Patience is a Virtue

We’ve all heard that adage a million times in our lives, but fantasy baseball players would be well served to take it to heart. I grant that it is easier said than done, but that doesn’t make it any less important or given anyone an excuse for not adhering to the notion. In this day and age where you can get up to the second standings, it’s easy to see hpow fantasy owners could be prone to impatience. They add a player to their roster and watch him go 0-for-4 for three straight days and they think he’s a bum.

When I first got introduced to this game, it was a league with my parents and my dad’s co-workers. The league was 10 teams, AL-Only and they updated the statistics weekly via the USA Today stats dump every Tuesday. The anticipation for the standings each week accompanied by an expansive team-by-team statistical readout was intense. I couldn’t WAIT for my dad to get home from work. And heaven forbid their actual jobs get in the way and prevent the update until Wednesday. This was before I even got a team, once I actually joined the league, I was off the walls eager on summer Tuesday afternoons. I would ride my bike to the convenience store and grab the USA Today and begin to compile my team’s stats and then try to guess how I was doing in the standings (a futile exercise to be sure).

Anyway, transactions were weekly within your team and bi-weekly free agent buys were the means for replacing players outside of trades. So you were looking at giving players at least 7-14 days to perform and you generally wouldn’t make a hasty decision based on one scoring period so fantasy owners were by and large much more patient pre-Internet age, mostly because they had to be unless they had some insane commissioner interested in updating the numbers daily, but I’m sure it prevented a lot of the horror stories we hear yearly about people releasing players in April or May who end up having brilliant seasons. If you’ve read this site in 2009 or any of my work for Owner’s Edge at fanball.com, you’ve seen me talk about the impatience of fantasy owners on many levels: discarding top prospects when they don’t perform instantly, giving up on starters with good skills after a bad start or two and judging hitters on tiny at-bat samples.

This doesn’t mean you have to sit on the team you drafted until a certain date in the season and let a sinking ship sink. But make sure your decisions come from the right place. Knee-jerk reactions to an established player struggling will never serve you well. Dumping a hot prospect you drafted three years ago because his first go at the league as failed to launch is dumb. And trying to fix your pitching by streaming 15 pitchers in and out every single day is unlikely to payoff and lower that Wang’d ERA. Staying the course with your core and preying on the owners that do the above is the way you should go about fixing a rough start or even enhancing a well-performing squad. In the aforementioned AL-Only league (that is in the midst of its 20th season by the way), I am the reigning champion and I desperately want to defend my title. We also had two new owners come in this year and they happen to be two very good friends of mine so I don’t to want fizzle out in front of them either.

Alas, that’s precisely what I did out of the gate. By week 3, I was 9.5 and 22.5 points behind my two friends and buried in last. I had 6.5 points in front of me just to make a move out of the cellar. I didn’t panic. Even though Scott Baker and Andy Sonnanstine LOVED to ruin every nice outing by Dallas Braden and Felix Hernandez making it feel impossible to fix my 5.49 ERA. Keep in mind, we use just six pitching slots: 4 SP/2 RP and I was using 5/1 mix because Braden had relieved in 2008 and I only had one closer (Joakim Soria). I stayed patient and didn’t make panic moves. And like I mentioned earlier, I wanted to take advantage of people that would fall victim to impatience.

At the beginning of week 7 (May 18th) I made my first trade of the season dealing away of hot hitting Shin-Soo Choo for a struggling Kevin Slowey. He had an ugly 4.50 ERA, but he had a 35 to 4 K/BB ratio so he still had the impeccable control he displayed in 2008. I was very confident in a rebound for Slowey. Mind you, I didn’t necessarily prey on this other owner by giving him Choo for Slowey. Choo is no slouch and has hit .319 with 3 HR, 10 RBI and 3 SB since the trade. Meanwhile, Slowey is 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 1.15 WHIP for me in 20 innings. He has struck out 14, too, but this is a 4×4 league.

I wanted to use the free agent buys as another means to plug holes and see if I could on a roll. I really liked my team coming out of the draft and I wasn’t willing to blow it up because of a horrible April/early May. We have a five-man reserve roster that is integral to the strategy of using the bi-weekly buys to my advantage. I could put some of my early flameouts on the bench and try some other hands. I technically had a four-man reserve because I had The Chosen One taking a spot until his recent call up to the Orioles. That is of course Matt Wieters.

When Soria got hurt, I decided to go with a 6-man rotation after acquiring more starter/reliever combos in the form of Scott Feldman and Josh Outman. I hate Texas pitchers so I was mighty skeptical of Feldman, but I love Oakland pitchers so I was pleased to see Outman throwing well. I still had a few of their outings ruined by Sonnanstine, but I was definitely trending the right way. From week 6 to 7, I moved the ERA from 4.98 to 4.60 and moved up 2 spots to 8th in the category. The WHIP was moving rapidly in tandem. I added Carl Pavano to the mix in favor of Sonnanstine and eventually woke up to one of the best sights a CBS owner can see:

hot SPs

Those little orange squares are better than porn in the middle of summer as fantasy baseball owner. From week 3 to 9, I gained 12.5 points and moved from 10th to 5th. A lot of the winning formula was patience as my first move didn’t even come until mid-May which is the time I usually suggest you wait until before moving major pieces from your draft. My ERA is now at 4.34, the WHIP is 1.33 and I lead the league with 23 wins. Soria is now back, which is great since I’m dead-last in saves. To accommodate, I traded Feldman and Aaron Hill for Joe Nathan and Placido Polanco.

Back to the original point, this isn’t the first time that patience has helped me get through a tough early season. And I only learned that patience was the key by making mistakes in the past. Outside of a team decimated by injuries, I can’t imagine any reason for giving up on a season even at this point. I could have easily quit on my team early on when the staff was failing as described above Mark Teixeira, Jose Lopez, Jhonny Peralta and B.J. Upton couldn’t hit their way out of wet paper bags.

The “everything now”, Internet society we live in has made it harder for fantasy baseball owners. Well wait, it hasn’t actually made it hard, but it is perceived to be harder. When the team you brought into the season doesn’t lead the league instantly and stay on fire all year, the natural inclination for most is to throw up their hands and say, “this year is sunk!”, but in actuality very few of those teams should be abandoned as early as they are because the deficit isn’t nearly as large as the owner erroneously perceives.

If you’re the guy with all of the “I traded/cut Player X in early May and he ended with a great season” stories, then you’re not practicing enough patience. And those “Buy-Low Candidate” lists published by the 100s every season? Those are guides of how to take advantage of you. Wise up and trust you initial draft day and give a guy a legitimate chance to sink or swim with your team.

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2 Comments to “Patience is a Virtue”

  1. Yeah… After holding on to Ian Stewart all year, I dropped him Wednesday morning.

    Again: yeah…

  2. Good stuff, Paul. I really enjoyed this piece. It brings up a lot of useful advice for fantasy owners.

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