Home MLBFantasy baseball What type of fantasy league is right for me?

What type of fantasy league is right for me?

by Mark George
Hopefully a lot of you reading this blog are considering getting involved in fantasy baseball.
If you’re new to fantasy baseball, once you’ve decided you want to give it a try, you are faced with another decision: what type of league should I play in?
Here’s my guide to the different types of fantasy baseball leagues available. 
There’s no such thing as a right or wrong answer with any type of league, as there are formats to fit all types of players, but I think you might find some leagues more fun than others.
Points league
This is the format most GB baseball fans will be familiar with, as it mirrors the format often used in fantasy football/cricket games.
Each manager will have a budget and a list of players and costs to work with.
Points will be awarded for categories such as HR, RBIs, SBs, Wins, Saves, ERA etc.
This is a simple way to get started, and any number of teams can take part, but there are limitations.
For a start, every manager can stock up on All Stars if they want to, so all managers could have A-Rod in their team, which makes it kind of boring.
I like the idea of drafting players in a league – once a manager picks a player, no-one else can pick him.
Also, in a lot of leagues, the player value won’t change, so if a cheap player has a surprisingly good season, every manager keeping an eye on their team will all add this player as well.
There is also the problem of managers giving up on their team if they feel they can’t catch up to the early leaders.
Head to head
I’m a big fan of this format, which pits teams against each other every week.
I’ve been playing in a Head 2 Head World Series, with teams from all over the globe, for the past four years and find it an exciting format.
A league will be made up of an even number of teams (rarely more than 20) to ensure weekly fixtures for all teams.
A manager will draft his team online a few weeks before the season begins – which itself is excellent fun – and will compete with the opponent in a number of statistical categories.
In the H2H I’ve played, there are six hitting categories (AVG, R, HR, RBI, SB, OPS) and six pitching categories (W, SV, Holds, K, ERA, WHIP).
Whichever team has the winning total in each category gets one win – or nothing for a tie – so you’ll end up with weekly scores like 6-6, 7-5, 8-4 etc etc which are added to the standings table, a new week begins, and you are up against another manager.
Eventually, you’ll end up with the top six teams going through to a knockout playoff (the top two teams get byes for the first round) to decide the overall winner in the last two weeks of the MLB regular season.
I love H2H because it is unpredictable. Your hitters or pitchers could be on fire one week and still lose some categories, or they could suck yet somehow win against another team. One week you might thrash someone high up the table, the next you could lose to the bottom team.
And the fact you are playing different teams each week keeps it fresh and (hopefully) all the managers will remain interested and in with a chance of winning it.
Tactically, the manager has a big part to play in his team’s success by making daily lineup changes – who’s hot, who’s not, who’s hurt, who has a travel day, which pitcher will start that night – which can make a big difference.
You can also negotiate trades with other managers too.
This is a league for the dedicated baseball fan.
I also play a Rotisserie-style league, the Hot Stove, which aims to mirror the real process of being an MLB GM. I’ve played it for the past two years, and it has been a lot of fun and extremely addictive – the fantasy baseball equivalent of Championship Manager, if you will.
In our Rotisserie league, teams accumilate totals for five hitting stats (AVG, R, RBIs, HR, SB) and five pitching stats (W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP).
There are 16 teams in our league, so the team with the most runs, for example, gets 16 points. The team with the second-most gets 15 points, the team in third gets 14 points and so on.
This is done for all of the categories and the points are added up to create the standings.
This is good fun as you try to build a balanced team and try to pick up free agent players or make trades to increase your chances.
For example, you might be way ahead in HR but lacking in SB, so you will try to trade power for speed to increase your points total.
There’s also the tactical element of working out the best way to gain the most points – there might be some categories out of reach, but several teams you could overtake in others.
Dynasty league
The Hot Stove is also an example of a dynasty league. Whereas a lot of leagues are done once the season ends, dynasty leagues allow varying levels of management fort future seasons.
Some leagues, for example, might allow to you to keep a certain number of players for next season and you have another draft to fill out the remainder of your roster.
Other leagues, such as the Hot Stove, allow managers to bid for players in a pre-season auction and sign players up to multi-year contracts under a salary limit.
This is great fun as you can assemble your own team and try to prove what a good GM you are by targeting the right players for the right money.
Much like MLB, if you are paying a big chunk of your budget to a player who sucks, you’re in trouble.
Another element the Hot Stove uses is the introduction of each team’s minor league sysytem. We held a 10-round draft of minor leaguers to get it rolling a few years ago and have annual drafts of five rounds so each team can stock up on young talent. There is also a one-round draft after the MLB first-year player draft.
Minor leaguers can be used however you want. If you do your research, you could end up with the next Ryan Braun or Evan Longoria. Maybe you want to trade away your big name players for young, cheap talent to rebuild. Maybe you’ll decide to trade away a good prospect to help you add that player for a run at the title. It really is a lot of fun!
Hopefully this blog won’t have put any interested players off, but prove there are a number of ways you can play fantasy baseball. I’m a big fan of H2H leagues, and my time being involved in the Hot Stove has been a lot of fun.
There will be plenty of other similar leagues of all types out there for you to try, so why not take a look around online and have a go. You might as well, you’re already online!
If you’d like to find out more about the H2H league I play in, visit http://www.rotodatabase.com/
The Hot Stove league isn’t looking for new players at the moment, but to get an idea of how it works, visit http://hotstoveleague.proboards102.com/index.cgi
As ever, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to email me at baseballfeedback@yahoo.co.uk

