What measures do you take to protect/fortify a lead?
Brad Johnson (Patreon BaseballATeam, @BaseballATeam): It’s important to understand the anatomy of your lead. Do you have a large padding in some categories? Have you been lucky in others? Just like MLB clubs, I chase floor when I’m leading. Upside if for those fools playing from behind.
Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): You have to avoid injuries to be in a lead, and to stay there, keep avoiding injuries. Pretty simple.
Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): Honestly, all one can do is 1) use your FAAB and make sure you get bang for that buck with 10 weeks left; and 2) try to trade from stratified categories to acquire stats in volatile categories–which is also the two main things to do when chasing, imo. And avoid injuries. Of course. :p
Fred Zinkie (Yahoo/Rotowire, @FredZinkieMLB): This might be a typical answer from me, but “make more trades”! If I’m leading, then I likely have several players who have fared well so far. My first step will be to determine if I expect any of these players to tail off. If so, this is the time to trade them away. Beyond getting myself away from players who I don’t trust, my other plan would be to trade away players who contribute in categories that no longer mean that much to me.
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): This is easier said than done, but something I first heard about from Jason Grey is making deals to cost those chasing you some points.
Brian Walton (CreativeSports2, @B_Walton): The worst move as a leader is to be complacent. Look at the standings as if you weren’t leading and make moves to both help yourself and disadvantage the nearest competitors.
Matt Williams (The Game Day, @MattWi77iams): I think it is a mistake to manage your team differently with a lead. The goal and process should remain the same. If anything, you want to avoid complacency. Make sure to monitor categories that you are the most vulnerable in.
Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): What Doug said: Don’t get injuries. As a more practical suggestion, protect those pitching ratios if they’re part of your success so far. This could mean being more conservative about starting sub-ace SPs facing tough starts, even in two-start weeks. The last thing you want is to start a guy vs TEX, ATL or TEX and come out with 7 ER and 8 BR in 2.2 IP with 2 Ks. Depending on how you’re doing in the W/K cats, start thinking about swapping some of those sub-ace SPs for help elsewhere, and putting the SPs onto teams that can jump your overall competitors in the W/K counting stats.
Joe Sheehan (Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, @joe_sheehan): I Google “what is ‘a lead’?” because I don’t know the term.
Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): Reduce RISK ! Look for 1 for 2 trades. Just bank as many expected stats as you can – go for higher floor players rather than higher ceiling ones. Throw in a middle reliever instead of a 6th/7th starter. Most of all – attack the marginal categories, or categories where you can stand to lose a few points quickly. Its not about gaining – its about protecting a lead. etc.
Alan Harrison (The Fantasy Fix, @TheFantasyFix): Strategically using remining FAAB or the trade market to protect leads in categories, prevent others from making ground on you in certain categories and building the best/most flexible lineup as possible. Players who carry multiple position eligibility and middle relievers are some of my favorite targets this time of year.
Frank Ammirante (The GameDayHQ, @FAmmiranteTFJ): If I notice that I have a huge lead in one category (ex. HR) but I’m lagging behind in another (ex. SB), I may bench a power hitter (ex. Jesus Sanchez) for a speed threat (ex. Maikel Garcia) for the week.
Jeff Zimmerman (Fangraphs, @jeffwzimmerman): Nothing, just keep following the same process that got me in the lead. It’s the time to put a foot on the rest of the league and choke them out.
Alex Chamberlain (FanGraphs, @DolphHauldhagen): A lead? What’s that? In any case, you can bench players who are padding leads for you in other categories in favor of others who will help you cut down leads that you trail elsewhere (commonly HR vs SB). As for pitching, I try not to get too fancy with it… unless you have a huge lead or deficit in saves, just keep doing what you did because otherwise you will probably make some poor start/sit decisions otherwise.
