Some teams played their 82nd game of the 2011 season last night, meaning we are now officially in the unofficial (but mathematically accurate) second half of the season since people seem to cling onto the All-Star Break being the equal divider between the two halves. The 14th of 26 fantasy scoring periods begins for most leagues this Monday, giving us just 12 scoring periods to make up ground in the standings in order to win the league. Yes, I said win because second place is still just the first loser as far as I am concerned.

If first place is so far out of sight for you that even the Hubble telescope cannot bring it into sight, then you certainly need to find a way to close out the season. Since you are one of our subscribers, I am going to safely assume you are not one of “those people” that put your team in auto-pilot for the rest of the season since you cannot win the league. What else do you have to do right now? Fantasy football prep is on hold until the lockout is ended, NBA is now locked out, and if you are a hardcore guy like me and play college fantasy football, that prep is still in its infancy stages. With most sports either dormant or locked out, your only other choice is to do something that you have likely done, well, most of your life, and that is to be a giant pain in the ass to your league.

This season, Tout Wars put a rule in place to encourage such behavior by hitting owners where it hurts. Tout Wars is a reset league, but there is very little owner turnover from year to year, so this season we are playing under a new rule which states:

Total FAAB allocation is subject to adjustment based on a player’s finish the year before. The following year, teams will have deducted one FAAB-dollar for each point (rounded down) that they finish below league-specific thresholds. The thresholds are 60 points for AL, 65 points for NL and 75 points for Mixed. For instance, a Tout NL team that finished with 52 points would start the following year with 87 FAAB dollars, rather than 100.

A bad season in 2011 can hurt you in 2012.  In Tout Wars AL, there are currently four teams that would be affected by this rule in 2012 but nobody more so than Baseball HQ’s Ron Shandler. Shandler is the unfortunate owner of Adam Dunn and has also seen Jed Lowrie get hurt, Mike Napoli get hurt, and Daric Barton get demoted. He has enjoyed James Shields and Kyle Farnsworth, but John Lackey, Daisuke Matzusaka, Bobby Jenks, Chris Sale, Brian Duensing, and Rick Porcello have really hurt his staff. Currently, Ron has just 40 points in the standings, meaning he would enter the season with just $80 for FAAB next year, and FAAB is where nearly all roster improvement happens in Tout Wars because there are only a handful of trades each season.  With that thought in his mind, he sent out a wildly entertaining email to the league outlining his plan to avoid this punishment back on Memorial Day weekend:

To my Tout-AL brethren:

As we count down the final days to Memorial Day weekend, here are a few hard realities…

1. I have 26.5 points. If the season ended today, I would not win the league for the 11th consecutive year.

2. I think we all would agree that a 25 point deficit at this point in the season is far from insurmountable, right?  Unfortunately for me, making up 25 points only means I get to finish in 11th place.

3. Based on our new rules, if the season ended today (again), my 2012 initial FAAB budget would be only $66.

So I need to start picking up some points, gaining as much as I can wherever I can, regardless of where I ultimately finish.  And I have decided upon a definitive plan of attack:

I am punting ERA and WHIP.

Okay, don't laugh. I know I am currently in last place in both ERA and WHIP, but that's not without trying really hard. It's tough to be hitting bottom in those categories when you have decent pitchers like James Shields and Rick Porcello holding down the fort.

So… just like the Astros would be just as crappy with or without Wandy Rodriguez, I am hereby selling off all pitching assets that could help another team in ERA and WHIP, and whatever other collateral benefit they might bring.

James Shields
Rick Porcello
Carlos Carrasco
Brian Duensing
John Lackey
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Alex Torres
… and really, anyone else on my staff.

Except for Kyle Farnsworth. Unfortunately, he is providing me with saves so I will have to put up with his sub-2.00 ERA, which is now worthless to me. (However, if you want to swap a comparable saves source with crappy ERA/WHIP, I will listen.)

A bat
Another bat
And if possible, yet another bat

I am also interested in providing you with some addition via subtraction so feel free to send along the worst ERA/WHIPs on your staff (since I will have to backfill my vacated pitching slots).

Fire away!

I do not believe he has completed any deals yet, but he has gained 13.5 points in the standing since this email went out, and now he is just nine points away from getting out of last place (but still 20 points shy of avoiding the FAAB hatchet).  My own injury-riddled squad is three points above the threshold, but I am still in seventh place, which shows you just how spread out the scoring is this season.

