Arguing for a potential rule chance in fantasy leagues can be an arduous process. The longer you’ve been playing in a league, the more difficult it becomes to move away from the status quo. When I first started getting into advanced stats, I began to realize the silliness of some traditional fantasy stat categories. Why were we still using pitcher wins and batting average as major components in our league, I asked myself. Wouldn’t it be better for our fantasy league to mirror real-life value? While this seemed like a no-brainer in my head, I knew it would be difficult to persuade my league to make some changes. From the FanGraphs After Dark chats, I also know that many of you are curious about moving to leagues that use more advanced stats. Here are a few suggestions on how to move away from a traditional fantasy set up.
If you’re starting a new league with people who love advanced stats, I would highly recommend testing out an ottoneu FanGraphs Points league. You can check out their scoring system here, but the name really says it all. This type of league is going to gauge players based on their true impact, and not reward guys for wins or RBI.
But I also understand ottoneu is not for everyone, particularly those in existing leagues. For those of you looking to make changes to pre-existing rules, I would say to start slow. If you’re reading this site, there’s a good chance you are already playing in some leagues that count things like OBP or SLG as categories. If not, these are simple changes to make. All of those categories are used in slash lines, which are commonly cited on any baseball website. If you’re league-mates are really hesitant about adding two extra categories, you can always just try and go with OPS. You may not be able to convince the people in your league to dump batting average completely, but adding OBP and SLG will be an improvement.
I would also lobby to add a caught stealing or a net stolen bases category in your league. Steals are generally overrated in fantasy leagues, and this makes you pay when your player makes a terrible decision on the bases. It’s great that Andrew McCutchen has stolen 16 bases this year, but shouldn’t he be penalized for being caught 11 times? He’s a great fantasy player, but that’s one area he’s hurt the Pirates this season. It should be no different in your fantasy league.
You can also make some changes to pitching to offset wins. While it’s far from perfect, I’m in a league that also rewards guys for quality starts. The quality start stat is fairly arbitrary, but it rewards your pitcher for going deeper into a game, and giving his team a decent chance to win the game. It’s certainly an improvement over using just wins. You could also look into using pitcher walks as a category. This makes it slightly more risky to employ guys like Carlos Marmol or Francisco Liriano. It also prevents players from starting 20 different pitchers in a given week.
In order to combat that, one of my leagues has adopted a set number of pitching starts per week. Typically, a team gets as many starts as there are days in the week. So, in a typical week, you can have up to seven starts. This prohibits guys from starting a ridiculous amount of pitchers each week, but it also puts a little more emphasis on having strong pitchers. If you have a legitimate ace on your staff, his numbers are going to mean more each week when you can only start a certain number of pitchers.
For relievers, you can always add holds so that guys like Mike Adams are properly valued. I don’t play in many leagues that utilize holds, but it is a way to put more emphasis on relievers.
It’s also important to note that it’s probably a good idea to make sure you have the same number of hitting and pitching stats. If you’re going to add two hitting categories, make sure you balance it out with two pitching categories. That might lead to leagues where you have 7X7 or 8X8, but it makes sure teams have an equal balance of strong pitching and strong hitting in order to succeed.
Of course, you may never get rid of wins of average or RBI. Convincing casual fans to completely abandon these stats is nearly impossible. You’re better off just trying to add categories to your league that lesser the impact of those stats. It’s far from perfect, but it definitely adds more realism and more strategy to the game. Getting your league-mates to jump right into a linear weights league can be daunting, but by making minor tweaks to your league, there’s a chance that everybody wins.
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