Rick Wolf (SiriusXM, @RickWolf1): If you are leading at this point in the season, closing ALWAYS means a couple of trades for CTW. If you are leading, you have surplus somewhere and can fortify where injuries have struck. If you lost a closer (or lose one who gets traded to be a set up guy), then you can take your surplus power and trade it for saves. If you have a large lead in pitching, it seems harder to trade for offense. That is why the SMART system focuses on offensive dominance to set up for CLOSING TIME. One more important thing, watch for September call ups and make sure you get the steals guys. Invariably someone comes up who has 6-10 SBs in September. That is 5-8% of all your steals. Steal the steals even if to play defense against a challenger. VIGILANCE wins championships. Play out EVERY move that makes the team better. WIN WIN WIN!
Justin Mason (Friends With Fantasy Benefits, @JustinMasonFWFB): I spent the last week doing a deep dive on my league’s standings. I want to see where I can gain and lose points. If I am killing the league in stolen bases, I should sit speedsters to start power bats even if there is a big difference in overall talent level. Sometimes it is best to start worse players in order to gain ground in categories in the standings.
Ryan Hallam (Fighting Chance Fantasy, @FightingChance): The one thing you can’t do is rest on your laurels and just think you’ll cruise to a championship. The three things you can do are analyze your standings to see where you can make up points, but also where people are close to you where you might lose points. Trade/add free agents to remedy where you need help. I would also play the waiver wire defensively and perhaps add a player that maybe you might not need but you don’t want a close opponent to have. Steals and saves are likely to be two categories were moves can be made
Sara Sanchez (bleedcubbieblue.com, @BCB_Sara): If I have a lead in a league, I’m looking at categories on a daily basis to see the nature of the gap and how close people are to closing in on points. Similarly, I’m constantly looking for places where a lot of points can be made up quickly and ways to protect myself there. When the waiver wire doesn’t have what I need in terms of a category I start to look to the trade market and use those standings to identify possible trade partners/deals.
Carlos Marcano (Triple Play Fantasy, @camarcano): I would say double punching is key: usually the leads aren’t big enough to move your players in a way that you win SGP in cats where you are lacking while dampening in those where you have advantage; more usually than not, you could be ending risking the advantage and not gaining enough in the trailing ones. Just keep hammering while paying attention to playing times and injuries.
Howard Bender (Fantasy Alarm, @RotoBuzzGuy): The power of prayer can be a mighty good thing if you are currently in first place. Maybe go and get a copy of The Secret and learn to speak your championship into existence. You can also just try to fortify yourself in categories you are leading so you don’t lose any points in that area. If you can trade, the bottom-feeders make great targets in keeper leagues. If redraft, then try trading with teams looking to move up from the middle. Helping out a fifth-place team isn’t so bad if you are getting a little something out of it for yourself.
Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire, @JeffBoggis): I look to where I can distance my opponents in the league standings, not only where I can gain ground, but where I can help them lose ground. I can make them lose ground through a strategic trade with another league manager. For example, let’s say I’m way ahead in a category and can afford to offer up a trade. I will look to see where other league managers can trade with me, allowing for the player to increase a category where someone in 2nd or 3rd place would lose category points after the trade. You should also look to make your team stronger and how you can weaken your opponents through trades. “Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” – Sun Tzu
Andy Andres (BaseballHQ, @sabermetrics101): Categories, categories, categories … And after knowing what to target (and like TZ says above, who to target) looking for trades to get the flag (they fly forever!), so in dynasty do not overvalue the shiny prospect bobble, use all your pieces in securing the win.
Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): I don’t think the analysis is any different regardless of whether you’re leading or chasing. Figure out which categories offer you the best opportunities to add to your point total, and figure out which categories you’re most susceptible to losing ground in. The one additional challenge that having a lead often presents is more of a psychological one: some other team owners (particularly those hot on your heels) will be less inclined to make a trade with a first-place team. That said, do the same homework you would do otherwise before proposing a trade, just keeping in mind that you’re more likely to have to overpay to push a trade across the finish line.
Dr. Roto (DrRoto.com, @DrRoto): I have won leagues in the last two weeks and I have lost leagues in the last two weeks. Make sure you are getting as many at bats as you can from your hitters and avoid blow up games from your pitchers. Most importantly, make sure your players are healthy and active.
Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): I don’t really do anything differently, as I’m still playing to end up with as many points as possible. Maybe if I’m already in first, I’ll try to take a bit less risk on the pitching side, so as to not potentially kill my ratios.
Scott Chu (Pitcher List, @ifthechufits): I don’t think the strategy is much different. Gaining points and earning points aren’t that different. First, where can I get the most points with the least effort? I’m not likely to be on top of every category or invincible. If there are places I can gain extend my lead to become tougher to catch. I likely have a few categories where I’m completely solid, so I can afford a few stats there to firm up other spots.
Vlad Sedler (FTN Fantasy, @rotogut): Don’t do much different other than keeping a closer on eye on where in category standings my top competitors are at.
Phil Hertz (Baseball HQ, @prhz50): Rule number one: don’t sit on your lead. Ten-point leads can disappear overnight even in September. Don’t be afraid to jettison players who’ve disappointed to this point. Remember uneven trades can make sense in August. If you’re way behind in SBs, trading your best steal threat is something you should be doing even if the return might be a little disappointing. If you’ve in a two-way race, see if you can trade players to teams in the middle of the pack who can pass your competitor in a couple of categories. It helps just as much to gain or maintain points as trying to get your key competitor(s) to lose points.
Shelly Verougstraete (NBC Sports EDGE Baseball, @ShellyV_643): I don’t really do anything different. There is a reason I am leading in any given category. Just keep trucking with your process.
Michael A. Stein (Fantasy Judgment, @FantasyJudgment): I wouldn’t alter my strategy too much except for making sure I have enough depth to withstand injuries and inevitable slumps. Finding a balance between remaining stagnant versus trading for the sake of trading is the key. I wouldn’t want to abandon the process of what put me in 1st place so I would be very hesitant to start trying to reinvent the wheel.
Mike Gianella (Baseball Prospectus, @MikeGianella): It really depends on how big your lead is and whether you’re dominating in a category or categories or not. If you’re up in a category or two, trades are the easiest way to maintain or even expand your league. Beyond that, I’m looking for weaknesses on my team that could be exploited. If there are pitchers with innings caps or players who could get traded into lesser roles at the deadline, I’d ideally try to shore those slots up preemptively via my reserve list.
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): Pertaining to keeper/dynasty leagues, there is a tendency to try to win this season without sacrificing your future. Or maybe make a partial attempt to acquire help for this season, then hoping the stars align. Generally, this is a mistake. Focusing on this season and the future usually means you’re not optimally achieving either. Pick a side.
Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy): Continue on building that lead by maintaining in categories you re on top and try to gain points in categories that are attainable. As a Mets fans, I truly understand the phrase, “No lead is safe”
Erik Halterman (Rotowire, @erik_halterman): First, determine whether your lead is actually large enough to justify altering your strategy. If it’s narrow enough that you can’t trust you’ll be ahead in two weeks, let along two months, it’s probably unwise to shift away from a plan that’s worked so far. I would bet that most leagues don’t have a leader who should be acting differently just yet, and many never will. If you genuinely are comfortably ahead, though, look to reduce risk around the margins wherever possible. Often this manifests as giving the tiebreaker to a high-floor, low-ceiling player over the similarly rated but more volatile option.
Bret Sayre (Baseball Prospectus, @BretSayreBP): There are two types of teams with a league at this time of year: ones that are getting lucky and ones that are not. If you’re the former, you need to keep pushing in the same way you would if you were in third or fourth place. If you’re fortunate enough to be in the latter position, the end of July is a good time to start projecting out category performance in more detail and see where you can stand to lose a little performance but keep your roto points, along with where you can move up realistically.
Greg Jewett (The Athletic, @gjewett9): Fortunately, I do lead in Tout head-to-head points league. Last week, I added two injured players ahead of time (Trevor Story and Hyun-Jin Ryu) with eyes on the stretch run. After adding multiple young starting pitchers early on, having veterans like Ryu and Max Fried for the second half will help with roster depth. There’s an old saying, always make your good better and always make your better best. When you lead a league shore up your weakest categories and note where your league mates can make gains in the standings, so you can block or plan on maintaining your lead(s).
