Which type of fantasy baseball league is right for you?
What used to be simply a vanilla pastime is now a Heinz 57 of different flavors of formats, thanks mainly to the many great automated internet systems that will tabulate your stats for you.
Player Selection Pool
The first decision that needs to be made is what players are available to your fantasy baseball managers.
There are three such options:
* Mixed Leagues — Players from the National and American Leagues are available. This is the most common format, but usually results in teams made up of essentially all-star teams since leagues rarely have more than 10 teams in them.
* National League Only — By limiting picks to only National League players, it makes for a more challenging league in that managers will need to have knowledge of non-stars and reserve players. In most leagues, if one of your players is traded to the American League during the season, you are simply out of luck. On the other hand, a team that is deep in the standings can benefit from when a player gets traded from an American League team to the Senior Circuit. Often, a pitcher sent from the DH-heavy AL to the NL performs better when moved to a NL club.
* American League Only — Since the AL has only 14 teams, compared to the NL’s 16, an American League only format can be even more challenging for managers. You also have the added element of the Designated Hitter being added to the roster. Draft Format
Snake Draft — A snake draft is still the most common way to hold a fantasy baseball draft. In a snake draft, teams are awarded a drafting position from one to last. When the first round ends, the final team gets the first pick of the second round and so on throughout the draft. Such a draft format often doesn’t allow for a lot of creativity from managers since the online systems give suggested picks at each position. Inactive managers may even leave the draft and allow the computer to make its remaining picks.
Auction — Auction drafts are gaining increasing popularity among advanced fantasy baseball players. In an auction draft, managers are given $260 to spend on 23 players. I’ll bet many MLB owners wish that this was the budget for acquiring players. Auction drafts require increased attention and strategy and many auction managers say that no two auction drafts are ever alike.
4 x 4 — Four by four is the original rotisserie baseball format that was the basis for the game. It is a format, however, that is dieing out and is only still played by old school leagues. It’s easy to see why. When rotisserie baseball was invented, computers were as big as a room and statistics needed to be compiled by hand. Plus, Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet. Today, however, with internet sites offering so many different statistical categories, it’s easy to see why the 4 x 4 has been replaced with more sophisticated and varied statistical categories.
The scoring format for 4 x 4 is average, home runs, RBI, and stolen bases for hitters plus wins, ERA, WHIP, and saves for pitchers. As such, stolen bases and saves take on far more importance than they do in traditional baseball.
* 5 x 5 — Five by five is the most popular scoring system in fantasy baseball today. It maintains the original 4 x 4 categories, plus adds pitcher’s strikeouts and hitter’s runs scored to the format.
* 6 x 6 — If 5 x 5 isn’t enough, try a 6 x 6 league. 6 x 6 probably best resembles a player’s true value in real baseball. In a 6 x 6 league, a hitter’s on base percentage and pitcher’s holds count. If you believe a walk is as good as a hit, then 6 x 6 is for you, as feared sluggers and patient lead off men have increased value. Moreover, since starting pitchers rarely go longer than 6 or 7 innings any more, the 6 x 6 format brings value to the all-important set up man since holds are now a factor.
* Points Scoring System — Sophisticated internet sites today allow for maximum flexibility in your scoring system. With points, a league can assign points based on MLB statistics. For instance, is a single as good as a triple? No way, but in a 4 x 4 system, it contributes to only one category — batting average. In a points system, you could award 3 points for a triple and 1 for a single.
A common scoring system gives points for hits based on total bases and this of course, also credits walks. RBI and runs scored add one and a stolen base can be worth either one or two. On the pitching side, an inning pitched is 1 point, a win is 10 and a loss is -0.5. Add 1 for strikeout and 5 for a save and an earned run allowed is -1.
* Head to Head — Part of the attraction of fantasy football is that it is ideal for a head to head format. Many fans of fantasy football like the fact that there is a winner and a loser every week in the head to head format. Baseball can offer the same option.
Each week, teams face off against each other and get a win or loss. A H2H league is good, because it keeps team managers interested as they don’t fall way behind with no chance of catching up. Two start pitchers become even more important in a Head to Head League and opponent match-ups become critical. Hitter-friendly ballparks also take on new meaning and can affect both your hitters and your pitchers on your club.
* Keeper Leagues — When you win your fantasy baseball league, you become enamored with the players on your championship team. But, in most fantasy baseball leagues, when the season is over, you lose those studs and start all over next season. Not in a keeper league. Rules vary from league to league, but the most common rule is that a manager can carry over two players from one season to the next. Keeper leagues add value to younger players and make drafting a player like Stephen Strasburg make more sense.
* On Base Percentage — Your Little League coach probably told you that a walk was as good as a hit, and he was right. Hence, a lot of leagues are wisely removing the batting average statistic and replacing it with on base percentage.
What’s Best for You?
The rise of internet statistical sites for fantasy baseball leagues has created so many options from the original rotisserie leagues which involved diligent use of the pencil and paper to determine the league standings. Fantasy Baseball is no longer Roto Baseball; it is much more.
You will enjoy playing fantasy baseball regardless of what type of league you are involved in. If the league is local and involves other guys that you know, you will likely enjoy it more. Add a trophy or a cash prize and you’ll stay even more involved.
Remember, that the ultimate purpose of a fantasy baseball league, however, is to increase your knowledge of all baseball teams and not just your local club. The more you know about a subject, the more that you’ll enjoy it.
Just remember: If you go to a game, don’t EVER tell a Major League Baseball player that he is on your fantasy baseball team.
He doesn’t care.