Rule Change Season

From now until the end of the calendar year, overeager fantasy baseball enthusiasts will be discussing potential rule changes for the 2018 season and beyond. We’ve just begun the process of voting on a couple subjects in my 20-team dynasty. We keep 560 of 900 rostered players (including amateur teenagers). It’s a deep format. We have a bit of problem with owners getting stuck in rebuild mode.

Up for debate at this time are two issues. I suggested moving the trade deadline back from August 10. Another owner wants to add a fifth outfielder slot. We also always talk about increasing the quantity of keepers too. No matter what’s on the table, it’s important to be wary of how new rules will affect competitive balance.

When designing a league or tinkering with an existing one, I seek to accomplish the following:

  • Maximize the number of owners with a legitimate shot to win/place
  • Maximize the number of owners attempting to win

That’s it. Two interrelated bullets comprise my entire philosophy. When more teams are trying to compete, the experience is better for everybody. However, people need to feel like they have a chance if they’re going to compete. And if they’re stuck in a rebuild for too long, they’ll stop participating in the league. Too much futility can lead to multiple dead rosters. Those rosters then become gangrenous. You’re left with the choice to amputate (contract) or else the entire league dies.

If most participants in a league aren’t at least halfheartedly trying to contend at the start of a given season, then that league is showing signs of dysfunction. I figure roughly three-quarters of teams should enter the year with an open mind towards contending. That’s not to say an underperforming team shouldn’t pivot mid-season. By September, the number of contenders should be roughly the number of paid spots plus three or four teams.

Last year, I pivoted my 12th place roster in early-June, cashing out aging stars like Miguel Cabrera and Josh Donaldson along with a slew of other valuable names. And when my effort to retool immediately began to bear fruit, I pivoted back towards contending. I finished third. It may have been my most enjoyable fantasy campaign of all time. Even as I rebuilt with an eye towards the future, I always kept the door open to contend. And it worked out.

I rebuilt without touching a prospect, instead picking up big long term pieces like Mookie Betts and Anthony Rizzo. I have to admit, I was quite lucky too. Justin Smoak, Zack Godley, and Chris Taylor were all throw-ins to various deals. And that’s my point. When you try to contend, you’re in a better position to get lucky. For that reason, asset value tends to flow uphill to contending teams. And if assets accumulate on contending rosters, then it behooves leagues to design rules that encourage contention – usually by making it easier to rebuild quickly.

I can’t speak for other sports, but – in my supposedly expert opinion – baseball prospects are too fickle to go all-in on a deep rebuild. The lone exception is if you’re the only full rebuild owner and can hoard most of the top 25 fantasy prospects. Otherwise, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever emerge from your rebuild.

We have one guy who took the prospect path and now owns players like Josh Bell, Jake Lamb, Addison Russell, Joey Gallo, David Dahl, Aaron Judge, Marcus Stroman, Luis Castillo, and others. He’s finally turned the corner after years of futility. And he’s the exception. The other eight owners stuck in rebuild limbo aren’t anywhere near a competitive roster.

Dynasty leagues frequently turn into a collection of haves and have nots. And it requires a delicate skein of rules to help the have nots without unfairly disadvantaging the top performers or encouraging a race to the bottom. The teams that need the most help are usually the ones who finish at the bottom of the standings. However, a poor showing can also signal a disengaged owner or somebody whose skills don’t match the rest of the league.

For now, be thoughtful when proposing rule changes. There are always unintended consequences. Be aware that your aim should be to promote league health rather than increase your own competitive advantage. I know, it’s tempting to look out for yourself, but you’ll have more fun over the long haul in a healthy league. Tomorrow, I’ll go into some specific examples from my dynasty format to highlight a few common pitfalls.





You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam

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WalkTall
Member
Member
WalkTall

I’m very interested to see what folks plan on doing about DL slots. We’ve had 2 DL slots for the past two seasons in our redraft league (’16 as 10-team MLB universe, and ’17 as 9-team NL-Only), and I’m thinking about proposing we move to at least 3 or 4 DLs, while continuing with a 3-man bench.

abailey
Member
abailey

I don’t understand why leagues have limits. Fantasy managers have zero control over their players getting injured. Losing a player to injury in and of itself hurts. It likely downgrades your team. With a set number of slots, you eventually have to either play shorthanded or start giving up on good players in favor of inferior players on waivers. In the latter case, your opponents can then add those players (assuming their DL spots are open), creating an even bigger disadvantage.

Limited DL slots always gets passed off as “strategy,” but it isn’t. It’s an added penalty for teams that experience bad luck.

HappyFunBall
Member
Member
HappyFunBall

When I don’t have anyone hurt I go pick up injured players just so that I’ll have first chance at them when they’re healthy. I can worry about fitting them on my real roster later.

Without limits, I’d carry 20 guys just because I could.

abailey
Member
abailey

Without limits, every team in the league could carry 20 guys just because they could.

With limits, only the teams that aren’t suffering from injuries can do it.

EDIT: Also, some providers have a setting that prohibits owners from either adding injured players directly to a DL slot or from adding injured players altogether.

HappyFunBall
Member
Member
HappyFunBall

I am intrigued by the notion of not being able to add injured players. Combined with unlimited DL slots that lets an owner use them more like a real DL. They become a roster exemption for the guys you already own that get hurt, without being a roster stash for owners not bitten by the injury bug.

Though there would be an arbitrage opportunity for owners who notice a player’s injury before it propagates into the gaming system, letting them add someone before they get injury-locked.

TapeyBeercone
Member
Member

“Though there would be an arbitrage opportunity for owners who notice a player’s injury before it propagates into the gaming system…”

And there in lies the problem. It becomes very difficult to monitor and adjudicate a system like that fairly. That’s why most leagues just stick with a limited number of slots.

NL Rules
Member
Member
NL Rules

Sending free agent players coming off the DL (or being called up from the minors) through waivers works great. If someone tries to work the loophole and pick up someone they just saw get injured in a game (that hasn’t officially been placed on the DL yet), the commish could prevent it/undo the transaction. But if the player was a free agent and just got injured they might not be someone that is very enticing to add anyway….but if the league is really shallow then maybe so…though you could not DL stash them yet, so another player would have to be cut.

WalkTall
Member
Member
WalkTall

Yes – in my league, you can’t add straight to a DL spot; you’d have to drop from your bench or active lineup, then move the added player to DL.

If last season is a harbinger of what’s to come, chances are that the team that isn’t suffering from injuries today will be the team that is suffering from multiple injuries next week. With limits, there will be churn among speculative DL stashes, which is (I think) fine.

madjockmcferson
Member
Member
madjockmcferson

DL slots allow teams to hoard guys. We have 2 60 day dl slots in addition to 4 regular dl slots and it sucks.

20 team (25 keeper + 20 milb)