Strategy Guide
Five Tips When Building a Playoff-Bound Team

Now that many people have had a chance to pick up a copy of MLB 09: The Show or MLB 2K9, they may be thinking about starting a franchise and drafting their very own team. However, the most important question faced by these new general managers is what kinds of players would be best for a playoff-caliber team.

For those people who wish to participate in a realistic draft, there may be some tough choices when it comes to which players will be best for the team. So here are five tips aimed at helping users build a successful squad via a fantasy draft.

1. Starting Pitchers are Essential

First and foremost, a team is only as good as its pitching, and, to be more specific, its starting pitching. The bullpen certainly plays a role in a team’s success or failure -- as I will explain later -- but the starting pitching is the most important part of a team. Without decent starters, no amount of offense will ever allow the team to be successful.

Once you are focused on drafting a good starting pitcher, the acting general manager will then need to decide whether or not to focus on drafting more than one starter before focusing on the team’s other needs. Usually, the road to success will be paved by at least two good starting pitchers. Still, if it is only possible to draft one, the team can still certainly have a good season.

A good starting pitcher is immensely important when building a team from scratch.

2. The Bullpen is Key

The bullpen is another critical component of any playoff-bound team. It represents the final defense in the game and can greatly affect the outcome of it. Whether the end result is good or bad depends on the arms you have in the pen.

A strong bullpen will give a user the confidence that is needed to pull a starting pitcher in the late innings of the game. A weak group of relievers could cause the user to send his starter out for another inning, potentially proving to be disastrous for the team’s hopes of winning the game. Now, not every reliever needs to be of the highest caliber; a good closer and setup man will provide much-needed stability in the bullpen.

3. Speed Never Slumps

It tends to be a nice bonus to have a fast leadoff hitter. Most likely, this player will be either an outfielder or middle infielder. Speed is essential on any team and should be a cornerstone of a gamer's new team. To go along with the speed, the player should also have a high on-base percentage (OBP). After all, no matter how fast a player is, if he cannot get on base, his speed will not help the team’s offense. Fast players give the team a chance to score each time they are on because the best base swipers can potentially get to second base and into scoring position only one or two pitches after being walked or recording a single.

4. Contact is More Valuable Than Power

While it is always a good idea to have a home run hitter on the team, the general manager’s focus should first be on those players who make consistent contact, rather than someone who will hit a lot of home runs. While this may sound backwards, most legitimate home run threats also strike out more than a manager would like to see. Also, if they do not hit a home run, they normally hit a lot of fly balls and most of them result in outs.

Contact hitters, though, rely more on simply putting the ball in play and moving runners into scoring position. They also tend to hit for a higher average and likely will have a higher on-base percentage -- increasing their value on any team.

5. Defense Wins Games

No matter what players are drafted, none should be considered a defensive liability. The reasoning for this is very simple: defense wins games. While I previously said that bad pitching will result in a lot of losses regardless of how much offense a team produces, the same can be said of defensive errors. Therefore, if the user can build a team with good defensive players, errors should be at a minimum, resulting in fewer games lost because of unnecessary errors in the field.

Defense can never be overlooked

It’s Draft Time

For those gamers who get more enjoyment out of a game by drafting their own team of superstars or rookies, remember that there are a few guidelines to employ when choosing the right players for your squad.

Speed cannot be stopped on offense, and when combined with good defense, it can make a team very difficult to beat. Offensively, the fundamentals of baseball -- get him on, get him over and get him in -- are what win most games, not home runs. Finally, consumers should make sure that the team has a reliable group of pitchers, both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. Remembering these few guidelines will give consumers an advantage over other teams on Opening Day, and should carry them all the way through the season to the World Series.

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