Highly Custom League: Category Wars

Hey there! We’ve had a bit of a layoff in our Highly Custom League series. We return today with the sixth installment – Category Wars. Previous entries covered 2×2 Roto, Split Auctions, Roto-to-HeadRotating Divisions, and WAR wars.

Design Aesthetic

Draft Type: Snake or Auction

Teams: Any number, 10 or 12 preferred

Positions: Any configuration

Hitter Categories: R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG

Pitcher Categories: W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP

Waivers: Any

Like many of the previous formats, Category Wars is a modular addition and can be combined with several other formats. It can even be used in head-to-head, although you’ll need to use a platform that still tracks roto standings (most do). The key is that you use a fairly generic set of categories.

This setting is designed for leagues with a serious buy-in. I recommend at least $100 as a baseline. Every single category along with the overall standings is it’s own micro-game. Win a category, receive a cash reward. The following table is flexible and can be adjusted to suit your preferences. We’ll use a 10-team league with $150 entries to keep the numbers nice and round.

Category Wars Payouts
Category Multiplier Payout Prize Pool
R 1 $100 $1,500
HR 1 $100
RBI 1 $100
SB 1 $100
AVG 1 $100
W 1 $100
SV 1 $100
K 1 $100
ERA 1 $100
WHIP 1 $100
Overall 5 $500

In this example, I’ve split the $1500 prize pool into 15 shares. Participants are encouraged to prefer winning the league since they’d receive five shares. If you win the league, you’ve probably also won at least a couple categories. Category battles are a plan B. I consider this to be the preferred model. Obviously, you’re free to disagree and change the settings accordingly.

If doing a head-to-head league, there are a range of additional reward scenarios to consider. These include the playoff winner, regular season head-to-head winner, and regular season roto winner. Use them in any combination. Since fighting for head-to-head wins can be contrary to roto success, this variant could produce some odd results.

The categories are also adjustable, although certain ones should probably be left alone. I strongly recommend sticking with the standard five hitting categories because they minimize for correlation. If you were to use OBP or OPS, it becomes easier for one owner to take down a majority of the hitting categories.

On the pitching side, wins can be replaced with QS or GS – whichever strikes your fancy. Any variant of HD+SV also works. Be wary about using K/9 instead of raw strikeouts. By doing a count, strikeouts become an interesting volume battle – probably at the expense of ERA and WHIP.

I recommend sticking with shallow 10- or 12-team leagues to disincentivize owners from going overly heavy on only offense or pitching. Since quality talent is so easy to find on the waiver wire in this setting, a one-sided approach is more susceptible to failure. Remember, in the above example, you have to win at least two categories to make a profit. Putting all your eggs in one basket is therefore quite risky.

If you’re still concerned, you could explore an almost endless range of methods to ensure owners attempt to balance their rosters. The first thing I would try is innings and games played minimums in order to qualify for ANY prize. An innings minimum is a requirement to block those who’d seek to only use relievers.


Category Wars is an interesting adjustment to the classic fantasy game without introducing any confusing rules or restrictions. Would you like to try this format? Take the poll!

You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam

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3 years ago

It’s interesting, but I feel like this would inspire some very fishy midseason trades. I could see someone who is all but out of contention for the league trading top tier pitching for someone like Joey Gallo because they think HRs is the category they’re in the best position to win.

Nicklaus Gautmember
3 years ago
Reply to  mbriese

I think it would lead to some funny-looking trades, for sure, but I wouldn’t say fishy. It only seems fishy if you apply those trades to the standards of a classic roto model. In this model, how to win the game has changed thereby necessitating a change in how trades are viewed. I only consider trades fishy if one owner isn’t acting in their own best interest. If you decide that your only chance to win money is by winning HR’s, then good on you if you sell your pitching too cheap to chase power…I’ll hope I’ve got a good bead on my league-mates situations and am 1st to your sell cheap pitching- party. Although, I think owners selling out to win just 1 category wouldn’t be as extreme as you might think, outside of SB and SV. In your example, our hero undersells stars to try to just win HR…But often, if you’re in striking distance of HR, then often you’ll have good numbers in Runs &RBI as well. At least good enough to not write them off by mid-season. So an owner selling pitching(or anything) at below value to chase only HR’s , would likely be making a poor decision for himself. Most people aren’t into fantasy self-harm 😀. Now there could be some wonky trades for SV’s & SB’s because they tend to be cheaper to acquire and it’s easier to catch-up in those categories. If nearing the trade deadline, you’re in 9th in HR or K’s or ERA , it’s going to probably be hard to win the category, even if you sell your team cheaply to try. SB’s and SV’s, in the other hand? If I was getting smoked across the board and had zero chance of multiple category cashes? …I’m trading every slow hitter and starting pitcher I have to acquire speed and closers. It would certainly be fishy in traditional roto, but here I’d still be working in my own self-interest by trying to win what I can.

Nicklaus Gautmember
3 years ago
Reply to  Brad Johnson

I look forward to the write-up because that’s a really good idea too. It’d be great for this league setup to really keep the market primed and less-wonky, but I think it could work in all leagues. My home league is pretty active with trading but we have a ton of trades made where Team A wasn’t shopping Player A(whom the league assumed was unavailable), but then trades him out of nowhere because Team B made what most would consider a low-ball offer. Inevitably half the guys will moan about the trade , saying they would’ve given more if they knew Player A was available. A trade system like this would not only keep the market humming most likely, but could also serve as a built-in teaching tool for less clued-in owners. Having a less-involved owner in a league is always tough because it becomes a race between the good owners to fleece the bad..And the bad owners don’t realize it until after the fact, when everyone piles on about their awful trade. Which in turn probably doesn’t motivate them to become more clued-in . In your trade system, they’d necessarily be forced to learn what value their players hold in their league context as the system would kind of serve to redistribute team management skills, not that these things can really be quantified. But under these trade rules ,imagine if Team C saw the above trade and came over the top and Team A accepted. The skill Team B showed in identifying that Player A could be had, and had cheaply, would be negated because they can’t just sneak off in the night with Player A as their offer would need to withstand scrutiny. And if it doesn’t, then Team B’s skill would only serve as an announcement to the rest of the league that Player A is available. Team A not only maximizes Player A’s value by getting the better players from Team C, they(and the league) gain value by forcing the likely better teams like Team C to give up max value in trades.