This year, for the first time since I started playing fantasy in the mid-80’s, I took on an “experimental” second team in a head-to-head league. Having played nothing but classic rotisserie all these years, I was curious to see the differences in strategy and tactics in this new format. For the most part, it was a somewhat humbling experience as you’ll see. First, the two leagues …My old school classic rotisserie league is a 16-team, AL + NL, 25 active and 10 reserve players, keeper league with a common 5x5 category structure and weekly transactions only. Hitting consists of HR, R, RBI, SB and OBP while pitching is W, ERA, WHIP, K and SV. These owners are all experts mostly because of the years we’ve been together. By now, it’s very difficult to fool anyone in this league. Players tend to be drafted where they belong. Trades are almost always fairly balanced. Well-known prospects get scooped up quickly and the final standings typically depend on good skill, sound decisions and maybe some luck with injuries.
As mentioned, my experimental second league is head-to-head. It consists of 10 teams, again AL + NL, 17 active and 5 bench players, no keepers, daily transactions and a bewildering slate of 10x10 scoring categories. Hitting categories are R, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, K, AVG, and OBP. Pitching consists of IP, W, L, SHO, SV, BB, K, ERA, WHIP and K/BB.
My first mistake was, no surprise, the draft. This was my first “no keeper” league so I had to pay particular attention to staying away from the honey traps that a keeper league annually offers. In other words, drafting Bryce Harper in a keeper league and stashing him on your bench is a no-brainer. You do that in a “no keeper” league and you just wasted a critical pick. All players in a “no keeper” league have a shelf life of 26 weeks, period. I didn’t actually take Harper or even Stephen Strasburg for that matter but the siren calls were loud and clear. Lesson learned, focus on today.
Once the season got underway, my next educational opportunity came with managing daily transactions as opposed to weekly. I didn’t grasp the importance of the 5-player bench as quickly as I should have. In the old school league, the reserves are where we stash players who are disabled, demoted, suspended, bereaved and so on. Moves are transacted once a week so you have plenty of time to arrange your roster. However, in the new league, the bench players are active and you need to manage them on a daily basis. Starting pitching is a great example. Notice that IP is a scoring category in this league which means you need to maximize your starts. Drafting Justin Verlander was a smart move. Keeping Justin Verlander active every night was a dumb move. It took me a few turns through the rotation to realize Verlander gave me nothing on the days he wasn’t scheduled to pitch. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Bupkiss. Lesson learned, pitchers who don’t pitch, even if they’re Cy Young contenders, don’t belong in your lineup on their off nights. The same rule applies to hitters whose teams have a day off or to catchers who don’t catch certain pitchers. It was awfully nice to have Adrian Gonzalez playing 1B but, on the one or two nights a week when the Red Sox were off, he was useless.
Last lesson learned was the most interesting. In a rotisserie league, every event … every plate appearance, every inning, every run scored, every walk issued, every base stolen … stays on your stat sheet the entire year. If a pitcher has a disastrous short outing, say something like 1.2 IP, 10 R, 10 ER, 8 H, 4 BB, 7.20 WHIP, 54.00 ERA, that rotten egg is gonna stink up your kitchen sink all year long. In a head-to-head league, that same pitcher reverts back to all 0.00’s once the week flips. The past is the past. A new week is a fresh beginning. If he throws a 2-hit shutout the next week, all is forgotten. This really took a few cycles to get used to. Again, it’s the difference between long-term strategy versus short-term tactics. Lesson learned, let it go. Both the good stuff and the bad stuff. Once the week is over, they’re off the books. Don’t worry so much about the trends, focus on the present.
So how’d I end up this year? Out of 10 teams, I finished 5th which was good enough to qualify for the playoffs (top 6 are in and top 2 get byes). I pulled a mild upset over the #4 seed to make it to the semis but then got waxed by the #1 seed (and eventual champion). I did bounce back to take 3rd place in the consolation matchup. All in all, it was an interesting and fun experiment. I’m looking forward to next season and hopefully learning more. It’s a different beast, that’s for sure. Oh, and I won my old school league. First time ever. Life is good.