Learning To Love Rotisserie Leagues Again

I first started playing fantasy baseball more than 20 years ago, and I have fond memories of calculating the scoring for the league I ran in middle school by hand using old Baseball Weekly’s (now known as Sports Weekly). Back then rotisserie leagues were synonymous with fantasy baseball, there weren’t really any other formats, the only distinction was using a 5×5 setup that incorporated runs and strikeouts versus the original 4×4 format. Rotisserie baseball was directly responsible for the current fantasy sports boom, but as I got older and other options became popular I found reasons to move away from the format.

Even before I began playing ottoneu I had plenty of experience playing auction based keeper points leagues. As the kind of fantasy player always looking for a new challenge, I stopped participating in draft leagues and instead gravitated towards auction setups, as they allowed for more strategic diversity. I also began to favor keeper leagues, as they mimicked the real life aspect of building a dynasty from the ground up. Finally, head to head points leagues were becoming more and more popular, and attracting players that wanted to play fantasy baseball but also wanted the bragging rights and more digestible outcomes that a head to head league provides.

What most attracted me to ottoneu when I joined a league in the spring of 2012 was the emphasis on linear weights scoring. The biggest reason I stopped playing in rotisserie leagues was the emphasis on statistics that were so context dependent (Runs, RBI, Wins, Saves), and even though the points leagues I was playing in at the time still included some of those still they were diluted by the inclusion of walks, extra base hits, etc. I was also intrigued by the total points nature of the SABR points leagues on ottoneu, instead of bemoaning the variance of weekly matchups and playoffs the league standings are fixed to actual point performance.

Once I joined my first ottoneu league I never looked back, joining more leagues over the next couple seasons, and limiting the leagues I played elsewhere. As of last season I was playing in a mix of SABR and FanGraphs points leagues, but had not tried my hand at the two rotisserie variants of ottoneu. This season I decided to make the leap, and joined one 4×4 league and one 5×5 league, in order┬áto give myself an excuse to create dollar values for those formats to be used with the ottoneu Surplus Calculator and mostly to be able to write more specifically about those league types.

Those of you that are members of the ottoneu community are probably aware of my stated disdain for 5×5 as a format, but even ignoring which particular categories are used I wasn’t sure I would enjoy going back to the rotisserie format. I’ve often been told that the appeal of rotisserie is in the balance required in roster construction, but that has always felt like an artificial constraint to me. It’s not like the Cubs or any other MLB team specifically targets a player based on how many stolen bases they bring to the team, though steals can certainly be a proxy for other aspects that MLB teams do value (like base running and defense).

The advantage of rotisserie leagues, and the one I’ve experienced most while playing in them this season, is that they are just plain fun and interesting. Points leagues are great, but there certainty isn’t a whole lot of drama at the top of the standings in most ottoneu points leagues at this point in the season, while 4×4 and 5×5 leagues seem to be much more fluid, with one day often shifting teams a few spots up or down in the standings. While I will continue to argue that my sabermetric principles are offended by being forced to chase steals and wins in rotisserie leagues, that part of me is way too stern and “you kids get off my lawn” in its thinking, and everyone could use more whimsy in their life. Steals may not matter nearly as much in MLB as they do in a 5×5 league, but there are few things more exciting than watching Billy Hamilton score from first on a single, or take two bases on an errant throw.

In conclusion, I moved away from rotisserie leagues due to the challenge and new car smell of emerging league types, but things have come full circle as I embrace the challenge of not only competing in ottoneu 4×4 and 5×5, but enjoying the experience as well.



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Justin is a life long Cubs fan who has been playing fantasy baseball for 20+ years, and an ottoneu addict since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @justinvibber.

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Fantasy baseball is a game, and to me, Roto is a more enjoyable game than any points-based system.