How to Play Fantasy Baseball
- Updated: December 15, 2011
The more I play fantasy baseball, the more I love the game of baseball itself. There is no better way to closely follow box scores, standings, player trends, hot streaks, cold slumps and the inevitable friendly competition which arises from trying to best your opponents then by participating in fantasy baseball. However, more and more I am approached by people interested in this mysterious game and all of its quirks and quarks. Since I love the game of baseball, I love to talk about the sport in all of its forms – both on the field and off. For the uninitiated, here are the basics of fantasy baseball:
There are several different forms of fantasy baseball. You can play rotisserie (or, “roto” as it is often called), head-to-head, points leagues or many other formats. However, the one consistent element in all formats is that a group of owners each draft a “team” made up of real-life baseball players. As those players accumulate statistics on the field (in real games) their fantasy owners accumulate these same stats in an effort to gain more overall stats then their fantasy opponents. For example, if the home run total of your entire fantasy team is better than the home run total of your opponent, you win (that category at least!). Regardless of the format, your ultimate goal is to accumulate better overall stats than your opponents.
Every fantasy baseball league is a little different but most hold an annual “draft” where the owners choose the real-life players that will make up their fantasy rosters. Some leagues are called “dynasty” or “keeper” leagues because owners may keep some (or all) of their players from season-to-season.
Much the same way that fantasy leagues have differing formats, there are also many different statistical categories that leagues will employ. A common stats scoring system is based upon 5 hitting categories (often Runs Scored, Home Runs, Batting Average, Runs Batted In & Stolen Bases) and 5 pitching categories (Wins, Saves, Strikeouts, Earned Run Average & WHIP), often referred to as “5×5” scoring. Regardless of the stats used in any particular league, the idea is the same: try to accumulate better stats than your opponents collect. In addition to your standard league scoring system, fantasy baseball side bets are incredibly popular as well.
There are as many tips, tricks and pieces of advice as there are fantasy baseball formats (in fact some websites are devoted to this!). However, there are some universal tidbits that are good to follow. Baseball players are notoriously inconsistent (more so than perhaps any other sports), but this holds especially true for pitchers. Therefore, it is a good idea to select hitters prior to pitchers in your draft to lessen the impact of inconsistent pitching statistics. A good rule of thumb is to select hitters with at least 4 of your top 5 draft picks. Pitchers may always be picked up off the waiver wire throughout the baseball season, whereas good hitters are much scarcer once the season has begun.
Fantasy Baseball Rule #1:
More important than your league’s format, draft structure, scoring categories or any tips you may give (or receive) is fantasy baseball rule #1: Have FUN.
If you are not a baseball fan, or just getting involved in enjoying the sport, fantasy baseball can help you dive right into the game in getting to know stats and the players. As a baseball fan, getting involved in fantasy baseball just might make you an even bigger baseball fan in the long run. I highly recommend fantasy baseball to everyone and remember, more important than anything else, have fun!