Skip to main content

That Championship Fantasy Baseball Season, Part 1

A week-by-week examination of how Phil Dussault won the 2021 National Fantasy Baseball Championship.

We’ve already told you about Phil Dussault’s 2021 National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) main event overall championship. How he drafted that team was a big part of his success, but the next step in reviewing exactly how he did it is looking at his in-season team management (weekly lineup decisions and free-agent additions). The National Baseball Championship is a non-trading format, which forces a team owner to compete in all 10 Roto categories (batting average, runs, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, wins, saves, ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts) to take home the top prize. A successful draft plan is necessary, but most key players need to stay healthy and perform up to expectations.

Heading into each season in the NFBC, fantasy owners have the data of past seasons, helping set target goals for each category. Here’s a look at the final stats targets from 2021:

Screen Shot 2022-01-09 at 4.42.10 PM

To win an overall title, a fantasy team in the NFBC main event (15-team leagues) needs to rank in the top 20% in as many categories as possible, plus own a higher edge in three or more areas. The graph above shows the top 10% and 20% targets from 2021.

Dussault finished in the top 10 in six categories. Steals were a problem early in the year, but his edges in the other offensive categories allowed him to use more roster spots for stolen bases over the final two months:

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.33.20 PM

Once the season starts, each week fantasy owners can use the category goals as checkpoints to see if they are on pace with previous results.

Typically, a baseball season lasts 26 weeks, including two short weeks (opening weekend and the All-Star break). Based on the top 20% targets, a fantasy team must hit .261 with 42 runs, 12 home runs, 40 RBI and five steals each week. If your team beats any of these stats, you are ahead of pace.

On the pitching side, four wins are the ideal goal each week. However, the top 20% in 2021 finished with 3.6 wins per week due to teams using their bullpens more. The goal in ERA (3.648) and WHIP (1.165) will always seem higher early in the year due to many pitchers getting off to good starts. A fantasy team needs 2.1 saves and 53 strikeouts each week to hit its category goals.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.38.15 PM

 Out of the gate, Dussault’s team played well (.304 with 23 runs, six home runs and 23 RBI) offensively, except for no steals.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.38.57 PM

His team had four starts and one closer over his first roster set. Fielding an entire pitching staff over the first short week tends to be challenging unless a fantasy owner wants to surf the dangerous waiver wire at the expense of his draft-day decisions.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.40.07 PM

Dussault swapped his 30th-round draft selection for 3B Yandy Diaz ($1) in the first waiver period before the season.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.41.17 PM

SI Recommends

The catcher position was quiet again in Week 2 (6-for-25 with three runs). He rode hot weeks from Bo Bichette (.320/2/7/1) and Ryan McMahon (.320/4/6/1) to a steady week of overall production.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.41.55 PM

 By the second week of the season, Dussault’s pitching staff had four double starts. He finished with a massive edge in strikeouts (89) while pushing up the standing in wins (4), ERA (2.80) and WHIP (0.96). Despite his success, Dussault did miss out on another win by Charlie Morton (one run over six innings with seven strikeouts).

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.43.14 PM

The first replacement came at catcher with the addition of Luis Torrens ($26). He didn’t get into the bidding frenzy for Lou Trivino ($246) and Yimi Garcia ($228).

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.47.10 PM

The best part of his stats in Week 3 was his volume of at-bats (321). Manny Machado and Bo Bichette combined for six stolen bases, setting the stage for a bump up the standing in speed. However, he lost some ground in home runs (8) and RBIs (33).

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.47.47 PM

Dussault took a zero out of Drew Smyly while failing to secure a save. Overall, his pitching staff added another strong week in strikeouts (64), ERA (3.21) and WHIP (1.07).

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.48.18 PM

Over the first three weeks of the season, Cesar Hernandez hit .161 with five runs, one home run and two RBI over 56 at-bats. His slow start led to another owner dumping him into the free-agent pool. Dussault outbid another team $85 to $57, giving him a full-time option at middle infield. He also appeared to have an upgrade at catcher (Alejandro Kirk – $57), but he landed on the injured list for almost two months in early May.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.49.58 PM

His offense was a problem in Week 4, highlighted by a regression in at-bats (321 in Week 3 – 257 this week). His two catches went 2-for-19 with one run and one RBI. Despite five at-bats and no hits, Chris Taylor stole half of his bases for the week. Yuli Gurriel led the way with three home runs and 10 RBI. Randal Grichuk delivered a pair of home runs and four RBI over his 10 at-bats. Dussault lost ground on the field in batting average, runs, home runs and RBI for the week.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.51.05 PM

Other than Matt Shoemaker (7.27 ERA and 1.73 WHIP), his pitching had another sensational week in wins (5) and strikeouts (74) while posting strength in his ERA (2.67) and WHIP (1.08). Dussault continues to roll with eight starters and one closer. Kevin Gausman, Jacob deGrom and Logan Webb combined for three wins and 43 strikeouts while allowing five runs over 34 innings (1.32 ERA).

