OpinionFebruary 21, 2007


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Find the Right League For You – Part Two

By StlSluggers

This article is part two of a series designed to help fantasy baseball newcomers understand the variety of options available to them. Part One briefly described the four basic attributes of each league – Scoring System, Competitive Format, Acquisition Method, & Scope. Part two is going to discuss the different combinations of attributes that are available (aka leagues) and how they will affect the way you play the game. Once you feel comfortable with the type of league you have decided to pursue, check the end of the article. There will be a link to a website designed to help you find the fantasy baseball league of your dreams.

Acquisition Method

For the purposes of this article, we are going to ignore the acquisition method for any given league. We can do this because how you acquire players does not strategically alter how you approach decision-making once the league has begun. No matter which acquisition method your league uses, your goal as a savvy manager is to anticipate appropriate values for players and then draft or bid on players that are at or below the value you believe they will produce. That is an oversimplification, but it will suffice for the purposes of this article since draft/auction strategy is not our focus here. If you need more information on draft and auction strategy, you can find plenty of detailed articles and discussions on the subject right here at the Cafe.

Scope

As was the case with acquisition method, the scope attribute is better off discussed out-of-context because the affect on your strategic approach will be identical no matter how the other league variables are set.

Playing in a Redraft League
If you are playing a redraft league, you will find that rookies/youth and injury-prone players will often drop precipitously in value. Rookies and young players are notoriously unpredictable, and few will want to use an early draft pick on the injury-prone players like Mark Prior or JD Drew. Additionally, league involvement in a redraft league will usually start out hot-and-heavy at the beginning of the year as teams vie for early positioning. However, as the season wanes on, the lesser teams will generally become less involved in the league because they believe they are out of contention.

Playing in a Keeper League
If you are playing in a keeper league, you will find that the treatment of rookies/youth and injury-prone players will be nearly the opposite from that of the redraft league. The opportunity to lock down a prospect for a few years often tempt more than one team into trying to take that player a little earlier in the draft (or paying more in the auction). Along the same line, a team will often feel more obliged to take a chance on a risky player if they know that they will be able to reap the benefits of that player for more than one year if he pans out. Finally, league involvement in a keeper league will begin along the same lines as in the redraft league, but instead of dissipating as the year progresses, activity in a keeper league will generally remain steady throughout the year. This is usually due to teams out of contention who are trying to make trades now that will help them in the coming season.

That covers Acquisition Method and Scope. Again, those two attributes are not impacted by each other, the Scoring System, or the Competitive Format of a league. You may consider their merits/effects separately.

System #1: Categorical-Rotisserie

Categorical-rotisserie is arguably the most popular format out there, particularly when played in the “standard” 5×5 format. This popularity is probably due mostly to the fact that the first fantasy baseball league ever created was a categorical-rotisserie league.

The most important things about categorical-rotisserie leagues are to:

Compete For the Entire Year
Don’t worry as much about short-term slumps by your players. Even the best players go through down periods of production during the season. The important part of playing rotisserie is to acquire players that produce at a high level over the course of the entire year.

Keep a Balanced Team
Categorical leagues pick winners by totaling a score across every category in the league. You can make up a team of power hitters that hits more home runs than any other team, but if you don’t steal any bases or have good pitching, you will still lose. While you cannot necessarily compete in every category at all times, the goal of a championship team in this format is to build a squad that is good in as many categories as possible. For that reason, the best players are the ones that produce across multiple categories.

Let me wrap up the discussion on categorical-rotisserie leagues with a few special notes. First, if you trade away a player, you do not trade away the stats he accumulated while on your team. For that reason, you might see some odd trades in these leagues. As an example, if a team has a significant number of home runs but is lacking in stolen bases, that team might trade Adam Dunn halfway through the year in return for a speedster like Ryan Freel. In real life, that trade would make no sense, but in a categorical-rotisserie league, it would be ideal for both teams. One team would gain power production at the expense of stolen bases while the other would benefit conversely.

Finally, and most importantly: Pay attention to the categories! Don’t acquire players whose main source of value is in categories that are not scored in your league.

System #2: Categorical-Head-To-Head (or H2H)

Categorical-H2H fantasy baseball is probably the second-most popular format available, although some would argue that it has overtaken the aforementioned categorical-rotisserie league as the most popular format. While there are many similarities between System #1 and System #2, the differences are striking enough to give rise to heated debates about which system is better.

