Welcome to the first Tout Table of the 2019 season. Each week, the Touts will discuss a question on some aspect of fantasy baseball. This week’s query:
If you’re starting a fantasy league, what format and scoring would you use?
Howard Bender (Fantasy Alarm, @RotobuzzGuy): 12-15 teams, auction with 5×5 rotisserie scoring — HR, RBI, Runs, SB, OBP for hitters; (W+QS), K, ERA, WHIP, (SV + 1/2 Holds) for pitchers — feel like wins plus QS doesn’t dilute the starting pitcher pool too much and doing saves plus half-holds gives value to the middle relievers but keeps actual closers at a slightly higher value than just middle relievers.
Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire, @JeffBoggis): If this is a new fantasy league with league managers that are new to fantasy baseball, I would keep the standard 5×5 categories: (R,HR,RBI,SB,AVG) for hitters and (W,K,SV,ERA,WHIP) for ptichers. As your league matures, put it up to a vote to tweak the categories. Most mature leagues use the hitting category of on base percentage (OBP) insteard of batting average (AVG). And on the pitching side, they use quality starts (QS) in place of wins (W). I would also start with a snake (serpentine) draft and put the league up for vote as it matures for an auction league format. As long as you enjoy the game and your league, any format should be tried so that you know what you like and dislike.
Anthony Perri (Fantistics, @Anthony_Perri): Like many are saying it really depends on the experience level of the participants. Fantasy Points if newbies, Rotisserie if experienced. Full rosters regardless. I see some online leagues without a middle infielder or corner, and only 3 OFers. Less positions, means more variance to luck factors. OBP over BA, however I can no longer recommend QS over Wins, as Quality Starts are now a dying breed. I do like Saves +1/2 holds as Howard “best dressed” Bender and Mr. Van Hook point out.
Perry Van Hook (Mastersball, @): To me this depends on whether you are starting a new league for experienced players or need to keep things basic for newer players. In either case I was players auctioned off to establish the prices. For ew players I would set up a 12 team, mixed, 5X5 league. But for experienced players I would want to replace BAvg with OBP and use W+QS instead of Wins (BUT hopefully on a stat service where the QS could be seven innings pitched with three or fewer runs). I would also change Saves to Sv+Holds (maybe 1/2 holds). And here I would use either 15 team mixed or 11 or 12 team AL or NL only
Larry Schechter (Winning Fantasy Baseball, @LarrySchechter): If I could only start one league, I’d make it a 15-team mixed league, snake draft, 5×5. I like the current standard 5×5 categories, with the possible exception of using OBP rather than AVG.
Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): I prefer the classic 5×5 mixed roto – but with 1 catcher and 2 utility hitters. Prefer auction vs draft, with weekly lineup changes and semi-weekly hitter changes (like NFBC does). I would allow a DL player to be replaced in the lineup, and a large number of DL slots. I’m for a slightly bigger bench – 8 or 9 bench slots. 12 to 14 teams is my ideal. In terms of changing it, I prefer not. Its a game like any other, and its our job to win it in today’s environment rather than figure out how to change it. If I were going to make tweaks, I would change OBP to BA, which is similar and counts walks, which matter in real life. The only pitching category change I might do is to change Wins to W+QS (Wins plus quality starts), rather than just QS alone – It keeps the old style wins, but gives credit to starters who last 6 innings. I do NOT believe in changing saves to holds or S+H – Holds are a rediculous category, and its a different game.
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): I’ve been threatening to do this for years, maybe this is finally the time. It’s called Fantasy Clones where two versions of the same player are available and you make two picks at each turn. So, if you have the first pick, you can select Mike Trout and Mookie Betts. The next team can start with Trout and Max Scherzer. The third team can choose Betts and Jose Ramirez. The fourth can take both shares of Ronald Acuna, etc. Rosters are essentially doubled. Since it’s already unique enough, it would likely be 15 team, standard 5×5, at least to start. I’m working with a commissioner service to set it up, with things like free agency still a little sticky.
