With the fantasy season drawing to a close, many league commissioners engage the participants in rules discussions before everyone’s attention turns elsewhere. As such, the Touts were asked:
When your commissioner opens the floor for rules changes, what are some of your proposals?
Derek Carty (RotoGrinders, @DerekCarty): If everyone in the league can be in the same room together for draft day, eliminate the snake draft and do an auction every time.
Brad Johnson (Patreon/BaseballATeam, @BaseballATeam): I guess I don’t have specific rules I champion anymore, but I’m happy to help design ideas to sandpaper over any rough edges. I find it more fun for every league to be distinct – even if that means some have exploitable loopholes we intentionally leave open. To Derek’s point, auction drafts are by far my favorite. I also enjoy the constraints of snake drafts. Snakes force a very different approach to roster design.
Matt Williams (TheGameDay.com, @MattWi77iams): I always lobby to change the draft to a salary cap format. Otherwise, I will continue my crusade to eliminate wins and saves (which should be removed from both MLB and fantasy), and replaced with alternate categories.
Fred Zinkie (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @FredZinkieMLB): Change the saves category to (SV+(0.5*HD)). Apparently this has become a crusade of mine. I would also be open to the wins category being changed to something like W+QS, with a cap of a maximum of one point per pitching appearance.
Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): I agree that saves are a poor category, but I don’t see fixing the issue by adding an even worse stat to the category. We could develop a “Quality Reliever Apperance” based on leverage, or if that’s too cumbersome, for a reliever whose [Outs earned-(runs+baserunners allowed)] was a positive value. I’d prefer if there was a bonuus for not letting bequeathed runners score, and/or a penalty for allowing them to score. But some of the smartest fantasy baseball minds are on this forum; surely we could come up with a workable reliever-valuing method. If not, the whole “let’s value non-closer relievers more” could be addressed by just better aligning fantasy rosters with ‘real baseball.’ MLB teams now have 13-13 H/P (50-50) splits, while we stick with a 14-9 (61-39) split that originated in 1984. Rostering just one-third of pitchers is what strips the fantasy value from real-world valuable non-closer RPs, by banishing htem into the replacement pool. Making the fantasy split 12-11 would encourage fantasy managers to consider more such RPs on their rosters to fill their available slots while trying to avoid the decimals carnage wrought by weak starters. And since more MLB teams are opting for a “spread the saves” model, 12-11 would also create more opportunities for fantasy managers to target saves (and wins) from non-closer relievers at draft and in-year, further enhancing their value. It would also mean more balance in free-agent pools, with more viable hitters to replace injured hitters.
Chris Blessing (Baseball HQ, @C_Blessing): No more wins. Let us rid ourselves of the win category. Let us move to either QS or IP. Let us never speak of wins in this league again! Also, I hate when the trade deadline corresponds with the MLB trade deadline. Aug 31st rocks.
Sara Sanchez (bleedcubbieblue.com, @BCB_Sara): I love the Tout 12 team mixed league alternate categories of OBP instead of AVG, Holds + Saves instead of Saves & Innings Pitched instead of Wins. I recognize that the Holds part of this in particular isn’t perfect, but I really think all of these categories better reflect player value. I also like that they make the elite relievers who aren’t closers valuable. If I was starting a league I’d propose those categories instead of the standard 5×5.
Grey Albright (RazzBall, @razzball): Penalize people who quit leagues in June. They don’t get a first round pick; they don’t get a full budget at an auction; they don’t get invited back. Choose your own punishment.
Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): If redraft league, I don’t mind what anyone wants to propose–just want to incorporate it into my strategy. If it is dynasty or keeper, I don’t like changes because my strategy to-date typically has not accounted for changes and I don’t like helping others who have a flawed strategy get a quicker re-set through a rule change.
Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): I have a few proposals. 1) I agree with the direction of Fred Z.’s crusade. If fantasy baseball started forming today … no one in their right mind would pick saves as a scoring category. They wouldn’t. Saves are ONLY still a category because we have been playing with it for a while … but it doesn’t make sense any longer. Using SV + some multiplier of holds (we should figure out what this should be …) is a great idea. Wins + some factor times QS is another … and I’ll add in a third one of steals + triples. Steals isn’t the same steals stat as it was back when roto started either. 2) While we are on the category train … I do want to point out from my first point … that there indeed is a value in keeping categories static from year to year. You learn trends, you build strategy, etc. However – the flip side is that it gets static and boring after a while. Part of the game of fantasy is figuring out the strategy of how to win each and every year. My second proposal is to turn the standard 5×5 roto (however we alter it) into a 6×6 league … where the first 5×5 categories do not change year to year … but the 6th hitting and pitching gategory does! That’s right … why not have the 6th category change every season … either by a rotation, or better yet … let last year’s winning choose them ! Perhaps he/she wants to add in walks and IP. Perhaps he/she wants to choose 2B and CSW. Whatever it is – let the 6th categories move every single year so that you have 83% of the categories static, but 17% of them new! 3) Lastly, I’m not sure why most platform don’t allow for the following other than Fantrax and OnRoto. In weekly leagues, if a player goes on the IL … he should be able to be replaced mid-week at any point with a healthy player. Plus, if a player comes off the IL during the week, he should be allowed to be activated for a player in the lineup at any time of the week. Why not … let’s take more luck deciding fantasy leagues away … and allow mid-week substituions. Personally (and no offense to avid NFBC players), I prefer weekly lineups with this IL repalcement rule to twice a week lineups. This way you aren’t spending your time on the waiver wire looking for @COL and 4 game Monday-Thursday weeks … and can focuse more on skill. As Fred Z. said, anything to help change the game more towards the identification of skill is a better game.
Ron Shandler (RonShandler.com, @RonShandler): Echoing most of the above – Replace saves with saves plus holds (which works just fine without the multiplier – in practice, drafters still gravitate to saves regardless). Replace wins with innings pitched (QS doesn’t work as long as starters no longer go 6 IP anymore). Replace BA with OBP (why is this still not standard?). Replace FAAB blind-bidding with either Vickrey (winner pays $1 more than 2nd bid) or an eBay live bidding system.
Brad Johnson (Patreon/BaseballATeam, @BaseballATeam): I think y’all are overreacting to saves becoming a harder category to manage. The saves are all still out there. We even get to use more relievers to accrue them in the current meta. So often, when someone proposes a rule change, it’s because they want the game to be easier and/or more closely reward their innate playing style. PS, Ron is 100% right about FAAB. It astounds me that Vickrey isn’t the norm. Living bidding would be cool too.
Nick Pollack (Pitcher List, @PitcherList): I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Saves and stolen bases are the BALL AND CHAIN WE CHOOSE TO KEEP ON OUR ANKLES.
Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): I’m the commissioner of my local league and have never formally opened the floor for rule changes! Perhaps I should do so now, but I figure if anyone has any issues with the current rules, they would have said something by now. The only change we have made in recent years is increase the number of IL spots. Having to drop a player because your injury luck has been terrible is no fun!
Jason Collette (Rotowire, @jasoncollette): expanding the Saves category to some combination of SV + H or eliminating wins and saves & going with IP and SV+H+W as replacements. Too many pitchers are undesirable based on roles due to limitations of legacy scoring
Tim Heaney (TheGameDay.com, @TeamHeaney): (1) Make the draft an auction if it already isn’t. It may take longer, but it’s an exponentially better overall experience than a snake and the fairest way to access, assess, and navigate the player pool. (2) If your stubborn league resolves to stick with a snake draft, draw for KDS spots instead of a random picking of the order itself. The NFBC has it right in that facet. (3) Some combo of revising categories to include Saves+Holds, W+QS (or some nod to IP), and SB-CS. (4) Manual late-season IL placements for players who are out for the season but not yet placed on IL by their real-life team. (This is not a bitter Trevor Rogers manager competing for an NL-only dynasty league title saying that. Nope. Not at all.) (5) Off-the-wall a bit: In dynasty leagues, make the top finisher outside the money something like the third pick (behind the bottom two finishers) to preserve late-season interest.