The Impact of Head-to-Head Competition
In contrast to the year-long competitive aspect of rotisserie baseball that pits you against all of the other teams the whole time, the head-to-head competitive style pits two teams against each other for given period of time. Typically, the duration of competition is for one week, starting Monday and ending the following Sunday. This subtle change has a huge impact on many aspects of the league, such as player valuation, league rankings, and even owner involvement. It is actually a viable strategy to try and pick up players on hot streaks since you need to win every day.

Wins and Losses in Categorical-H2H
If two teams are competing against each other, it makes sense that one will win and the other will lose, right? In Cat-H2H, that is not necessarily the case. Teams compete for wins by category allowing for outcomes ranging from blowouts to actual ties. To truly understand if Cat-H2H is for you, you need to understand how winners and losers are determined.

Let’s take a look at the standard 5×5 league where Team A and Team B are locked in a head-to-head battle. If Team A sweeps all of the categories, Team A will be given 10 wins, 0 losses, and 0 ties. This is shown as 10-0-0. On the other hand, if Team A and Team B tie in every single category, each team will receive 0 wins, 0 losses, and 10 ties (shown as 0-0-10). Of course, every combination in between is a possibility, too. This type of competition will go on from week to week, and teams will accumulate wins, losses, and ties each week of the season. At the end of the season, every team in the league will have a total number of wins, losses, and ties for all of the weeks combined. In this manner, the league determines whose teams were the best, worst, and everywhere in between.

Playoffs
Nearly every H2H league finishes their season with a playoff tournament. Generally speaking, the most common structure is to seed the top six teams based on their regular-season records with the top two teams receiving byes. Those teams compete in a three-week, single-elimination tournament with the winner of the tournament being declared the league champion.

A final note… As is the case with all categorical leagues: Pay attention to the categories! Don’t acquire players whose main source of value is in categories that are not scored in your league.

System #3: Points-H2H

It is pretty amazing to think about it, but a simple change from categorical to points scoring has a tremendous effect on how a league works. Point-H2H leagues are similar to categorical-H2H insomuch as they both generally set up competition on a weekly basis and have a playoff system at the end of the year. However, the similarities between the two ends right there.

Event Weighting
The very essence of point leagues is their desire to give weight to certain events. In a categorical league, all events within a category are given equal weight because winning the category as a whole is all that matters. For instance, a stolen base is just as good as a home run if those are two categories in your league. A points league prefers to assign relative values to each event (e.g. – SB: 1, HR: 4) in order to weight the value of each event accordingly. By doing so, the focus of the league shifts from winning via categories to winning via whatever method scores the most points.

One Winner, One Loser
Point leagues compete in one “category” alone: Total points. In the H2H format, two teams play each other for a given time, and one walks away a winner while the other one takes a loss. There will be the occasional tie, but they will come few and far between. This all-or-nothing approach is probably the most polarizing of all aspects of the Points-H2H league. People either love it or hate it because a team that loses by one point is treated exactly the same as a team that lost by one hundred points.

Playoffs
Nearly every H2H league finishes their season with a playoff tournament. Generally speaking, the most common structure is to seed the top six teams based on their regular-season records with the top two teams receiving byes. Those teams compete in a three-week, single-elimination tournament with the winner of the tournament being declared the league champion.

A final note… Pay attention to the scoring system! Don’t acquire players whose main source of value is in areas that are not scored in your league.

System #4: Points-Rotisserie

The final system to discuss is the Points-Rotisserie system. If you read about the other three systems in this article, you probably have a pretty good idea about how this system is going to work. You are still going to need to:

Compete For the Entire Year
Again, don’t worry as much about short-term slumps by your players. Even the best players go through down periods of production during the season. The important part of playing rotisserie is to acquire players that produce at a high level over the course of the entire year.

Unlike the Categorical-Rotisserie league though, you probably won’t see the odd-looking trades that are a part of a Points-Roto league. This is due to the change from Categorical to Points scoring. If a player scores points, it does not matter how he goes about it. His owner will want to retain him as long as he is producing, and trades that would net him fewer points, regardless of the reason, will not be of interest.

Finally, pay attention to the scoring system! Don’t acquire players whose main source of value is in areas that are not scored in your league.

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Tired of reading yet? Now that you have the know-how on picking your first league, you just need a place to find it. Try the Classifieds Forum here the Cafe. You can create a post describing exactly what kind of league you are interested in playing, or you can respond to others’ “Owner Wanted” advertisements. Either way you go about it, you should have no problem finding the league of your dreams this spring. Good luck, and remember that this is a game. Have fun playing.

 
John Sherwood is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with John in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of StlSluggers.
 
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