Michael Rathburn (Rotowire, @FantasyRath): 20 team dynasty snake draft, 6×6 with OBP and K/9 to give RPs value. 20 prospects per team so that it goes 400 deep. 4 OFs instead of 5. 3 UTIL spots.
Tim McCullough (Baseball Prospectus, @TimsTenz): The argument that “new” stats should beget changes to the game as it was designed doesn’t hold water for me. It’s really the changes to the game of baseball itself that should drive changes to fantasy baseball. For instance, Quality Starts are becoming so rare these days that it really isn’t wise to add it to the fantasy game. The way pitchers are being used is only going to continue to evolve, perhaps in ways we can’t even foresee. In one league that I’ve been in for more than 20 years, we added Holds about five years ago because of the increased use of middle relievers back then. I think now the only big change I’d consider would be to place separate innings limits on relief pitchers. To do this, perhaps we could add another player category for Closer (along with RP and SP) and place separate innings limits on each that way. On the hitter side, we added OPS to balance pitcher and hitter categories. I think I’d also consider more Util spots and one less outfielder as suggested by Michael Rathburn. I’d love to add counting stats but most of the “new” stats are ratio stats. I think we currently have enough of them.
Grey Albright (RazzBall, @razzball): If I were starting a fantasy league today, I’d poll the other people in the league to what format they prefer, then the least popular answer is the one I’d choose. When people started getting upset I chose the least popular selection, I’d already be winning. “I’m renting space in your head and you can’t do anything about it,” I’d mumble to my computer screen at these schmohawks arguing with me about me choosing the least favorite format. Finally, I’d say, “You know what, we should just let the people decide who our commissioner is,” and put it to a vote. Then I’d hire Cambridge Analytica to politick on my friends’ Facebook timelines to ensure I stayed on as commissioner. Or I’d just choose 5×5 format, that’s also my favorite.
Michael Stein (Fantasy Judgment, @FantasyJudgment): This depends on the experience level of the league members. For people just getting into fantasy baseball, I would create a head-to-head points league with a wide variety of scoring statistics and fun bonuses. For more veteran players, either a 5×5 or 6×6 Rotisserie league is ideal with more updated scoring categories such as quality starts, on base percentage, and/or OPS. The evaluation of players from a fantasy perspective has evolved significantly over the past few years so it is important to designate the format of a league in accordance with the skill level and sophistication of the league members. Regardless of the format, I would limit starting lineups to one catcher only. The requirement to play two catchers is outdated and ridiculous. I would also include two utility spots in a starting lineup.
Brad Johnson (Patreon/BaseballATeam, @BaseballATeam): Like others are saying, those with minimal experience should stick to 5×5 roto or H2H. Not only are these easier formats to play, but virtually all online advice is geared towards them. The H2H element can help to keep things interesting, especially for those used to playing fantasy football. For experienced owners, I really like to design experimental leagues with unusual settings. Deep 20- to 30-team dynasties are loads of fun too.
Dan Strafford (FNTSY Radio, @DanStrafford): If I’m starting a new league today, I would make it a 15-team, single catcher auction draft league. It would be a h2h points league with weekly all play. You incorporate more aspects of the game with points leagues. The h2h all play allows for the fun of h2h but removes a good deal of the randomness of points leagues. If I wanted to have some real fun, I’d make the auction and FAAB buys real dollars. This would allow owners to shed salary during season and recoup some of their buy-in or other teams add salary with real world implications. And a h/t to Nando for mentioning this, season ends on August 31st. September call ups ruin fantasy baseball
Gene McCaffrey (The Athletic, @WiseGuyGene): 15-team mixed league draft with 5×4 scoring. Five hitting with OBP instead of BA, four pitching with no Saves and IP instead of Wins.
Andy Behrens (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @andybehrens): First of all, head-to-head is the only legitimate way to play if you care at all about mirroring real sports. (And maybe you don’t care. If that’s the case, cool. Keep playing in leagues that can be won by simply having a strong roster at some point during the year.) I prefer a mixed 6X6 league with no fewer than 14 teams, using HR, RBI, R, SB, OBP, SLG, QS, K, BB, ERA, SV and HD. Minimum of 21 innings per week, so no one can rely exclusively on relievers. I also greatly favor weekly transaction formats, like Tout Wars. Leagues are generally less fun if they become race-to-the-wire transaction contests.
