C. J. Cron on May 15, 2015

By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “C.J. Cron”) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

September is just about here, so there is not much time left in the Fantasy season to make a move. It’s too late for many owners in Head-to-Head leagues, but in Rotisserie leagues, there is always the chance to pick up a few points in the standings.

For some teams, it’s clear that a Roto title is out of the question, or that it will at least take a miracle to finish on top. For others, it’s less clear how realistic one’s title hopes are. There is a process you can use to size up your chances and to determine your best endgame strategy. I’ll use one of my 12-team mixed 5×5 Roto teams as an example to walk through these steps.

In this particular league, I am currently in third place and 9.0 points off the lead. Being that far back, I will need to make up ground in several categories, but my first step is to see which categories offer the best chance to move up several spots. There are six categories in which I am currently ranked among the top three, so there is limited room to move up in any of these. However, I rank no higher than fifth in each of the following: RBI, batting average, ERA and WHIP.

So starting with RBI, let’s see how much room there is to advance in the standings. In the table below, I’ve listed my team’s RBI total, along with the total of the two teams above me and the one below. I’ve cut off the standings in those places because that’s where the meaningful dropoffs are.

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Team B is right above me with 849 RBI, just 12 more than I have. That seems like a reasonable amount to make up with four weeks left (this is a league with weekly lineup changes). We can check that assumption by dividing each of our team’s RBI totals by 5.5. By the time the next lineup-setting deadline rolls around, there will be four weeks left, and so far, there have been approximately 5.5 four-week periods in the season. For every four weeks on average, Team B has averaged 2.2 RBI more than I have for a four-week period.

Given that players don’t get fractional RBI, all I’d need to keep up with Team B is 2 RBI over the next four weeks. However, that’s what I’d need to keep pace, not to catch that owner. That also assumes Team B won’t increase their RBI pace (or for that matter, decrease it). If Team B maintains their RBI pace, I need to increase my four-week pace by 14 RBI just to catch up.

That goal seems within reach, but the reward would be one measly standings gain point. If I try to also catch Team A, I’ll need to increase my four-week pace by 40 RBI to reach a first-place tie. Besting Team A by 10 RBI every week on average isn’t impossible, but it seems unlikely.

So what about batting average? Do I have a better change to move up in that category? Without going through all of the math involved, it’s safe to say that it will be extremely difficult to advance above a team that is more than .001 ahead of me in batting average or fall behind a team that is .001 behind me in batting average at this point in the season. The team in front of me is exactly .001 ahead, and the team behind me has a batting average that is .0021 lower. In other words, I’m apparently locked into my position in the batting average standings.

This is good news in a way. If I can find a RBI source with a low batting average on waivers, I can sub him in for a hitter whose primary benefit to me is batting average. I also have some room to move from third to first in runs, so if I can find an all-around run producer, then all the better. After searching waivers, it looks like my best bet for a run production upgrade is to replace Cheslor Cuthbert at my CI spot with C.J. Cron, who has been the Angels’ everyday clean-up hitter. I may not even have to sacrifice batting average with that move. I’m also locked into position with stolen bases, so I can replace Melvin Upton with Scott Schebler.

These are modest changes, but my hopes for moving up rest on them, as well as on my existing players performing better. There isn’t much opportunity for me to gain ground in the pitching categories. While I’m in the middle of the pack in ERA and WHIP, it’s a long shot for me to improve. A shift in ERA greater than 0.02 is highly unlikely, and I am 0.21 behind the next-highest team. I can’t punt the category, though, because the team behind me lags by 0.013. I’m locked into my position in WHIP, where a shift of 0.o1 or greater is improbable.

To sum up, you need to divide each team’s season-to-date counting stats (including your own) by 5.5 to see how far ahead of and behind the other teams’ typical four-week pace you are. The sum of the projected pace deficit and the existing deficit will tell you what you will likely need to catch up. Then, in seeing how much ground you have to make up, you sort the categories into the following buckets: Room to Rise, Room to Fall, and Locked In. That will show you which category tradeoffs make sense as you make waiver moves and lineup changes.

Next, you sort the rate stat categories into those buckets, using the following cutoffs for identifying teams you could pass (on the way up or down): +/-.001 for batting average, +/-0.02 for ERA and +/-0.01 for WHIP. As in my case, you may not see much room to move up, but if you have any shot at all, this exercise will reveal the categories you need to address.