Welcome! Login | Register

Oregon Ranked One of Worst States in U.S. for Military Retirees—Oregon Ranked One of Worst States in U.S.…

The Policy of Speak Softly May be Dead—Sunday Political Brunch—May 20, 2018—The Policy of Speak Softly May be Dead…

The Mariners Will Get Better Dee At Second Base—The Mariners Will Get Better Dee At Second…

The Biggest Hit Of Robinson Cano’s Career—The Biggest Hit Of Robinson Cano’s Career

A Primary Post Mortem—The Sunday Political Brunch—May 13, 2018—A Primary Post Mortem -- The Sunday Political…

What Needs To Happen For The Trail Blazers To Have A Shot At The Finals Next Year?—What Needs To Happen For The Trail Blazers…

Weiss: A Storm Cloud Looms Over Older Americans Month—Weiss: A Storm Cloud Looms Over Older Americans…

How Does Doug Baldwin Stay Underrated?—How Does Doug Baldwin Stay Underrated?

Oregon Ranked Among Best States in U.S. for Working Moms—Oregon Ranked Among Best States in U.S. for…

WHL Final Set, US Represented—WHL Final Set, US Represented


In Fantasy Baseball Know The Format – Know The Rules

Saturday, February 13, 2016


Much of the time the term “Fantasy Baseball” is thrown around as though it is a single, monolithic passion for nerds. Or to paraphrase Charles Barkley from his famous rant against analytics, “Fantasy Baseball is just some crap really smart people made up to get in the game because they have no talent.”

This past NFL season, the proliferation of television advertising for Draft Kings and FanDuel made fantasy football and fantasy sports in general a hot topic in the mainstream media. But as Nevada and New York moved to shut the daily fantasy sites down in their respective states, claiming the activity of picking a daily roster for money is nothing more than a novel form of gambling, the buzz has died down a bit.

But at its core, fantasy baseball has always been about competing against your friends to see who hypothetically possesses the most knowledge about the national pastime. If a few Hamiltons and Jacksons exchange hands at the end of the six month ordeal, that can be fun too.

So, if you’re new to fantasy baseball or are simply looking for something slightly different than what you’ve played in the past, it’s important to take into account the different formats and to also be aware of the different sets of rules, as you’re studying up for the next few weeks.

The Different Formats

There are basically four different formats when playing fantasy baseball – rotisserie for a full season – rotisserie head to head – points leagues – and daily fantasy. Depending on how much time you want to spend studying for the selection of players and how involved you want to be during the season, the choice of format can make the difference in a fun experience or a not so fun experience.

Since daily fantasy is illegal in Washington (not even listed for the sign up on Draft Kings and Fan Duel), and I live in Washington, I won’t be covering this format in much depth.  

Full Season Rotisserie

In a rotisserie league, statistics are compiled over the course of a season. The number of points accumulated is inversely related to the number of players in the league. So for instance, if there are twelve players in a league, the player winning a given category is awarded 12 points, second place 11 points, and so on down to the last place player who receives 1.

Leagues are usually designated by the number of offensive categories and the number of pitching categories. So, a 5x5 league tracks five offensive categories – usually batting average (BA), runs (R), stolen bases (SB), home runs (HR), and runs batted in (RBI) / and five pitching categories – usually wins (W), saves (SV), strike outs (K), earned run average (ERA), and walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP).

But, individual leagues are free to set as many categories as they choose and whichever categories they choose. Some more sabermetrically oriented players prefer to throw out stats like BA, W, and SV to substitute on base percentage (OBP), quality start (QS), or strikeout to walk ration (K/BB%). It’s entirely up to you and the people you’re playing with.

One potential disadvantage of racking up stats over the course of the entire season is that some players may realistically be out of contention by July and lose interest. In one of the leagues I play in, we implemented a prize equivalent to approximately the typical season’s transaction fees to go to the most improved player after the All-Star game just to keep everyone engaged.

