I'll start by saying that fantasy baseball has been around literally forever for anyone younger than 40 years old. Yep, that predates computers and only a few old geesers can remember the exhiliration of handwriting your lineup and self-updating the points every day or every week. Sometimes you'd put it in an envelope and mail it off to your league commish or host company, if you can believe that. Wow.
Now, fantasy sports is fully online so things aren't nearly that painful, but just as baseball has seen its fanbase decline over the past couple of decades, so has interest in fantasy baseball.
Let's shift gears just a bit and talk about me.
My professional specialty is nitpicking existing websites and services for what they're doing wrong and telling them how to make it better. I developed a knack for optimizing business processes and online user experiences, and that's about the same time I fell in love with fantasy football. I played fantasy baseball as a kid, but by the time I got into high school I preferred wasting my life away on my Sega Dreamcast and Match.com over obsessing daily about which starting pitcher was taking the mound to make sure I maximized my points potential.
So, I want to take the fervor I now have for fantasy football and apply it to fantasy baseball in a way that might attract more cross-sport participation. Mainly, these format changes make things more fun for me, and as a result I can play fantasy sports year-round with great enthusiasm. And surely someone else reading this will find it helpful too, because fantasy football has taken the U.S. by storm over the last 15 years and it continues to grow.
So let's talk about how to change fantasy baseball to make it better.
1) Simplify the Default Roster Format to IF, OF, SP, RP
Similar to football positions: QB, RB, WR, TE (and K and DEF) What difference does it make if a guy plays 1B or SS? For the purpose of your fantasy points, it doesn't matter at all. Batting is batting, pitching is pitching. AVG, R, RBI, HR, SB are universal stat categories for hitters so let's simplify the selection criteria for filling a roster.
Doing so will ensure the best players are in starting lineups, and will balance the waiver wire tremendously. There are 5 infield positions to 3 outfield positions, so that's an easy way to setup your batting roster: 3-OF, 5-IF, 1-UTIL
2) No points for Wins, Saves
I understand that pitchers need a boost to make them comparable in value to hitters, but Wins are a team effort and never the result of an individual achievement. Yes, no-hitters and perfect games are milestone gems for a player, but the stat sheet will credit an elite performance accordingly without dropping a 5- or even 10-point bonus for securing the W. All those innings pitched, strikeouts, and low ERA/WHIP will guarantee a great reward for that pitcher.
If you want to make pitching stronger, boost a stat that's meaningful for SP and RP alike, such as K's or IP. Or, even better, take a token away from the hitters such as making strikeouts -2 instead of -1 or decreasing the value of a Walk from +1 to +0.5.
Likewise, Saves are a product of game situation. That sort of randomness has no place in fantasy, and it's kind of the same reason Kickers are so controversial in fantasy football, because it's totally unpredictable when a guy will kick 5 FGs and when he'll attempt zero.
Let pitchers acquire points for the stats that are totally in their control and deal with the side effects.
3) Choose 7 Starts Per Week
This is a new concept that I've never seen before, but it complements the reduced points for pitchers (without Wins/Saves) quite nicely.
How things work now: your league is either a daily format or a weekly format and when the lineup locks you're stuck with your lineup for the duration of that timeframe.
That's a sufficient, though unimaginative way to do things. How fantasy baseball would be more fun is to set your weekly lineup for hitters and relief pitchers, but for starting pitchers you choose the matchups you want to play for that week. So you might have a guy pitching twice in the week, but you could choose to only use him in his first start but not the second. Your top 4 aces might all start once in the week, and so you lock those guys in. That leaves you with 2 other starts you need to find from your "bench" or the waiver wire.
Doing this prevents a feeding frenzy that's commonly adopted as regular practice in all matchup leagues, whereby teams hit the waiver wire every Monday morning grabbing at every probably starter with two starts the upcoming week. When you only have 5 or 7 starts to choose from, you can start your studs every time they're probable, but you don't get any advantage by simply having more SP's taking the mound in a given week and your priority becomes evaluating the best matchups.
- Adoption is hard. Fantasy sports -especially baseball - have been around for so long, folks strongly resist change.
That's all. There's lots of challenges within fantasy baseball already - points or categories, rotisserie or weekly or daily, yadda yadda yadda - and these debates are not solved by my new setup.
But if you can find a group of friends in your fantasy football league and they wanna give fantasy baseball a shot, this format might be a nice way to ease into it. Good luck!