Rudy Gamble (Razzball, @RudyGamble): My favorite is 5×5, 15 team mixed, Roto. I like Snake and Auction – no real preference. I like replacing AVG with OBP or adding OBP as a 6th hitter category. If adding a 6th pitcher category, I prefer Holds which counterbalances Saves and makes bad closers less valuable. I dislike Points leagues because I enjoy balancing my roster across categories and Points leagues remove that element. I do not love H2H but, if designing a format, I would want it to be Roto vs Points and to eliminate playoffs in favor of crowning the champion on ‘regular season’ Wins.
Ron Shandler (RonShandler.com, @RonShandler): My choices: Two stats that measure playing time (PA, IP), two that measure power (HR, K-BB), two that measure events controlled by the manager (SB, Sv+Hld) and two ratios (BA, ERA). You can swap out PA and BA for AB and OBP to ensure offensive walks are counted. I like balance and 4×4 captures everything we need with little redundancy. Less is more..
Rick Wolf (Fantasy Alarm, @RickWolf1): Nothing is better than an in-person auction, but it is so hard to get 12 people together in a room and auction software is imperfect based on connections, etc. So, I would start a 12-team mixed league draft with standard 5×5 scoring system. Sounds vanilla, but if wheel went round, you should not try to make it square. It would be weekly transactions and use FAAB bidding with $0 bids. Pretty simple and not a very good dramatic read, but the game is perfect. Don’t mess with it!!
Lenny Melnick (LennyMelnickFantasySports, @LennyMelnick): Roto Style Traditional Catagories LIVE AUCTION!!!!
Rob Leibowitz (Rotoheaven, @rob_leibowitz): In an ideal world, AL or NL only keeper style, standard 5×5 live, in-person auction with a fairly deep minors (up to 8 players), perhaps one catcher only, 2 UTs. I would also consider a 15 or more team mixed-league with a fairly sizlable minor league draft still as a means of attracting and keeping owners. When owners depart mono leagues, the teams they inherit can make it tough to get new blood.
Joe Pisapia (Fantasy Black Book, @JoePisapia17): Fantasy should mirror the game. Is a HR as valuable as a SB? No. Is a three out save as valuable as 6+ innings of picthing? NO! Points leagues let you adjust and make EVERYTHING count. Baseball is played H2H, so too should fantasy baseball. 16 team points league and make fantasy fun and exciting!
Justin Mason (Friends with Fantasy Benefits, Fangraphs, Fantasy Alarm, @JustinMasonFWFB): I am partial to traditional 5×5, mono league auction keeper leagues, but the most important thing to me when starting a league is the people you chose to play with you. Fantasy is supposed to be fun and unless you’re playing in a high stakes league, the people you surround yourself is what makes it fun. Pick a format that appeals to the people playing with you and pick the people based on what makes a league fun for you (i.e. level of competition, trash talk, congeniatlity, family, etc.) The leagues I have had the most fun with have been the ones that had the most fun people in them regardless of format.
Dr. Roto (Scout Fantasy, @DrRoto): Give me an auction style format anyday. I know they take longer, but they are totally worth it. As for categories, I prefer the traditional 5 x 5. I think it would be a great way to start until your league decides to make any changes.
Michael Florio (NFL Network, @MichaelFFlorio): It will not be the popular pick here but my favorite format is still the old fashion weekly points league. I get most people like daily lineups, but it is hard to work in points unless you have a limit on pickups. Even then though it tends to become whoever streams the most starting pitcher wins. In weekly, you have to make tough lineup decisions like fantasy football. Points are fun cause they are most like fantasy football! Everything in the game matters, like walks, doubles, even hit by pitch! Plus you can customize the scoring! In Roto, you care about five categories. But my caveat is a standard points league is too shallow. I recommend adding at least one more OF and SP spot, plus a CI and MI, and potentially another utility spot.