Head to Head Rotisserie   

The scoring in head to head is the same as conventional rotisserie. The major difference is that you’re competing weekly against a single opponent. A win in each category is worth a point. A tie is worth a half a point. The player at the end of the week with the most points wins. Since it is possible to tie, even if there are an odd number of categories, it’s usually a good idea to designate a separate category as a tie breaker.

There are two major advantages to playing head to head. You can load up on six or seven statistical categories (assuming 5x5 scoring) and still be a weekly contender. Usually, it’s pretty hard to win if you “punt” more than a category or two in season long rotisserie. And, your stats re-set each week as you compete against your next opponent.

The ideal league construction is to have twelve teams and play the “regular season” for 22 weeks, playing each team twice. Then you can move on to a playoff with your choice of the number of teams involved. Four to six is usually recommended.

Points Leagues

Points leagues are just what the name implies. Rather than accumulate counting stats (HR, R, RBI, SB, W, SV, K) and besting your opponent in ratio stats (BA, ERA, WHIP), a player is awarded points for an event from each of his fantasy players. So on offense there might be one point for a single, two points for a double, three points for a triple, and four points for a HR. Pitching may have ten points for a win, a point for a K, five points for a save. You can also introduce negative points for events like a batter striking out or a blown save.

Since scores for points leagues tend to run into the hundreds on a weekly basis, it’s highly recommended that points leagues also be head to head leagues.

Daily Fantasy

Scoring in daily fantasy usually works like head to head rotisserie, with the two major differences being that you pick new players daily and the roster construction is limited by a salary cap.

Not All Leagues are Created Equal – Know the Rules

A few years ago, I was invited to play in a football league so they could get the number of players to twelve. I knew two of the owners, but no one else in the league. I had played in other leagues for years, so I felt confident I could do well.

After the draft, in which I had stocked up on wide receivers and running backs early, I found out that this league awarded six points for a TD pass, instead of the more common four. I immediately knew I was screwed for the whole season. I had taken a QB in the sixth round and most of the other owners had picked two QB’s, which I also never do. If I had known this difference in rules, I more than likely would have drafted a QB in the first or second round. Know the rules.

Draft v. Auction

Acquiring players in a draft is much different from acquiring players in an auction. In an auction, you have a set amount of imaginary dollars – usually $260 – to bid on players and fill out typically a 23 man roster. In theory, you can have any player you want, as long as you’re willing to outbid everyone else in your league. If I say, “Mike Trout, $50” and no one else bids, he’s mine. But, if I have the sixth pick in a draft, I’m not getting Mike Trout, nor probably Bryce Harper, nor Clayton Kershaw. You get the idea.

Drafts are easier. You don’t have to study as much. Just sit back and wait your turn.

In an auction, you have to constantly pay attention, to who has been nominated, how much money you have, how much money your opponents still have, what positions have been filled on your roster and everyone else’s roster. It can be exhausting. But, it’s also a whole lot of fun.

Player Value Depending on Format

You’ll remember that you can assign negative points for certain events in a points league. This can be huge. A player like Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles, who can hit 40+ HR is far more valuable in a rotisserie league than in a points league where his 200+ strike outs can cost you big time. Last year, Fernando Rodney got dropped much more quickly in a points league where his -5 points for blown saves killed owners. In rotisserie leagues, Rodney’s high ERA and WHIP resulting from the blown saves was far less punitive spread out across a nine man rotation, so an owner might hold on to him, hoping for the next save.  

Also note that subtle tweaks can make a difference within each format. Someone like Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs is far more valuable in a league that counts OBP (.387 and 7th in baseball) instead of BA (.278). Rizzo takes a lot of walks, which wouldn’t matter in a standard 5x5 league, but does in more saber oriented leagues.

Number of Players and Position Eligibility

In ESPN standard leagues, only one catcher is rostered. There are leagues out there that play only three outfielders. Personally, I think it’s not a real league unless there are two catchers and five outfielders. But, know that the value of players change depending on how many you need to roster.

