Tips for making a successful playoff push in the second half

There were five MLB games on last night’s slate, but it was actually even less loaded than that; two were doubleheaders. So, it’s not an understatement to say that the second half of the fantasy season started off with a whimper, not a bang. The real start is today, Friday, with 14 games on the slate. Today will be the beginning of the end for many fantasy managers; if we squint, we can see the finish line of the 2022 season.

Are you sitting high and pretty in the standings of your roto league? Are you trying to make playoffs in your head-to-head category league? Or are you already throwing in the towel and planning for next year?

Whatever your situation, one thing is for sure: We all want to improve our standings come season’s end. Whether it’s to win the title, to be in the top three, or to just prove your team is better than your record, these tips can help you to a strong finish.

No. 1: Evaluate your full roster in relation to your place in the standings

This is the most obvious tip, but we’d be remiss not to mention it. In fact, this is something all fantasy managers should have been doing during the MLB All-Star Break; if you haven’t, then better now than never.

Are you doing great in the batting average category? Then maybe you don’t need to use an IL spot waiting on Michael Brantley. On the flip side, are you suffering in batting average but still have a chance to close a gap? Then maybe you need to cut bait on the likes of Rowdy Tellez and Marcell Ozunaeven with their power potential.

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Basically, we need to weigh our strengths and weaknesses while being realistic about which categories we have a chance to compete and/or win in, which we’ve lost and adjust our daily and weekly lineups accordingly. Again, an obvious point, but it has to be said.

No. 2: Prioritize stolen bases and saves

Every year we see less and less steals and saves, less workhorse closers and less speed merchants and yet, those categories can make or break a fantasy team.

I have one fantasy team that’s currently in fourth place of a 16-team expert league, and the main reason why is due to my advantage in saves. On the flip side, I saw one first-place squad in another league plummet to sixth in a matter of weeks almost solely due to a weakness in stolen bases.

These are the hardest categories to get help from on the waiver wire, yet when you do land someone productive, they can make a huge impact. Think about how Jon Berti totally shifted standings with his outlandish stolen-base binge a month ago. Think about what a cheat code is Taylor Rogers has been (he and Kenley Jansen are my primary closers in the aforementioned expert league — they’re second and third on the MLB saves leaderboard, respectively).

Jon Berti’s stolen base prowess flipped fantasy standings in a matter of weeks. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Guys like Tanner Scott (53 percent rostered), Jason Adam (27%), Seranthony Dominguez (44%), Dylan Moore (3%), Ramon Laureano (47%) and Jace Peterson (14%) might not seem like players you should be rushing to add, but their contributions to these scarce categories, respectively, could end up making a huge difference down the stretch.

No. 3: Do not ignore wipeout non-closer relievers

Let’s say your fantasy starting pitcher rotation has left much to be desired this season. You’ve got the big names, but they’re just not delivering on expectations. As such, you find yourself lagging behind in the K, ERA and WHIP categories.

Enter: The elite non-closer reliever.

As mentioned, more and more MLB teams are foregoing one locked-in closer in favor of a committee of talented arms used for specific high-leverage situations (we’re looking at you, Rays). Sure, it can be frustrating when the closer you drafted or picked up — the guy you thought would be the guy — isn’t working the big, late innings, but these other relievers could just be the skeleton key to fixing your ratio categories.

Guys to consider off the waiver wire who fit this role are: Joe Mantiply (5%), John Schreiber (30%), Rafael Montero (34%), Evan Phillips (17%), Brock Burke (14%), Ryne Stanek (4%) and Alex Lange (5%) — and there’s plenty more out there, too.

No. 4: Get ahead of the real-life trade deadline

The 2022 MLB Trade Deadline is August 2 — aka, just 11 days from now. Your job as an engaged fantasy manager is to see which of your players are set to suffer or soar thanks to a likely real-life trade.

Did you spend a first-round pick on Juan Soto? You’re probably hoping for a trade considering he’d end up in a better lineup. Did you add David Robertson off waivers early in the season and have happily watched as he’s put together a solid total of saves and clean ratios? Well, now might be the time to see if a need-saves-now manager will listen to a trade for him, since he probably won’t be a Cub (and a ninth-inning option) for much longer. Do you have Luis Castillo in your rotation and are fielding trade offers for him? Don’t sell low — don’t sell medium either, since Castillo will likely be traded to a contender, boosting his win potential and his bottom line.

This is the next step in evaluating your roster: Projecting whether the MLB Trade Deadline will help or hurt your players, and moving forward accordingly.

No. 5: Stop waiting

I must admit, this is something I’m guilty of. I often will get lost in the advanced analytics of a player, falling in love with what they could do and not what they’ve done, or what they’re doing.

Take someone like Max Kepler, for example. You might swoon if you pull up his Statcast page. A sea of ​​glowing red encircles an expected batting average of .279 and expected slugging of .445.

Yet, to date, he’s slashing just .245/.345/.394. That’s not exactly paying the bills.

I’ll be frank: At a certain point, you just can’t wait on a player anymore. I know everyone wants to be firstI know everyone wants to be right, but hindsight is 20/20. Even if you cut a player and they suddenly go off for a brief stretch it doesn’t always mean you were impatient or you made the wrong decision. So, too, there is no shame in picking up a player you know isn’t exactly the best but who’s on a seven-day hot streak and could win you a couple of H2H matchups, could help boost your category standings for as long as his hot streak lasts.

Only fantasy managers sitting at or very near the top of their standings have the luxury to wait. Everyone else? The time for action is now.

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