Fantasy Baseball

Beginners Guide


FANTASY BASEBALL DATES & TERMS

Opening Day

Opening Day for baseball is March 30th 2014. However, games are played on March 22nd in Sidney Australia against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers that count towards this season.

For most fantasy leagues, the games played prior to March 30th will be ignored.

All-Star Weekend

All-Star Weekend is during July 14th - 17th. During this time, the home-run derby and All-Star Game is played. The winner of the All-Star Game decides which league (National League or American League) gets homefield advantage in the World Series.

Last Day of Fantasy Baseball

The last day of Fantasy Baseball for most leagues is also the last day of the season, which occurs during the final week of September.

Type of Fantasy Leagues

There are numerous types of Fantasy Baseball leagues with various types of scoring. However, the two most popular types of leagues are Rotisserie and Head to Head. Some leagues start with fresh rosters each season, whereas others allow you to select which players to keep from the previous season, also known as Keepers. In order to increase difficulty, some leagues limit the player pool to American League or National League.

In Head to Head leagues, teams are matched up to play each week. In one scenario these leagues rely on points based scoring and each team will have a total point value for the week. The team with the highest point total will win the matchup. League owners can tweak the scoring settings and number of starting lineups. This type of league tends to have a playoff, where the teams with the best records meet in the playoffs and ultimately end up at a World Series.

Head to Head Categories is a different type of Head to Head based league. In this type of league, total points for each side depends on a winning a specific category. The team with the most winning categories will win the matchup. The types of categories used vary greatly but some of the most popular categories include: AVG, HR, SB, RUNS, RBI & ERA, WINS, SAVES, WHIP, STRIKEOUTS.

A Rotisserie League has a very different type of system because they do not include Head to Head matchups against other teams. Instead, this type of league relies on winning specific categories. The team who ranks best across the board in various categories will be the winner of the league. These leagues can also be referred to by the number of categories they include. For example a Roto 5x5 league means that there are 5 hitting categories an 5 pitching categories. The most popular categories include AVG, HR, SB, RUNS, RBI & ERA, WINS, SAVES, WHIP, STRIKEOUTS. Fantasy baseball roto leagues can go up to 12x12 or even 14x14.

Type of Fantasy Drafts

The two main types of fantasy drafts are Snake Drafts and Auction Drafts. A snake draft is the most popular draft where the order snakes through each round and reverses order. An auction draft is where there is no order and each team is assigned a budget that is to be used to bid on players.

Type of Fantasy Positions

Fantasy leagues vary greatly with the type of fantasy positions offered and the number of starting players.

Fantasy PositionNameValid Positions
CCatcherC
1BFirst Baseman1B
2BSecond Baseman2B
SSShortstopSS
MIMiddle Infielder2B, SS
3BThird Baseman3B
CICorner Infielder1B, 3B
UUtility1B, 2B, SS, 3B, C, OF
DHDesignated HitterDH
OFOutfielderLF, CF, RF
SPStarting PitcherSP
RPRelief PitcherRP
PPitcherSP, RP

Streaming

The term streaming refers to changing your starting lineup on a weekly or daily basis based on the best matchup or scenario. For example, Streaming Pitchers is a popular strategy where an owner of a fantasy team will attempt to stack his lineup with pitchers who have the most starts in a given day or week. Some leagues frown upon this pratice, while others enforce rules that will outlaw such practices.

Waiver Wire

The waiver wire can also be refered to as "free agents" who are not owned by any fantasy teams. Fantasy Baseball generally allows you to pick up a player any day of the week. When a team drops a player, there is usually a period of time before the player "clears waivers" and is then allowed to be picked up by another team.

Trades

Trades in Fantasy Baseball are very similar to real-life trades when two teams agree to trade players with one another. Another term often used in fantasy is the "trading block", which refers to players that each team notifies the league and is eligible to be traded.

HITTING TERMS

Average

The batting average gives an indication of the quality of the hitter. This statistic is determined by dividing the number of hits by at bats. A player with a batting average close to .300 or above is considered to be a good hitter. Batting titles are often won in the range of .330+. A poor average is generally 250 or below. It is often hard for an everyday player to stay in the big leagues with an average below .230.

Runs Batted In (RBI)

Runs batted in, often refered to as RBI, is used to determine how many times a player crosses home plate due to a player's at bat. An RBI can occur from a hit, walk, or sacrifice.