Vlad Sedler (FTNfantasy, @rotogut): Call me old school but I’m a fan of the traditional 5×5 roto scoring in fantasy baseball. Would be open to a Holds + Saves league.
Glenn Colton (Fantasy Alarm, @GlennColton1): I see a lot of support for saves plus holds. I vote no. If one criticizes saves for being random, how can one embrace holds? It is equally or maybe even more random in my view. While I do not support this, I would sooner do saves-blown saves before I did saves + holds. While I am on the topic (sort of), what about SB-CS. Surely someone who steals 20 bases and gets caught once is more valuable than someone who steals 30 and gets caught 18 times. Finally, while I am rolling, I think all leagues, including Tout, should allow lineup changes for all players who have not yet played that week or in that scoring period rather than an arbitrary deadline of first game governing all games and all players.
Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman, Fantasy Baseball Guide, @kroyte): Many excellent thoughts, but I’d like to maybe comment on a few of them: Davitt’s suggestion of moving to 12H 11P rosters is a good one. An 11 man staff is much more challenging, which is good. The reason for Sv + Hold/2 is that there can be multiple holds in a game, but only one (and sometimes no) save. The goal is to reward pitchers doing a good job in important roles. Net SvHlds/2 and Net Steals do that too, though they come with some odd wrinkles. Finally, Vickrey seemed like a great idea and we used it in Tout for a number of years. The problem is that the market for most weekly pickups isn’t that robust. So teams would bid what it was worth for them to get a player, say 134 (of 1000) units, but nobody else would bid and the Vickrey-adjusted price would drop to $1. This happened a lot. We tried instituting a floor. If a bid was more than 100 the adjusted prices would be at least 50 rather than 1 if no other team bid, but many disliked that. Plus, Vickrey caused the Bidmeister fits because it couldn’t adjust the winning bid amounts based on what happened in the earlier blocks. So if you bid 200 in the first block but it was Vickrey-adjust to 50, the BM still saw it as 200 and would put you over budget later even though you actually weren’t. It was this last that caused us to stop the experiment. But without a bidding floor Vickrey didn’t work as well as it might have.
Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): In leagues that use innings instead of wins, I’d suggest experimenting with a category that combines wins, holds and 2x Saves. Also pet peeve, mostly relevant in Only Leagues, players need to enter the player pool by midnight before free agent bidding occurs.
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): I am pretty vehemently opposed to adding holds. The way to fix a flawed category is not to make it even worse. This will likely never happen, but here is what I would do. Revert to 4×4 using batting average, HR, Runs+RBI-HR and SB-CS+BB for batters. For pitching, I want two counting stats and two ratios. IP and K% (or K-BB%) are automatic. Now it gets tough since I want to avoid saves and holds. Commissioner services can’t handle this (yet), but how about 1 pt if your pitcher appears in a win and 1/2 a point if they appear in a loss? I like that. Now we need a ratio. I know ERA is flawed, but so are all the categories so I’ll stick with the tried and true. As an alternate counting category, I’ve been fiddling with BB+HBP+(HR/4). Scoring could even go back to 5×5 with these five pitching categories and keeping HR, runs and RBI separate for hitters. I’m going to wait until the end of the season and calculate earnings based on this system, then compare in to standard 5×5.
Anthony Perri (Fantistics, @Anthony_Perri): OBP is a must to replace BA. xFIP to replace ERA. Wouldn’t mind to incoporate wOBA either.
Mike Gianella (Baseball Prospectus, @MikeGianella): These suggestions are mostly for mono leagues. Change roster composition so we have 12 hitters and 11 pitchers. To mirror MLB rosters more closely require 5 SP and 6 RP. I don’t know how I’d structure the offensive roster spots but one catcher leagues make way more sense. I don’t mind adding holds, but 5×5 Roto already does a very good job of accounting for non-closer reliever value as a great middle reliever can contribute in all five categories (and is particularly valuable in deep leagues). Much of the angst about saves is driven by fantasy managers in overall contest leagues like NFBC, where dumping the category makes winning the overall extremely difficult. In stand alone leagues like Tout, I like the ability to choose how hard we go after saves (or that you can choose to blow off the category completely). It’s one of the challenges of the game that makes it fun for me.
