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Introduction to Fantasy Baseball


Registered Member
This is primarily for Ilus, since she wants to play in a league with us this year, but there may be something in here for anyone who plays or might play fantasy baseball. It's a bit long, and it probably seems a bit scattered at times because I'm a longtime baseball fan trying to put myself in the shoes of someone who doesn't know anything about baseball.

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As Babe_Ruth mentioned American League (AL) teams have one different rule than National League (NL) teams. AL teams have one extra batter, who's called the Designated Hitter (DH). He doesn't play defense at all, and bats instead of the pitcher. Some players only play DH, so they won't qualify for any defensive positions in our league – they'll only qualify for UTIL (which is basically a DH).

In Fantasy Baseball, each participant selects players from any of the teams, and creates their own team out of those players.

Not all positions are equal. Picking players that qualify at more than one position gives you more options when choosing your lineup.

1st Base (1B) – There are a lot of great hitters here. You can get the 6th best 1st baseman and still have a great hitter, but because they're so good, they often get picked early. Also, because they tend to be better hitters, teams will often pick an extra 1st baseman to play UTIL for them.

2nd Base – In real baseball, defense is more important at this position than at first base, so it tends to have less good hitters. Since our Fantasy Baseball game doesn't care about defense, all that means is that there are less hitters for you to select.

Shortstop (SS) – One of the most important positions defensively, which means there aren't a lot of good hitters there. Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki are amazing hitters. Jose Reyes is pretty good. The rest are a lot worse.

3rd Base – There's some debate about how many good hitters are at this position (note – Kevin Youkilis should qualify here just a few days into the season)

Catcher – Not only is this position important defensively, catchers squat all the time, so there's a lot of wear and tear on their bodies (see pic below). There's no amazing hitters here. But that's okay – what's important is not if your player is a great hitter, but if he's great compared to your other options at the same position. If catcher A gives you 9 more home runs than catcher B, and first baseman A gives you 4 more home runs than first baseman B, it's better to have catcher A and first baseman B even if first baseman A is significantly better than catcher A. It's all about opportunity cost.

Outfield – There are approximately three times as many outfielders as there are other fielders, but we have to select three times as many of them for our teams. Real baseball divides outfielders into Left Fielders, Right Fielders, and Center Fielders. To keep things simpler, we just use 3 Outfielders (so you can have 3 Left Fielders and no Center Fielders, for example). Since every team needs 3 Outfielders, it's slightly harder to estimate how many good players are left – it might seem like there's a lot, but then suddenly a bunch of them get taken because teams still need more of them.

Utility – This is kind of like a designated hitter. Any batter can play here, so pick someone who's good at hitting regardless of position. Of course, if you pick a player who qualifies at a position, he can cover for you if your other guy has a day off or gets injured.

Starting Pitcher – There are a lot of starting pitchers, but you need more than one of them on your team. Pitchers are a little riskier than batters – trying to throw a baseball 95 miles per hours is pretty tough on an arm. All pitchers contribute to different

Relief Pitcher – Relief pitchers are kind of a special case – they can give you Saves, and usually you won't get any saves from anyone else on your team. They can also contribute

Pitcher – Most fantasy leagues have a slot for pitchers where you can stick a starter or a reliever, it's your choice, and you can change your mind later if you want.

Bench – These are backup players that you pick to cover for you if one of your other batters or pitchers gets hurt or has a day off.

The Categories – There are ten categories in which the players you choose will earn points for your team. There are 5 hitting categories and 5 pitching categories.

Batting Average (BA) – Batting average is the number of hits out of the total number of at bats. An okay batting average for this draft is probably around 0.270. A good batting average is 0.300 or higher. A batting average of 0.240 is pretty bad.

Home Runs (HR) – 10 home runs from one player is mediocre. 20 homers is good. 30 home runs is very good. 40+ is excellent.

Runs Batted In (RBI) – This stat is influenced by the player's real life teammates. Every run that scores because the player hit the ball* counts as an RBI. Which means that if your player's teammates that bat before he does are good at getting on base, he'll get more RBIs. A player who hits a lot of home runs will usually have a lot of RBIs.

* - Technically there are other ways to get an RBI, but they're rare

Runs (R) – Like RBI, this stat is affected by teammates. Only instead of how many times your player helps somebody else score, it's how many times your player scores.

Stolen Bases (SB) – Stolen bases are often available late in a draft. When the draft is almost over you can probably find somebody who gives you 30+ stolen bases but is bad at every other category.

Wins (W) – For some reason, a pitcher gets credit if his entire team wins. It's kinda dumb, but it's the way it works. The way a pitcher gets credit is if the winning run was scored while he was still pitching. Obviously, being on a better team helps your player get more wins. Sometimes bad pitchers get a lot of wins. For a starting pitcher, 15 wins is good, 20 is great. Felix Hernandez was an amazing pitcher last year, but only got 13 wins because his team was so bad. A relief pitcher will probably only get a couple wins for you.

WHIP – WHIP stands for Walks + Hits per Inning Pitched. 1.20 Whip is pretty good. 1.00 WHIP is great. 1.40 WHIP is bad.