If you find yourself in the lower half of your own standings without a realistic shot at the money in a reset league, Ron’s plan is a solid plan for you to consider. If you are already at the bottom of a couple of categories, laser focus on the categories you are doing well in and create angst for your leaguemates that are running for the money. If you completely throw away saves and do not have an innings cap, you can easily create havoc in wins and strikeouts just on sheer volume. If batting average is already poor, grab speed specialists as they are promoted from the minor leagues and anyone that hits with power but no average such as Mark Reynolds, Kelly Johnson, and Miguel Olivo and add to your home runs, runs, and RBI point totals.

If you are in a keeper league, you have more flexibility at your disposal because you can take advantage of owners who have rookies that are not giving them the everyday playing time they need to stay ahead in the standings. Dump trades are one area of keeper leagues that drive some owners crazy, but I maintain that a majority of the complaints surrounding these trades grow from resentment and jealousy rather than factual anger. If you pay your keeper league dues, it should not matter what you do in 2011 if you are helping your team for 2012-2014.

 I also tend to be the Ron Paul of commissioners in leagues as I am 100 percent in support of free market principles and will never veto a trade or tell other owners what to do. If that owner makes a critical mistake in a trade and improperly values the return in a deal, he has to live with that mistake on his team. If the league is going to suffer that much because of a single trade, then the fault for that falls upon the commissioner or group of people who vetted the owner before allowing her or him into the league.  Some leagues require trades to be posted to the board for a cooling period to see if other owners can best the deal–not something I agree with, but to each their own.

 I find it most beneficial when I alert the league that certain players on my team are available early in the scoring period and give them two to three days to send in offers while I spend the time picking apart their team and deciding which players I want to get in return. Sometimes, owners can surprise you when they’re desperate.  Such was the case yesterday in my local league when I was able to move the expiring contracts of Jon Lester, Gavin Floyd, and Andrew Bailey for a $6 Scott Baker, $1 Jim Johnson, and a serviceable John Lackey in order to keep my roster producing statistics as I rebuild it. My only requirement for these types of deals is that you still field an active 23 man roster, and if that means burning a rookie keeper’s status, so be it. You still have a requirement to be a factor in 2011 by carrying an active lineup while also preparing for the future.

If your team’s standings resemble that of the Dodgers or Astros right now, have fun with the rest of the season. Wreak havoc in the standings and force the competitive teams to react to your actions in the standings while you sit back and smile while reading the venting emails and message board posts on the league message board to help take the sting out of an otherwise unsuccessful fantasy season.

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Excellent, concise article, JC. My own maxim on dump trades is, "Dump trading is the engine that runs keeper leagues after mid-season." In two separate leagues, I did studies in responses to whining about others' dump trades and found that the whiners had engaged in dumps as much as those they whined about. Thus a second: "We like our own dump trades, but tend not to like the dump trades of others." (probably in direct proportion to how good the trades are) In two long-lasting keeper leagues (can only keep a player a 2d year. All players must be auctioned at least every other year.), we keep the lower-ranked teams involved not only by their team-building, but also dangle some incentive. The top team "out of the money" will have the first pick in a minor league draft after the next year's MLB auction and also will begin the "replacement" snake of injured players after the auction. So the order of choosing two minor leaguers and replacements in a 12-team league paying down 6 spots is 7, 8, 9...12, then 6, 5, 4...w/ champ picking last. In a draft league of widespread owners, highest team out of the money gets the first pick, so we've called the non-money race "The Pujols Sweepstakes."
Thanks. I too find that most bitching about dump trades is rooted in jealously and owners that tend to be reactive to moves rather than being proactive.
Not sure I understand what you mean by "dump trades".
Trading a $30 Lance Berkman for a $3 Eric Hosmer. Someone will bitch about it, but in a keeper league, you have to make that deal.
Never mind concise. It was very entertaining! The situation itself and Ron's notes are good comic fare, but you improved on the raw material. Well done!!!
So what's a rule of thumb for the other side of the equation--for swapping keepers for production now?
At this point in the season, I'd focus on the counting categories more so than the ratios. Mainly because it is easier to track your progress and needs. Speed is easier to pick up at this point in the season as guys are promoted but saves get spotty because the guy you trade for today could be a setup guy for a new team by the trade deadline. If you're already bad in saves, move on and load up on the starting pitching.

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