Fantasy Baseball Basics
The best way to learn how to do something is to do it and this mantra applies to fantasy baseball as well as any other endeavor. By creating an imaginary team composed of real baseball players, you too can have your very own fantasy baseball team.
A fantasy baseball league is usually comprised of 10 or 12 teams, each complete with a full roster. But before you pick the players on your team, familiarize yourself with the rules, roster settings and scoring system.
There are two traditional scoring systems in fantasy baseball: rotisserie ("roto") and head to head. Within each style, the league commissioner will select which statistical categories will be used. The traditional stats are called the "5x5" stats. In a 5x5 league, the league would count runs, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases and batting average for hitters and wins, saves, strikeouts, earned run average and WHIP (walks + hits / innings pitched) for pitchers. The stats used can vary from league to league.
Each league will also have a waiver wire, which you can use to add free agents to your team.
"Roto" leagues accumulate ranking totals for each stat. So say your league has 10 teams and your team leads the league in home runs, you would earn 10 points. The team with the fewest home runs would earn 1 point. You add up all the points for every stat and the player with the most points wins the league!
Head to head
Each week you compete against a single team. If you score more than your opponent, you win the category. Each category gives you a win or loss in the standings. So if you were better in 6 of the 10 stats in any given week, you finish that matchup with a record of 6-4. Each week adds to your total and the team that finishes with the best record wins. The commissioner can also select whether to allow daily or weekly changes to your roster.
Now that the league's format is understood, there are three methods of conducting a draft: autopick, live and auction.
Each owner creates a list ranking all the players in the game. This may sound a bit tedious, but assuming your league is online, your fantasy baseball host (such as ESPN, Yahoo, etc.) will provide you a base list which you can then customize to your heart's content. Your league host will automatically assign players to each team based upon the rankings. This league is best for a more casual style of play or if the owners prefer this option over a live draft.
If you can congregate your friends in a centralized location, bring your laptop and a six-pack for a live draft. Each owner receives a short window of time to make a player selection. Create your own unique draft order by drawing names from a hat or maybe arm wrestle your way to the No. 1 pick. It's up to you.
For the ultra-competitive and most strategic fantasy players, an auction can be a lot of fun. Each owner is allotted a pre-determined amount of money for which he can use to bid on a player. The highest bid wins the player and they can usually select the next player to auction. This method incorporates a lot of strategy as each owner must properly budget to field a competitive team.
When drafting, there are some basic strategies to remember. Here's a short breakdown of things to remember.
- A league is not won or lost during a draft. It takes a full season of roster management to win.
- Both scoring systems favor balanced rosters. If you draft a roster full of sluggers, don't be surprised when you lose badly in batting average and stolen bases. Find a happy medium and look for value players in the middle rounds who can contribute in multiple ways.
- Although you may need a balanced roster, don't be afraid of statistical specialists who only contribute heavily to one or two categories. These players can push you higher in the standings by dominating their specialties.
- Saves are important, but they can often be had on the cheap throughout the season. Position turnover is high and a relative unknown will inevitably emerge as a top-flight option. Grabbing an elite closer early makes sense, but don't reach for saves in the earlier rounds if you miss out on the best options.
- Wins are the most fickle statistical category. A lot of luck is involved and a 20-game winner could easily go 12-10 the next year. Don't bank on them, instead focus on power pitchers who do well in minimizing their walks.
- Look into various draft strategies and participate in mock drafts to get a feel for the player market. Fantasy owners can have a "hive mind" mentality and it's very common for players to be overhyped or undervalued.
- Position scarcity should be a key factor when making draft day decisions. This refers to a possible drop-off in talent at a position after the first few players. The more owners in your league, the more serious this issue can become. To get a sense of this, if your league has 12 owners, look at the difference between the #1, #6 and #12 ranked player at each position.
- When nominating a player in an auction, choose players you are not interested in, players from a position you already have covered, rookies, players returning from injury or any player that holds a favorable bias amongst your group like the star player from the local team.
- Players that open the season on the disabled list can provide great value. He might miss the first month, but there are still another 130 games in a season.
- Multi-position players provide terrific roster versatility, especially if one of your guys is injured.
- Finally, keep your eye on the ball. If you aren't watching baseball games, it's going to be tough. It's easy to see when a player is in a real slump or perhaps got lucky. Did your OF drive in three runs because of poor defense or a lucky bounce? You may overestimate his strong performance because the box score doesn't tell the whole story. Reading articles online also can only tell a small part of the story. Enjoy the game by watching the game.