Each year I utilize a strategy that I came up with (and others have employed before) for at least one of my fantasy baseball teams. I call it the Six-Four Strategy, because it aims to win each week by the slimmest of margins while taking punting categories to the extreme.
In most standard Yahoo! leagues managers try to draft a well-balanced team- one that will compete in all 10 scoring categories. Occasionally, managers choose to "punt" or ignore a category... for example: if they miss out on grabbing most of the top tier closers, they may punt saves and just focus on building the rest of their team. After all, saves are only one category, and in head-to-head it's majority rules. Six-Four Strategy takes punting to a whole new level.
In those standard Yahoo! leagues there are 10 scoring categories: R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP. In order to win each week you need to take six of the ten (or five, but more on that later). So, instead of trying to diversify your team across the board, you could conceivably focus your energy 100% on six categories, and punt the other four completely. There's the rub.
The ideal categories to focus on are the five standard pitching ones (W, SV, K, ERA, and WHIP) and SB on offense. Why steals? By process of elimination: average is too hard to predict and fluctuates on a week to week basis (a .300 hitter may hit .500 one week, and .100 the next), while runs, homers, and RBI are all costly in the draft. Look where the elite homerun hitters fall in the draft- most all in the first few rounds. Look at the elite basestealers- of the top 25 SB players from 2010, only 12 are even rated in the top 100 based on Yahoo! rankings. Steals are traditionally undervalued, and provide an offense loaded with this stat with consistent output.
Pitching tends to slide under the radar as well. Less than a handful of pitchers are taken in the first two rounds this season, and a few of them are typically reaches in terms of ranking (ie: Cliff Lee). While other managers are loading up on the power sluggers, you are slowly stockpiling a team of aces, closers, and basestealers.
If you say "tl;dnr", here are the key points:
1. Draft pitching early, draft it often. You'll want to finish with roughly 10 starting pitchers.
2. Draft elite closers, and reach a little to get them. You aren't just looking for saves- multiple elite closers will give you an edge in ERA and WHIP, and they pitch multiple times a week.
3. Mix basestealers in with your selections. Grab Crawford in the first round if available, but go ace, ace, closer right after that if you do.
4. Avoid injury prone pitchers like the plague, at least early in the draft. Losing an ace in a strategy that is built around pitching can end your season real early.
5. Skimp on offense, especially in positions where SBs are rare. Realistically, don't even plan on drafting a firstbaseman, thirdbaseman, or catcher. Instead, use the extra roster spots on extra starting pitchers late in the draft.
6. Play the hot hands. Take advantage of the waiver wire to pickup new starters, and spot start at will. Keep an edge.
7. You want, ~10 SPs, ~5 CLs, and about ~250+ SBs (based on projections).
Even with this strategy there will be some wacky results. Some weeks you're runners will get hot and grab you runs, steals, and AVG all in one week- securing an 8-2 win. Other times, you meet a team with hot pitching (at least hotter than yours) and you lose 3-7. The net average for the season will be roughly .600 winning percentage. Based on Yahoo! rules, the tie-break is ERA... so, with dominant pitching even a 5-5 "tie" is considered a victory for you. It happens in the playoffs all the time, but your team is more built to succeed with this if you stay active.
You are susceptible to other people's suspicions though. If teams catch on, they can bench their pitching if they do well after hitting the minimum innings, and steal ERA and WHIP out from under you. You can't let anyone on to your strategy, you have to play stupid like it's your first fantasy draft ever. This can be even more entertaining if you have a devious side, as people comments about "how awful your team is", but can't figure out how you made the playoffs... and, ultimately, win!
Bottom line- it's a fun way to mix things up a bit, and challenge yourself in a different way. Out of boredom, I will post about my current team here throughout the season to update the progress, as I seek another championship. I recommend anybody else try it out as well, just for kicks.
2009 final winning roster (was MIA for 2010):
C - empty
1B - empty
2B - Chone Figgins
3B - Adam Kennedy
SS - Orlando Cabrera
OF - Rajai Davis
OF - Michael Bourn
OF - Nyjer Morgan
Util - Jimmy Rollins
BN - Julio Borbon
SP - Tim Lincecum
SP - Felix Hernandez
RP - Joe Nathan
RP - Francisco Rodriguez
P - Jonathan Broxton
P - Rafael Soriano
P - Neftali Feliz
BN - Dan Haren
BN - Matt Cain
BN - Jered Weaver
BN - Carlos Zambrano
BN - Brett Anderson
BN - Clay Buchholz
BN - Homer Bailey