(1) Leagues that use holds + saves, rather than just saves, must expand the number of required reliever roster spots.
Look, I understand the distaste for the save statistic. It’s arbitrary. It’s volatile. It makes some quality relievers useless, while valorizing some mediocre arms who just happen to pitch in the ninth inning of a crappy team. In other words, it makes people care that Jim Johnson exists. If, in hopes of correcting this, your league opts to reward saves and holds, I believe that the number of required relievers must increase to four or five.
Too many shutdown relievers exist these days. There are 38 qualified relievers with an ERA under 2.50 this year. There are a whopping 73 qualified relievers who are striking out a batter per inning or more. Relief pitchers across Major League Baseball have become so dominant that it takes very little skill to build a quality fantasy pitching staff when crediting holds and saves. Leagues must artificially create scarcity at the position through roster rules.
By requiring a larger amount of relief pitchers in this fantasy format, it would likely prevent owners from punting the category and building a quality relief staff through the waiver wire—which is absolutely what should be done as hold/save leagues are currently constructed. I know that teams try to punt saves in standard roto leagues, but that rarely works. Or, at best, you have to get very lucky for it to work.
I have no problem with hold + save leagues, as long as the roster breakdown is adequately addressed to account for the change.
(2) Leagues must decide whether they’re playing a game or trying to mirror “real value.”
I believe there’s something elegant about standard rotisserie formats in fantasy baseball. The fact that Billy Hamilton has legitimate value, and the fact that Rougned Odor is the sixth-ranked fantasy second baseman despite his .300 OBP is desirable to me. Standard rotisserie leagues recognize individual skill sets and makes all of them necessary when constructing a championship roster.
But not all fantasy players participate in leagues for that reason. For some, and I suppose I used to be this way, fantasy baseball gave me an opportunity to play General Manager. I wanted to play in fantasy leagues that best approximated real-life value. That meant choosing OBP over batting average. Choosing holds + saves over saves. Abolishing the wins category. Choosing total bases over home runs. I even played in a league once that tried to include defensive stats, such as UZR, but that was a trainwreck. At bottom, I wanted to take a crack at constructing the best possible baseball team that I could.
It’s important to recognize which is most important to you, which is more fun for you. Structure your league to reflect that choice.
(3) Dynasty leagues are superior to single-season re-draft leagues.
Like many members of the fantasy team—and many of our loyal readers—I adore the minors and tracking prospects. I read the prospect team coverage here at BP every day. I attend numerous Midwest League games each year (you’ll find me at Four Winds Field in South Bend whenever the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are in town). I arguably spend too much time on the back fields when I’m able to make it to spring training in March. I play in two serious dynasty leagues, including TDGX.
Dynasty leagues provide an outlet for my love for the minors. However, I think it does something vitally more important. As long as your dynasty league is populated with active owners, it keeps everyone engaged throughout the season and into the offseason. Or, more accurately, TINO (There Is No Offseason). I was wheeling and dealing more often in TDGX when I was languishing at the bottom of the standings than I have been in the top-half of the league. In my other dynasty league, we wanted to dissuade outright tanking, which tends to create a polarized league of superteams and rebuilders. So we have a rule that the last-place team must buy a shirsey (that the remaining owners in the league get to choose) and wear it all day on Opening Day of the upcoming season. Photos required.
[Note: We thought about other last-place shaming schemes, but wanted to keep it fun and cost-conscious.]
Full-season engagement is a massive problem that is difficult to solve. In my experience, dynasty leagues have been the best remedy for owner apathy. It takes a bit of time to find the right group of people, for sure, but it’s worth the trouble. In fact, I only participate in dynasty leagues these days. Single-season re-draft leagues don’t interest me anymore.
(4) All fantasy leagues should have a two-round supplemental draft during the All-Star break, in which every team has to dump two players off their roster.
Again, one of the key pain-points in fantasy baseball is a lack of engagement as the season progresses. Nothing pushes an apathetic owner back into the fray than a draft. Every fantasy baseball participant loves a draft! How about we utilize the boring-ass period after the All-Star Game and prior to the beginning of the second half to shake things up a little bit?
Each team would have to drop two players from their active (non-DL) roster. The league would then have a two-round, reverse-standing snake draft, in which competitive teams got to address holes in their roster, while non-competitive teams could take a shot at acquiring an impact player who was deemed surplus to requirements on a more competitive squad.
I recommend two rounds because I don’t believe this mid-season draft should shake up rosters too much and make the first-half irrelevant. I do, though, believe this would help us cope with one of the most boring periods of the sports schedule, as well as address the legitimate problem of owner ennui. It’s something that may need to be tweaked. It’s something I’ve only been thinking about since the All-Star break, but it could be a nice addition to traditional fantasy baseball.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now