and Mark Teixeira, who had combined for 0 home runs as of April 24. I made the rare decision to punt my power categories (HR, RBI) in a 5x5 and wthing a week I sold every power bat I had for speed and pitching. Jim Thome? Troy Glaus? Gone.

So how'd it work out for my team, the Frozen Sporks?

OK, I admit I've never been able to win the championship punting a category. I finished third twice (last year and punting wins in a 4x4). I've also finished 5th and 7th, punting saves.

But I know it's possible. Mathematically, anyway. It just puts more pressure everywhere else. But it's fun to try to beat the system sometimes.

Just because St. Onge is sticking to mutual funds, doesn't mean you shouldn't roll the dice on some international stocks.

But now's the time. Punting season only lasts so long.


Anonymous said...

Great stuff. But I notice that the Head Blogger got the last word ...


matt said...

K-Rod got another save last night. Any chance he threatens Thigpen's season record?