Type of Hits (1B, 2B, 3B, HR, BUNT)

There are five type of possible hits that can occur during an at-bat. A single (1B) occurs when a hitter reaches first base after contact with his bat. A double (2B) occurs when a hitter reaches second base through contact with his bat. A triple (3B) occurs when a hitter reaches third base through contact with his bat. A bunt occurs when a hitter holds a bat across his plate a gently nudge a ball towards the in-field.

A home run (HR) occurs when a player is able to pass all four bases in a single at bat and reach home plate. A typical home run is when a player hits the ball out of the field of play and can slowly jog around the bases. An infield-the-park home run occurs when the ball does not leave the field of play and the hitter is able to reach home plate safely.

Slugging Percentage (SLG)

Slugging percentage is an attempt to measure the power of a hitter. It is calculated by dividing total bases by at bats in the following formula: SLG = ((1B) + (2 x 2B) + (3 x 3B) + (4 x HR))/AT BATS.

On Base Percentage (OBS)

The On Base Percentage measures how often a player reaches base due to their efforts at the plate due to a hit or walk. The formula to calculate On Base Percentage: OBP = (HIT + WALK + HIT BY PITCH) / (AT BAT + WALK + HIT BY PITCH + SACRAFICE FLIES)

Walks (BB)

Walking a hitter occurs when the batter reaches base due to a pitcher throwing four balls. Sometimes a pitcher may intentionally walk a hitter to set up a double play or to avoid facing a hitter. A walk does not count towards calculating a hitters average and is generally a positive statistic for a hitter.

In terms of a pitchers point of view, walking a hitter is considered nearly as bad as giving up a single. Too many walks may indicate a loss of control for a pitcher. Walks also contribute to a popular category called WHIP, which gives the average number of base runners per inning.

Type of Sacrifices (SAC FLY, SAC BUNT)

A hitters job is to either get on base or to advance the runners already on base. A sacrifice is an attempt to give up an out in order to advance the runner to scoring position or to score a run. The sacrifice fly (SAC FLY) occurs when a fly ball leaves the infield, is caught by the fielder, and the runner advances to the next base. A sacrifice bunt (SAC BUNT) occurs when the hitter intentionally forces the infield into a compromising position in order to allow a run to score, while also causing an out. Sacrifices do not count towards a player's batting average.

Stolen Base (SB)

A stolen base is a baserunning statistic that occurs when a base runner advances to the next base when the pitcher is delivering his pitch. Very few players manage 50 or more stolen bases in a season, which makes these players valuable to baseball and fantasy baseball teams.

Runs (R)

A run is a baserunning statistic that indicates how many times that player has crossed homeplate. The player is completely relying on other players to help him cross home plate, which makes this statistic reliant on the quality of hitters on a team. Players with high on base percentages tend to score more runs and are therefore very valuable to a team's success.

SABERMETRICS

What are Sabermetrics

Sabermetrics are relatively new type of statistics that were created during modern baseball times as a way to objectively measure a player's talent or worth. Various sabermetrics are often used in order to improve upon existing baseball statastics, such as batting average. Bill James is the creator of Sabermetrics and there have been dozens of newly created Sabermetric stats over the years.

Over the years, Sabermetrics have gotten more notoriety to be used to build a baseball team. Billy Beane is often credited as being the first proponent of using the quantitive analysis that Sabermetrics provides to build a baseball team. Moneyball is a book, turned movie, that explains how this practice transpired.

Below will be a small sampling of some of the more popular Sabermetrics that we use at FantasySP.

Over the years, fantasy leagues have decided to abandon some traditional baseball statstics in favor of various Sabermetrics. Furthermore, Sabermetrics can be useful to predict future performance of player by using a stat such as BABIP.

On Base Plus Slugging Percentage (OPS)

The On Base Percentage measures how often a player reaches base due to their efforts at the plate due to a hit or walk. The formula to calculate On Base Percentage: OBP = (HIT + WALK + HIT BY PITCH) / (AT BAT + WALK + HIT BY PITCH + SACRAFICE FLIES)

Wins Above Replacement (WAR)

The Wins Above Replacement (WAR) refers to the contribution that a player provides the team compared to his replacement. The WAR value is a combination of attributes from baserunning, batting, fielding, and pitching. For a more thorough understanding of the WAR statstic, and its possible shortcomings, please refer to the FanGraphs article dicussing WAR.

Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP)

Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) measure how many of a batter's balls in play count as hits. For pitching, it measures how many of the balls in play go for hits, excluding home runs, against a pitcher. The purpose of BABIP is to give an indication on expected performance and can spot lucky stretches for a player, whether it be a pitcher or hitter because extremely low or high BABIPs are impossible to maintain.

By analyzing BABIP, a fantasy team can often trade away players while they maintain an unusually high BABIP. For example, a hitter with a .500 BABIP will never maintain this number moving forward. Therefore on can easily assume that his batting average has no where to go but down. Alternatively, a fantasy team may want to trade for a player with an unusually low BABIP in hopes things even out by the end of the season.

A player's BABIP is calculated: BABIP = (HITS - HR) / ((AT BATS - STRIKEOUTS - HOME RUNS) + (SACRIFICE FLYS))

Walks & Hits, Per Innings Pitched (WHIP)

Walks & Hits, Per Innings Pitched (WHIP) is a statistic used to determine how many baserunners a pitcher averages per inning. It often provides a clear indication of control of a pitcher and his ability to minimize bad outings by having a low WHIP. WHIP was born as a Sabermetric but has grown to be widely adopted as a baseball statistic.

Today we often see WHIP used in baseball telecasts and highlights. However, it is also widely popular in fantasy baseball as a statistic in Rotisserie leagues and Head to Head leagues.

A player's WHIP is calculated: WHIP = (WALKS + HITS) / (INNINGS PITCHED)

PITCHING TERMS

Win (W)

The winning pitcher is the pitcher who last pitched prior to the half-inning when the winning team took the lead for the last time. Starting pitchers must pitch for at least five innings and his team must be winning before a relief pitcher enters the game in order to get the win. In rare cases, the official scorer can assign a win to any relief pitcher he thinks most contributed to a win, even if it should have technically gone to another player.

Wins are a popular statistic for various types of fantasy baseball leagues.

Save (S)

The simple definition of a Save is the relief pitcher who maintains the lead until the final pitch of a close game. The complete definition of a Save involves the following conditions be met:

  • He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;
  • He is not the winning pitcher;
  • He is credited with at least ⅓ of an inning pitched; and
  • He satisfies one of the following conditions:
    • He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning
    • He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat or on deck
    • He pitches for at least three innings.

Saves are a popular statistic for various types of fantasy baseball leagues.

Complete Game (CG)

A complete game (CG) occurs when the starting pitcher pitches for the entire duration of a game. Sometimes this may include extra innings in the event a game is tied after nine innings. The pitcher may not even get a decision in the game depending on how the game unfolds in terms of runs given up and fielding errors.

Quality Start (QS)

A quality start (QS) is awarded to a pitcher who pitches for at least six innings and gives up 3 runs or less. Quality starts are often a better indicator of a quality pitcher rather than using wins alone.

Perfect Game

A perfect game is a rare occurance in baseball when a pitcher(s) completes a game without giving up a baserunner. A perfect game is also a quality start, no-hitter, win, shutout, and complete game.

No hitter

A no-hitter occurs when a pitcher(s) does not give up a hit during the duration of a game. A no hitter can be still valid even if a runner reaches base by error and ends up scoring through no fault of the pitcher.

Pitch Count

Modern day baseball close follows how many pitches a pitcher throws during a game. Starters are often limited to roughly 100 pitches per game, but this varies on the pitcher and the situation. Relief pitchers are also closely monitored to make sure they do not throw too many pitches in a given season or specific timeframe in order to stay healthy and maintain as an effective pitcher.

Earned Run Average (ERA)

The earned run average (ERA) is a statastic to determine the effectiveness of a pitcher. The ERA does not count errors and is represented in the following formula: ERA = 9 * ((EARNED RUNS ALLOWED) / (INNINGS PITCHED))

Unearned Run

An unearned run is when a pitcher gives up a run, but was due to a fielding error and is therefore not credited towards the pitcher.

Type of Strikeouts (K)

A strikeout occurs when a hitter has three strikes during an at bat. There are a few types of strikeouts that are scored during the game, but they are all equal to one out. A swinging strikeout is recorded as a K, or even a K-S. A strikeout looking is often recorded as a backwards K or K-L.

Strikeouts are incredibly important for both baseball and fantasy baseball leagues. A strikeout is negative for a hitter, whereas a strikeout is positive for a pitcher.