Preferable league settings

The single most important element—the key ingredient—to any successful fantasy baseball league is the settings. Even more important than the people, the settings of a league have a tremendous influence over whether you are satisfied with your fantasy baseball experience at the season’s end.

After running a simple regression analysis, I found that the correlation coefficient (r) for the relationship between a successful league and good league settings is .7499. This means that almost 75 percent of any good league can be attributed to its settings and therefore it is of paramount importance that we make sure our leagues for 2009 are set up perfectly.

Here is a starter list of some league settings I prefer:

High minimum innings pitched limits—I put this one first because I find it is a major problem in leagues. Too many leagues have minimum innings-pitched limits that are too low, like 10 or 20 innings a week (times 25 weeks makes 250 to 500 innings for a full season). This is it devalues the starting pitcher to a level that makes it possible to basically ignore them in the draft and still come out even in the pitching categories.

In a league with standard categories—wins, saves, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP—for pitchers, a team could quite easily secure near-guaranteed victory in ERA in WHIP without owning a starting pitcher. By simply drafting top middle relievers, who require nothing more than a late-round pick to acquire, two of the five pitching categories (ERA and WHIP) are almost guaranteed top three finishes. Invest a little more on some late-round closers and this team has a chance of an average showing in the saves category. Assuming a last place finish in wins and strikeouts, this team’s pitching points in a 12 team rotisserie league look like this:

| Category | W  | SV | K | ERA | WHIP || Total |
| Points   |  1 |  5 | 1 |  11 |   12 ||    30 |

That equals a six point average in each category, which is only 2.5 points less what the average team should accrue in the pitching categories. Remember this was accomplished by drafting only closers and relievers who require a minimal investment, meaning this team’s batters should be stacked. By simply increasing the minimum innings pitched limit to 40 or more a week (1,000 innings for the season) this loophole is averted.

In head-to-head leagues, the effect is even worse. The ERA and WHIP categories are almost guaranteed victories and in weeks when saves are won, this team would actually take the pitching categories three to two.

High minimum innings-pitched limits force teams to start a rotation of starters, which makes the league more fair and better simulating “real baseball.”

Maximum DL spots—When a player gets hurt, it stinks. to put it nicely. If you have multiple players hurt, well, that is even worse. The least we could do for these poor owners of injury-riddled teams is give them plenty of DL spots to stash their players, freeing up a roster spot and allowing them to add another player from free agency.

No waivers—I have never been a fan of the waiver system, and now that other methods of acquiring free agents are becoming more accessible, I find the system even more disagreeable. I would rather reward active teams (through free agency) than last place teams (as waivers do).

To make an analogy I would compare waivers to the current Type A/Type B free agent compensation system Major League Baseball uses. Both systems are flawed and can screw over a player or team through an unfair ranking. (See: The Orlandos)

Even better than the traditional free agent system is the increasing-in-popularity FAAB system. Discussed in this mailbag, FAABs (Free Agent Acquisition Budgets) are offered standard by some fantasy hosting sites and would not be too difficult to set up manually if you and your buddies choose that route. They are fair and require plenty of strategy on your end.

Large benches—My favorite part of fantasy baseball is the sleepers. Drafting players in the last rounds and having them turn into valuable commodities is awesome.

The problem with some leagues, though, is that they allow for only two or three players on the bench. Besides a few necessary backups, there is no place on the roster where those sleepers can be kept until they wake up. I find that leagues with plenty of bench spots (or even entire minor league rosters) turn out to be the most fun and rewarding.

Can’t cut lists—Don’t use them, plain and simple. If you are in a league that needs to protect itself by having a list of top players that cannot be cut, I would not be in that league. Otherwise, you got Albert Pujols on your team and because of his elbow he is out for the season. No big deal, just stash him on your DL. Then a couple more injuries pile up, and you want to put those players on the DL and drop Pujols because he is wasting a roster space. The head-banging catch: You can’t drop him.

Have any more settings you prefer? Disagree with some of mine? This article was meant to be an icebreaker for discussion, so leave them in the comments below.

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  1. bpasinko said...

    I am starting a keeper league this year, 12 teams and we currently have 27 roster spots and 2 dl. Glad to see you would agree with the extra 2 bench spots, and dl spot.

    However, we haven’t decided on the amount of keepers yet, do you recommend 8 or 10? We want at least 8.

  2. Ivar Anderson said...

    The leagues that I run follow most of these suggestions, except for the minimum innings pitched rules.  I actually have to set a season maximum for IP to stop streaming of starters.  I use a 9 active pitcher roster (5 P, 2 RP, 2 SP) with 1500 max IP for the season and don’t have any troubles with owners loading up on relievers.  Of course, we also reward the first place finisher in each stat category, and use Holds as a stat, too.  I do use a 1 day waiver period but have found that the most active owners usually get their picks filled.  Won’t allow a can’t cut list and have always had a 7 player bench and 3 DL spots.
    As far as keepers, 8 seems like a lot.  My leagues allow 5, but usually I wish I could keep 8 players.  I limit the number so that the draft is worthwhile every year.

