For just the second time in Major League Baseball history, a team is switching leagues. The Milwaukee Brewers moved from the American League to the National in 1998 and now the Houston Astros are moving from the National to the American so that both leagues will now have an equal 15 teams each.
Why not move the Brewers back to the American League since that’s where they came from? Well, the Astros were more willing to move in an effort to create a rivalry with the Texas Rangers. Some experts say that the Astros move decreases the value of the franchise by $60 million. To soften that blow, MLB will pay the Houston Astros $35 million over the next 3 seasons.
Fantasy baseball managers have long known of the effects of a player moving from one league to another. According to Bill James, the effects of a pitcher moving leagues is more pronounced than a hitter swapping leagues. A move for a pitcher from the National to the American shows an ERA increase of .45 while strikeouts per 9 decrease by .53. No surprise given having to face a hitter like David Ortiz than a weak hitting pitcher.
Fantasy baseball leagues are going to face a rare dilemma regarding the Astros move to the American League. These are decisions that must be made prior to the start of the 2012 season. If the fantasy baseball league is a mixed league (both NL and AL) with no keepers, then no decision need be made.
On the other hand, if you play in an NL-only keeper league (as I do), then a decision will have to be made on how to handle Astros players that will swap leagues for 2013. Some possible scenarios are:
- Eliminate all Astros players that move leagues in 2013, thus making Houston players far less attractive to be drafted or traded for during the 2012 season.
- Allow Astros players to be kept for 2013, even though they are now competing in the AL.
- Give a compensatory pick to any Astros player that moves leagues in 2013.
What will the effect of the Astros move to the American League have on fantasy baseball leagues?
- DH’s in the AL — Although the 2013 schedules have not been clearly defined yet, it is likely that the number of inter-league games will increase given their popularity. Therefore, American League DH’s will be slightly less valuable given that they will be getting less at bats given the increased games being played in the NL. Moreover, inter-league games will now be spread throughout the season, thus making it more difficult for managers to sit their DH during those weeks when his team is playing two road trips in NL parks.
- Minute Maid Park — With the addition of Minute Maid Park, a 110 ballpark home run index, there will be more opportunities to hit home runs in the AL. Thus, AL hitters will be slightly more valuable in mixed leagues over their NL counterparts.
- The Astros — Let’s face it, the Houston Astros pitching staff is not exactly full of aces. Hence, as the team rebuilds, there will be another secondary short term gain to picking up AL players in mixed leagues, especially those teams that play in the AL West division.
- Astros Pitchers — If the Astros have a strength, it would be their starting rotation with a lineup that includes Brett Myers, J.A. Happ, Wandy Rodriguez, Budd Norris, and Henry Sosa. With the added Astros’ speed and another year of defensive improvement, things may improve, although the move to the DH league won’t help.
- Astros’ Hitters — With the DH, the hitters should get more at bats, thus helping their fantasy baseball value. We are especially high on Jason Bourgeois as a stolen base threat.
- Brett Wallace — Current Astros’ first baseman Brett Wallace may become the Houston DH of the future. This may give him more at bats and increase his fantasy baseball value. It looks like Houston projects Jose Altuve for second base and Matt Downs at first base, assuming that veteran Carlos Lee, whose age no longer fits the rebuilding label, is dealt.
- The DH — If you play in a mixed league, more NL hitters may qualify at the DH position for you due to the increase in games played by NL teams with the DH.
One thing is for sure. With MLB now having inter-league games almost every day of the season, fantasy baseball managers are going to have to play even closer attention to the schedule even more than ever.