There aren't any easy answers when it comes to fantasy baseball. Ask anyone who drafted Tim Lincecum.
But with the 2012 season at its end, you might be asking yourself just what went wrong. After all, everything looked so promising in April.
Without access to your team, I can't tell you exactly what led to your disappointing finish. But like forensic experts at the scene of the crime, it's possible to reconstruct some of the likely scenarios that could've led to your team's demise.
For a minute there back in May, it looked as if anyone who drafted Matt Kemp would be all but assured a championship. But now it looks as if anyone who drafted Matt Kemp was probably lucky to make the playoffs. Once on pace to go 50-50, Kemp is on pace for 20-10 thanks to a pair of hamstring injuries.
And he's far from the only star who fell to earth by way of the DL. Roy Halladay, Joey Votto, Troy Tulowitzki and Mark Teixeira are just some of the top tier players who missed a significant chunk of time to a trainer's or surgeon's table—and it's hard to put up stats from there.
While few could have foreseen a workhorse like Halladay going down, it didn't take Nostradamus to anticipate a DL stint for someone like Jacoby Ellsbury. Largely labeled an injury risk (he played in only 18 games in 2010) but still drafted by the second round, he didn't even make it to mid-April before dislocating his shoulder and missing half the season.
If you went pitcher-heavy in your draft, it's entirely possible that your rotation in April looked like this: Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren, Jon Lester and Ricky Romero. And because at least four of these guys were consensus top 25 starters, there's a good chance you kept them around even though they didn't quite live up to their past production or projected potential.
Really, nobody would blame you. You don't want to sell low on a guy like Cliff Lee, but what do you do if he never really picks up the pace? Unless you find a way to offset the harmful numbers, you probably watch your fantasy season slide through your fingers.
There were plenty of reasons not to be immediately enamored with R.A. Dickey. An 8-13 record in 2011, an unfortunate-sounding name and the fact that he relies on the luck of the knuckleball were just some of them. Very likely undrafted in your league, he might have remained available through the end of April even though he was 3-1. But if you didn't buy it by then, you probably missed out by the time he became arguably the most dominant NL pitcher of the summer.
Mike Trout, Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Sale, Mark Trumbo and Kris Medlen are among other midseason revelations who could've been your MVP if you snagged them. And if you didn't, that means you had the displeasure of facing them every couple weeks.
There's a fine line between reaction and overreaction. But when your No. 1 draft pick and arguably the most consistent slugger in the game goes 139 at bats before hitting his first home run, that line can become increasingly blurred. Still, if you panicked and sent Albert Pujols packing before then, you missed out on his eight-homer May, eight-homer July and nine-homer August.
You probably thought you were being so sneaky when you snagged the injured Brett Gardner with your 14th-round pick and promptly stashed him on your DL. A 50-steal threat for basically nothing? Not a bad deal. But Gardner's timetable proved eternally uncertain, and he's only now making an appearance in 2012.
If you kept him during all that time, you likely sacrificed that DL spot (or worse) at the expense of other players who probably could've contributed at least something. Carl Crawford and Chase Utley would've put you in a similar boat, too.
And then there are those players who had uncharacteristically down years for no explicable reason. Adrian Gonzalez could be a poster boy for that. Although it's always risky getting rid of a stud like him (see the previous slide), the decision to keep A-Gone and his 18 homers might have ruined your season.
It's a tricky thing figuring out whether or not one standout season is the beginning of a trend or the outlier. In the case of Diamondbacks pitcher Ian Kennedy, it's looking a little like his ridiculous 2011 season might be the exception to the norm. If you drafted him expecting another 21 wins, you're probably sorely disappointed with Red Beard's 14-11 record.
Asdrubal Cabrera (25 homers last year and 15 this year) and Michael Morse (31 homers last year and 14 this year) are a couple more guys who haven't quite filled the role you might have penciled them in for.
Don't get me wrong: You want Yoenis Cespedes on your team this year. But probably nowhere near as much as you'll want him on your team next year.
It's an amazing feeling when you grab the next big thing before anyone else, and in fantasy baseball, it's those chances you take that make or break. But if you loaded up on guys like Cespedes, Bryce Harper, Yu Darvish and Starling Marte, you probably had a decent team—just nowhere near as decent as it will be once these guys grow into themselves.
The guy on the crutches? That's Mariano Rivera. And there's no way you could've seen his season-ending knee injury coming (unless you always watch him shag fly balls in batting practice). Still, he's a limping, breathing example of why "Don't pay for saves" is the mantra of most fantasy experts.
The fourth-round pick you probably had to use on him in the name of steady saves could have been better put to use on an across-the-board contributor. In fact, Brian Wilson, Drew Storen, Heath Bell, Andrew Bailey and Jordan Walden were all projected to be Top 15 closers this year, and if that was your RP squad, you probably had a long, long season.
Nobody's saying 162 games isn't a long season. But it's a little amazing how quickly your fantasy baseball team can plummet in the standings when you become distracted—and fantasy football (with its much more immediate gratification) is certainly distracting.
It's not that you can't do both. It's just that all your hard work—swapping in your starting pitchers, watching home and away splits and keeping abreast of midseason call-ups—come to a head in the fantasy baseball playoffs. And the fantasy baseball playoffs coincidentally kick in just when the football season kicks off.