This was supposed to be the year.
When everyone else was worrying about Christmas presents and snow blowers, you were poring over second-half splits, possible platoon players and middle relievers on the verge of promotion.
Then the season started.
Maybe you used your first pick on Jacoby Ellsbury. Maybe you used your second on Cliff Lee. If that's the case, there's still a whole second half to play and your clouds could still have a silver-slugged lining. There are, however, a few signs that your fantasy season could be over before the dog days are even puppies.
When you drafted Brett Gardner, you probably felt pretty satisfied.
While some other schmuck had to squander a third-round (or maybe even second) pick on Michael Bourn, you managed to grab Gardner and his automatic 50 steals two rounds later. You might have been so content, in fact, that you barely paid attention to who else on your team would be capable of base larceny.
Then, of course, Gardner only managed 28 at bats before injuring his elbow and slowly squashing the hopes of fantasy owners with his prolonged recovery. Sure, maybe you then scrambled to scrounge for steals from the likes of Jordan Schafer (and his .240 average) or Tony Campana (and his uncertain future), but they likely came at the expense of other categories.
If holding onto Gardner (until his potential return after the All-Star Game) was your only chance at keeping competitive with stolen bases, there's a good chance you've fallen too far for even his legs to catch you up.
The former is a mediocre first baseman and outfielder for the Mariners who was hitting .157 before going on the DL for shoulder problems two weeks ago.
The latter is the second coming of Rickey Henderson. Trout, widely regarded as a once-in-a-lifetime wunderkind, is batting .338 for the Angels with seven home runs and 21 steals.
For a minute there, Carp was demonstrating a decent amount of pop and rendered himself almost relevant. But there's little debate which of these fish names you want to see in your lineup and which one would stink the place up.
Nobody's saying Ben Zobrist doesn't deserve a spot on your team.
Even though he's batting an uninspiring .238, he's got nine homers, 28 RBI and six steals. But like all players eligible at multiple positions (like Mike Aviles and Trevor Plouffe), his value changes depending on where you have him on the field.
While Zobrist is eligible as a second baseman and outfielder, you'd have to be crazier than Bobby Valentine to move Zobrist out of the infield. With nine homers and 28 RBI, there are about 30 other outfielders who would be better to have, but only six second basemen. On its own, your potential misuse of Zobrist wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. But it could be symptomatic of a bigger problem.
I guess unless your second baseman is Robinson Cano.
This is not your father's Tony Gwynn.
But if you saw the name on your waiver wire and thought you were getting the original Tony Gwynn (the father of the current Tony Gwynn), you're probably struggling a little bit. This Tony Gwynn, the one playing center field for the Dodgers while Matt Kemp is out, will likely never be a batting champ. Although he's hitting .254 with 10 stolen bases, you probably shouldn't be playing him in anything but an NL-only league.
In the meantime, what really worries me is that you would've picked up even the first generation Gwynn (considering he's 52 these days). Does your team also have guys on it named Vladimir Guerrero, Jason Bay and/or Bobby Areu? If so, we've really got to get you hooked up with a calendar and a better cable sports package.
At some point, closers became the most sought-after commodity in fantasy baseball.
Much like how the paparazzi are obsessed with anyone named Kardashian, fantasy owners seem to constantly be seeking anyone who can walk out to an imposing theme song, strike out three batters in the ninth and pick up that precious letter "S."
In fact, we've placed so much importance on closers that it occasionally causes a hoarder mentality. While everyone else is just trying to remain competitive across the pitching categories, you might have unintentionally ended up with a basement full of Brandon Leagues, Sean Marshalls and Brad Lidges—none of whom are actually even closers anymore.
While a staff of reliable relievers can help you win, there's little benefit in lapping your league in just one category. If you've got so many saves, there's a good chance you're significantly behind in wins, Ks and even ERA (since one blown save can turn a 2.75 ERA into a 27.50 one).
If you're in this position, it's time to cut ties with your least competent closers. I know you're attached, but just watch how much better you feel once you toss the first one.
If you've been conscientiously keeping up with the fantasy baseball world, there's no way you haven't heard of Will Middlebrooks by now.
He's the Red Sox rookie third baseman who filled in for Kevin Youkilis back when Youk was alternately hurt and horrible. He was so surprisingly good as an understudy that he forced every sports commentator last weekend to say something about Youkilis changing his socks.
But this storyline isn't exactly out of nowhere. Middlebrooks probably vanished from waivers in your league a month ago when it seemed like his position might only be a part-time one. It's understandable if you were skeptical that Middlebrooks would be useful all year, but he's semi-quietly turning out about as good a season as Alex Rodriguez.
Don't get me wrong: Up until May, Matt Kemp was playing a lot like a cyborg programmed specifically to annihilate all fantasy teams he wasn't drafted to. The fact that he's still the 100th ranked player in baseball on the year is tangible proof of that.
If you had him on your squad, it was quite a ride. He abruptly hit the DL with an injured hamstring, then re-aggravated it in just his second game back.
He does have 12 homers and 28 RBI—which were on near record pace—but at this point, his insane early season numbers have been exceeded by plenty of players. Hopefully at least a few of them are on your team.
Undrafted in all but the deepest of leagues, LaHair went on a tear in March and April with a .390 average, five homers and 14 RBI. He was so good, in fact, that the Cubs decided to find a way to keep him in the lineup even with stud prospect Anthony Rizzo on the cusp of a call-up.
But if you're just jumping on board with LaHair, you've missed the boat entirely. The numbers look okay, but it's been a steady downward spiral. He hit .253 in May and is scuffling at .222 in June.
Hey, I don't mean to be hard on LaHair. I even recommended you pay attention way back when. He just represents a group of players who you might be tempted to pick up due to decent numbers but who have actually been brutal as of late. You could just as easily swap out LaHair's name with Chris Davis, Barry Zito, Mitch Moreland, Drew Smyly and Justin Smoak.
C: Victor Martinez
1B: Lance Berkman
2B: Mark Ellis
3B: Evan Longoria
SS: Troy Tulowitzki
OF: Jacoby Ellsbury
OF: Jayson Werth
OF: Vernon Wells
UTIL: Emilio Bonifacio
SP: Roy Halladay
SP: Brandon Beachy
SP: Cory Luebke
SP: Michael Pineda
SP: Chris Carpenter
RP: Mariano Rivera
RP: Brian Wilson
RP: Ryan Madson
RP: Andrew Bailey
RP: Drew Storen
It's been hard to recognize him this year.
If you drafted Tim Lincecum, he was either your first or second pitcher—definitely in a spot where you expect ace-like production. But ace-like production is about the least accurate way to describe Lincecum's 2012. He's 2-8 (which is a record that equally astounding Cliff Lee would envy) and his 6.07 ERA is second to last among all qualified starters (thanks, Mike Minor).
Of course, none of this should be news to you if you've found ways to keep your team otherwise afloat. There have been plenty of pitchers who probably weren't drafted that have shot into the realm of useful (Matt Harrison) to elite (R.A. Dickey). If you grabbed a few of them and converted Lincecum into a spot starter, then you're probably fine.
Although Lincecum looked like his hold self in his last start, if he's been your No. 1, your team has likely been much more like No. 2.