Typically, in the NFBC, a pitching staff will line up for multiple double starts once over a three-week span. The goal is to gain ground in one of those weeks, hold serve in another, and potentially lose ground in the third cycle. By rostering a deep starting staff, it allows a fantasy owner to sprinkle in some extra starts without going to the free-agent pool. Ultimately, the quality of arms from week to week on the waiver wire brings more risk than reward in most scoring periods.

In Week 4, Dussault had four hitters (Teoscar Hernandez was on the injured list) and three pitchers (Robbie Ray, Dinelson Lamet and Drew Smyly) on his bench.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.52.58 PM

 Despite a great push up the pitching standings, Dussault couldn't resist another intriguing upside arm with the addition of Alex Wood. As a result, he won his bid, $35 to $27, while dumping one of his extra bench bats. Pitching in San Francisco should push Wood well above Matt Shoemaker on his roster. His only other move was to reacquire Jose Trevino ($7) at catcher.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.54.43 PM

The bounce in Dussault’s offensive step started to emerge in Week 5. Eleven players hit home runs, and even his catchers (7-for-23 with nine runs, three home runs and six RBI) had a pulse. Isiah Kiner-Falefa led the way with six runs, three home runs, four RBI and one steal over 26 at-bats. Chris Taylor was the impact player in runs (10).

Overall, his team jumped up the standings in runs (64) with improvement in home runs (16), RBI (45) and batting average (.279).

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.57.09 PM

 Only one of his pitchers lined up for double starts in Week 5. Carlos Rodon turned in a dominating outing (one run over six innings with 12 strikeouts and a win). He won five of his nine starts, leading to a slight push in wins (5) and strikeouts (58). His ERA (3.74) was hurt by Charlie Morton (nine runs over 10.2 innings) and Steven Matz (14.73 ERA).

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.57.48 PM

His first attempt to pick up saves in the free-agent pool came after Week 5. He threw a dart at Mychal Givens for $12 with no other owners looking his way.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.58.28 PM

Despite taking a zero from Alejandro Kirk, his team finished with 303 at-bats. Home runs (7) were tough to come by, but runs (51), RBI (46) and stolen bases (7) all moved in a positive direction. His three other Blue Jay bats combined for 23 hits in 84 at-bats with 14 runs, three home runs, 21 RBI and four steals.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 2.59.20 PM

 Charlie Morton took another beating, but all six of his runs allowed over two-thirds of an inning were unearned. The only other starting pitcher with risk was Steven Matz (7.20 ERA and 1.60 WHIP), but he did earn a win with 10 strikeouts. Dussault kept pace in wins (4), strikeouts (51) and ERA (3.28), with a slight issue in WHIP (1.24). Pablo Lopez only allowed one run over his previous 24 innings, but he still doesn’t have a win on the year over seven starts.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 3.00.34 PM

After losing Alejandro Kirk to an injury, Dussault pushed hard for William Contreras ($55 to $41) while also dumping his other catcher for Austin Hedges ($7). The closing stash of Mychal Givens lasted only one week. He traded him in for Caleb Thielbar ($

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 3.05.23 PM

His team turned in a solid five-category week, highlighted by Bo Bichette, Manny Machado, Teoscar Hernandez and Kyle Schwarber (30-for-92 with 17 runs, six home runs, 25 RBI and four stolen bases). His new toy at catcher (William Contreras) had five hits in 16 at-bats with two home runs and three RBI). Unfortunately, his second catcher looks to be a one-week player after delivering no production.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 3.07.29 PM

His team had three double starters, leading to more gains in wins (6) and strikeouts (81). The bullpen flier on Caleb Thielbar turned into a bad idea after he allowed five runs over 3.1 innings. His struggle paired with a poor week from Pablo Lopez (7.71 ERA and 1.93 WHIP), led to a weaker ERA (3.94) and WHIP (1.93). Dussault was without Jacob deGrom for this scoring period.

After six-and-a-half weeks, his team has 28 wins, six saves and 442 strikeouts. He looked to be ahead of pace by 87 strikeouts and four wins. Dussault only has six saves, putting him behind the top 20 % by about eight saves.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 4.37.05 PM

Saves were the top order of business this week on the waiver wire. Dussault won Michael Fulmer ($66 to $47). He pushed hard to solve his second catcher issue with the addition of Pedro Severino ($44). Vince Velasquez ($22) drew his attention after throwing the ball well over three starts (three runs over 17 innings with 19 strikeouts).

