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Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I made a last-second guest appearance on the Fantasy Baseball Roundtable radio show earlier this evening. If you're interested, here's the link to the archived show.
Posted by Derek Carty at 11:30pm
When it comes to fantasy leagues, I am a weathered man. I've played in deep leagues, shallow leagues, mixed leagues, keeper leagues, dynasty leagues; leagues with drafts, leagues with auctions, leagues with free agents, waivers, FAABs, and so forth.
With most of these league settings I have a preference on the ones I like and the ones I feel subtract from a league. For example, I have always preferred mixed leagues that are toward the deeper end of the spectrum. There is one league setting, however, that I have always been on the fence about and that is bench depth.
It may seem like a fairly unimportant league setting on the surface, but in fact it is one that can have a large impact on the way you should approach a league. Even in MLB, bench depth plays a big role in the form of the 25 and 40-man rosters. For example Johan Santana might have never been a Twin were it not for the restrictions on bench size that led to the Astros making him Rule 5 eligible.
Impact on fantasy leagues
Generally speaking a league with deeper benches allows for more risky picks to be taken for two reasons. First, since better replacement players are more easily secured, the negative impact of having one of those risky players bust is reduced. And second, since there are more bench spots available, the cost of having one of them occupied by an insurance player is marginalized. It is important to understand that although the replacement level for starting players is unaffected by bench size, the ability to acquire replacement players is impacted.
In a league with deep benches, the players that would replace your starters in the case of injury or ineffectiveness are secured on your bench and can easily step into a starting role at a moment's notice. In a league with shallow benches, on the other hand, not every starting position can be backed by a bench spot, and in the case of certain starters needing replacing, heading to free agency or waivers is the only option. In two identical leagues save for bench size, the same caliber of player will spell starters, except in the league with deeper benches you will have more control over which players will be your replacement players.
What is considered a long or short bench is subjective, but I will say that the number of bench spots should be proportional to the number of roster spots per team. This implies that a league with more starting players than another can have a greater number of bench spots, yet the two leagues can have the same degree of bench depth. In general, though, I would say that one or two bench spots is shallow, three-to-five is medium sized, and six or more is a deep-benched league.
Transitioning from the theoretical discussion on how replacement level is affected and opportunity cost marginalized, let's move to the more concrete and list some specific types of players whose value is increased by an increase in bench size. Remember that the reason the following types of players have increased value in leagues with deeper benches is due to one or both of the bolded reasons above.
The common theme among these players is that they all require you to own two players for one starting spot, something deeper benches allows you to handle more easily.
Conversely, you could say that safer players are given a slight boost in value in leagues with short benches, though I believe the depth of the league itself (as opposed to the benches) dwarfs the impact bench size will have. The players most positively affected by shallower bench leagues are the multi-position eligible players like Mark DeRosa whose positional flexibility counteract the lack of flexibility working with few bench spots offers.