Ray Flowers (Fantasy Guru Elite, @BaseballGuys): I used to say 5×5. I used to say $260 for an auction. I used to say 14 hitters and nine pitchers. But, I’ve been talking to folks, and it seems like the “normal the “traditional” really aren’t that anymore for so many people. So, my answer is – do what you want, what works for you, what makes you happy. If it was my league it would be daily lineup change with waivers once a week. I prefer the traditional 5×5 (I’d go OBP instead of AVG and Solds instead of saves – saves + holds). I’d like 14 hitters, nine pitchers and a bench that’s big. Probably 8-10 spots in reserve with five DL slots.
Seth Trachtman (Rotoworld, @sethroto): I still prefer traditional 5×5 auctions, and as deep a player pool as possible. With that in mind, I’m still partial to AL- and NL-only leagues. We’re a dying breed, but I still feel strongly that deeper leagues are the biggest test of player pool knowledge and eliminate some of the luck factors in more shallow leagues.
James Anderson (Rotowire, @RealJRAnderson): For redraft leagues, I like standard 5×5 roto mixed-league auctions with as many teams as possible. One catcher, two UTIL spots. I love dynasty leagues, and for that I like 20-team mixed standard 5×5 roto, keep 35 total players every year. Players who sign after the FYPD starts are not eligible to be picked up in season. No amateur players can be rostered. In dynasty startups there needs to be a fair way of determining draft order, and for that I like to use the Invisible Hand system that Bret Sayre popularized.
Tim McLeod (PattonandCo): 15 team 5×5 Mixed Draft subbing in OBP for BA and Saves+(Holds/2) for Saves. Reflect the increased role of the RP in our game without destroying the traditional ninth inning role.
Michael Beller (Sports Illustrated, @MBeller): I knew I was going to be in the minority on this, and that was confirmed by reading a handful of answers, but I don’t care. Sports are played head-to-head. One team against another, or, in the case of individual sports, one player against another. I agree wholeheartedly that rotisserie is the more equitable way to play, but we’re not here for fairness. We’re here for fun. To me, head-to-head is easily the most fun way to play any fantasy sport, baseball included. I’m interested in beating YOUR team, and then YOUR team, and then YOUR team, Behrens. I don’t want to slide up and down the standings day by day based on what 15 teams have done. I want to beat the team in front of me and then move on to the next one. From there, I can get on board with almost any parameters, but my ideal is 14 teams; auction; keeper with contract limits; 5×5 with runs, homers, RBI, OBP, steals, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, wins, and saves+holds; daily lineup changes; weekly moves limit.
Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy): 15 team 5×5 Roto Auction. However instead of .BA I’d use .OBP and instead of Wins I’d use Wins + QS and Saves would be Saves+Holds. If MLB is paying big money to 7th and 8th inning guys we need to incorporate them into the game.. Look like Tim M and I agree
Greg Ambrosius (NFBC, @GregAmbrosius): If I were to start a fantasy league 15 years ago it would be high-stakes with a six-figure grand prize, 15 teams, 5×5, 30 rounds, NO DL. Make it as tough as possible. I’m not sure it will catch on, but it sure seems like it could be a winner.
Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): I love Justin’s answer. Get a bunch of people together who like baseball and who like fantasy, then sit around together and hash out what the rules should be to suit most of them. As for my own druthers, I’ve long been thinking about a format that would more closely emulate what I think goes on in real front office as far as player acquisition. That would mean an auction keeper, but an auction that would allow owners to boost a bid by adding years and/or dollars. So a bid of “”one year, $7″” could be topped by “”two years, $7 per year”” or by “”one year, $8.”” If the bookkeeping weren’t overly heinous, you might even be able to bump a bid by AAV, so you could top with “”Two years, $15 total, and set it up as $6 and $9 or something. I haven’t got into those details. Any owner offering an extended-year deal would have to post a bond for his entry fees in all subsequent years of the contract he entered into, and would receive his prize money over however many years he was committed to in all his player contracts, and only if he stayed in the league those years. This would be to prevent a guy form frontloading, winning the pennant and the prize money, and hten bailing. I would also try to simulate some form of “”arbitration,”” maybe only allowing Farm callups (see below) to be signed for two years before going into an arb, with the amount being set by offers from all the other interested teams, and the owner allowed to match the best offer or let the player go to the higher offer. My big beef with keeper rules, including in MLB, is that too many bargain players end up locked onto a team for the first seven or eight years, distorting the market. I like a game where there’s lots of player assessment every year and competing valuation opinions. I’d also establish a Farm system, with maybe 10-12 slots each at Rookie, A , AA and AAA, with owners having to move their players when they move in real baseball to the appropriate level. Farm players would have preferred pricing as in “”real”” MLB, but would again be subject to market pricing as described above, a lot sooner than in “”real”” MLB. As for the scoring, I wonder if using WAR, or an average of two or three WAR systems, would put the focus on player skills rather than outcomes. Not sure about that.
Steve Gardner (USAToday Fantasy Sports, @SteveAGardner): Just thinking outside the box … if I could get enough people to join me, I’d like to try out a combination Roto/H2H league where you play Roto for the first 10 weeks of the regular season to determine a first-half winner. Then all standings are reset and you play another 10 weeks of Roto to determine a second-half winner. Then, with six weeks left in the season you have a two-week head-to-head final and then take the month of September off to watch the pennant races unfold without worrying about your players and what they’re doing. 5×5 traditional categories would be fine. Maybe sub in W+QS and SV+H. You get the best of both formats without it being skewed by the random noise of September.
Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): I like Todd’s Clones idea, too. Maybe more than two shares of each player! Also I should have said that the player-acquisition process would go on as a slow draft, over the entire off-season. Take the Xmas holiday off, but have real winter meetings in Vegas or someplace warm!
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): PD – the incarnation of the idea (this also dates how long I’ve been thinking about it) was in a fantasy football draft where Lawr and I had the first pick and there were four running backs all legit #1 overall picks (Peterson, Gurley, Johnson and either Elliot or Bell, I forget, circa 2016). I turned to Lawr and asked, “Why can’t we take a quarter share of each?” Needless to say, the lightbulb went off.
Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): 5×5; either 12 team single league or 15-20 mixed; OBP instead of AVG; K-W instead of K (helps enhance value of middle relievers). Yes, I’m not much into experimenting .
Nando Di Fino (The Athletic, @nandodifino): If I’m inviting people to come play something with me, it’d be NFBC Draft Champions or Bestball10s… or the Fantrax version I can’t remember the name of. They’re varying levels of deep, so I can adjust the game to the crowd, but I think it has all the elements that fix the ills of fantasy baseball — the draft is basically 90% of what you do (some formats still require lineup-setting through the year), there are no FA pickups or trades… you just kind of draft and then watch your baby go. Not a ton of heavy lifting, no teams can fall off or make bad trades… it’s a purer form, in many ways. It takes out the worst in your leaguemates and allows you to follow and root at a leisurely pace. Jake Ciely also invented a format called “”3-50″” which is my second choice. It ends the season on August 31, so we can watch pennant races, prep for fantasy football — all the fun stuff that we can’t get when we slog through September. If neither of these were meant as an answer, then 5×5 Roto, 15 teams, six reserve, UT has to be a hitter, avg all day over OBP
Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman, Fantasy Baseball Guide, @kroyte): 1. The best game is Rotisserie. AL or NL. I’d go with 4×4, with OPB rather than BA. 12 teams. Live auction. Dinner afterwards. Phone calls, not email, for trades. That’s the best game.
2. An aspirational game. Here is the bare bones outline. Dynasty. 5×5. OBP instead of BA. Here’s the setup. Each team starts with 10,000 units. The first year each team buys a major league franchise. They get the 40 man roster for that team. They bid against the other teams, with the total coming out of their 10,000 units. Teams can then trade with other teams or pickup on waivers all free agent players, from week to week, maintaining a 40-man roster. I think 10 years is a good life for the league. Then it resets. Each year you get a replenishment in units depending on where you finish in the standings. Replenishment comes to all teams. Winning pays to all places if there is a gambling aspect, too. Each spring there is an auction, using the units, to acquire free agents. If you run out of units you run out of cash for waivers and free agents. We could do this if we had 24 teams maybe, but 30 would be better, wouldn’t it?
