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September 10, 2013

Fantasy Freestyle

Ten Tips for Your Head-to-Head Playoff Run

by Bret Sayre


For the fortunate souls who are still alive in the playoffs this season, whether they began last week or yesterday, this is when the year builds to its dramatic conclusion. It’s Rocky going through all of his training in the Russian winter, finally making it to the arena in Moscow. Will you avenge your loss from last season and put an end to communism once and for all? Have I been watching Rocky IV too much on the late shift? Yes, I have.

So whether you’re the first seed or the team that just snuck into the postseason by the skin of your teeth, the following 10 tips are here to help you maximize your performance when it matters:

1) Know your team’s strengths and weaknesses
The absolute worst thing you can do in a high-intensity situation of any kind, whether it’s fantasy baseball related or not, is to lose sight of what got you there. If your team is filled with mashers and high-end relievers, don’t start throwing starting pitchers out there who have decent matchups just to try to get lucky. There will be time for that if you get desperate, but those who start out a matchup in desperation mode will be calling it a season in short order.

2) Beat your opponent to the punch for streamers
There are seemingly a hundred places out there where you can find streamers for the following day, and you’re going to have to really be on the ball to get the ones that you want. The best way to do so is to look two to three days into the future and act in advance. So look at the matchups on Thursday or Friday and see who can help your team—maybe it’s Jeff Locke against the Cubs or Jason Vargas against the Astros. Just don’t wait until an opponent realizes that it’s time to act.

3) Don’t manage yourself out of the game
This is a similar concept to the first tip, but it’s a little more granular. The first few days of a playoff matchup, you are setting the barometer for the week, so don’t do anything which is out of line with what you’ve been doing (assuming it’s been working, as you did make the playoffs after all). If you’ve been consistently starting Edwin Jackson throughout the season, the playoffs are not the time to start benching him. And if you’ve been starting Nick Swisher all year and have a fringe player on your bench who has a great “on-paper” matchup that day, don’t make the switch. It’s the decision that goes against your better judgment that haunts you over an off-season rather than the one that carries forward a consistent approach from the previous five months.

4) There are exceptions to the previous rule
Of course, aside from not feeding gremlins after midnight, all rules have their exceptions—and here are the two biggest reasons to deviate. First, you have a player who is just white hot and can’t be benched. Say, Will Middlebrooks or Salvador Perez. It’s the player who absolutely blows up that can help carry you to a title, while if they turn back into a pumpkin, there’s only so much damage that one player can do to your chances—so if you think you have that player, don’t let him rot on your bench. Secondly, there’s a categorical reason to start playing with your lineup. If you are entering play on Friday and you have nine homers to your opponent’s two, maybe it’s worth benching Chris Carter for someone who can steal a base or get a few extra hits.

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Fantasy Article Five to Watch: Injured... (09/10)
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