Late sleeper steals, saves guys
We're at that stage of the year when categorical management in rotisserie leagues is paramount. If you're not examining your categorical standing on a daily basis, you're forfeiting valuable opportunities to improve in the standings.
Let's use one of the industry's expert leagues, the National League version of Tout Wars, to illustrate. Three teams stand well ahead of the pack -- fourth place is 13 points behind third -- and the three top contenders, me, Seth Trachtman and Steve Gardner, have a mere nine-point gap as of the morning of Aug. 19. That might not sound like a tight race, but look closer.
Examining runs scored: All three teams are within 11 runs for the season, a three-spot swing (remember, as any contender passes a fellow contender in a category, it's a two- rather than one-point swing). Here, the second-place team overall leads, third is second, and first is third.
Fantasy Focus Baseball
Eric Karabell, Tristan Cockcroft and Stephania Bell discuss Andrew McCutchen, Homer Bailey and Yu Darvish.
Examining on-base percentage: These three teams are within .009 of one another, with the third-place team overall leading, second place second and first place third.
Examining ERA: These three teams are within 0.16 of one another, with the first-place team overall first, second place second and third place third.
Examining WHIP: These three teams are within 0.047 of one another, with the third-place team overall first, first place second and second place third.
And finally, examining strikeouts: These three teams are within 37 K's of one another, with the first-place team overall first, second place second and third place third.
Combining these findings, it's clear that the team in first needs a strong finish on the pitching side; it's vulnerable to both teams behind it in both ERA and K's and could stand to lose as many as five of its own rotisserie points combined -- meaning not including the gains by the other contenders in the process. On the hitting side, meanwhile, the second-place team is vulnerable in runs scored and on-base percentage, with a swing as wide as three rotisserie points -- again excluding the contenders' potential gains -- in those categories. The second-place team, too, could gain merely by moving up in ERA and WHIP. The third-place team, meanwhile, can quickly close that nine-point gap with a surge in K's and ERA, gaining four rotisserie points plus the contenders' losses.
In short, it's five of the 10 rotisserie departments that in all likelihood will decide the Tout Wars race, and it's for that reason one should expect those teams to particularly address those areas, even if it results in a trade with an appearance of being beneath value despite being smart for the teams in question. This is where fantasy leagues see the Anthony Rizzo-for-Ben Revere style trades that so often get individual owners up in arms over "fairness."
On paper, yes, Rizzo for Revere is a foolish trade for the majority of fantasy owners. But considering categorical context, there's absolutely a circumstance where it makes sense.
In that vein, trades aren't the only route toward addressing categorical need. Today, let's nominate a few sleepers in two of the easier ones in which to make up ground: stolen bases and saves. Some of these names might be readily available in your league. Others might be available at low cost via trade.