3. Fielding categories. Incorporate these in some way as two categories (maybe making a 6×6 game: 1) Number of impossible plays made, as described by Inside Edge. 2) Percentage of routine plays made, as described by Inside Edge. These can be found on the player pages at Fangraphs, but are not readily available at stat services. They should be an option.
Ryan Hallam (Fighting Chance Fantasy, @FightingChance): I still love weekly H2H points. I prefer head to head over season long because I think it keeps more teams competitive for a longer period of time. You aren’t out of it if you hit a bad few weeks or have a couple of injuries. When it comes to roto leagues I do prefer OBP over BA, quality starts over wins, and I am coming around to holds and saves. If someone started a keeper league I think it is important to either make rules so the top 40 or so guys can’t be kept, or make rules to limit the number of years that someone can be kept. It would suck if someone got the first pick and was able to keep Mike Trout on his/her team for a decade. 0
Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman, Fantasy Baseball Guide, @kroyte): In the XFL we’ve had Trout since day one, that’s eight years and plenty of competitive teams but no winners yet. Dynasty rules should give you control over players for the long term, but not ensure dynasties unless teams do everything right. In our XFL case, we’ve had years of great hitting and no pitching, and years of great pitching where the hitting didn’t keep up, and years of good hitting and pitching (like last year), but we ran into a perfect team. Perry Van Hook’s. Looking forward to trying again this year.
Alex Chamberlain (Rotofraphs, @DolphHauldhagen): I’m a purist who thinks classic 5×5 is perfectly satisfactory. This is a game, after all, that, despite however much skill we try to infuse into it, is still very much one of luck and chance, good breaks and bad breaks. That said, if I had never heard of fantasy baseball before and had no preconceptions, and was asked to select five or six hitting and pitching categories, I have to be realistic and think I would try to make it pretty sabermetric: probably total bases, net SB, R, RBI, and wRC+ or wOBA; probably K%, BB%, a fielding-independent metric (FIP/xFIP/SIERA), innings pitched, and whatever the next great quality start metric is that’s better than quality start. But as it stands, I think the effort to inject skill into fantasy baseball by hand-selecting categories, even when acknowledging how incredibly out-of-date the original categories are, is starting to take the fun out of it. (Old man yells at clouds.)
Vlad Sedler (Fantasy Guru Elite, @rotogut): Call me old-fashioned, but standard 5×5 roto will always be my favorite format. So long as you’re active in the league, there is always a chance of catching up and competing if you properly attack your weaker categories. Leagues with OBP are great too and at some point, I’d love to be part of a league that combines holds and saves given the ever-changing landscape of RelieversWorld.
Glenn Colton (Fantasy Alarm, @GlennColton1): I am older than Vlad and old-fashioned too. I like the standard 5×5 roto. I prefer weekly moves to daily as daily is so work intensive it keeps out good players who just do not have the time. I also like having the ability to make zero dollar FAAB pickups. I am not a huge fan of keeper leagues (though I play in one) as every year, there are fights as to what “next year” trades are permissible and which ones are too unbalanced so as to effect the integrity of the league. I really do not like Holds or Blow Saves as a category but of course I don’t as I am a std 5×5 guy. All that said, Play whatever you think is fun and enjoy!
Scott Wilderman (OnRoto): One of the leagues we run plays roto (7×7 with some weird categories, but that’s besides the point) until mid August. Half the teams advance (it’s a 12 team league) to a series of week-long roto play, with the last place team eliminated each week until they’re down to 2 teams. The championship is 2 weeks of one-on-one roto. I think that would be a blast to try – though I would make the playoff rounds 2 weeks long and eliminate two teams in each round.