Zach Steinhorn (Steinhorn’s Universe on Substack, @zachsteinhorn): A lot depends on the size of the lead, of course, but I tend to follow the “Don’t fix what isn’t broken” route and would be hesitant to make major roster changes. Still, I’d take advantage of any opportunity to improve my team, adding depth pieces off the waiver wire for injury insurance or making a smaller-scale trade to address a weakness, even if it’s only a minor weakness. Playing defense can be important as well. If there’s an impact player available on waivers and you have some FAAB budget flexibility, add him even if you don’t “need” him. You can benefit simply by keeping him off the rosters of your closest competitors.
Dave Adler (BaseballHQ, @daveadler01): check the categories. Any that you’re comfortably ahead in? That’s where you can spare some numbers in a deal. Any categories where you’re close? That’s where you concentrate. It’s entirely possible there are teams that can use your excess while helping you at the same time. A win-win is always a popular way to go. Keeper league, of course, have an entirely different dynamic.
Kev Mahserejian (Fox Sports, @RotoSurgeon): What’s a lead? No, but seriously, the best measure is to remain privy to underperformers on your roster and not be afraid of cutting bait with those who “got you there”. Stay active on the waiver wire and be wary that a hot new thing in September can be all it takes for someone trailing you to catch up.
Michael Govier (FTN Fantasy, @mjgovier): It’s simple for me. There are players that I just know are not going to to continue to perform the way they did in the first half. Think Tyler Wells for example. In H2H leagues or others where I can trade, I am looking to move those guys for players who are not meeting expectations to this point. My hope is they pick it up just in time for the H2H playoffs. Most years this strategy has served me well in trading leagues. Especially H2H. Yes not every player I expect to improve will do so. But overall this plan works for me. I look for track record or underlying stats that reveal a player is suffering from bad breaks. Baseball is a cruel game, especially for hitters. I inspire them to take flight (I don’t actually talk to real life players)! On the other side I am moving players I am concerned will flounder down the stretch because they have never shown the type of results they are providing before and you just know regression is on its way. Rookie players who have played well are the easiest to target, just because that’s the nature of inexperience with exceptions reserved for J-Rod’s specal season last year. Timing the market is an impossible game, but taking the risk on players we expected more out of this year who currently have disappointing stat lines after 100 games can work in your favor. A few exmaples of players I would target are: Miles Mikolas, Lucas Giolito, Ty France, Alejandro Kirk, Seiya Suzuki & Daulton Varsho. Players who may have peaked already: Tyler Wells, Austin Hays (I swear I’m not picking on the Orioles!), Bryce Elder, J.D. Martinez & Ezequiel Duran.
Rudy Gamble (Razzball, @RudyGamble): I just keep churning and trying to max my team’s stats. If I have very little to gain/lose in SB and SV, I may be more likely to punt those categories.
Chris Blessing (BaseballHQ, @C_Blessing): I’m always hunting for players to improve the categories I’m susceptible to getting overtaken by other contending managers.
Jeff Barton (Scoresheet Baseball, @JeffScoresheet): Don’t get caught up in fantasy football! Seriously, with a third of the season left, if you are in a position to win (which sadly I am not), you need to put just as much time into your team as you have been so far this season.
Doug Anderson (Fantrax, @rotodaddy): I’m not sure I know what a lead is this year but… for me it’s all about protecting ratios. Be a little more risk-averse with which pitching matchups you use. Maybe be more reactive to cold stretches for your hitters. In practice though I don’t want to overreact. My team is where it is for a reason. Avoid stupid risks but mostly stick with the players that got you there.
Jason Collette (Rotowire, @jasoncollette): I make sure Jobu’s rum glass is never empty. I am currently trying leading 4 leagues and 2nd in a fifth one, so I am in a juggling act of trying not to rest on my laurels while also trying to proactively protect my lead. I believe it just as important right now to improve my spot in the standings more than my roster. What I mean by that is I will make a trade now which can elevate another team over one of my close competitors if that benefits my position in that category. Use this part of the season to manipulate the standings in your favor if you are unable to secure the talent you need on your own roster.