It's both a fascinating and frustrating truth of fantasy baseball -- no matter how unbeatable your team might appear, it can always get outplayed by a bunch of scrubs.
Your season can play out like an underdog sports movie, where you act like the cocky Little League Yankees in The Bad News Bears. Then suddenly, a girl is striking you out, a kid with a motorcycle is taking you deep and a diminutive shortstop with a mouth is picking a fight with you.
Whether injuries or slow starts are to blame for your team's demise, you cannot sit idle. Like a diligent manager, pay attention to the quality of your bench players as much as your high-priced starting lineup. To illustrate my point, here is a list of the hottest misfits in baseball with comparisons to the superstars they are outclassing:
Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks -- Montero missed two months due to a meniscus tear in his right knee. Since his return, he has provided nice pop, hitting .356 with 2 HR and 7 RBI in 45 AB. Compare that to Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez, who has struggled recently (.216 BA, 1 HR, 4 RBI in 37 AB) and is now out indefinitely with a broken thumb.
Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Marlins -- The South Florida rookie is swinging a hot bat the last four weeks (.370 BA, 4 HR, 13 RBI, .587 SLG in 92 AB). In that time frame, he's outslugging many of the top first basemen including Albert Pujols (.469 SLG in 81 AB), Carlos Pena (.573 SLG in 82 AB) and Prince Fielder (.578 SLG in 90 AB). You saw that coming on draft night, right?
Kevin Frandsen, 2B, Angels -- Manager Mike Scioscia loves Frandsen's versatility -- in addition to second base, he can handle third base, shortstop, first base and the corner outfield positions. Such flexibility has kept Frandsen in the starting lineup and he has responded well (.329 BA, .793 OPS in his last 70 AB). Compare that to Rays middle infielder Ben Zobrist, who's scuffling of late (.272, 1 HR, 12 RBI in 82 AB).
Adrian Beltre, 3B and Marco Scutaro, SS, Red Sox -- Sorry, Yankees fans, but Boston has boasted a better left side of the infield this season. Fenway newcomers Beltre (.340 BA, 12 HR and 52 RBI) and Scutaro (.284 BA, .736 OPS) have given fantasy owners better value for their money when compared to costlier commodities like SS Derek Jeter (hitting a career-low .286) and 3B Alex Rodriguez (a measly 11 HR).
Brennan Boesch, OF, Tigers -- Boesch dominated pitching at both Double-A Erie in '09 and at a brief stop in Triple-A Toledo this year. Since his April call-up, he's hitting .338 with 12 homers and 43 RBI. But you probably overlooked his effort because you were too busy salivating over the more-hyped rookie outfielder Jason Heyward, who hasn't put up the same numbers (.251 BA, 11 HR and 45 RBI in 255 AB).
Angel Pagan, OF, Mets -- What are the Mets going to do when their regular centerfielder Carlos Beltran returns from his knee injury? His replacement is hitting a clutch .383 with runners in scoring position and has swiped 14 stolen bases. Pagan is especially hot of late (.438 BA, 1.139 OPS in 32 AB) and his gritty play has been more inspiring than Beltran's usually laid-back approach.
R.A. Dickey, SP and Mike Pelfrey, SP, Mets -- Dickey, a knuckleballer with a career 5.13 ERA, is fooling a lot of batters this season (6-0, 2.33 ERA) while Pelfrey is ranked second in N.L. wins (10) along with a 2.71 ERA. The Queens duo has outperformed their Bronx counterparts -- hard-throwing A.J. Burnett looks lost (6-7, 5.25 ERA) and beleaguered starter Javier Vazquez isn't enjoying his second stint with the Yankees (6-6, 5.16 ERA).