Thursday, February 28, 2008

What are the different types of Fantasy Baseball?

Anyone reading this realizes that the Internet and real-time information has opened fantasy baseball to virtually everyone. No longer is it a game of baseball fanatics and experts. The internet has also led to the creation of thousands of different formats, rules and styles.

Therefore, for those who have never played fantasy baseball and as a refresher for those who have, I am going to take some time to review a few of the basics of fantasy baseball in order to take a look at the many different ways to play. Some you may never have thought of before…

The first basic principle of FBB is that players (called managers or GMs) build a team and rack up points based on the players' real-life performances during the season. Everything centers on a GM’s ability to spot the players who will have strong statistical seasons, which can earn praise and a few dollars depending on the league. There are two basic formats: free, and pay leagues for prizes.

Leagues form in many fashions. You either get a group of friends and make your own league (a buddy league) or join a contest where you complete against others over the web. The easiest way to get started is to join a free online league. There are several providers out there, although I prefer Yahoo! Each provider offers various league types, and a myriad of rule configurations.

The two most common formats are rotisserie (roto) and head-to-head (H2H). Roto is the grandfather of most fantasy sports games. In it’s most basic configuration, it revolves around 10 basic countable statistics (Home Runs, Runs, RBIs, Steals, Batting Average, Wins, Saves, Strikeouts, WHIP [Walks + Hits/innings pitched], and ERA), and would be compared in teams drafted by would be “owners.” Points are awarded based on the number of “owners” playing and how their team ranked in that category. Thus, in a 10 team league whoever leads in a category gets 10 points, second best gets 9, third gets 8, and so on. This gives players a total score based upon the 10 categories and the number of players involved. In a theoretical 10 player league the maximum points could be 100 (10x10=80) and the minimum would be 10 (1x10=10). The game has a great pennant race type feel to it, where each days games can effect ones score in each category, and change the next days standings. The champion is whoever finishes at the top after the normal season of baseball.

The second league format for fantasy baseball is called Head to head (H2H). In a head to head league, each manager is matched up against another manager for a period of time (usually a week). This means that each teams’ statistics are matched against the oponent’s statistics for that period of time. For each category a team wins they are credited with a win, and for each statistic one loses they are credited with a loss. A tie is also possible. Scoring is registered in games won and lost, just like in MLB. Using this system a team develops a record. Standings are just like those found in any newspaper. In the most common variation of H2H, whoever is at the top at the end of the season wins the league. Another popular H2H variation depends on a 2 to 3 week playoff period involving the top teams in the league.

For either format, there are many variations. The standard category structure is often called a 5x5 (five offensive, and five defensive). But any category can be used. Some leagues play with as many as 30 categories, while others don’t use traditional categories at all. Some leagues only use positive categories (like home runs, steals, saves) which add points, some use negative categories (like errors, hit by pitches, and unearned runs)and subtract points.

Next time, we will look at the different draft types.

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