CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

World Series time! Enjoy Premium-level access to most features through the end of the Series!

<< Previous Article
Player Profile: Tim Hu... (03/14)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Deciphe... (03/06)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Beyond ... (03/16)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Hard... (03/14)

March 14, 2007

Fantasy Focus

Where to Waste Your Precious Time

by Alex Carnevale

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

While the other big sports have quickly made their broadcasts fantasy friendly, baseball has been a little more gun-shy when it comes to catering to the fantasy player. Even geriatric CBS' NFL coverage has done a better job of nodding to fantasy than most regional broadcasts do for those who simply must know how Miguel Montero hit in this evening's game.

To their credit, the NBA and NFL have realized that it doesn't matter why someone's watching your product, as long as you keep giving them a reason--any reason--to do so. NBA TV and the NFL Network already feature fantasy programming, and if MLB is smart, they'll do the same when they launch their proposed cable venture. Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) will get a better grip on serving this fantasy crowd in the seasons to come. They'll have to: you don't need to look at market research to know that the folks who play fantasy are young and affluent, with disposable income.

Knowing what's at stake, the online competition for your fantasy dollar has also ramped up. Here's a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the big fantasy providers.

ESPN.com

image 1

What they offer: The Worldwide Leader keyed into the fantasy crowd long before Will Carroll's goatee debuted on The Fantasy Show. Live drafts started on March 5, and you can play for pride or prizes in a variety of formats.

Strengths: Unlike most services, ESPN offers an unlimited number of teams. If you're into practice drafting a lot, this helps. (Then again, in any given public league you join, you could be the only person to look at his team all season because of this policy.) Their draft application--near identical to the NFL version--is also among the best in the business, with audible alerts, a user-friendly interface, and ease of use. Live stats don't cost extra.

Weaknesses: The team interface hasn't been upgraded from the football iteration, which suffered from clunky lineup changes and a poor system for trades. Their range of league types won't blow your mind, either.

The Verdict: You may not necessarily want to house your longtime league here, but for a newbie, it's perfect.

Yahoo! Sports

image 1

What they offer: Although you may loathe to admit that you play fantasy golf, Yahoo! has it and virtually every other sport you can think of. Like ESPN, they feature paid (under the Pro designation) and free leagues. Unlike ESPN, they limit the number of teams on one account to four.

Strengths: This year's version features a much-needed upgrade that is soon to become the industry standard: drag and drop lineup changes. For the casual player, the appeal is intuitive and visual. For the more intense fantasy guru, this could amount to hours of saved time. Their sortable statistics also distinguish them from the competition.

Weaknesses: The Yahoo! draft application hasn't changed much from last year. It isn't demanding from a graphical point of view, which helps those still clinging to their Altair 8800, but compared to what else is out there, it's somewhat bare-bones. The live stats service they provide, Stat Tracker, is mighty useful, but it also costs $10. Lastly, draft slots are going fast.

The Verdict: Yahoo's WXRL is around 2.4679, which…I joke. They're the industry standard until someone knocks them off their perch.

MLB.com

image 1

What they offer: Not much. They've focused their fantasy offerings into one competition titled the MLB Open, in which players compete in a head-to-head league featuring 12 teams.

Strengths: The MLB Open may have rather rigid parameters, but their Machiavellian instincts to take away the advantage of a deep pitching crop and replace it with team pitching staffs is different, if nothing else. Despite pain in your shoulder, we had some great times, didn't we Anibal? Homer Bailey, near, far, wherever you are. Hong-Chih Kuo: it was real, mine petite southpaw.

Weaknesses: While their draft application is visually impressive, perhaps more so than any other, it's also a massive RAM-eating behemoth. Make sure you test it before draft time. It may be nitpicking to bag on player rankings, but said rankings influence draft patterns more than you'd think, and putting Jose Reyes and Ryan Howard behind Bobby Abreu doesn't just give me serious pause, I may have to see a doctor about heart palpitations. Their postseason also starts in July, and the whole thing wraps up by mid-August. Oh, and spelling isn't a strong point.

The Verdict: Only a madman would try to win a $10,000 grand prize or a $100 gift certificate. I am that madman.

Fox Sports

image 1

What they offer: A variety of leagues and settings, free live scoring. In a tough market, they appear willing to work to make their content more user-friendly.

Strengths: They do a good job updating player pages with fantasy info. Shorter drafts are a nice option for those without time for a 20+ round marathon. Making the selection of those not present for draft day instapicks is also a timesaver. A neat feature allows you to write your league's story on the homepage.

Weaknesses: Not the most intuitive interface, and inconsistent fantasy coverage. You won't need the latter with BP on your side, but the former, plus a weirdly conceived Trade Center, are enough to relegate them to the second tier.

The Verdict: With the improvements they've made, the entire package is worth keeping an eye on, and the trend towards free live stats should be cause for celebration.

The Sporting News

image 1

What they offer: They have a few different competitions, all of which cost money and use the concept of a salary cap. Hosting your own league is a minimum of $89, and it's not clear what they do that Yahoo doesn't, except $87,175 in prizes.

Strengths: Featuring the integration of a fantasy salary cap, it's a unique take on fantasy. It's not 100 percent clear to me how this works, but the NFL iteration had players able to buy or sell any player. If you can't find a paid league and want Powerball-type odds…you got 'em.

Weaknesses: Their early bird sale ends tonight at midnight (Wednesday, March 14). It's more like a contest format than any fantasy baseball you're probably used to.

The Verdict: The money hypothetically keeps people more interested. As contest offerings go, there are better risk/reward options.

I may never get the 5x5 Fantasy Rounders that I sometimes dream about, but come April, we'll all have enough on our plate.

In an interesting league, or have an experience with a service you would like to share? E-mail me through the link below.

Alex Carnevale is a contributor to Baseball Prospectus. You can reach Alex by clicking here. You can also find his Football Outsiders work here.

0 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Player Profile: Tim Hu... (03/14)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Deciphe... (03/06)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Beyond ... (03/16)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Hard... (03/14)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
The View from the Loge Level: Managing to Wi...
Fantasy Freestyle: Playoff Spotlight: Alcide...
Minor League Update: Games of Monday, Octobe...
Playoff Prospectus: World Series Preview: Gi...
Pebble Hunting: An Illustrated Guide to the ...
Baseball Therapy: The Truth About Butterflie...
Pitching Backward: How To Get A Hit Off Madi...

MORE FROM MARCH 14, 2007
Premium Article Future Shock: State of the Systems, AL East
Premium Article Hope and Faith: How the Baltimore Orioles Ca...
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Hard Choices for Houston
Player Profile: Tim Hudson
Premium Article Switching Leagues

MORE BY ALEX CARNEVALE
2007-03-26 - The Week in Quotes: March 19-26
2007-03-25 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Tell Me a Lie and Say That Yo...
2007-03-19 - The Week in Quotes: March 13-18, 2007
2007-03-14 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Where to Waste Your Precious ...
2007-03-12 - The Week in Quotes: March 5-12
2007-03-06 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Deciphering BABIP
2007-03-05 - The Week in Quotes: February 26-March 5
More...

MORE FANTASY FOCUS
2007-04-04 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: In-Season Job Battles
2007-03-25 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Tell Me a Lie and Say That Yo...
2007-03-16 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Beyond Top Ten Prospects
2007-03-14 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Where to Waste Your Precious ...
2007-03-06 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Deciphering BABIP
2007-02-23 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Pick a Closer, Any Closer
2007-02-19 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Draft Depth Soundings
More...