Brad Johnson (Patreon/BaseballATeam, @BaseballATeam): @Peter, check out how Ottoneu handles their bidding. Instead of having a single time when all bids resolve, make people nominate a player for a 2-day bid. Then the bidmeister should be able to handle it. Also, I thought of one rule I strongly champion – position eligibility should require no more than 5 games. Honestly, 2 games is sufficient imo.
Chris Clegg (Fantrax, @RotoClegg): I have become a proponent of saves + holds/2. The strategy of drafting saves only is fun, but when you factor in holds or holds/2, you factor in more relievers who do their jobs well. I also really like a stat that is specific to Fantrax that is Quality Appearance 7. With wins often being flukey and quality starts being harder to come by, QA7 does a good job. With QA7, you get a point if IP >= 4 and IP <= 4 2/3 and ER <= 1, or IP >=5 and IP <= 6 2/3 and ER <= 2, or IP >= 7 and ER <= 3. I have used it in several leagues and it seems to do a better job of showing a pitchers success than QS alone.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (ESPN, @SultanofStat): I think we’ve come to the breaking point in rotisserie leagues for how we roster and score pitchers. I propose we combine wins and saves — similar to Jason’s suggestion but without holds (until its definition is uniform across stat providers, this is a “no” for me) — add innings pitched as the fifth category, then revise rosters such that teams have a set number of starting and relief pitchers (suggest 6 and 4, but some of the other suggetions, like 12-hitters/11-pitchers, also appeal to me), rather than their choice of how many of each. With pitching as specialized as it is nowadays, and rosters so skewed towards more pitchers, it only makes sense to disincentivize categorical manipulation by loading up on relievers or skating by with barely the minimum innings and, to that end, it might also be a good idea to adopt Ottoneu’s approach that you only get the pitcher’s stats for the role in which he’s slotted (so, only starters’ stats for starters, and relievers’ for relievers). As an aside, I like Ron’s suggestion of an eBay-like live bidding system, and one of my football leagues does that pretty successfully.
Shelly Verougstraete (Dynasty Guru, @ShellyV_643): I agree with Vlad. I like the tradtional 5×5 rules. I do think a saves+holds/2 would mirror real baseball a bit more.
Mike Sheets (ESPN, @MikeASheets): In leagues that continue year to year, I want the fantasy manager who finishes fourth to get the first pick next season or select where they want to pick (assuming the top three spots get paid). Too many leagues draft in reverse order of the standings, rewarding those who tank or don’t play out the full season.
Charlie Wiegert (CDM Sports, @GFFantasySports): One of my leagues went to daily changes for DL moves, which On Roto can handle. I think it worked great and I’d like to see my other leagues, including Tout, do the same. The only problem is making sure when the guy comes off the DL he gets back in the line-up everyday, and it may make the commish job a little more work to watch it, but in the long run, it’s the way to do it!
Greg Jewett (Fantasy Alarm, @gjewett9): In our head-to-head points format in Tout, I would make it one match-up a week with an opponent, and also add one game against the median score. Taking a loss with a top three score two times this year gets frustrating. This would give teams who score well, but lose better representation in the standings.
Joe Sheehan (The Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, @joe_sheehan): I have two hobby horses. One is the disproportionate importance of saves in fantasy relative to real baseball. Saves just aren’t the proxy for “best reliever” they once were, and much of in-season management just becomes chasing saves. The second is more about finding more ways to shape fantasy rosters to map to real baseball’s usage patterns. The creation of a swing spot helped, but between teams carrying just 13 hitters and one or two of those being unusable for fantasy purposes due to daily MLB roster churn, leagues are just too thin. I wonder if AL/NL-only leagues just need to be one team smaller to account for this.
Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): For Tout specifically, I would love to see Saves replaced by Saves+Holds. With more teams adopting a closer-by-committee approach, it seems that Saves are becoming more random. Several of the recent winners of the Mixed League Auction have shown that either de-emphasizing Saves, or punting them altogether, can be a winning strategy. Wins are another category that seem to be increasingly random – I would love to see them replaced by IP or something else.