How to pump new life into fantasy baseball

March, 22, 2013
3/22/13
11:19
AM ET
videoFantasy baseball is the original fantasy sport. Perhaps because of that, fantasy baseball has started to get a little stale. It might be time to inject some life into your league with new statistical categories and league formats.

Here are a few to consider before your 2013 season begins.

Payroll penalty

Did you draft a player from the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels or Phillies? Too bad. In fantasy leagues that operate with a payroll penalty, players from MLB teams that buy their way into the postseason are hit with a 10 percent reduction in fantasy points across the board.

If baseball were like every other sports league and had a salary cap, players on these teams wouldn’t be able to benefit by being surrounded by other All-Stars in the lineup. Major League Baseball is structurally unfair. That’s undeniable. But your fantasy league doesn’t have to be. It’s fantasy, after all.

Poverty penalty

Did you draft a player from the Marlins? (A) Why? And (B) Too bad. In fantasy leagues that operate with a poverty penalty, players from MLB teams whose owners don’t even try to field a competitive team are hit with a 50 percent reduction in fantasy points across the board. If these franchises don’t care to try, then let’s do our part and completely forget about them. Even in fantasy baseball.

Unfortunately, this poverty penalty means your league will be without Giancarlo Stanton. But only for a short while. Jeffrey Loria is sure to trade Stanton for cash considerations soon enough -- and then use that cash to build a giant gold statue of himself giving fans the finger outside Marlins Park. Once that trade goes down, Stanton will be thrown into the waiver pool. (Although Stanton likely would be traded to the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers or Phillies, meaning he’ll play under a 10 percent fantasy-point penalty.)

Pathetic franchise charity points

Not every new points structure has to be punitive. Selecting a player from the Mets, Royals, Pirates or Cubs can pay off with a 5 percent boost in his fantasy points in leagues that offer pathetic franchise charity points.

For example, Mets outfielder David Murphy slugged six home runs in 571 at-bats last year. But with pathetic franchise charity points applied, his home runs jump up to 6.3! Wow. That three-tenths of a home run point could have been the difference between last place and second-to-last place in your league.

Portly penalty

Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown last year. Phenom Mike Trout came in second in AL MVP voting. Felix Hernandez is the highest-paid pitcher in baseball. CC Sabathia is a six-time All-Star. Prince Fielder is only 28 and has six consecutive seasons of 30 home runs or more. Pablo Sandoval is the reigning World Series MVP. Bartolo Colon still exists.

What do all of these people have in common? That’s right. They all wear hefty-size jeans.

In most sports, carrying the weight of a few toddlers around your midsection is a disadvantage. But in baseball it’s becoming increasingly clear that chunk and champions go together.

In fantasy leagues that play with a portly penalty, any circular-shaped player has his fantasy points reduced by 10 percent for each extra “X” in his jersey size. You might think twice about drafting Cabrera when you realize his point total will be cut by 20 percent thanks to his XXXL jersey.

Is this excessively punitive to the portly? Not at all. It’s simply time to level the playing field so those with level abdomens can compete in baseball. And the portly will be fine with this. They’re a jolly sort.

Steroids bonus points

Ryan Braun is projected as the top fantasy player in ESPN.com’s rankings. But the obvious concern with him is that he might be suspended for 50 games because of his annual performance-enhancing drug linkage. Who wants to spend a first-round pick on a guy who might miss a third of the season?

Leagues that play with steroids bonus points eliminate that concern. Instead of being hurt by a player getting suspended, your player's season totals actually double if he is suspended for PEDs.

Think of the strategy this adds to the draft. Did some midrate talent show up to spring training with 20 pounds of extra muscle? Move him up your draft board! He might have a big year AND get you double points! Is a veteran entering a contract season and showing some pop at the plate for the first time in his career? Move him up your draft board!

In a league with steroids bonus points, even A-Rod still would get some interest on draft day!

Home run distance points

It’s frustrating to watch someone in your fantasy league blow by you in the standings because his roster is stocked with hitters who play in band boxes. His guys are hitting check-swing home runs into the upper deck, while your guys are launching bombs that are being run down 400 feet from home plate. Unfair.

Home run distance points provide a reward for legit home runs. A 400-foot home run equals 1 point. For each foot longer or shorter, a hundredth of a point is added or subtracted. So a 365-foot home run earns his player only 0.65 points. And a 500-foot bomb gets your guy 2 points. Fair.

But be careful if your league offers steroids bonus points and home run distance points. A team with Ryan Braun on the roster could win the league easily. In fact, a team with only Braun on the roster could win easily.

Facial hair fines

Any player with an undeniably stupid goatee or beard gets his fantasy points docked 10 percent. If your league agrees, this category can be expanded to include rope necklaces or visible and especially dumb tattoos.

Roster rot forgiveness

Playing fantasy baseball is exhausting. You have to manage your team every day for six months. If you miss a day or, you know, go on a summer vacation, your entire team can fall apart. In leagues with roster rot forgiveness, once per season you can email your league’s commissioner and say something like: “Whoops. I just realized I haven’t even looked at my team in about a month and a half. Please adjust my point totals to reflect all the moves I should have made. Thanks.” Roster rot forgiveness makes fantasy baseball much less stressful and time-consuming.

Sabermetrician stress stats

Most everyone agrees now that RBIs and pitcher wins are not exactly great ways to measure the value of a player. Yet that doesn’t mean it’s still not fun to make sabermetric devotees who are especially humorless freak out. In leagues using sabermetrician stress stats, only batting average, RBIs, stolen bases, bunts and pitcher wins count. Also, players with intangibles who are winners are given an extra 10,000 points at the end of the season.

American player charity points

Similar to the pathetic franchise charity points category, this encourages teams to take a chance on American baseball players by offering a 5 percent boost on all American player stats. Who knows, maybe someday, with a little encouragement, an American team can manage to be competitive with the baseball powers of the world in the World Baseball Classic. Again, this is fantasy baseball. Anything is possible in fantasy.

Fantasy football statistic adjustments

Leagues with fantasy football statistic adjustments simply ignore all baseball fantasy points accumulated in September because it’s fantasy football season then and, come on, this fantasy baseball season has been going since April, when will it mercifully end? I’m exhausted. WOOOOOOOO, football!

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