Here are four tips for surviving a head-to-head playoff match in weekly leagues.
Basically, we're talking about four unique ways to keep your sanity when big money, or prestige, are at stake.
1. Play your healthy superstars...assuming they have six or seven games on the docket.
The above statement is a hard-and-fast rule during the playoffs, with only two exceptions:
a) Your superstar has a five-game slate for the week, which obviously doesn't factor in the potential for weather postponements, either.
b) Your star has a series of inescapable meetings with the Phillies' red-hot quartet of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Kyle Kendrick this week. In that rare instance, we're talking about potentially sitting David Wright, Michael Bourn, Brian McCann, Jason Heyward or Martin Prado.
2. Load up on two-start pitchers for Week 25, or relief pitching-eligible assets logging one start.
When perusing the list of Two-Start Pitchers for Week 25, very few of the top arms will likely be on the waiver wire. However, if you should require Gavin Floyd, Luke Hochevar, Jose Quintana, Alex Cobb or Ervin Santana as potential No. 5 or 6 starters for the week...by all means, do the deed!
In head-to-head leagues, be willing to roll the dice on high-strikeout guys who aren't necessarily locks to keep opposing teams to three runs or fewer, per start.
Regarding relievers with starting obligations, the three best assets to acquire are: Carlos Villanueva (Blue Jays), Luis Mendoza (Royals) and Miguel Gonzalez (Orioles).
This tactic essentially goes to fantasy owners with zero faith in their current closers, even though two relievers are required in each starting lineup. It's a cheap way of fulfilling your slot obligations.
3. Ride your gut on ALL lineup decisions.
In life, we humans tend to express more regret over things we didn't do, compared to things we did (in hindsight, of course).
From a fantasy baseball perspective, this rationale works, too. If I wanted to ride a white-hot Brandon Belt (two homers, 13 RBI, .310 batting since Sept. 1) in the UTIL slot but didn't have the guts to bench a struggling Mark Trumbo (.121 batting this month)—that one could easily come back to haunt me six days from now.
Especially when Belt has seven games against the Rockies and Padres this week, compared to Trumbo's six games against playoff-contending teams (read: clubs that still give a damn).
With a clear conscience, I'm siding with Belt in that vital slot, come hell or high water.
4. Don't look at your match's running scoreboard until Wednesday night.
When there's a championship on the line and prize money to claim, I tend to avoid all incidental contact with live scoreboards until midweek, or after the wave of two-start pitchers take the mound once.
For me, there's no point in obsessing about the flow of a head-to-head encounter until the pitchers start separating themselves from the competition. A homer binge on Monday or rash of steals on Tuesday hardly convey the whole story here.
Especially in leagues where starting pitchers get a ton of points for strikeouts and wins.
Good luck in the playoffs!
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.