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Fantasy baseball strategy considerations for a 60-game season

Major League Baseball returns later this month for a shortened 60-game season. That will impact your fantasy baseball strategy considerations.

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Oakland Athletics left fielder Khris Davis celebrates with teammate third baseman Matt Chapman (26) after hitting a two run homer in the forth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Volatility in baseball is a problem we face in a 162 game season and now that we face a 60-game season, volatility rules the roost. When drafting for a full season, we can expect fluctuations in play, but for the best players to average out to their career norms in 162 games. With just 60 games, we can’t count on anything.

Rate stats vs. counting stats

For this season, we need players who are playing and picking up home runs, runs scored, RBIs, steals, strikeouts, wins, and saves. ERA, WHIP, batting average, etc, are going to be tough to control, as a few bad outings can sink rate stats in such a short sample size.

Park Factors

With the start of the season consisting of the last week of July and beginning of August, we need to look at park factors for that time of the year. Heat and humidity are a big factor in how the baseball travels through the air. Some parks, especially in the northern climes, can see big fluctuations in offensive production in May versus August.

The Top-5 offensive parks in August last season using DraftKings Plus/Minus — points scored above or below salary-based expectations were:

  1. Philadelphia Phillies, Citizens Bank Park
  2. Colorado Rockies, Coors Field
  3. Milwaukee Brewers, Miller Park
  4. Minnesota Twins, Target Field
  5. Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field

The Bottom-5 in August were:

  1. Houston Astros, Minute Maid Park
  2. Tampa Bay Rays, Tropicana Field
  3. New York Mets, Citi Field
  4. Cleveland Indians, Progressive Field
  5. tie-Oakland Athletics, Oakland Coliseum
  6. tie-New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium

These numbers are skewed by pitching and small sample sizes, but are helpful when looking at hitters and pitchers at a more granular level in such a short season.

National League designated hitter

With the DH heading to the National League, there will be more at bats for players on the edge of playing time. Many of these increases in at bats will be hard to predict but players getting those extra at bats are going to often be worthy of waiver pick ups, as they will have more opportunity.

Pitchers won’t get to face pitchers, which is a negative but they also won’t get pulled as early due to their spot in the lineup coming up the next inning. Overall, I think it will be mostly a wash, but there’s no reason to give NL pitchers a boost like you might have in the past.

Waiver wire

Waivers will be extremely important in this shortened season for obvious reasons. No player should be safe from the chopping block with just seven weeks of regular season play. We need fantasy points and if a player isn’t delivering those fantasy points, we’ll need a quick trigger finger. We just can’t wait for a player to play out of slumps and get to their career norms. If Mike Trout has a bad first week, then sure, you keep him, but keep that knife sharpened.

Opportunity and lineup placement vs. talent

Can you win with players who are stuck hitting 6-9th in the lineup in a 60 game season? No, no you cannot. Those sleepers we’ve all drafted in hopes they will get playing time in the front half of the lineup can’t be held onto like they can be in other years. If you’re waiting for an injury to help your sleeper see time or a better spot, then drop that player for someone getting those at bats. Remember, everyone is on the chopping block.

Draft players who hit the ball in the air

We know that players with good FB/GB and HR/FB rates are better offensively and we rather bet on them, especially in a short season starting in the heat of summer. Some players who excelled in the second half of last season at FB% and HR/FB were Eugenio Suarez, Matt Chapman, Kyle Schwarber, Teoscar Hernandez, Gleyber Torres, Franmil Reyes, Matt Chapman, Eduardo Escobar, Aristides Aquino, Willie Calhoun, Nolan Arenado (twice), Mike Yastrzemski, Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Olson, Jorge Soler, Aaron Judge, Pete Alonso, Alex Bregman, Randal Grichuk, Eric Thames, and Roughned Odor. Getting home runs and all the goodies that dome with them for this shortened season doesn’t have to be about grabbing the biggest names, but about getting home run hitters in good situations.