Strikeouts (K) – With strikeouts, fantasy teams often care about how many strikeouts per 9 innings (k/9) a pitcher gives them. It's a better indicator of how good they are at getting strikeouts than just looking at their strikeout total. Our league will probably have a maximum number of innings that our pitchers can pitch, so you want to get more strikeouts for each inning.

Earned Run Average (ERA) – This is how many earned runs a pitcher up per 9 innings (a run doesn't count as an earned run if a fielder made an error, or if the runner got on base against another pitcher). An ERA close to 2.00 is excellent. An ERA close to 3.00 is very good. An ERA of about 3.5 is decent. An ERA of 4 is when it starts getting a little on the high side.

Saves (SV) – As I said, this stat is only for relief pitchers. A save isn't a very good measure of how good a relief pitcher is. 20 saves is good, 40 is great.

Other terms you might hear

Rotisserie – There are two styles of play, Rotisserie (or Roto) and Head to Head (H2H). We will be using Roto. That means that points will be assigned based on rankings. If we have 1 teams, the team that ends the season with the most HR will get 10 points in that category. The team with the 2nd most will get 9, etc. If two teams tie, they'll each get half of the total points (so instead of one team getting 10 points and the other getting 9, they'll both get 19/2 which is 9.5). Having 2 more HR than the next person is just as good as having 20 more.

On Base Percentage (OB/OBP) – This is how often a batter gets on base. A fast runner who gets on base a lot will have more chances to steal a base, and more chances to score runs.

wOBA – Weighted Onbase Average. This is basically a (rough) estimate of how good a player is overall at batting.

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) – A (rough) estimate of how good any player is overall. A batter can have a great WAR but be bad in our league if he's a great fielder.

BABIP – Batting Average on Balls in Play – This is used to guess if a batter got lucky or unlucky. If he hits the ball really well but it goes right at a fielder, then he gets out. That doesn't mean he's a bad hitter, just that he got unlucky. Compare the player's BABIP to what it's normally at. If he has a BABIP around .320-.340 all of his career, then suddenly has a BABIP of .250 then he probably will do better in the future (unless an injury caused his BABIP to go down, then it depends if he recovers fully). The BABIPs against a pitcher seem to almost never have anything to do with the pitcher's ability.

FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching. It's a rough measure of how well a pitcher did if you don't count how well the fielders on his team helped him. It's also sometimes referred to as DIP (defense independent pitching)

xFIP – Expected FIP. This is guess of what his future stats will be like

Regression – This usually is used when talking about a player who did better than usual, and is expected to regress to his normal (worse) level. It can be used to refer toa player who did worse than usual, who's stats will “regress to the norm”, which means they'll be better.

ADP – This stands for Average Draft Pick, and tells you the average of where other people are valuing this player. It's good for being a guideline, but don't be too surprised if a few players go noticeably higher or lower

DL – Designated List. This is for injured players. A real team will generally place an injured player either on the 15 day DL or the 60 day DL (and sometimes they'll transfer from the 15 day DL to the 60 day). If something caused the player to be hurt but they weren't sure how bad it is, they'll sometimes wait a little bit, then stick the player on the DL retroactively. When a player is stuck on the DL in real life, you can move him to the DL on your roster (unless your slots are full). This allows you to temporarily pick up another player while the hurt player recovers. Then, when the hurt player is better, you can take him off the DL, dropping either the player you picked up, or somebody else if you want.

Minor League – Each real team in Major League Baseball (MLB) has multiple minor league teams. The major league team selects young players they think will do well in the future, and send them to the minors to become better. Sometimes fantasy baseball teams will use a late pick to take a minor league player that they think will be called up soon.

Waiver Wire – Leagues allow you to select players who weren't drafted to be on your team. You have to drop a player to add them. It's quite common for a player to have a surprisingly good or surprisingly bad season, and top minor league players often get called up partway through the season.

FAAB – This stands for Free Agent Acquisition Budget. Our league (probably) won't use this.

Tier – Baseball players are ranked by “tiers” at each position, to give you an estimate of which players are approximately as good as each other.

Note: Players will often be referred to by their nicknames, and sometimes players have more than one nickname. Nicknames are often just shortened versions of their real name (Alex Rodriguez becomes A-Rod, Kevin Youkilis becomes Youk). Sometimes players are called their first or last name (Albert Pujols is Pujols, Prince Fielder is Prince or Fielder). Some players have nicknames that are completely different than their real name (Ryan Braun is nicknamed the Hebrew Hammer). And to make everything as confusing as possible, some players have multiple nicknames (Pablo Sandoval is called Pablo, or Sandoval, or Kung Fu Panda, or the Round Mound of Pound – and those are just the official ones. Sometimes fans make up their own).

Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball
Fantasy Sports on CBSSports.com - CBSSports.com
Fantasy Baseball - Free Fantasy Baseball Leagues, Rankings and more -- ESPN
Baseball Statistics and Analysis | FanGraphs Baseball
FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball

Some articles are good, some are bad. There are tons of good free ones, so I wouldn't pay for any of them. Yahoo is the site we will be using to run the league. Fangraphs is probably the best site I've found, but it sometimes uses a LOT of math and technical terms.

I could go on and on about this, but my post is probably already too long. I could discuss strategies such as LIMA (or ZIMA), MRI, Modified Labadini, etc.), but I'll leave those alone for now.
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