Case Study: How I Increased Team Batting Average 30 Points

It was this article by Tristan Cockroft in early May that jolted me.  I was sitting in the middle of the overall rotisserie standings in my mixed league, but was last in batting average by over 10 points.

One of the main takeaways from Cockroft’s article is that if you’re in trouble in the batting average category, you need to recognize this and make changes earlier in the season to address the problem than you do for the counting categories.  This is because batting average is a ratio statistic in which the denominator of the calculation (at bats) continues to steadily grow as the season goes along.  It’s much easier to nudge the batting average 5 points in May than it is in August or September.

I Needed To Act

On April 24th I sat in last place with a .236 team batting average.  Pretty pathetic for a fantasy squad in any format.  At the All-Star break I’ve managed to raise the average to .266 and climb into 6th in the category.  Here’s how I did it.

Date Move Verdict
April 24 Before even reading Cockroft’s article, I made a key move that has really paid off.  Added Matt Carpenter.  Dropped Kyle Seager.  Win
April 28 Still hadn’t read Cockroft’s article.  Took a shot on a potential batting average stud.  Added Nolan Arenado. Dropped Andrew Bailey (he had just gone on DL).  Draw
May 2 Read Cockroft’s article.  I realize it’s time to start making some bold moves to address the problem.
May 5 I’m also last in SB.  Added Dee Gordon.  Dropped Ike Davis. Nothing to lose here.  If Gordon could have hit .220 and stolen bases he would have improved my team average simply by not being Ike Davis.  Draw
May 10 Dropped Wil Middlebrooks.  Added Norichika Aoki.  Win
May 16 Nobody wanted to believe in the hot start.  Couldn’t believe he was still a free agent.  Dropped Josh Rutledge. Added Josh Donaldson.  Win
May 27 Decide it’s time to cut ties with Dee Gordon.  Dropped Gordon.  Added Leonys Martin.  Win
May 28 My dearth of hitting is at least offset by riches in the pitching categories.  Decide I’m willing to overpay for hitting because of significant leads in pitching categories. Trade away Prince Fielder, Adam Wainwright, Mariano Rivera, and Hyun-Jin Ryu.  Received Miguel Cabrera, Brett Gardner, and Matt Cain.  Win
June 9 Painful to look at this one in retrospect.  Decide to go for more proven batting average and SB possibilities.  Dropped Leonys Martin.  Added Shane Victorino.  Loss
June 15 Still need SB too.  Dropped Norichika Aoki.  Added Nate McClouth.  Win
June 21 Still need average and steals.  Cain had started to turn a corner.  Still had a lead in pitching categories.  Traded away BJ Upton, Aaron Hill, and Matt Cain.  Received Hanley Ramirez and Hunter Pence.  Win
July 5 Realize my DL slots are unoccupied.  In preparation for their pending returns, dropped speculation pick of Johnny Giovatella and added Adam Eaton and Derek Jeter.  TBD

Other Items Of Note

It wasn’t just who was added and dropped that made a difference.  We are also constantly making the decision of who to keep.  Who you choose to hang on to, especially during their times of struggle, is just as important.  Here’s a list of players that remained on my team from April 26th to July 14th and their batting averages at those end points:

BattingAvg

Evaluating The Approach

Looking back, you might argue that this was really all based on luck.  And to some extent luck has played a very important role.  But there was also a concerted effort to accumulate strong batting average plays and also a few “lottery tickets”, many of which have paid off.  And in the end, that’s what fantasy baseball is.  Collecting a bunch of assets that we hope will pay off.

I was acquiring Miguel Cabrera for a .330 average and wasn’t expecting .360.  I’m didn’t expect Josh Donaldson to continue to hit over .300, but he seemed like an upgrade over Josh Rutledge.  I continue to look for more “tickets” in Adam Eaton and Derek Jeter, both potential batting average stars (especially in relation to what else you can find at this point in the season).

I made mistakes along the way.  I was in on Leonys Martin very early.  Too early to catch the recent hot streak, and not patient enough to wait around for it to play out.

In hindsight many of these moves seem obvious.  I swapped a bunch of players hitting below .240 and replaced them with guys having the potential to hit for much better average.  But in the moment, it can be difficult to make moves like this.  You want to believe in the potential of guys like Ike Davis, Wil Middlebrooks, and Josh Rutledge.  The key is in realizing when the detriment of a .240 average is outweighing the possible 30 HR from a Davis or 15 SB from a Rutledge.  Recognize when the .280 hitter that will only hit 20 HR is the better fit for your team.

Takeaway

If you have a lot of ground to gain in a category, a concerted effort and a series of thoughtfully guided moves, all carefully aimed at improving that weakness, is your best move.  These don’t all have to happen in a short period of time, but you must constantly be monitoring your team and your place in each category.  Make steady and continuous effort to address weaknesses.

Take chances.  Overpay, using categories of relative strength, if you have to.  Be diligent.  Be relentless.  To borrow and tweak a quote from Mark Cuban’s foreword in “The Extra 2%”, “No one move is likely to make a difference.  But collectively, those moves make the difference between winning and losing”.

Mistakes will be made.  But because you’re making a series of calculated moves that all have a relatively high likelihood of panning out, you will make progress over all.  The wins will exceed the losses.

Thanks For Reading

I know it’s taboo to talk about ones own fantasy teams.  But I believe this exercise was a helpful illustration of what it takes to make significant progress in the standings.

Stay smart.


3 Responses

  1. Bill Miller
    Bill Miller at | | Reply

    I was ninth of ten teams in BA, so I loaded up on .280-.300 hitters. I am now tenth of ten. The fact that Posey and Harper (both mine) are having off years at the plate hasn’t helped, but I certainly thought I’d be doing better than this by now. Still, I’m being patient; long season, etc.

  2. brees33
    brees33 at | | Reply

    In my roto league(11×7) I have been struggling since 2010. The batting average has been a problem for me recently as has the double plays. I am 25 games back with virtually no chance to come back. I only have Abreu, Sano, Springer, Cain, Peralta, Desmond, Ramos as my best players and playing the hot hand everywhere else along with some streaky vets in Granderson, Castro. Pitching is also up and down but I mostly have middle vets like Hamels, Gio, Quintana, one young ace in Cole, an aging ace in Darvish. Other pitchers McHugh, Eickhoff, Bauer. It’s not a standout team at all.

    I need to know how to build from here. Who is the next person in line to be a stud that might be on free agency?

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