The Verdict: me, myself and Irene

As we know from the successful lobbying of fantasy sports activists, fantasy baseball is considered a game of skill that requires time, energy, intelligence, intuition, and foresight in order to be successful. However, it also helps to be lucky. But no matter how lucky or skilled one can be, there is still something that no one, not even the best or luckiest fantasy baseball player has any control over—the weather.

With the devastating Hurricane Irene passing through the northeast this past weekend, several baseball games were cancelled. This event wreaked havoc on many fantasy baseball leagues as we head towards the end of the regular season and the playoff picture begins to take shape. Impact players taking automatic goose eggs at such a critical juncture of the season have had a significant effect on leagues throughout the fantasy baseball universe. Unfortunately, there is nothing that anyone can do about it.

I have been asked several times over the years whether there was any recourse for having games postponed, especially near the end of the season. Missing games due to weather obviously affects weekly fantasy baseball leagues more than cumulative roto leagues. Some examples of relief being sought for such circumstances include having players’ statistics count retroactively for make-up games, being allowed to substitute bench players, or taking the average weekly points or statistics for that player applied for the games missed due to inclement weather. None of these are viable solutions. In fact, there is nothing to even consider in terms of relief.

In terms of fantasy baseball, one must suspend disbelief with certain things in terms of equity and fairness. In real baseball, when a game is postponed it will be made up at a later date and all statistics will count going forward. But in fantasy baseball (especially in a weekly league), when a game is cancelled, that day’s opportunity for statistics is lost. That’s just the way it is. It is something that affects everyone equally, and it comes down to a matter of luck for which players any particular team has that may lose their games.

There are specific instances where dramatic and unconventional recourse may be given to fantasy teams for unforeseen circumstances. In terms of Hurricane Irene, if someone lost power and internet access, perhaps the league commissioner would allow some leniency or assistance in setting a lineup or making a transaction. If someone ultimately suffered a greater loss such as destruction of one’s home, then by all means certain accommodations should be given for anyone aggrieved under such a tragic scenario. But when it comes to the actual fantasy game and accumulation of statistics, then all bets are off because everyone is equally susceptible to the potential for weather-related cancellations and postponements.

This year has been especially severe in terms of rainouts and their effects on fantasy baseball. There were more rainouts by the middle of May this year than in all of baseball during the 2010 season. It was a phenomenon that swept the entire country and continued well into the summer as the northeast has been pounded with more rainfall in one month than ever before. So how does one plan accordingly for fantasy baseball purposes? I suppose you can strategically try and accumulate players from the west coast teams or those who play their home games in domes. But that is not realistic or even advisable. The short answer is there is nothing you can do about it except be flexible and creative with your own rosters and lineups.

The rainouts have created a need for multiple doubleheaders. This means that pitching staffs will be thin and bullpens will be abused. That bodes well for hitters. However, players with minor injuries or those just returning from the DL are likely to be benched for at least one of the doubleheader games. So you can tailor your lineup according to those factors. Additionally, playing doubleheaders means your pitchers are more than likely going to go twice in a week, which is always an advantage.

The point of all of this is to establish the fact that weather-related cancellations and postponements are part of baseball, both real and fantasy. While the games can and will be made up at a later time, it doesn’t change the fact that fantasy baseball teams will lose the opportunity to acquire points and statistics now—when they matter most. It is unfortunate, but it is reality. I have seen it affect the overall winner of one of my fantasy baseball leagues several years ago when the Mets and Marlins had an entire series rained out and one of the teams lost Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco, Miguel Cabrera, and Carlos Beltran. This ultimately caused him to lose that week in the playoffs, but there was nothing that could be or should be done about it.

On the contrary, statistics accumulated in rain-shortened games do count and are treated accordingly, no matter how long a game lasts. For example, if a pitcher throws five innings of shutout ball and the game ends because of rain, he is awarded a complete game shutout (assuming his team won of course). It goes in the records books as such, no matter how many innings he threw. If you are on the positive side of such a scenario, then you are considered to be quite lucky. All of these scenarios involve situations that are completely out of our hands and involve no skill or intelligence. But, they are part and parcel to the game of baseball, both real and fantasy. As a result, they should be treated as unfortunate circumstances that we all must deal with and accept as is.

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  1. Shauntell said...

    The weather is basically just adding a little more randomness to fantasy baseball. People who play weekly H2H are already accepting the randomness of weekly stats and the opposing team’s stats they’re facing that particular week. This adds a little more fun to the experience on a weekly basis at least for the people who play H2H. So adding a little more unpredictability should be a non-issue.

    For the more “serious” players, those who play roto, the weather is basically a non-issue.

  2. RandomItalicizedVoice said...

    The only argument, apart from the whole good luck/bad luck can and does happen to all teams argument, that is required is simply stating that you cannot assume a given set of players are going to produce for your team in any given game.  In fact, they may even have a NEGATIVE effect on your weekly numbers.  This is why nothing can or should ever be done to retroactively change league results based on weather.

  3. hunterfan said...

    I find I don’t agree with your argument.  Especially in weekly leagues, unforseen “acts of God” that cancel several games can inject an unfair amount of randomness into the proceedings.  I find it to be more fair to allow the make-up game to count for the cancelled games’ states.

    You make a valid point that these make-up games are often parts of double headers, don’t have normal pitching rotations on normal rest, etc.  And all of that is true. 

    But while I accept we can’t make it perfect, I don’t think we should make the perfect the enemy of the good and instead simply hand wave everything aside and shout “randomness”! 

    There’s a certain element of luck and a certain element of skill inherent in fantasy baseball.  For all that play it on anything but the most casual level, the skill involved should be the preeminent determining characteristic of wins and losses, insofar as it is possible to make that happen.  Nobody wins when an act of God cancels a bunch of games, leaving the winner to be the one who was most lucky.  If people wanted luck to be the sole determinant of wins and losses, they’d play roulette, not fantasy baseball.

  4. Kevin Wilson said...

    I like this series in theory, but hope that next year, we could a short argument for both cases by each party, then the judge’s decision.

    As of now it’s just a lot of template, then what I almost always consider to be the obvious decision. If I was able to read a good argument for the other side, it would be more interesting.

  5. Michael A. Stein said...

    @Kevin – most times I do not receive a countering argument.  The opportunity is always there for both parties to submit their case, but 99% of the time it is usually one side presenting their case and then the Court makes its decision objectively using only the information provided.

  6. Kevin Wilson said...

    Yeah, sorry, I should have mentioned that I figured that would be the case. And I certainly don’t mean to tell you how to do your job in that regard. Just a thought that if you are ever given the opportunity, I would find that very interesting. Maybe the complainant could be required to provide contact information for the defendant and the court could seek comment?

    I do like the series, just my two cents.

  7. Michael A. Stein said...

    When I receive a case, I always ask the plaintiff/appellant if there is anyone else who would want to present their arguments or any other opposing views.  Most times they do not.  And given that I provide the decisions within 24 hours, it is quite difficult to track people down and “force” them to submit an argument if they don’t want to.  So I base the decisions on what is presented and assume the opposing view to make the opinion as objective as possible.  Of course, when I do receive opposing arguments and submissions, it does make for a better decision and analysis.

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