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Punting a Category: Does it Work in Fantasy Baseball?

Generally, those who play fantasy baseball will tell you that they want to be competitive in all stats. It’s natural. Who would want to accept an automatic competitive disadvantage? However, the art of punting a category may work. Of course, it would depend on your league format and how you use the free spaces.

For reference, “punting” a category means that a fantasy player intentionally stops addressing a specific stat or category in order to shift their focus to others. If you are punting, say, stolen bases, it means you won’t purposefully draft/add players that help you in that specific area.

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Punting a Category: Rotisserie and H2H Leagues

It’s not the same to punt a category in rotisserie leagues as it is in head-to-head formats. The latter is rather inviting, but doing it on the former could have some negative consequences.

In rotisserie leagues, fantasy teams are given points according to their ranking in specific categories. For example, the leader in a specific stat receives 12 points in a 12-team league, the second-place team gets 11, and it continues on a decreasing order until the last-placed squad, which gets a single point.

Punting a category in rotisserie would likely mean that you will finish last in that category. As a result, you would receive the fewest possible points and put yourself in a hole. You could score plenty of points due to your excellent performances in other categories, but being in the cellar in that one category will severely limit your point tally and, most likely, prevent you from winning the league.

Head-to-head leagues provide a much better environment to punt a category. There are weekly matchups counting at least 10 stats. The impact of giving up on one of them is much less damaging on these formats, as you can go into your weekly face-off knowing that you will lose saves, for example, but you will be stacked on the other stats, or at least some of them. Yes, you could lose, but you improve your odds of winning several other categories.

This is why I don’t recommend punting a category in rotisserie leagues. I only do it on head-to-head, and it has worked wonders for me.

Which stats to punt?

Personally, I am all for punting saves. It is an extremely volatile stat to begin with. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost a closer to injury or poor performance. Due to a bad internet connection, meetings or other reasons, I couldn’t always rush to the wire to get his replacement. I didn’t always have space to roster the respective reliever handcuff.

Another fluky standard category with which I encourage punting is Wins. It is getting harder and harder for starting pitchers to get them. The league is shifting to openers, multi-inning relievers and a ‘don’t-let-your-starter-face-the-lineup-for-a-third-time’ approach that often prevents starting hurlers from qualifying for wins. I don’t usually do this, but I understand those who do.

Among the hitting categories, the one I’ve been punting the most in head-to-head leagues is batting average. It can vary greatly from week to week. You can even win on some occasions if some of your players are on a hot streak!

People also punt stolen bases, though I always like to remain competitive on that front. I would never punt homers because, as Josh Dalley of Fantasy Pros explains here, this stat is closely related to runs and RBI. A home run is a very easy way to add up on those. Don’t be the guy that punts home runs: you will regret it given that you can find them late in drafts with ease!

Punting a category could give you enhanced roster flexibility

If you don’t have to pay attention to a specific category, then chances are you won’t roster “specialists.” For example, you won’t have to commit a roster spot to a player that only contributes in steals, and you can fill it as you like.

As I already told you, I am an advocate of punting saves. I adopted the strategy in 2017 and it has been nothing but positive. Of course, I only do it in head-to-head leagues, so you have to pay attention to the league type and settings.

But if you prioritize head-to-head settings like me, you won’t have to commit two, three or even four roster spots to closer types to keep yourself competitive in saves. Imagine what you can do with three free spots! You can stockpile quality rotation arms, you can focus on power-speed threats, zero-in on power, and more. The options are endless.

The extra spots could allow you to bet on the waiver wire. Sometimes, fantasy players won’t add a hot pickup because they don’t have anyone to drop! You, with multiple free spots, can add a couple of players about to bust out before anyone sniffs them.

If you have been playing fantasy baseball for some time and haven’t adopted this strategy, try it out. Do it in one of your head-to-head leagues, but do it wisely. Punting a category will likely give you a stacked roster, flexibility, and more options.

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  1. Brian says

    Would you discourage punting two categories? For example, could the strategy of punting both steals and saves in a head to head league pay off or do you think that’s digging too deep of a hole?

    1. Andres Chavez says

      I don’t usually recommend punting two categories, but I could definitely see it if they are saves and batting average. You see, you can go into the draft with no intention of picking any batting average assets and you will still win that category a few times in the season because it is such a volatile stat.

      If you play your cards right, you may be able to pull off the strategy of punting steals and saves, but as you say, you might be digging a deep hole because if you don’t draft to collect steals and saves, then you won’t pick up any steals and saves except for a fluky one here or there. Not enough to win the category in any week.

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