The SFRRC Fantasy Baseball League isn’t radically different from most fantasy baseball leagues, but when I established it nine years ago my goal was to use settings that would create excitement while accurately assessing the contribution of players in a sport that was quickly changing.
Since the league’s inception, we’ve worked together to tweak the settings to try to keep up with the changing strategies in Major League Baseball while maintaining the fun and excitement of fantasy baseball.
Weekly Lineup Changes
This is a key element to our league. I play in leagues that allow daily lineup changes as well as weekly leagues. In my opinion, leagues that allow daily lineup changes can be a grind and are best for money leagues. In a free league, I prefer a more relaxed approach and weekly lineup changes provide that.
Head-to-Head vs. Rotisserie
These remain the two most popular scoring systems in fantasy baseball and I enjoy them both. My FanTrax Razzball Commenters League is a 12-team daily Rotisserie league while this league is a 16-team head-to-head weekly league. Personally, I enjoy tweaking my lineup on weekly basis to face a specific opponent. Should I use an extra starter or reliever in my lineup to gain an advantage? Do I go with speed over power at the plate? It brings the game to life for me.
The SFRRC Fantasy Baseball League is a two catcher league with three open pitching slots and two utility slots for hitters.
What is the purpose of requiring teams to start two catchers in a 16-team league? I think Brad Johnson’s article on FanGraphs last year says it better than I can. As Johnson notes, two catcher leagues opens considerable strategic variance when it comes to deciding who to keep from year-to-year and how we approach the draft. The concept of Relative Position Value advanced by Joe Pisapia in The Fantasy Baseball Black Book nails it. You can gain a significant advantage on draft day by quantifying how much better or worse a given player is compared to the next guy available at his position. The variance in catcher value in two catcher leagues is significant and smart managers will exploit this advantage.
Having three open pitching and two hitter utility slots gives managers the roster flexibility to adjust to their opponents in weekly head-to-head leagues. Understanding your opponent’s weakness and exploiting it by adjusting your roster brings excitement to the game.
Weekly Roster Management
Restrictions on adding free agents, both on a weekly basis and over the course of the season, creates strategic decision-making situations for managers. In the SFRRC Fantasy Baseball League, managers are limited to three free agent acquisitions in any given week and 40 per season. Each team has a limit of three DL spots.
Trades between teams, however, are not limited. We encourage trade talks. The only restriction on trades is the deadline of Aug. 12.
Compare this to my FanTrax daily league where the number of free agent acquisitions is capped at 500 for the year and the number of weekly transactions is unlimited! You can see how strategy changes based on the league’s roster management settings.
Hitting and Pitching Categories
My FanTrax league is very traditional: Hitting categories include Home Runs, RBI, Runs Scored, Stolen Bases, and Batting Average, while the pitching categories are Saves, Strikeouts Pitched, Wins, Earned Run Average, and WHIP Ratio.
Compare that to the SFRRC Fantasy Baseball League settings. Hitting categories include Runs Scored, RBI, Strikeouts, On-base + Slugging Percentage (OPS), Net Stolen Bases, and Plate Appearances. The pitching categories are Innings Pitched, Earned Run Average, WHIP Ratio, Strikeouts per Nine Innings (K/9), Quality Starts, and Net Saves/Holds.
Traditional settings like the ones used in my FanTrax league value hitters over pitchers. Ten of the first 12 players drafted and 22 of the first 24 were hitters. Compare that to the SFRRC League where seven of the top 16-rated players are pitchers, including a pair of relievers.
Managers in the SFRRC League are penalized for open roster spots through the use of Innings Pitched and Plate Appearances.
We use OPS rather than batting average in the SFRRC League to measure hitters because it rewards the ability to draw a walk as well as hit for power. Pitchers are measured on quality starts rather than wins while holds are as valuable as saves because protecting a lead in the sixth or seventh inning can be just as important as the last inning.
Keeping up With The Changing Sport of Baseball
In the SFRRC League, we’ve changed the settings to try to keep up with the changing face of baseball. OPS replaced On-base percentage because it was a better reflection of a batter’s skills. Saves and holds were collapsed into net saves/holds while K/9 replaced strikeouts to boost the importance of all relievers, not just closers, because major league baseball managers were using their bullpens differently.
In the future, we’ll likely make more changes to keep the game fun, fresh, and relevant to the ever-changing sport of professional baseball.