Commentary

Sticking to your guns

Don't get too crazy in making unnecessary lineup moves

Updated: June 4, 2012, 2:56 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

Points leagues are somewhat unique in format in that there's a reset button each week. It's not like rotisserie leagues, where if your team struggles for the first month or so of the season, you find yourself in a deep hole in the overall standings that might be insurmountable regardless of your actions the rest of the way.

Vantage Point

Every scoring period gives your team a clean slate, but that's only if you can stay out of your own way.

Many leagues allow fantasy owners to adjust their lineups on a daily basis. Certainly, this is a very welcome rule if you have a player go down to injury on Monday night and can swap him out for a healthier individual rather than get an automatic six days of goose eggs. But more often than not, this power to make moves midweek ends up with impatient owners shooting themselves in the foot.

Let's look at an owner in a deep league with a second-base tandem to choose between Darwin Barney and Gordon Beckham, and how this past week might have worked out.

The owner set the lineup on Monday and decided to go with Beckham, who is ranked higher on the ESPN Player Rater. In three games against Tampa Bay, he goes a combined 3-for-13 and gives his owner one, zero and one fantasy point in ESPN standard scoring.

Meanwhile, "benchwarmer" Barney goes 5-for-10 with two home runs and five RBIs versus the San Diego Padres. If he had been in the lineup, said owner would have had games of 6, 7 and 14 fantasy points.

Both players had Thursday off, giving this hypothetical fantasy owner plenty of time to reconsider his starting second baseman's identity. Does he go with "the hot hitter" or does he stick with the lackluster Beckham? He decides to make the change.

The result? Beckham wakes up and hits three home runs with seven RBIs to record 24 total points over the second half of the scoring period. Barney returns to his light-hitting ways, and his 3-for-10 weekend results in only four fantasy points.

In other words, if the owner had stuck with Beckham, he would have had 26 points for the week. If he had gone with Barney for the whole week, he would have had 31 points. By making the wrong initial call and then chasing the hot hand, he turned two players with a combined 57 points into a lineup spot that recorded just six points for the week.

Yes, he could well have gotten lucky if he had chosen Barney initially and then went against his early-week success, swapping him out in time for Beckham's solid series against Seattle. That would have netted him 51 total points, far more than any individual player for the past seven days.

However, simply sticking with either Barney or Beckham would have given the fantasy owner no worse than the fourth-best second baseman for the scoring period -- and since the owner also owned the other guy, let's bump that up to "no worse than third-best."

The lesson here is to stay out of your own way. Set your lineup and let it ride. Patience will, more often than not, give you the better chance of maximizing your probability of winning your weekly matchup.

Pointing Up

Jerome Williams, SP, Los Angeles Angels: Sure, the home/road splits make Williams look like a part-time play. He's 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA at home and only 1-2 with a 5.65 ERA elsewhere. However, he's now had two straight quality starts away from home, and the only teams that have "beat him up" are the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees. Avoid the toughest matchups and he should do just fine.

Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies: Certainly Cuddyer's recent week at home allowed his stock to rise, thanks to a .364 batting average, eight runs scored and nine RBIs. However, it should be noted that his fantasy points production is not all a Coors Field creation. Cuddyer is averaging 1.83 total bases per game at home, and that number drops to 1.68 on the road. That's not significant enough a drop to bench him simply because his team has switched uniform colors.

Felix Doubront, SP, Boston Red Sox: In his last five starts, Doubront has averaged 17.8 fantasy points, and all but one of these came against teams with winning records, the lone exception being the Detroit Tigers, not exactly a lackluster lineup. With a 2.93 K/BB rate since May 1, this is clearly the Red Sox pitcher to own in points leagues.

Prince Fielder, 1B, Detroit Tigers: In the midst of an 11-game hitting streak, where Fielder has simply been mashing the ball, the most important stat for points leaguers is that he has but a single K over that span. With three straight weeks of 20 or more fantasy points, you're finally getting consistent first-round value from Fielder. And while not all batting streaks are created equal, one in which you hit .452 certainly is to be respected.

Santiago Casilla, RP, San Francisco Giants: Despite a rough outing against the Chicago Cubs on June 1, and an injury that held him out the remainder of the week, the closer still posted his fourth consecutive double-digit scoring period. Since May 17, he has a 1.04 ERA and a .229 batting average against. With only three walks allowed since the start of May, Casilla simply isn't going to add fuel to the fire too often.

Alejandro De Aza, OF, Chicago White Sox: Sometimes, slow and steady does win the race. While de Aza has not had any double-digit games over the past two scoring periods, he's still been as consistent as they come. With six points here and four points there, the outfielder has managed a .458 OBP in his past 10 games, stolen five bases and driven in 11 in the process. It's far from flashy, but it's a reason that in points leagues he's starting to catch up to his top-10 rank at his position in the ESPN Player Rater.

Pointing Down

Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Houston Astros: He can't keep the ball in the park. The four round-trippers he allowed to the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday marked the third multi-homer outing in Rodriguez's past six starts. While a 4.62 ERA over that stretch is not something a pitcher of his ilk can't rebound from, the fact is that the Astros are just 4-8 in his 12 starts in 2012, and the likelihood of increased success in that department simply isn't there.

Tommy Milone, SP, Oakland Athletics: Milone has now lost three of his past four games despite a solid 2.93 ERA, thanks to practically no run support from his lineup (three runs scored in the four starts). However, he also allowed 30 hits in those games, to go along with five free passes. Since he's yet to strike out more than six in any contest, the lack of victories hurts him far more than most pitchers.

Adam Dunn, 1B, Chicago White Sox: Thank goodness Dunn gets points for walks, lest his contributions for the past week be completely negative. He is mired in a 2-for-25 slump, with 14 strikeouts. Both the hits have sailed over the wall, which somewhat salvages the last scoring period. I've tried to be supportive, but even with a .324 OBP, Dunn needs to put a few more balls in play -- even if they are outs -- in order to be a viable points league option.

Matt Joyce, OF, Tampa Bay Rays: His power has seemingly dissipated, with only two homers since May 10 after having hit seven up to that point. He has also hit only three doubles in that span, meaning it's pretty much singles or bust for Joyce. If he were hitting at a .320 clip, that might be appealing, but as his batting average has now dipped below .290, the arrow is definitely pointing in the wrong direction.

Kenley Jansen, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers: It's not exactly Jansen's fault that the Dodgers went 1-6 last week, leaving little opportunity for saves. However, in the past 16 days, he has had just five appearances. That's simply not enough of a workload for fantasy owners who need consistent outings to remain competitive in a head-to-head environment. Now the team will fly all the way to Philadelphia for a series, then right back across the country to Seattle. Lack of work and added travel? This is not a good time to own Jansen.

Mike Aviles, SS, Boston Red Sox: With a .200 OBP since May 22 -- eight strikeouts and zero walks over that stretch -- there's hardly room for argument that Aviles has been an albatross. He's only had 14 fantasy points in the past two scoring periods and five of those came last Monday, most of which he tried to give back by the end of Week 8 with a negative-scoring weekend. He's no longer Bobby V's leadoff hitter and no longer worthy of your fantasy affections either.

ALSO SEE