Also, rules vary for position eligibility. Some set a limit on twenty games played for eligibility at any given position. There are leagues that number is ten, or even one. For roster flexibility, know your league rules.

Innings Limits

Usually there is a minimum for the number of innings your pitching staff must accumulate and, in some cases, there is a limit to how many innings your pitching staff can toss.

If your strategy is to load up on middle relievers with high K% and low BB% in order to win ERA and WHIP and get enough K’s to come in the middle of the pack, do pay attention to the minimum number of innings required in your league. If you come in under that number, all of your stats may get thrown out.

If your strategy is to punt SV and roster a staff of all starters to come in first in W and K, while staying respectable in ERA and WHIP, just make sure you don’t go over your league’s innings limit or you might also lose all your stats.

Just to Name a Few

I’ve touched upon a few rules that are easy to overlook, whether it’s your first time playing or simply playing in a new league. I’m sure there are more than just what I’ve mentioned here. The important thing is to be as thoroughly prepared as you can be. And you can begin by knowing the league format and the minutiae of the league’s rules.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


Related Slideshow: 12 of the Greatest Sports Movies of All Time

Hank Stern ranks his top twelve favorite sports films. 

Prev Next

#12 Rollerball

Some of the non-athletic scenes in this dystopian classic show their age, but Rollerball is a strangely prescient film that anticipated both the corporatization of sport and fans’ limitless taste for violence. Bonus points for the ominous intro music.

Prev Next

#11 A League of Their Own

A comedy that looks back to the antithesis of corporate sport – a women’s baseball league during World War II with many memorable lines to choose from (e.g.,”There’s no crying in baseball.”)

Prev Next

#10 Remember The Titans

Yes, filmmakers took liberties with some of the facts dealing with the integration of a high school football team in Virginia. But there’s a reason football teams often screen this film on the eve of big games. It’s a damn inspirational tale.

Prev Next

#9 The Natural

This film has grown on me over time. Originally, it seemed slow and schmaltzy. Now, it seems well-paced and charming. Then and now, the re-created scenes of pre-World War II ballparks arrive like perfectly preserved postcards from the past.  

Prev Next

#8 The Longest Yard

Not the remake with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. But the hilarious original with Burt Reynolds and Eddie Albert as a wonderfully villainous warden who pits the guards against the inmates in a grudge football game that includes former Green Bay linebacker Ray Nitschke and other ex-football players like Sonny Sixkiller and Joe Kapp, both stalwart Pac-8 quarterbacks long, long ago.  

Prev Next

#7 Slap Shot

The Hanson brothers. Enough said.

Prev Next

#6 Rocky

Often imitated, but never replicated. The definitive underdog boxing story featuring Sylvester Stallone before he became a self-caricature in multiple sequels. Impossible to hear the theme song without being motivated to get off the couch.

Prev Next

#5 Seabiscuit

A fantastic book as well as a great movie. Like “The Natural,” Seabiscuit captures its Depression-era setting for modern-day viewers taken back to an era when horse racing actually meant something in America. 

Prev Next

#4 Requiem for a Heavywei

A too often-forgotten film these days but a wonderful boxing drama that shows the sport’s underside with memorable  performances by Mickey Rooney, Jackie Gleason and Anthony Quinn.

Prev Next

#3 Hoosiers

Want to know something about small-town America in the 1950s and about Indiana basketball? This hoops movie does all of that with a healthy dose of redemption throughout. 

Prev Next

#2 Bull Durham

There’s a pretty good case to be made this movie played a huge part in the rebirth and re-marketing of minor league baseball. As written by former minor leaguer Ron Shelton, there are many great scenes to choose from but this one is a favorite. 

Prev Next

#1 Raging Bull

A rags-to-riches-to-rags story of boxer Jake LaMotta meets the actor born to play him, Robert De Niro. Not a false moment in this black-and-white powerhouse.


Related Articles


Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

Delivered Free Every
Day to Your Inbox