Looking ahead to 2009 Rotohog baseball

Rotohog Baseball is a fantasy baseball game with free entry, large prizes, and a unique ‘stock exchange’ trading mechanism. Thousands of players compete in a global contest to see who can accumulate the most points. Like some ‘salary cap’ baseball games, Rotohog gives you the opportunity to turn over your entire roster every day, greatly increasing the importance of taking factors such as opponent and park into account when determining your lineup.

It’s never too early to start preparing for next season, especially if you’re hoping to defeat the thousands of other players who will enter the Rotohog Fantasy Baseball global competition. In a contest with this many opponents, you’re going to need to be both lucky and good to win. But like any activity that involves some skill, the more prepared you are, the better your chances will be.

Here are three things you can do between now and the start of the 2009 baseball season to help your chances in Rotohog.

1. Learn the rules

No matter how well you think you know the rules, there’s always something more to learn that may give you an edge. Both this year and last year, I made a point of making sure I fully understood how Rotohog’s innings pitched limits would be applied, and how best to squeeze a few extra innings out of my last pitcher. I read and re-read the rules. I emailed customer service to get clarifications and make sure I understood everything perfectly. When I didn’t think customer service was giving me a correct answer, I asked them to go back and confirm their answer. It turned out their initial answer had been wrong. And yet, after all that, I was still unaware of a very exploitable loophole until the day after the 2008 season ended, when someone wrote about it on the Rotohog forum.

On the day that you pass the 1100 innings pitched limit, Rotohog’s scoring system evaluates your pitchers in the order they’re listed on your roster. For the pitcher that brings you over 1100 innings, ALL of his innings count. So if you play your cards right, you can end up with as many as 1107 or 1108 innings. In 2007, a player close to me in the standings was unaware of that, and let himself hit the limit exactly with a relief pitcher. That mistake probably cost him $1,000, as he finished only 14 points behind me. But it turns I missed something too. Let’s say you’ve got 1099 innings. Put two pitchers in your lineup…one with an early game, and one with a late game. Add the one with the late game in the first pitching slot on your roster. Wait to see how the early pitcher does in his game. If he pitches well, remove the late pitcher from your lineup before your lineup locks in. If he doesn’t pitch well, leave the late pitcher in your lineup, effectively removing the poor game from the scoring. Luckily, I was far enough ahead the last day of the season, that there was no way to blow my lead, but it’s scary thinking that not being aware of this loophole in the rules could have cost me a car if things were closer.

Like I said…learn the rules. All of them. Read and re-read them until you know them by heart. The 2009 rules for Rotohog should come out in January or February, but they’re likely to be similar to the 2008 rules (which are still up on the website). If you’re new to the game, study the 2008 rules. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, think about what might change. The one universal complaint this year was the noon Eastern opening for the “trading floor.” Expect that to change … maybe to earlier in the morning, maybe to late at night, after the games all end. Another area that might be tweaked is the size of the transaction fees. Think about how that might affect your strategy, particularly whether or not you’ll need to concentrate on building roster value. Overall though, changes in the basic game format have been less and less in all sports as Rotohog’s format matures.

2. Plan your strategy

Know your goals, and plan out a strategy that will achieve them. After finishing eighth in Rotohog Baseball in 2007, I thought winning the entire competition was an achievable goal for this year. In 2007 I finished about 700 points out of first place, so I figured I need to come up with a plan to make up that gap. There were some rules changes that reduced the emphasis on having access to the computer during the evening, and increased the importance of playing daily match-ups effectively. I thought those would be worth about 200 points to me, relative to other top players. During the course of 2007, I changed my approach to selecting relief pitchers, and felt that could be worth another 100 points or so. I also figured that if I was more careful about avoiding players who were not in the day’s starting lineup I could gain about another 50 points.

That would still leave me 350 points short of my target, so I needed to do something drastic. That’s where my spreadsheet came from. It seemed reasonable that if I actually calculated expected daily points for each player, rather than just guessing, I’d be able to gain roughly two points per day (less then .2 points per player per day). Doing things in my head I wasn’t able to factor in many of the more subtle factors that impact performance, and there were oversights like the three months where I forgot about the existence of Alfonso Soriano.

In addition to my spreadsheet, a key strategy I settled on prior to the start of the season was that I wasn’t going to worry about roster value at all. This was a pretty significant leap of faith because under 2007 rules, it was critical to maintain a high roster value to be competitive. But I felt that with Rotohog’s new transaction fees which sharply escalated starting at a $350 roster value, nobody would be able to play daily match-ups (a key to success in my opinion) and still accumulate much above $350. It turned out I was right, and I probably benefited by recognizing the importance of match-ups over roster value early on.

3. Gather your tools

I’m using the term tools loosely here. Almost everyone uses some sort of projections. Those are a tool, whether you prepare them yourself, or use something created by others. One of the keys to success in Rotohog is maximizing the innings you get out of closers. In order to do that, you should avoid using closers at risk of getting rained out. So a good source of weather reports is another tool. My daily picks are based on a pretty extensive set of calculations. The spreadsheet that does those calculations is probably my most important Rotohog tool. I’ll be working on improving it during the offseason. If you’re going to consider what park a game is taking place in, then accurate park factors are another tool. And like many tools, you may need to modify them to fit your needs. Are you going to consider one year park factors or multi-year park factors? Are you just going to look at impact on runs, or will you need park factors that are broken down into components such as hits and home runs? The more you think about what information you’ll need during the season, and how you’re going to use that information, the better prepared you’ll be for success once the season starts.

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Comments

  1. george said...

    Alex,
    How far into the season did you max out your innings and were you trying to get as many as possible from the start? Thanks

  2. Alex Zelvin said...

    George – The real key isn’t when you max out your innings…it’s making as many of those innings come from closers as possible.  That’s what I’ll probably be writing about in detail in next week’s column (due out on Thursday morning).
    - Alex

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