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In past years our 12-team, mixed, 5×5, H2H fantasy league has for the most part followed the Yahoo! default roster setup. That is, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, OF, OF, Util and SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P, P with five bench spots. This year I am considering the addition of a couple more pitchers and a change in specifics along the lines of SP, SP, SP, SP, SP, RP, RP, RP, P. My intent is to more closely emulate a starting rotation and place more value on setup men and relievers in general. This would also even out the number of hitters and pitchers on each team at nine.

However, nearly every fantasy league setup seems to have fewer pitchers than hitters. Do you know whether there is a particular reason for this? I can see where a head-to-head format with these nine pitchers could allow one to line up even more two-starters and saves may become overvalued. That being said, since there are no innings or transaction limits in this format, setting up one’s roster to take advantage of it seems to be a part of the game. Do you think this change would create too many loopholes to exploit or does it seem reasonable?

I’m waffling on the importance of two-start pitchers in your proposed league versus the typical leagues. On the one hand, more starters on each team lessens the impact of high strikeout guys like Peavy or Burnett. So you can’t as easily rely on a few aces to get you through a week against a bunch of double-starters. On the other hand, more starter slots allows the random luck of having an ace get a double start to be reduced. So if you assume all players will take advantage of transactions and rotate in free-agent pitchers, there actually may be less variance from week to week due to double starters. If this is the case, I’d advise a drafting strategy in which you don’t take a starter until you’re filled up on position players and relievers. Constantly rotating pitchers is a pretty good tactic for winning, despite how annoying it is.

What I’d suggest instead is putting a transactions cap on the league. In my mind, two free agent pickups per week is a good limit. With unlimited transactions, the winners are often the folks who are willing to stay up until 1 a.m. and get first crack at picking up whoever is starting against the Royals the next day. Limiting free agent pickups to two per week makes players stick with a pretty consistent lineup. And, worst case, if you end up with three catastrophic injuries during a week, your transaction allowance is reset the following week—while you may have one bad week, it won’t cripple you for the season.

—Michael Lerra

I’ve got a keeper question for you today. I’m in a 10-team roto league that allows five keepers per offseason. I have already traded Cliff Lee and Justin Duchscherer for Nick Markakis. I am left with a list of possible keepers that looks like this:

C Joe Mauer
1B Prince Fielder
1B Lance Berkman
2B Brian Roberts
OF Matt Holliday
OF Nick Markakis
SP Johan Santana
SP Cole Hamels

A lot of solid guys (I took second place in the league this year), but no top-flight first-rounder, which I am concerned about. I am 95 percent certain I am not keeping Hamels, and just keeping either Fielder or Berkman. I have already proposed different trades to the owners of Hanley Ramirez and David Wright, and both sound amenable to a Hamels/1B deal. The question I have is this: Which player would you rather have over the short term (this season) and the long term (keeper eligibility down the road), Berkman or Fielder? Berkman seems better in the short term, but is also eight years older than Fielder (although 32 isn’t that old, relatively).

John A.

I think you are right to be worried about not having a clear-cut first-rounder. Depending on the format of your league, what you expect other teams to be doing, and your expected draft position, I would contemplate not keeping anyone. However, assuming that keeping five players is optimal, I would keep both first basemen if you can start both in your lineup. If you just want one, though, I would go with Berkman. Indeed, he is likely to be better in the short term—I think he was actually a bit unlucky last year in terms of power. He also seems to be running a bit more than Fielder and will likely hit for a higher average. As for the long term, I would urge you not to think about it. With only 10 teams in your league, you’re likely to get a shot at another first baseman in the not-too-distant future if you wish.

—Jonathan Halket

I’d keep Berkman. Although he had a career year in fantasy, and he’s assured of some regression in 2009, I don’t trust Fielder’s career path.

In 2008, he walked less and struck out more than he did in 2007. Obviously he hit fewer homers, but equally troubling is that his doubles total went down as well. His fly ball rate dropped from around 46 percent to 40 percent in 2008, too; in their place are ground balls.

True, Fielder has age on his side against Berkman. But Berkman has nearly everything else in his favor.

For what it’s worth, I’d look to trade Holliday. I don’t like his fantasy value in Oakland at all, so perhaps you could get some kind of Holliday/Prince for A-Rod deal, figuring you’ll just drop whoever gets packaged with A-Rod anyway. Even Holliday/Berkman for A-Rod, I’d do in a heartbeat.

May I Have Your Autograph, Please?
The payoff of being polite.

—Michael Lerra

I am in an 11-team standard 5×5 league in which we keep five hitters and five pitchers each year. (Positions: C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, IF, OF, OF, OF, UTIL.) Our keepers—regardless of where they were drafted last year—count as our first 10 picks, so our snake draft essentially starts in round 11.

I am set on four hitter keepers: Jose Reyes, Grady Sizemore, Ryan Braun and Justin Morneau. My question concerns my fifth hitter: Nick Markakis or Joey Votto? At the end of last season, I assumed that Markakis would be the pick, but now I am not so sure. Markakis seems to have benefited from a good deal of luck last year: his .309 average was aided by a .351 BABIP, the highest of his career, and according to Hittracker (, five of his 20 homers were “lucky.” Meanwhile, with a full season under his belt, Votto is a prime breakout candidate, and like Markakis, will contribute in all five categories.

It seems to me that Votto should be able to top Markakis in homers and at least match him in average, RBI and steals. Am I crazy to be considering keeping Votto over Markakis?

Jeremy Kress

My immediate inclination would be to go for Markakis. BABIP is a concern, but less so for a guy with speed (and he kind of deserved it, ripping a bunch more line drives last year as well). I can see the appeal of Votto—he crushed the ball last year, and hittrackeronline is pretty happy with the distance of his homers. Actually, any big leaguer would be.

Still, we know for certain that Markakis is going to be in a prime spot in his lineup. And they’re both about the same age, so it’s not like Markakis is in the decline phase of his career. He got a lot more patient last year, and I think he’ll see a few more strikes this year because of that. I see them about even in batting average, Markakis having a huge advantage in runs due to his newfound walk rate, a disadvantage in homers, pretty even in RBI, and ahead slightly in steals.

I say keep Markakis, and try to trade for Votto if you find your homer numbers lacking, or if he gets off to a cold start and you think you can get him at a discount.

—Michael Lerra

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Thanks for the feedback on the first question Michael. I am still wondering why so many fantasy leagues roster more hitters than pitchers though. Most seem to use a roughly 3:2 ratio. If only for the sake of verisimilitude, I would think it would be more like 1:1. The scoring categories are 1:1 as well, so why not require more of the roster to account for those categories? There are any number of league variations though, so I suppose it all comes down to personal preference. I also failed to mention the league in question is a weekly league. This… Read more »

I think ratio that Yahoo! uses is about right.  An SP only pitches once or twice a week whereas position players that start will play 5-7 times a week.