Strategy thoughts...your mileage may vary...these are, again, my opinion:
1.) Understand the concept of replacement value. Picture this scenario…it’s time to post your annual keepers, and you have 22 guys you know you want to keep, but you’re on the fence about your backup catcher. He’s mediocre, never hits all that much, has a decent arm but not A+…never gets above 200PA in a season. Do you keep him (meaning you have 23 keepers and will get 2 draft picks) or let him go (and get a 3rd round pick)? Answering that question requires having a really good handle on replacement value…what is the value of the player you will be replacing that guy with?
There are lots of variables that go into replacement value, but by far the most important is the ratio of teams in your league to the number of real MLB teams from which you can draft players. 24-team single-season progs in the 1970s won’t have a lot of depth in the draft. By the third round, you’re going to be sifting through a real pile of dog crap. 16-team double-season progs will typically have a ton of talent in every draft. Makes all the difference in the world when you are making those final cut decisions. I see new owners get this wrong all the time…either keeping guys they could have easily improved on, or cutting players who are going to be much better than what they will get with the subsequent pick.
2.) Related concept…thou shalt know thy draft classes. There are some seasons in which the 8th
pick in the first round is worth more than a top-3 pick in other seasons. Some years a late first round pick is worth a lot, others it’s garbage. Experienced prog owners have probably drafted multiple times from every year since (at least) the 1960s. They know which classes are heavy with HOF stars at the top (hello 1982), which ones have less star power but good depth, which have both, and which have neither. And they trade, and draft, and adjust their concept of replacement value accordingly. If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for crazystengel’s progressive draft forum
, which is a gold mine.
3.) Use your whole roster. If most of your WIS experience is in open leagues or high-cap theme leagues, you are probably used to having set lineups, plenty of PA at every position (plus AAA to help you out) and more than enough IP to get through the season without fatigue. Now it’s your first progressive, and you’ve got a 1987 team with less than 1100 innings, no full time SP, and only 300 PAs at 3B. Believe it or not, you can get through a season like that without it being a total disaster, but it’s going to take some work. If you’ve never used tandem rotations, they are a lifesaver in progressives. Micromanaging your lineups and bullpens, resting key players during the interleague matchups…all can and should be part of your strategy.
4.) Mediocrity is your enemy. So that there is no confusion here, please be 100% clear that I am not advocating tanking. Ever. Period. Tanking is deliberately playing the team you have in such a way that you lose more games than you would otherwise, by doing disingenuous things like playing guys out of position unnecessarily, using tired players instead of rested ones, sabotaging your pitching staff, etc. Unfortunately, in leagues with reverse-order-of-finish drafting, this is a common occurrence (and it’s a reason I never join those leagues.)
However, it is an ENTIRELY different – and perfectly fair and valid – strategy to trade away players who are good now for draft picks or players who are good in the future. It makes no sense to keep players who are decent for a year or two if you know you will not be competing in those seasons. Likewise, it is pointless to plug holes in your lineup and pitching staff for the short term by giving away draft picks and future talent in seasons when you aren’t going to contend. The worst trades I see in progressives are made by owners who do this. In the NWP we had an owner trade away a future #1 pick for 1.5 seasons of Steve Blass, when he was never going to contend in those 1.5 seasons. He shored up his rotation, but for what? He won 67 games in 1971 (finishing 47 games out of first place) and 79 in 1972 (finishing 26 games out). Pointless. The NWP uses an entirely randomized draft order, so the owner in question had no idea what that #1 pick would end up being, but it’s rather poetic that it ended up being the #1 overall pick in 1973. He lost out on Mike Schmidt.
Good progressive owners always have their eye on a future season(s) when they know they will be competing for the pennant, and they tend not to care whether they win 80 or 70 or 60 or even 50 games in the meantime.