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 4.37.57 PM

Week 8 ended with his best production in RBI (54), thanks to five players having five RBI or more. His team finished strong in at-bats (319) with a slight edge in home runs (15). Kyle Schwarber finished with a team-high three home runs, while Isiah Kiner-Falefa was the only player to steal any bases (3).

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 4.38.58 PM

A late scratch by Jacob deGrom led to an empty pitching line for Dussault’s team. However, the rest of his staff responded with an excellent week (1.36 ERA and 0.73 WHIP). His closing flier with Michael Fulmer led to a pair of saves and his first week with more than one save. He fell short of his goals in wins (3) and strikeouts (47) due to the deGrom issue.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 4.39.44 PM

In early May, a broken left thumb led to Joey Votto getting dumped into the free-agent pool by Team Seals. No team bid on him the next week, leaving the door open for Dussault to scoop him up this week for $28 after losing Jeff McNeil with a hamstring issue. I’m not sure if he wins the overall without picking up Votto. After returning from the injured list in the second week of June, he hit .278 over his final 342 at-bats with 64 runs, 31 home runs, and 82 RBI. Dussault had him in his lineup for 282 at-bats, leading to 55 runs, 28 home runs and 76 RBI.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 4.41.15 PM

At-bats were a problem at catcher and first base in Week 9. Manny Machado also missed half of a week with a minor issue. In addition, Nick Solak came up short for the fourth straight week (hit .200 in May with 17 runs, one home run, and 10 RBI over 110 at-bats). Teoscar Hernandez led his team (.308 with five runs, two home runs, five RBI and two steals). Overall, he lost ground in runs (37), RBI (34) and batting average (.229).

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 4.42.11 PM

Raisel Iglesias had his first two-save week of the year, while Michael Fulmer chipped in with a vulture win. Steven Matz pitched well in a double-start week (2.31 ERA with a win and 14 strikeouts). Kevin Gausman tossed 11 shutout innings, leading to a pair of wins and 16 strikeouts. His team turned in another dominating week in pitching (five wins, 75 strikeouts, 1.70 ERA and 0.886 WHIP).

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 4.43.31 PM

Dussault’s success in starting pitching allows him more flexibility to chase saves over the final four months of the year. However, after this waiver period, he only has 11 saves. His next flier for his bullpen was Paul Fry ($28).

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 4.44.06 PM

Ryan Mountcastle and Bryan Reynolds combined to hit .375 over 48 at-bats with 12 runs, six home runs and 16 RBI. Mountcastle only hit .225 over his first 173 at-bats with four home runs, 20 RBI and three steals. Unfortunately for Dussault, his catchers are fading again and Nick Solak has become a problem. For the week, Dussault lost ground in stolen bases while the rest of the categories came in a favorable area.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 4.45.52 PM

Dussault went with three relievers and six starters for the first time all season. Unfortunately for him, Michael Fulmer didn’t pitch, but his team did get two saves. Amazingly, the Mets scored enough runs for Jacob deGrom to pick up a pair of wins while pitching 13 shutout innings with 19 strikeouts. Unfortunately, Vince Velasquez turned into a wood tick after allowing nine runs in seven innings, potentially leading to a trip back into the free-agent pool. Alex Wood struggled as well (seven runs over 3.2 innings). Nevertheless, his team ended up on the positive side in wins (5) and strikeouts (65), with a slight dent in his ERA (4.73).

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 4.47.12 PM

 As has been the theme for most of the first two months, Dussault was looking for saves and improving his catching on the waiver wire. I’m sure he debated all weekend on his bid number for Graveman. In the end, Dussault won him $94 to $17. Each week a fantasy owner in the high-stakes market needs to have a feel for a player’s value in the free-agent pool, which falls into three categories – must-have, market value, and token bid. Graveman was a must-have for this team at this point in the year. Dussault also pushed hard for Ryan Jeffers ($19 to $3).

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 4.49.15 PM

The Joey Votto experiment didn’t take long to shine. His success (two home runs and nine RBI) helped Dussault to his best power week (22 home runs and 64 RBI) of the year. Thirteen players hit a ball over the fence while Isiah Kiner-Falefa carried him in steals (5). Bo Bichette finished with the best overall hitting week (.444 with 10 runs, two home runs, five RBI and one steal). Dussault hit on both ends of his only hitting decision on the week. Bryan Reynolds and Ryan McMahon combined for five runs, four home runs and seven RBI. Overall, his team gained ground in all five categories.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 4.51.04 PM

The starting pitching freight train continues to deliver wins (5) and strikeouts (75), highlighted by a monster week by Robbie Ray (one win with a 2.92 ERA and 23 strikeouts over 12.1 innings). Three other arms had double-digit strikeouts. Raisel Iglesias has been up and down over the first two-and-a-half months (4.15 ERA), but he does have four wins and 11 saves. Charlie Morton and Alex Wood struggled in their starts (eight runs over 9.1 innings).