You may also like


Ron December 10, 2008 - 6:01 pm

Fantasy baseball is an abomination to real baseball. Just becasue someone can pick a team of all-stars and compete against other teams of all-stars while only using selected stats, it doesn’t mean that person knows anything about baseball.

If a person feels the need to play games, they should stick with simulation games like Diamond Mind, or many others.

But fantasy baseball has no place among true baseball fans.

Clive Barker December 11, 2008 - 9:43 am

Actually Ron, you will generally find that if there is a draft before the season starts then you won’t have teams full of all stars playing other teams full of all stars, no more than the actual MLB anyway.

Yes, the stats are a select few but you’ve got to keep it fun and if you had to go through all of the stats that GMs and coaches have to go through then it could deter the more recreational player, which would be detrimental. As for this meaning that they don’t necessarily know about Baseball, whilst this may be true they will have to research what these stats are and start analyzing, thus increasing their knowledge of the game.

If you’re still in doubt, read the book Fantasyland by Sam Walker.

Mark, great overview of the leagues. I look forward to the next instalment.

Mark George December 11, 2008 - 10:51 am

Hi Ron,

The same argument about how realistic a fantasy league can be applied to any sport – whether it’s football, cricket NFL, NBA or NHL.

But as I mentioned when I talked about the Hot Stove league, it is possible to find a league which tries to follow how things are done in MLB as closely as possible through features such as signing players to multi-year contracts, minor league drafts, working out what type of players are needed to move you up the standings – all things MLB teams do.

The majority of fantasy teams won’t be filled with All-Stars because you’ll either be working under a salary cap or a draft which should end up distributing the top players among all teams.

This means picking up bargain players or late-round complimentary players can make a big difference to your season – just ask the people who took a gamble and drafted Cliff Lee before last season began!

And, just like MLB, even if you could fill a team with a bunch of All-Stars, it isn’t always a recipe for success – look at the number of big-spending teams who haven’t won anything for years.

In a fantasy league it’s all about making wise choices, whether it be in a draft or an auction, or when making a trade – just like an MLB GM has to.

Yes, the stats used are selective, but are often the same categories shown when a player is at bat or on the mound.

Even MLB doesn’t have widely recognised stats for things such as moving a runner up with a grounder to the right side of the infield, or going from first to third on a single.

It would be unrealistic to expect fantasy baseball to count these things when MLB itself doesn’t make a big deal out of them.

Joe Gray December 11, 2008 - 12:16 pm

It’s interesting to see that something so apparently harmless like fantasy baseball can lead to such polarized views.

I have sat on the fence that separates the fantasy fans and the detractors for too long and will be forming my own opinions on the back of a fantasy experiment next season.

While I remain comforably perched on that fence at the moment, I feel that it must be difficult to defend a statement that says “fantasy baseball has no place among true baseball fans”. I believe that anything that someone devotes so much free time doing to enhance their enjoyment of baseball indicates their status as a true fan.

Ron December 11, 2008 - 1:35 pm

I should have clarified my point a little better. The main point is that fanatasy baseball (I don’t care about the other sports) is an abomination. And more so for people here at this site, who in many cases have come to the game late.

I’ve played as long as I can remember. I started umpiring at the age of 14. I started coaching at the age of 16. I’m now 44 and I’ve been around the game a long time in many capacities.

While I like the stats as much as anyone, and in many ways baseball is stat driven, it is not all the game is about.

Picking up a page full of statistics and playing fantasy baseball, and trying to learn the game are counter-productive.

It doesn’t matter what the numbers are, it matters what was done to achieve them. Stats, and here is the big problem, are not really a predictive measurement of future success or failure, it is a measure of what has happened in the past. Yeah, we all know Pujols will have another great season, based on what has happened in the past. But Ralph Kiner had 10 great seasons and was done. Sandy Koufax was done after 12. Both had MVP/Cy Young type seasons in thier last one. Look at Mike Mussina.

