4 Keys to Winning Your Fantasy Baseball Playoffs

Daniel HudsonCorrespondent IIIAugust 16, 2011

4 Keys to Winning Your Fantasy Baseball Playoffs

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    With only six weeks left in the regular season, it's time to understand the keys to winning your fantasy baseball league's playoffs.

    Maybe you're a three-time defending champion and want to continue your winnings ways or maybe you're a Cinderella team that's seeking your first-ever crown. Either way, these keys are crucial to your success in the coming weeks.

    What makes me an expert? Well, first, I have the power of the pen. But second and more importantly, I do own three fantasy championships in two years.

    Expert? Probably not. But I've noticed some trends that have helped me and others, and now they can help you.

Know Your Opponent

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    This key is most important in leagues that use head-to-head scoring and therefore have a round-by-round playoff system. However, if you play in rotisserie leagues, this is still vital.

    At this point, late in the season, it's not enough to know that your first baseman has trouble against the opposing pitcher that night. It's not enough to keep track of what day certain doubleheaders are going to be made up for your top outfielder.

    It is enough to know all of the information above (and so much more) about both your team and your opponents'. It's really no different than a manager's game plan against a pitcher.

    You must know your opponent because you'll be able to hone in on certain weaknesses that he has in a particular statistic.

    For instance, if you're consider giving up on the stolen base category because your opponent has Brett Gardner and is facing an easy left-handed pitcher, you might be sorry.

    A little research reveals that Gardner sits quite often against southpaws, and when he does play, needs one more at-bat per stolen base.

Play Several Specialty Players

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    This key applies to both head-to-head leagues and rotisserie, but it's probably even more important in rotisserie since it takes a lot production to move the standings.

    It's late in the season and you're down by 12 stolen bases to the person in front of you. It may seem like a waste to abandon other categories for something that probably won't happen, but if things click just right, magic is made.

    That's what happened to my fourth place team last year. Looking up the standings, I saw that if I could just reach the team in front of me, there was a cluster of teams that could be passed in just a few good days of base stealing.

    In came Rajai Davis, a trade for B.J. Upton, Jason Bourgeois and a slew of other speedsters, and it paid off with a championship.

    Don't be afraid to specialize, especially if there is a cluster of teams ahead of you that you could potentially pass in a rotisserie league.

Take Note of Limits That You and Your Opponents Are Nearing

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    This is one that I and a fantasy buddy are really good at exploiting.

    In our league, there is a maximum of 200 starts per season for a pitching staff. While many teams love stacking their pitching staffs with seven or eight pitchers and getting off to fast starts, we prefer to sit back, watch trends and add and trade for underrated hurlers.

    Now the teams that were far ahead of us at the beginning have run out of starts and are falling back into the pack.

    For leagues that have a maximum (or minimum) number of starts at pitcher or starts in the field, your team can gain a huge advantage if you pay close attention to when your opponents will run out of starts.

    If you really know the rule book, you might be able to run over some of those limits, too.

    In the ESPN standard leagues, the maximum number of pitching starts is 200, but if you are at 199 in to the last day, you can plug a starter into every pitching spot and all stats will be counted.

    In other words, you can get 208 starts.

Drop the Losers and Grab the Winners

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    Probably the biggest key to winning your fantasy playoffs, regardless of league size or scoring type, is the discipline to cut ties with players that just haven't lived up this year.

    If you still own Adam Dunn, Alex Rios or Josh Johnson, I'm talking to you.

    On the same token, you must be able to add the kind of players that aren't glamorous but pump out great statistics. They won't impress your opponents with their names, but your team will when you are champion.

    Ty Wigginton is also in this category. His teammate, Seth Smith, is right there with him, as is Danny Valencia. These guys can help you hone in on certain stats and win your league.

    And that's the biggest key of them all.