Fair warning: this article is motivated entirely by self-pity. Lucky for you, I’ve decided to keep the crying to a minimum and try to provide as much useful perspective as possible. In the FSIC NL-only expert league that I’m partnered with Michael Street for this year, our team has taken quite the beating from the ol’ injury stick. At present, our roster contains seven players on the disabled list: Jayson Werth, Pablo Sandoval, Chipper Jones, Geovany Soto, Ted Lilly, Marco Estrada, and Jorge de la Rosa. The problem? The league calls for zero DL-specific spots and just five bench spots. One… two… Put your fingers down, you counted right the first time. Yes, we’re presently forced to play two injured players in active roster spots.
This begs the question of how to best structure the rosters in a fantasy league. Should a league have spots reserved for players on the DL and, if so, how many? There’s no standard in the fantasy community and not nearly as much agreement even over the principle of DL spots as you might expect. The default in Yahoo! leagues is two DL spots. LABR and Tout Wars allow unlimited DL spots. Others, like the FSIC, don’t call for any.
I am (and have been even before this FSIC business) squarely on the side of the fence in favor of unlimited DL spots. Before the 2011 season, there was a massive debate amongst the participants of the CardRunners Experts League (rebranded the Draft Day Experts League this year) over DL rules. Ultimately, we landed on unlimited spots, but there were a quite a few who were opposed to it.
It’s my contention that injuries to the vast majority of players (the Rich Hardens and Coco Crisps of the world excluded) are unpredictable given the tools we have at hand. We’ve advanced to the point where we can make some educated guesses, but the margin of error is still very large—and this is for fantasy owners who actually attempt to predict injuries at all. Most owners—casual players and experts alike—make no attempt at all to forecast injuries. As such, why should we penalize the unlucky ones who happened to draft both Jacoby Ellsbury and Evan Longoria? And really, I should say penalize further. After all, they’re already being penalized with the bad luck of losing their players; why should they also lose a roster spot?
The primary argument I’ve heard from those against specified DL spots is that, by not having them, it forces owners to make “tough decisions” when a player gets injured. To this, I reiterate my previous statement: why should an owner who’s already had the misfortune of injury strewn upon him be forced to make a “tough decision” when the lucky owner with all healthy players gets off untarnished? Additionally, it doesn’t always create “tough decisions.” It took half a second for Michael and me to decide we weren’t going to drop Kung Fu Panda in FSIC. Easy decision. Correct decision. But it still sucks.
The one interesting (and potentially negative, depending on your point-of-view) side effect of DL spots, though, is that it severely diminishes the depth of the free agent pool. In deep leagues, it can even drain it entirely at times. In the CBS AL-only Experts League, for instance, we use seven bench spots and unlimited DL spots. Because owners aren’t being forced to make “tough decisions” with their injured players, because they get to keep them no matter what (I have LaTroy Hawkins on my DL at present… yeah), each time a player is placed on the DL, it allows an owner to dip into the free agent pool for a replacement. Right now, the only available players with more than 10 at-bats over the past seven days are Omar Vizquel, Juan Diaz, and Luke Carlin. And this is the most stocked it’s been all season! (Full disclosure, I almost didn’t include this tidbit because of how stocked the FA pool is. “OMG, Omar Vizquel is available?! My point sucks with a player that good available!!1”)
I’m content to play with an empty player pool if it means I don’t receive a double penalty for my injured guys. After all, in FSIC, there are some quality players available (Mike Minor, Eric Stults, Paul Maholm, Elian Herrera, Jerry Hairston, and Rod Barajas, among others), but what good does that do me if I have no room for them? I’ll trust my player evaluation and FAAB skills to find replacements in a shallow pool (and line them up in advance) any day.
Where do you stand? How many DL spots does your league have, and is it enough?