As Fantasy Baseball formats go, Rotisserie is old school.
None of those walks or doubles or other newfangled statistics that some guy at Topps probably invented to fill out the back of a baseball card. This is a man's game. Meat and potatoes! Mustaches and stirrup socks! Home runs and stolen bases! Woo!
To play a man's game, you'll need a man's help. I'm the closest you'll get right now. I would have said woo, too.
In the interest of helping, I've outlined some of the strategies I find most useful in those leagues where only a handful of stats matter, avoiding the ones already covered by my esteemed colleagues, Al Melchior and Nando Di Fino.
They're also men, you see.
1. Maintaining the delicate balance
Delicate? Balance? So much for Rotisserie being a man's game.
Because of the way the scoring works, with points awarded based on where your team finishes in each of 10 categories, a standard Rotisserie league is like 10 mini-competitions in one. The competition in batting average is separate from the competition in home runs is separate from the competition in ERA. Yet because they're all happening simultaneously, you can't divert your attention from any of them. You have to balance all 10, which can become a brain strain if you let it.
Fortunately, some of those stats work in tandem, allowing you to shortcut the process. Base stealers generally bat at the top of the lineup and, therefore, score more runs. Home run hitters generally bat in the middle of the lineup and, therefore, drive in more runs. Sure, you'll find some exceptions, but the correlation is strong enough that you can use it as a crutch on Draft Day. Likewise, you can whittle the pitching categories down to just strikeouts and WHIP. If a pitcher misses bats and keeps runners off base, he won't allow many runs, and if he doesn't allow many runs, he'll win his share of games.
Granted, luck has some say, but as long as you balance the stats a player can directly control -- meaning the home runs, stolen bases, strikeouts and WHIP -- the others should fall into place. Well, maybe not batting average or saves. But batting average you can cover just by making sure you don't load up on a bunch of B.J. Upton/Danny Espinosa types, and saves are a specialty stat that only a specific type of player can provide.
2. Saves are saves are saves
That specific type of player, of course, is a closer, and while teams will occasionally experiment with several different relievers in the role, they all eventually settle on one. So that's 30 players in all capable of making a worthwhile contribution in the saves. Safe to say you can get shut out if you're not careful.
But being careful is different from obsessing. Just because you want to lock up a certain number of saves on Draft Day doesn't mean you should pay for them. No doubt, some closers are better than others, but with the exception of Craig Kimbrel, are any so good that you'd be drafting them over a worthwhile starting pitcher if they weren't getting saves? In mixed leagues, the answer is no. And so, the only reason you draft them is for the saves.
If that's the case, then you shouldn't really care which closer you get. As long as you trust him to keep getting saves -- or to keep his job, in other words -- he'll do exactly what you need him to do.
So instead of focusing on quality with closers, focus on quantity. If you play in a 12-team mixed league, for example, simple arithmetic tells you not every team can have three closers. You want to be one of the ones that does. Greg Holland, Glen Perkins and Casey Janssen will almost certainly combine for more saves than Jonathan Papelbon and Joe Nathan.
3. Five outfielders are significantly more than three
Fantasy owners, particularly those most familiar with Head-to-Head play, consider the outfield a deep position. And relative to most of the infield positions, it is. But if you've conditioned yourself to think of it in terms of threes, you've probably gotten comfortable waiting on it. And in a league with five outfield spots to fill instead of three, that's a surefire way to a cast of nobodies.
In a 12-team league, it's the difference between Michael Morse being the last of the starting outfielders and Carlos Quentin being the last of the starting outfielders, according to my rankings. Jason Kubel, Coco Crisp, Michael Cuddyer and Brandon Moss are all likely starters in a five-outfielder league compared to Carlos Beltran, Nick Markakis, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford in a three-outfielder league. The contrast is startling.
Of course, the contrast applies to everyone in the league, so the solution isn't to overextend yourself and have all five outfield spots filled by the time the Markakis types start going off the board. Kubel, Crisp, Cuddyer and Moss are all perfectly suitable fifth outfielders. But just so none winds up as your first outfielder, you'll want to make sure you've filled a couple of those outfield spots by the end of, say, 10 rounds.
4. High-end pitching is for suckers
At a point in the draft when big-name hitters such as Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Holliday are still available, some of the best starting pitchers, such as Felix Hernandez, Madison Bumgarner and CC Sabathia, will start going off the board.
But you know the main thing separating them from the Kris Medlens, Jeff Samardzijas and Doug Fisters of the world? Innings. That's it. In terms of ERA, WHIP and strikeout rate, the two sides are comparable. And while innings are crucial for Head-to-Head owners, they don't have a direct impact in the Rotisserie standings.
True, more innings typically mean more wins and more strikeouts, but innings tend to increase with experience. So over time -- potentially as soon as this year -- the Medlens, Samardzijas and Fisters will close the gap on the Hernandezes, Bumgarners and Sabathias. And then what will separate them?
Now, you may point to Justin Verlander's and Clayton Kershaw's other-worldly numbers as justification for taking a pitcher early, but the fact of the matter is the value you get from an early round pitcher isn't the same as from an early round hitter, not when the middle-round alternatives offer so much promise.
Part of the reason they offer so much promise is because, relative to hitters, so few pitchers are needed in Rotisserie leagues. A standard Rotisserie lineup has 14 hitter slots compared to only nine pitcher slots (three of which, as we've already covered, will be occupied by closers), so even if you use the first seven rounds to fill out half your hitter slots, plenty of high-upside starting pitchers -- the kind with high strikeout rates and low WHIPs -- will still be available.
Of course, that logic only applies for mixed-league owners. If you wait too long for starting pitchers in AL- or NL-only leagues, the few that remain will likely do more harm than good to your ERA and WHIP.
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