  3. Matt said...

    Completely agree with having the maximum # of DL spots you can fit into your league.  There is no reason to penalize teams any more than already having their otherwise starting player out of their lineup.  There is already enough inherent risk/reward in drafting potentially frail players without directly affecting your roster because of it.

    The author seems to imply a waiver rule that resets each week to reverse of the standings. That sort of rule, I don’t like, but I don’t have any concern with using a waiver rule where the waiver order cycles and you go to the bottom when you claim someone (with a random starting order, or inverse of previous year’s finish, something like that). FAAB is the way to go if possible, but isn’t an option on several of the big free sites yet.

    I concur here as well, the highest minimum you can reasonably set is the way to go if the setup demands it. To share my league’s settings though, a minimum really isn’t required. (I do have some maximums, to help cut down on any advantages gained simply from having more time than others in the league to devote to your team; gotta keep it enjoyable for everyone.)

    10-team Mixed League. We use 7 pitching categories, the standard 5 plus Quality Starts and Holds. We have 4 SP, 4 RP, and 4 P for roster spots (and 5 bench spots).  Most teams use 7-8 relievers, and then use the SP, maybe one P, and 2-3 bench spots to roster ~8 SP.  This setup allows for lots of different strategies in drafting and in-season management, while also requiring every facet of the pitching game to be addressed in order to have success.

  4. Jim said...

    I think the two most important things are 1. keeping the draft important 2. keeping people interested all year.

    I like the deep bench. having keepers be no more than 20% of the team. limiting keepers to mid-level type players – no Top 5 round types (unless they were selected after the 10th round last year) – so people can all have a decent chance of getting a guy like Pujols.

    Keepers also have to be on your team by the All-Star Break, so we don’t have to deal with managers dumping their team to build up for next season. 

    We also have a 2nd half surge award for the team that has the best 2nd half, but still misses out on the payout places.

  5. GBS said...

    If time allows, auctions are FAR better than drafts.  It gives everyone a chance at the cream of the crop.  There are few things worse than drafting 12th in a 12-team league and seeing Pujols, H. Ramirez, J. Reyes, Wright, etc. all go off the board without having any chance at them.  Auctions allow everyone the opportunity to bid on each player.

  6. Andrew B. said...

    We hope to avoid the Reliever streaming this year by being specific with our pitcher spots, 4SP, 2RP, 0P (We play in a 10 team NL-only league). Unless one bulks up on Hong-Chih Kuo-esque SP,RP eligible players, I don’t think that strategy is possible.

    I and another player in our league have been lobbying to increase the number of DL spots from one to two (is it “I and another player”, or “Another player and me”? I never remember…). You make a very good argument, which I will pass along to our league.

    One issue with large benches that we have had in the past, though, is a tendency of certain players to stockpile certain types of players and hold on to them indefinitely, at times refusing to trade them for a fair offer. While I suppose that would be a tactical choice, it has been kind of annoying.

    Thanks for the information!

  7. Ryan Carey said...

    While I also like the FAAB system – if you have to use waivers, use “Rolling” waivers.  You start the season ranked in reverse order of your draft slot.  For example – in a 12 team league, the Team that drafted in the 12th spot begins with the #1 Waiver priority and so on down the line.  If you make a waiver claim, you move to the back of the list.  This works better the waivers that reset every week to the last place teams.  It adds some strategy as to when to use or lose that Top priority once you get it, because you may not get it back again for weeks.

  8. Paul Singman said...

    @bpaskino – I think 8 keepers is plenty. As Ivar said, you want to keep the draft interesting every year. You can ask Mike Lerra, who has kind of become the resident keeper league expert ‘round these places.

    @Ivar – Yea, you definitely want to have a max innings pitched limit as well to prevent streaming. I figured most leagues have those already, though. I prefer a limit over the typical 1500 IP, around 1750 is better, because I’ve gone over the 1500 limit in past leagues where I did not stream pitchers much. Then my pitching stats did not count for the last week for no reason.

    @ Ryan Carey and Matt – Even the rolling waivers, I feel, is still less fair than FAABs or using only free agents. It is just a personal preference, but I have never seen anyone make a good case for waivers either.

    @Andrew – I think those settings would curb the issue a lot, but having a min limit of maybe 30 innings a week would be a not-so-high limit that would only discourage owners further.

    Cornering the market on a certain type of player would be hard, but I’m not sure making smaller benches would solve the problem. They might just be annoying owners regardless of the settings.

  9. roger said...

    “After running a simple regression analysis, I found that the correlation coefficient (r) for the relationship between a successful league and good league settings is .7499. This means that almost 75 percent of any good league can be attributed to its settings and therefore it is of paramount importance that we make sure our leagues for 2009 are set up perfectly.”

    I think the r^2 would have to be .7499 to say this.  Still 56% is still a lot so having good rules is definitely important.

  10. Paul Singman said...

    Roger, you may be right, but I am fairly sure the “r”, not the r^2, determines how dependent the dependent variable is on the independent variable.

    Putting the math aside though, lighten up man, it was only a joke. Maybe my poor sense of humor is at fault, but I would never run a regression analysis on variables as subjective as those are.

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