Fantasy alert! If you aren't joining the free fantasy league for BB readers, this thread will be a waste of your time. Registration should begin shortly on Yahoo, and the league is a definite "go", so I’d like to start the rules discussion here. The first order of business is to declare in. Even if you have previously indicated interest by e-mail or in a comment on another thread, please send your name, e-mail address, location and proposed team name to me again. If you don't have a Yahoo ID yet, don't worry. That's also free, easy to set up, and will let you play in as many as three other leagues.
Next, let's discuss the scope of the project. It shouldn't be too complicated, as several relative fantasy beginners would like to play, and if I'm the Commish there are time constraints. We can vote on bells and whistles later, and the league could evolve in the future, but here are my proposals, with a few options for you to consider.
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Moderate
The playing rules will be easy to understand, but this is an important decision. The number of teams in our league, multiplied by the number of players on each roster, compared to the available MLB pool, determines how much of a baseball expert you need to be. For example, 16 teams with 25-man rosters is just 400 active players, so you'd need to be familiar with starting lineups, rotations and closers. By contrast, I’m in a league with Craig and Robert (over my head, in other words) where 24 teams can sign up to 50 players, so it's essential to know benches well and have a pretty good eye on AAA to be competitive. (The TRHL draft takes a month or more; the BB league's will be two hours, max.)
It looks like we have enough interest for 20 teams, and I suggest 25 active players, a 3-man bench and two DL spots, for a total of up to 30 on each roster. That’s 600 of the 750 big-leaguers “in play”, and leaves fringe players on on the waiver wire. Comments?
FORMAT: Rotisserie (or HtH)
If you've never played Head-to-Head, it's better than you might think, especially in a “fun” league. It's still based on Roto categories (to be determined later) but you face just one other team each week, not the entire league for the whole season. Because there’s a “playoffs” elimination bracket in September, HtH lets a team that finished anywhere in the top six during the "regular" season win the championship with a hot finish; Roto can be all over by the All-Star break if one team is clearly superior.
For beginners, a bit more explanation: Roto points are determined by your ranking in each category. In a 20-team league, the team with the most HR gets 20 points; the team with the fewest just 1. The league standings reflect the total Roto points, and you can gain in any category by making trades, picking up free agents or having a hot streak. In HtH, it's more like a W-L record; if your team beats mine in 6 of 10 categories, with one category tied, you're 6-3-1 that week. Either way is fine with me.
DRAFT: Live (but you don't have to be there)
Somewhere between a six week Internet-auction bidding war over Austin Kearns and a completely random draw for rosters, there's a happy medium. Yahoo has an almost ideal solution. We pick a date and time -- how's Saturday, March 22 at 1:00 pm EST? -- and let their server run the whole thing.
Once you have registered (first with me by e-mail, to get the league password, then on Yahoo) you can spend as much time as you like on "pre-ranking" players for the draft. Even if you plan to be online during the draft, this is advised. It will be invaluable if you have a PC crash, if your Internet connection hiccups, or if you get an important phone call.
Yahoo provides a list of all eligible players. You can easily move guys to your "no way" excluded list or your "priority" preferred list. You don't have to do it all at once; the changes can be saved, and lists can be modified right up until the draft. Then, if you aren't online or get interrupted, you'll automatically get the highest-rated available player on your preferred list. In the later rounds, if all your pre-selected guys are taken, it will give you the highest-rated available player according to the default Yahoo rankings, which aren't bad, skipping anyone you've excluded. Auto-pilot doesn't get distracted during the draft by a run on closers or catchers, and has made some inspired selections for me in the past.
KEEPERS: Yes (but limited)
When a league has features like a salary cap, or trading of draft picks, it becomes an administrative headache for someone and demands more time from each owner. We don't want that, but can implement a simple keeper rule, to encourage long-term participation, and still enjoy the simplicity of Yahoo drafting. As long as the number of keepers is fixed (say, 5) and not optional ("up to 5") they can be placed at the top of the pre-draft rankings in next year's draft. The first five rounds for everybody would simply "re-draft" your keepers, then free agents could be selected starting in the sixth round. Please submit your two-part vote on this one: Yes/No, and if Yes, how many? I've suggested five, but would be OK with four, six, or whatever we decide.
CATEGORIES: Wide open
I hope we all agree that the BB league should have an equal number of pitching and hitting categories. It's kind of traditional, and it's simpler. For Roto beginners, the 4x4 "classic" style is AVG, SB, HR, RBI and W, SV, ERA, WHIP; the very popular 5x5 style adds hitter runs and pitcher strikeouts. (WHIP is walks+hits per inning pitched; it's not Kelvim Escobar's best stat.)
Yahoo allows so much customization, we could get paralyzed by choice. In previous discussions, we've mentioned OBP as a logical additional category. I've also suggested K/BB ratio for pitchers. SLG or TB (slugging average or total bases) would reward non-singles hitters, and H (holds) would make middle relievers important, instead of just closers. I prefer SB-CS ("net" steals) to SB; makes a smart baserunner like Hinske a bit more valuable. Likewise, we could replace W (wins) with W-L or add a category for fewest losses. Your suggestions are encouraged.
Eventually, we'll get these category decisions down to yes/no voting proposals; right now we're at the nomination stage. Do we want 6x6? 10x10? Other possibilities are G (games played for hitters) and IP (innings pitched), E (errors) or F% (fielding percentage) for position players -- it's something we'll have to narrow down later, but let the feedback begin, either with comments here or by e-mail.
LINEUP: More fine-tuning
If we agree on 25 active players, what will the hitter/pitcher split and position eligibility be? I'll suggest 13 position players and 12 pitchers. One each of the eight defensive positions, a second C, a second MI (middle infielder) and CI (corner infielder), a fourth OF and a guy we can call DH or Utility. Five SP, five RP, and two flexible P spots seems reasonable. What does everyone else think?
We're not trying to duplicate being the owner, GM and manager of a MLB team as closely as possible, just enjoy ourselves and talk a little trash from time to time. Bragging rights will have to suffice as the prize, unless we get a donation from somewhere; maybe the Jays will toss in some marked-down souvenirs with the "old" logo. Most of the other BB authors are not playing; they have commitments to other leagues, jobs, etc. -- the majority of interest has come from readers, including lurkers and regular posters. There are over a dozen people standing by, so recruiting a few owners to fill the league shouldn't be difficult. Unless another Commissioner volunteers soon, it's me. Please let me know if you are willing to serve on a rules committee, and/or a trade veto committee, and even if you comment in this thread, be sure to send a "confirmation" e-mail to reserve your BB franchise. Thanks in advance.