If you want to “learn” the game of baseball, you need to understand why a walk is imortant in some situations and the hit and run is more important in others, not the acutal number or percentages. Its more important to understand when is the right time to steal a base, or pitch out, and not the actual result. The stats are a by-product of what happens on the field, not the purpose of the game.

It doesn’t matter how many home runs a player hits, but when he hits them and from his position in the batting order are. People who play fantasy basball get so caught up in the numbers that they lose sight of the game. You know, forest, tree, etc.

And because fantasy baseball is driven by stats only, and nothing else, it doesn’t show how a real team is built. Why do you go left/right, or have switchhitters. There is a difference in a 5th place hitter and a 6th place hitter. Why do some teams want speed and others don’t care. It relates to the entire team. Why do you have certain guys in the bullpen. When does the cleanup hitter get dropped to 7th and a bench player hits cleanup in a particular game.

That’s what knowing the game is about. Reciting statistics isn’t knowing the game and no one will ever truly learn the game relying on the numbers.

Matt Smith December 11, 2008 - 9:14 pm

Like Joe, I’ve also been a bit of a fence-sitter when it comes to the fantasy debate.

While I wouldn’t agree with Ron’s opening statement, I think some of his points are valid in some cases.

It’s all down to individuals really. I’m sure there are people out there who are so obsessed with their fantasy teams that the ‘real’ game almost becomes inconsequential. That without fantasy teams they wouldn’t have much interest in the sport. As Ron puts it: “People who play fantasy basball get so caught up in the numbers that they lose sight of the game”. When it comes down to it, I love simply sitting back and watching a game so that sort of stance would lose me completely.

But then again, I’m sure that scenario doesn’t reflect all fantasy baseball devotees. Fantasy baseball can teach you a lot about roster construction, let alone being an excellent way for newcomers to learn about players from the so-called lesser teams. More than anything, it can provide an entertaining subplot to the MLB season.

You certainly can’t ‘learn the game’ on fantasy and stats alone, but fantasy baseball can have a very beneficial effect, as well as being very enjoyable, as one part of a balanced baseball diet.

william December 14, 2008 - 2:22 pm

People who play fantasy basball get so caught up in the numbers that they lose sight of the game.

I don’t understand why i can’t enjoy both. Why does it have to be either or?

BaseballGB » Blog Archive » BaseballGB Fantasy League January 11, 2009 - 12:14 pm

[…] has written an excellent outline of the different types of fantasy competitions that you can play and he’s suggested that the […]

hamzen January 15, 2009 - 12:07 pm

My god, what an insane comment to say that fantasy baseball is pointless.

For a start as stated before, why can’t you have both?

I know for a fact that in my rotisserie league last year for instance, I’d done a pretty good draft and was sitting in 2/3rdplace the first 6 weeks of the season, when suddenly my team was riddled with injuries, and my batters all lost form. I waited patiently for returns from the DL, return to form, it didn’t happen. I plummeted down the league over the next few weeks to 11th place. I decided on drastic action, dumped a lot of players and hit the waiver wire. But the waiver wire has inexperienced players, or less good quality players, so the secret is to know those less good players when they are on hot streaks, or be able to analyse minor league stats for possible younger players of value. This involved a LOT of watching players in games, games I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, and learning a lot about reading swings etc. It rescued my season and taught me a lot about baseball.

But secondly, and I’ll use the Rays from last season as an example. All of the stats sites were predicting a major turn around last season from previous years, mostly based upon the changes in personnel in the infield, and the predicted runs saved, based on previous individual stats, and lo and behold thats exactly what happened.

I’d also add, Boston Red Sox, Oakland A’s would be nowhere near as effective over the years without being really stat driven.

The Mariners changes in personnel in the outfield this season was really statdriven, and their whole organization now realizes its value.

On individual plays, yeah stats are way less important, but over a whole season they are paramount. K/9 (in our league stats), OBP and Slugging(also in our league stats) etc are absolutely paramount, and thats the point of stats, it’s about the likelihood of certain players gaining an advantage in aggreghate, ie for a whole team over a season, if a team gains say just a 3% advantage thats a massive edge.

Now if you are arguing that the stats range should be greater in fantasy leagues, couldn’t agree more, I’d like to see RISP, percentage steals, some fielding stats included, range, error percentage, and K/9 against walks per 9 etc, and I suspect that will happen over time as the deeper stats become more the norm, ie it’s not that long since OBS got accepted as really relevant by MLB.com say.

But if nothing else, being involved in a fantasy league means you follow everything in MLB etc much more closely, which inevitably means your appreciation of baseball goes up.

But a good windup point to initiate discussion Ron 🙂

hamzen January 15, 2009 - 12:10 pm

I might also add that you’ve forgotten a little 3 letter word Ron, fun 🙂


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.