Fantasy baseball games with daily transactionsby Alex Zelvin
February 27, 2009
The highly anticipated launch of Rotohog’s 2009 Baseball contest arrived with a thud. In 2007, the winner received $100,000. Last year, I won a car for finishing first. This year, the winner will win several hundred dollars of Rotohog merchandise. Obviously, participation is going to be down. Way down. For players who enjoy evaluating daily matchups, and want the opportunity to profit from that skill, what other options exist?
One of the most similar (and most popular) games is ESPN’s Baseball Challenge. Contestants pick a team within a salary cap each day, with points accumulated throughout the season. In the distant past, Baseball Challenge offered large prizes. Unfortunately those prizes have been reduced over the years, to the point where last year’s grand prize was a $1,000 Circuit City gift card. I hope the winner spent it promptly.
The good news is that with Circuit City out of business, ESPN mightl find a more generous sponsor. This year’s rules and prizes haven’t been announced, but we should expect them around the same mid-March timeframe as last year’s game launched.
Salary Cap Baseball was a new game in 2008, and appears to be roughly similar to Baseball Challenge (other than the fact that it runs in Facebook). Prizes were small last year (an XBOX 360), and the company’s stated vision of providing fun games for the casual player doesn’t lead one to believe that it'll improve on that very much this year. That said, it will be worth watching for the game’s 2009 launch, which is supposed to happen on March 12.
Another option is to play in private Yahoo or ESPN "traditional" leagues for money. However, these formats don’t provide as much of a reward to those who specialize in analyzing daily match-ups as the other games I’ve mentioned. Once you’ve drafted your team, most of your players are going to be worth using every day, regardless of their opponent or where they’re playing. Don’t get me wrong…these are great formats, just not exactly what some of us are looking for.
The last group of full season, daily lineup games are those offered by TSN. These have some reasonably large prizes. However, due to some of the intricacies of the rules, success at them is more about game strategy than evaluating player match-ups. A large number of loyal fans of the games have spent many years fine tuning their strategies for building roster value and for taking advantage of changes in position eligibility.
So if none of these formats provide an opportunity to make significant money by evaluating daily match-ups better than others, is there any way to do so? The answer is yes.
A new category of fantasy games gaining popularity is daily fantasy contests. Players enter contests each day, with results calculated based on the results of each night’s games. While these contests don’t offer the chance to become emotionally attached to the players on your team, they do have a number of advantages. First, they’re perfect for those of us who like to evaluate all the factors that go into a single day’s performance. They’re also perfect for people who like fantasy games, but don’t have the time or inclination to keep up with transactions every single day. You can enter a daily contest whenever you want, without making any future time commitment.
Many sites have sprung up that offer daily contests, including Draftbug (my site), Snapdraft, Drafthero and Fantasysportslive. While the sites all have some things in common, there are a number of differences. Scoring and roster requirements vary.
All the sites offer "salary cap" contests, but some offer "live draft" contests as well. Some sites pay out 90 [ercent or more of entry fees as prizes, while others return as little as 80 percent, making them very tough to beat. The levels of service provided and the overall quality of the user experience vary quite a bit.
In the coming weeks, I’ll talk about strategies you can use to succeed in many of these daily transaction formats. The beauty of them is that you can incorporate an endless variety of contextual factors such as opponent, park, home field advantage, weather and more into your calculations, and the more accurately you do so, the more you’ll be rewarded.
Compete against Alex and other players in one day fantasy baseball contests at Fanduel or visit his site, Daily Baseball Data, which has daily hour by hour weather forecasts for all games on one screen and batter vs. pitcher matchup data for the full day's schedule.
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