To a veteran brain surgeon, cutting open a skull and messing with an amygdala or a few ganglia isn’t as intimidating as it may be for everyone else. A rocket scientist could tell you, in his sleep, that perchlorate has nothing to do with your morning cup of coffee. And for Martha Stewart, whipping up the perfect pecan pie is about as challenging as preparing a pack of Ramen Noodles.
We, as fantasy baseball fanatics, aren’t so different. To us, the word “rotisserie” means much more than cooking meat. ERA isn’t just a laundry detergent or realty group. We rattle through more stats in a week during the summer than a Wall Street stock broker.
Fantasy baseball, in all its complex glory, may seem comfortably simple to those of us who have played it for a while. But for newbies, including those who are used to the less-frantic ebb and flow of fantasy football, the transition can be a tough one to make.
I’ve always suggested that fantasy baseball takes much more dedication than fantasy football to the casual fan.
You have nearly double the starting positions, roughly double the stat categories to worry about, numerous minor league prospects who could be called up at a moment’s notice (would be like the NFL being able to “call up” a college football player at any point during the season as needed) and games happening basically every day compared to weekly for the NFL.
But, there are ways to make the transition easier, especially if you are creating a fantasy baseball league with numerous fantasy football aficionados in tow. Here are a few suggestions to make that happen:
1. Use head-to-head scoring over rotisserie.
Fantasy football leagues are almost unanimously head-to-head experiences. Rotisserie, where everyone is ranked based on production in each stat category, is a radical concept to those who have no experience with it.
Of course, fantasy baseball is, at its core, better in rotisserie format, where it gets its roots. And, you can always tell owners in your new league that switching to rotisserie is the goal in the future. However, head-to-head format keeps the transition from one sport to another as seamless as possible. Your co-owners will thank you for the inaugural year sacrifice.
2. Keep scoring as simple as possible.
In fantasy football, scoring is typically pretty cut and dry. Players get points for yards gained and TDs scored, with a few exceptions. In fantasy baseball, there are a ton of stats to factor in. Home runs, steals, strikeouts, saves, etc. Than you have percentage-based categories, such as ERA, batting average and WHIP. And that is in a “standard scoring” league.
Do your new league owners a favor and keep your scoring at that level. Don’t dip into the extra categories that are gaining popularity among leagues, such as errors, strikeouts per nine innings, doubles, triples, GIDP, slugging percentage, quality starts, etc. In fact, Yahoo standard leagues offer 86 different stat categories you can score in your respective leagues.
Save the unique stats for more experienced owners.
3. Set your league transactions for weekly changes.
Typical leagues allow owners to change their rosters daily, mirroring the major league schedule. While fantasy owners can plan ahead and alter their daily lineups a week out in these types of formats, it can still put them at a disadvantage vs. those who can check the league and free agent pool on a daily basis.
Fantasy football owners are used to weekly roster changes as they set their team up for Sunday games and then make free agent moves early the next week. Setting your baseball league to follow a similar schedule will, once again, minimize the stress for those with less experience and keep most everyone on a level playing field.
4. Keep starting positions as standard as possible.
Again, the goal here is to minimize extra stress by keeping things simple. Most typical fantasy baseball leagues start a catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, three outfielders, two to three starting pitchers and two or so relief pitchers and/or closers.
Over time, these “standard” rosters plumped up to include a hitting utility player (player from any offensive position), several utility pitchers (either starting or relief guys), corner infielders (first baseman/third baseman), middle infielders (second baseman/shortstop), a second starting catcher, etc.
Again, here, I would recommend you limit the extra starting positions (similar to flex starters in fantasy football) to limit any additional confusion.
One thing to consider, though: If your new leaguemates are keen on mock drafting at major sites such as ESPN, they’ll likely be asked to draft a corner infielder, middle infielder and utility players. If they are practice drafting with a certain roster setting, it may be good to replicate that as your league status quo.
5. Encourage your league owners to do at least one or two mock drafts.
This isn’t a foreign concept among the fantasy football people, as mock drafts are common in both fantasy sports. However, it doesn’t hurt to encourage the extra practice, especially if your new league owners are really, really raw on fantasy baseball and entrenched in their fantasy football habits.
6. Suggest websites that will keep league owners informed.
Sort of a double-edged sword, because less informed league owners mean you’ll have a better chance of winning the league. But who wants to win in a league where the competition isn’t as solid as it should be?
Plus, many non-fantasy baseball people don’t grasp the enormity of the MLB player pool throughout the 162-game marathon known as the regular season.
Not only are major league teams constantly tweaking their lineups and reassessing player roles (such as promoting a new closer), but they also are keeping a close eye on the minor league pool. Prospects are brought up regularly during the season, especially later when teams either fall out of contention or need to patch holes created by injury or ineffective play.
Keeping on top of all those potential player moves is a chore in itself for even the most seasoned fantasy football owners. It can blow the mind in some who are new to the sport.
Do you have any other suggestions on how to keep fantasy baseball leagues as fantasy football-friendly as possible? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.