Thursday, February 21, 2008

Building a Better League: Introduction

This time of year, there are approximately 675,000 blog posts, articles and charts available with projections as to players stats, mock drafts and rankings. None of these articles, however, discuss a more fundamental question: how good is the fantasy machine?

Baseball, unlike other fantasy sports, seems to lend itself to a slew of variations, derivations, and modifications. You have the stalwarts like Ron Shandler who insist that if you're not doing a 4x4 single-league auction keeper league, as the Founding Fathers proclaimed, then you're a heathen. There are some that run 10x10 leagues. There are others that do points leagues, head-to-head leagues, stock market leagues, etc. There are those that do an auction, those that do a snake draft, and those that do a weird non-snake draft. And then there are ancillary issues like the stats used, frequency of changes, free agency, minor leagues and foreign players. There are without exaggeration 15,000 different ways to build the fantasy wheel.

For the next few weeks, we're going to look at the difference facets of the actual construction of a fantasy league, and examine what's "best", and I use quotation marks for the full realization that what's best for a frat house is not what's best for a bunch of guys who went to med school together in 1993. Life changes, priorities change, and obligations arise, and while we all love fantasy baseball, it's not easy for everyone to put it at the top of their priority list once you're not in school.

Still, that doesn't mean that we have to live in the Stone Ages and use batting average as a category. Or turn a semi-skilled activity into essentially a dice game. Fantasy baseball should resemble a Texas hold'em table: anyone could theoretically luck themselves into winning, but it takes skill, planning, foresight and luck to make it out victorious.

And that's what we'll be looking into: how do we design a fantasy league that: (1) Is fun; (2) Is fair; and (3) Is reflective of the realities of baseball to the greatest extent possible. It's moronic that Juan Pierre is more valuable than Ian Kinsler in fantasy baseball. How do we fix this?

To be continued.

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