My fantasy baseball league, (The GDML or General Dynamics Memorial League) has been written up in Sports Weekly three times in the last 6 years for having one of the closest finishes in the nation. I finished second in 1999 after coming up short by a hair on 5 different categories and when the last at bat of the season determined the winner. That year really proved that one at bat can make the difference between winning and finishing second. In 2001, I got redemption by winning a tight race as a late inning rally was thwarted by a towering popup.
An unknown middle infielder named Jose Flores fell down as he clutched the major league popup in short left field to preserve the win. If a ninth inning single in the last game of the day would have won the game, I would have finished second. Jose Flores will never know how much I appreciated him making that catch!
In 2002, I dropped 4 hitters in favor of guys who would go on to get zero at bats. My good hitters left had a great week, pushing me up 4 points in batting average, winning the championship. Although my team has no chance to win this year, our league championship is up for grabs despite one team having the lead since May 22 and appearing to have a hammerlock on victory all through the last 2 months. I am in a battle for third place which also looked impossible a few weeks back.
This post is about how much fun the fantasy pennant race can be. As has happened in prior years, the importance of every at bat in winning a fantasy baseball championship is the topic. To illustrate this, the following is what the turn of one late season at bat can have on the whole season.
One At Bat
This year looks like the GDML may go down to the final day again with two very tight races. It is amazing that even with a full year of statistics under our belt, that something so insignificant as one at bat can have such a massive impact. The following is an example of how one at bat impacted our league standings.
Last night Luke Hudson (nobody has him) stymied the Twins for 7 innings. The Royals were clinging to a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning. The GDML races for ERA and Whip are tighter than ****’s hatband with changes on nearly every inning pitched. The Hitless Hustlers are tied with another team in ERA and another team in Whip.
Joe Nelson comes on to pitch the ninth inning and gets the first two batters out. With those two outs, the HH move lower in both ERA and Whip, to 62.5 total points. As Joe Mauer steps to the plate, he is all that remains between a Nelson save and KC victory. An out would further lower the ERA and WHIP numbers. The save would give the HH another half point, raising them to 63 points and a three point lead over the Green Monsters. Mauer lines a 1-1 pitch over the wall.
The result of that pitch – no save, ERA and WHIP both increase, dropping the HH pitching ratios one and a half points to 61. Therefore, there was a full 2 point swing on the outcome of that at bat.
I hear your comment now – so what! It affected third place, but didn’t impact the race for first. Not so fast my friend. That same at bat also had an impact on the race for first. Mauers’ HR and run scored also had an impact. At the moment he hit the HR, the Full Count and Mudhens were tied in runs scored. With that additional run, the FC went ahead by one, gaining one half point and dropping the Mudhens a half point. At the end of the night, that one run was still the difference between the MH and FC. If the FC pass the MH in runs, he has a chance to win. If the MH get more runs, it’s over and he will win. The additional HR padded the FC’s narrow HR lead over the HH to four, making it more likely he will retain that point. In the 10th Joe Nathan entered the game and finished the inning prior to the Twins pushing over a run, giving Nathan the win. Nathan is a Dunk pitcher and that win brought him within one win of the MH and gave him a 2 win cushion over the Green Monsters. The impact on wins could be just as big. The Dunks have as many starters going in the last 3 days and several releif pitchers. A win or two more by the Dunks could kill the Mudhens.