The last ten days of the regular season are wild in DFS. One has to pay close attention in order to avoid the perils of this period, but an astute gamer can reap advantages and profit down the stretch, especially with a fresh batch of players who are new to the DFS baseball game (aka the football recruits). Let's go over some of the ways that late-season baseball is a different animal. On to the bullets:
*Setting lineups the night before can bring a lot of headaches, and such rosters should be considered merely as starting points to define lineup anchors. MLB rosters are highly volatile this time of year, with players getting rest, expanded rosters bringing an influx of prospects who play on an inconsistent basis, and teams that have everything on the line might be facing those that are just playing out the string. Maybe a veteran player is given an extra day off or three, perhaps a young pitcher is nearing his innings cap for the season, or the club might just want to give a look to a Triple-A player who is out of options next year; there are myriad reasons why a manager would veer off-course from regular roster trends and bench a regular down the stretch, and a DFS gamer who doesn't have the time or opportunity to check lineups prior to lock is adding an extra element of gamble to his or her gameplay.
*A handful of teams are desperately trying to make the playoffs or win their division rather than be left to the whims of the Wild Card, and these clubs that are in the heat of competition will be more likely to field regulars and keep their starters longer in the game, for the simple reason that wins are suddenly more valuable to them in the short term while their opponents might be less interested in their final record. These teams have greater competitive incentive than those that are out-of-contention or those who already have sewn up a spot in the postseason, and as a DFS manager I want a piece of that competitiveness at a time when rosters are highly volatile. There are only a handful of these clubs who have so much at stake (ie TOR, NYY, TEX, HOU, MIN, LAA), all of whom are in the wide-open American League, but the incentive to stack against weak pitchers has never been higher.
*The disabled list is essentially defunct in September, and the deeper we go in the game-count the more likely a team is to let a player sit on the roster without the DL designation. Players such as Ryan Braun (back), Adam Jones (back), and Buster Posey (hip) have been absent from their respected lineups for the last several days, and unprepared DFS managers were left to scramble for alternatives. DraftKings does a good job of putting red labels to the right of the player's names with notes about the injuries, and it is easier to take an approach of “assume he won't play” rather than “assume he will” at this time of year.
*An extension of this is the common trend for pitchers to skip a start, and for the announcement to come out the day that they are scheduled to pitch. Zack Greinke was an example of this yesterday, with the morning news that he would skip his scheduled start against the Diamondbacks in order to rest his sore calf. It was a thin slate of top-end pitchers to begin with, and losing Greinke – combined with the weather warnings in Minnesota that put Corey Kluber's start in jeopardy – put DFS managers in a precarious position. There's considerable risk in rostering any pitcher this time of year, at a time when rosters are long and hooks are quick, but no roster can compete with a goose egg in an SP slot.
*Speaking of weather, it is more likely for teams to try to force games through subpar weather conditions in order to get games played this time of year. There is no more time or opportunity left to fit games into the schedule, and there are already more double-headers in the final weeks as teams try to makeup for rained out contests from earlier in the season.
*Double-headers themselves present a unique challenge, as Game One is not likely to be part of the schedule and Game Two rosters are not announced until late in the slate, while the start-time can be further delayed if the first ballgame goes long. Double-dips are therefore difficult to navigate, as even the starting pitchers can be easily switched on the day of the game, something that has a negligible impact on season-long fantasy rosters but can mean everything to a club in DFS.
*The blow-up effect, in which games that feature a wide spread early turn into minor-league contests after all of the starters are taken out of the game. This one's tough to avoid, and I certainly wouldn't recommend against rostering anyone from a roster that scores too many runs, but it is worth considering if rostering a position player on a team whose starting pitcher is likely to get knocked around the yard. The pitcher pools are teeming with new fish that are likely to get eaten in a hurry, and the regular players might see the bench after two at bats if the cup of coffee turns bitter. It doesn't deserve too much consideration considering the multitude of events that have to take place, but I might use this factor as a tie-breaker between two bats.
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