Mike Gianella (Baseball Prospectus, @MikeGianella): While I’d be tempted to make a few tweaks to the original game, I’d keep everything in traditional 5×5 except OBP. I do agree with many in this forum that Roto is out-of-date in terms of the “value” of the categories but in terms of gameplay it is difficult to tweak the pitching categories without making the game harder to follow. I like QS a little better than wins, but feel like you’re replacing one imperfect, flawed stat with another one and devaluing relievers in the process. I like the way points leagues more “accurately” value players, but in terms of game play I don’t find these leagues nearly as interesting. However, the biggest takeway for all of these answers is you should definitely do what you like. Roto isn’t for everyone and the same is true of points leagues.
Adam Ronis (Scout Fantasy, @AdamRonis): I have always said and preach to people to play whatever is fun for you. For me, I like a variety of different formats. I know many in the industry haven’t played in points leagues, but they are a lot of fun. It wouldn’t be my preferred league. I like the 5×5 roto format best with 15 teams, whether it’s a snake draft or auction with daily moves.
Craig Mish (SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, @CraigMish): I don’t have a preference but auctions are the most fun and challenging. Mono leagues are my favorite and challenge me the most. I also prefer leagues with a prize. Money works best.
Jon Hegglund (Baseball Prospectus, @JonHegglund): While I enjoy roto the most (my favorite annual league is 6×6, with OBP and SLG instead of average, and K/BB added to standard pitching categories), I think points leagues are the future, particularly if fantasy baseball is going to appeal to a wider audience. The difficulty with points leagues is that they are a more natural fit for head-to-head setups, which amplify luck and variance beyond the point of comfort for most serious players. Some hybrid format–with weekly matchups and an overall points total both counting–could be interesting. Another idea that’s been dismissed in the past is some kind of WAR-based league. Even though you’d lose the excitement of following discrete events–knowing that a home run boosted you in multiple categories or got you X number of points–you’d be able to incorporate all facets of the game–hitting, pitching, baserunning, defense–on a scale that used the same unit of measurement across the board. I look forward to playing roto every year, but I think it’s high time for some experimentation with new ideas and new formats.
Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): NL-only, 5×5 w/OBP, 15 keepers, 6 reserves, live auction, not snake-draft. Just personal preference, though–everybody can like what they like.
Charlie Wiegert (CDM Sports, @GFFantasySports): I’m a traditionalist, so a 5×5 mixed league with 23 keepers and 6 reserves. But I like using 1 catcher and 2 utlilities. And since I’m already in leagues like this, I’d like to try a league that would use saves+holds as a category intead of just saves. I also would prefer OBP.
Doug Anderson (Fantrax, @rotodaddy): I like the game with the depth of 10-12 team monoleagues, but I also like to include both leagues, so how about two leagues in one. Each owner gets an NL team and each owner gets an AL team. 5X5 with auctions on both sides. Crown a champion in each league and an overall winner combining points. Hell, just for fun throw in a mixed league and do it three ways.
Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): The only real musts for joining or starting a fantasy league are: in-person auction, rather than snake draft, roto, rather than H2H or points, and weekly transactions. The advantages of an auction are that you technically have an opportunity to roster any player you want. That’s definitely not true in a snake draft. You want Mike Trout? Pay the price in an auction. You’re stuck with the 12th pick in your snake draft? Now you can only dream of owning Trout. In my opinion, auctions also require more strategy, between who to nominate, whether to price enforce, or to jump the bid or play it safe. The rotisserie scoring format requires far less luck than H2H, and points leagues removes some strategic elements since you don’t care about balancing categories, just accumulating the most points. Last, I don’t have the time or desire to play in a league with daily transactions, as it’s easy to forget to set your lineup for a day, and you end up having benched a strong start, which makes it very frustrating.
Mike Sheets (ESPN, @MikeASheets): I prefer 15-team mixed or 10-12 team AL- and NL-only leagues. For a long time, I wanted to stick to traditional 5×5, but I now prefer OBP to AVG and quality starts to wins. That said, the amount of variety out there is a good thing, and I’m all for people trying new formats. While I’ll never give up on my traditional leagues, throwing in something like a HR-only league from time to time can be fun and keep things fresh.