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.