Most of you can relate to 20 of the 30 baseball teams that are just ready for the season to end so you can lick your wounds and figure out where it all went wrong. The fun part about the off-season is tossing around the blame for what derailed a team that looked great team on paper leaving the draft in March since most of us leave the draft table thinking we have a great team.

Nobody could have predicted that Carl Crawford would become Carl Crawful or that Ian Kennedy would win 21 games this season, but that kind of unpredictability is what makes this game fun as long as you are the one getting the good fortune while your competition is piling up the misfortune. They asked Rogers Hornsby what he did in the off-season and he replied, “I stare out the window and wait for spring.” I do not advise that you waste the next five months doing the same thing, but here are some suggestions for the off-season that I do each year to help get ready for the next season.

Take time off: You have just spent 26 scoring periods manipulating your roster, pouring over box scores, making trades, free agent acquisitions, and watching any baseball game you could find on your television or your mobile device. Take some time to put down the statistics and enjoy the post-season games, even if your favorite team is not in it. One of the downsides to fantasy baseball is that it can distract you from enjoying the game while your attention is focused on players that are on your roster. Additionally, thoughts of win probability added and leverage index drift into your mind in certain situations, which can make the game come down to numbers and percentages, suppressing the fan in you that believes the team has a chance of coming back from a 5-0 deficit in the 7th even though history tells you that chances of it happening are only three percent.  Put down the spreadsheets and the live scoring tracker, and become a fan of the game again for a few weeks to re-charge your batteries.

If you were one of the fortunate few to win money in your league, now is the time to spend it—on your loved ones. They have had to put up with you for six months while you fretted over trades, lineups, pick-ups, and all of those games. They were at the dinner table while you were texting back and forth with a leaguemate about a trade. They were in the living room watching a movie while you slid away into the other room to turn on a game to watch.  Now that you have won money from your hard work or good fortune within the season, go take your loved ones somewhere with it and enjoy the time together. The year I met my wife, I happened to win the local baseball, football, and basketball leagues that I played in that season, and each time we went away somewhere for the weekend, but that set a high bar that has been rather tough to meet each season while I avoid the obvious joke that marriage killed my fantasy sports skills.

Research:  Once you have rested and recharged, it is time to dive back into things for 2012. Because I am a company man, I must insist you continue reading us throughout the off-season as our fantasy baseball writers have plans throughout the entire off-season to keep you informed because we are not taking time off. When you are not reading our work, here are some other suggested efforts for you to undertake:

  • Benchmarks: Record what it took to win each category in your league this season as well as what it took to place in the top three in each category. Now, compare this year’s numbers to 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, and even as far back as 2006 if your league software allows it. See if the trends that show up in your league standings match the declining offensive trends in baseball overall. If you have been operating under the assumption that what was needed to place highly in homers and steals in 2008 still applies today, you may be overpaying for what you really need. Seeing what league trends come forth also helps on draft day because it gives you an idea of which owners pay for certain categories. If one owner continually places high in a particular category, it is because he is either extremely fortunate or he is emphasizing that category on draft day. You will want to take note of that so that when you are going head to head against that player in an auction draft, you will know that he may be willing to go the extra dollar to get what he wants. Or if you are targeting a particular player in a snake draft, you may need to reach for that player if you notice your leaguemate is still shy in a particular category and is picking after you in the current round.
  • Player trends: If you are in a keeper league, you likely have some long-term contract decisions to make before your 2012 draft with certain players entering their option years. Take these decisions seriously because there are long term effects… says the guy who once gave Ben Sheets a three-year extension before he began breaking down more than my Chevy Citation did in college. Injury history, trending performance, age, and projections all come into play with these decisions, and luckily, our player cards have all of this information in one place for you to do your research. If this concept is a tough one for you, this book is a dated but a very good read on the concept, and you can get a used copy for less than a venti Pumpkin Latte at Starbucks.
  • The new kids: As a BP subscriber, you are lucky enough to have access to Kevin Goldstein’s off-season work in ranking prospects. Now, understand that how Kevin ranks his prospect does not always translate to how they rank for fantasy purposes, but that’s why he has also started adding a fantasy impact portion to his player write-up. Before you read about the next Michael Pineda in a draft prep magazine, Kevin has already mentioned that player at least ten times in his write-ups during the previous season and has ranked him in his prospect rankings in the off-season. After all, Jose Altuve was a name only 0.9ers knew this past December, and there he was making his major league debut in the middle of this past summer. Read his work religiously so you know who is coming next before your leaguemates do. He covers around 20 players per organization and takes just about any question you post to him in the corresponding comments, so make sure you utilize his talents.

Schedule: Next year’s draft(s) will be here before you know it, so you should start planning your schedule accordingly. Go to your calendar and set benchmark dates for your own research so you do not end up trying to do what you did in college and cram for the exam the night before and hope for the best.  You should make it a goal to be ready to draft by the time pitchers and catchers report. This way, you can use Spring Training to adjust your research and projections to any news that comes out of camps and simply ignore 99% of spring training stats since most of them are rather useless. If your commissioner has not yet set a draft date, start bugging him to do quickly. As a commissioner, coordinating the draft date is the hardest part of my job but the earlier that I do it, the less painful it is. Get those dates down on your calendar and alert the loved ones so nobody tries to schedule a cruise, a weekend getaway, or worse yet, expects you to attend a co-ed baby shower. If you are in one of the national high-stakes leagues such as NFBC, make sure you get those 2012 draft dates down now and try to book your travel as early as possible. Take it from someone who travels 150,000 miles a year for a living—you do not want to wait until the last week or two to book a flight.

Try to enjoy your off-season, but do not spend all winter staring out the window waiting for spring.

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Jason... The Art McGee book you link to is available at new for less than the used prices cited at your link. We're trying to move out the remaining inventory. -Ron
Or, you could bask briefly in your three for three fantasy championships (well, one was a tie for first), thanks in no small part to Baseball Prospectus and Ron Shandler ;~), and get back to work, thinking about keepers and next year's Strat team. So, to get the Hot Stove talk going, what keeper decisions would you lean toward were you me? Both A.L. only leagues allow 5 keepers each (plus up to two rookies in addition in one). In the first (ave, 5x5, head to head, 3-year contracts), I'm leaning toward these three Adrian Gonzalez Alexei Ramirez (A.L. positional scarcity) Nelson Cruz Plus two of Carlos Santana (will he hit for average?) Dustin Ackley (will he hit for power?) Brett Lawrie (small sample, but nice hr/ab) Mike Moustakas (power?) B.J. Upton (ave?) As rookie keepers there's Matt Moore and Addison Reed or Manny Machado. The pitchers who would be remotely "keepable" would be Brandon Morrow, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Walden, and Neftali Feliz, but I'm inclined to throw them all back. Amazing I won that league... In the other (OBP, not average, 5x5 plus holds, points), Carlos Santana Miguel Cabrera Ian Kinsler Curtis Granderson Felix Hernandez or Nelson Cruz With a better foundation on this team, I think Moustakas, Ackley, and Moore all get released here. Thanks for any thoughts, and all your work!