Dussault doesn’t add any player in this waiver period.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 4.53.05 PM

Dussault had a massive showing from his offense for the second week in a row. Kyle Schwarber turned into a beast (.385 with seven runs, six home runs, 11 RBI), while Ryan Mountcastle and Bryan Reynolds combined to hit .449 with 10 runs, six home runs, and 13 RBI. Twelve batters hit a ball over the fence. His team finished with a ton of at-bats (319), leading to gains in four categories (runs – 54, home runs – 22, RBI – 70, and batting average – 0.307) in the overall standings.

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 4.53.59 PM

 The quest to make up ground in saves was evident in Week 12. Dussault used four relievers and five starters. This type of roster structure aims to hold serve in wins and strikeouts while moving up the standings in saves. Four of his starts failed to reach five innings, but he did secure three wins. Three pitchers on his bench combined for two wins, a 0.416 ERA, and 22 strikeouts over 21.2 innings. His four closers combined for a 7.36 ERA with 14 strikeouts and three saves over 11 innings. If Dussault wanted to win the overall, he needed to commit more pitching slots to saves. This week, the plan fell short of expectations, but overall time, he should slowly pick up overall points in the save category.

Screen Shot 2022-01-09 at 9.32.38 AM

Over his last five starts, Alex Wood allowed 21 runs, 35 baserunners, and six home runs over 24 innings with 23 strikeouts, leading to him getting dropped for Miguel Rojas ($13). He played well over the first three weeks in June (.344), but his stats fell short in the counting categories (two runs, one home run, four RBI, and two steals). His surge in power led to Dussault looking for someone that could chip in with some stolen bases. The struggles of Paul Fry pushed him away from the closing job in Baltimore. Drew Steckenrider ($17) pitched himself in the closing conversation in Seattle after a poor week by Kendall Graveman (three runs, five baserunners, and two home runs over four innings). He was also buying handcuff insurance.

Screen Shot 2022-01-09 at 9.32.56 AM

 This scoring period fell into the “keep pace” category. A good portion of Dussault’s offense came from Manny Machado, Bryan Reynolds, and Kyle Schwarber. They combined for 26 hits in 70 at-bats (0.371) with 14 runs, seven home runs, 21 RBI, and two steals. His at-bat total (313) remained strong while William Contreras and Nick Solak are close to earning a one-way ticket off the roster.

Screen Shot 2022-01-09 at 9.33.14 AM

Dinelson Lamet and Michael Fulmer pitched poorly, but the core of his pitching staff turned in another solid week. Dussault went back to a standard structure of seven starters and two closers. His only weakness came in saves (1). Kendall Graveman did pick up a pair of saves on his bench.

Screen Shot 2022-01-09 at 9.33.47 AM

The chase for saves went four deep at the expense of the struggling Nick Solak and the injured Michael Fulmer and Dinelson Lamet. Jose Cisnero ($22) was a cover for Fulmer, while Paul Sewald ($3) worked as another possible closing handcuff in Seattle. Dussault took a second tour with Paul Fry ($7) in Baltimore’s bullpen. Daulton Varsho ($14) fits his team perfectly if he can secure close to starting at-bats due to his possible help in speed.

Archie Bradley ($25) comes with closing experience, but he missed part of April and May due to an oblique issue. The wheels fell off the Hector Neris bus over the final three weeks of June (seven runs, 15 baserunners, and two home runs over 7.0 innings), opening a window for another arm to close in Philly.

Screen Shot 2022-01-09 at 9.40.04 AM

The catcher position finished with only two hits over 24 at-bats, leading to only one run and two RBI. Joey Votto and Bo Bichette hit 0.400 over 50 at-bats with 10 runs, four home runs, and nine RBI. The power surge of Kyle Schwarber (three solo home runs) extended another week. Steals (4) remain flat while making some gains in runs (48) and home runs (17).

Screen Shot 2022-01-09 at 9.40.15 AM

Despite using four relievers, Dussault kept pace in wins (4), thanks to an excellent week from Raisel Iglesias (two wins, three saves, and eight strikeouts over 5.2 innings). Kendall Graveman added a third win from his bullpen with a save. His front three starters combined for 44 strikeouts over 31.1 innings, but they posted 4.31 ERA and only one win. Overall, Dussault had a nice four-category week for his pitcher with a season-high five saves.

That Championship Fantasy Baseball Season, Part 2