Home Baseball
Last updated: 6 April 2006
Fantasy baseball, for those who don't know, fantasy baseball is a competitive pastime for baseball fans. Each participant is an "owner" of a fictional team, and owners draft real-life players to make up their team for the season. Then a scoring system using the player's stats for the season following the draft is used to determine the winner. Trading is allowed, as is picking up players on the waiver wire, and injuries obviously play a significant part.

I first discovered fantasy baseball around 1990 through the Rotisserie League Baseball books anually published by the reputed founders of the game. The "rotisserie" brand of fantasy ball involves scoring hitters and pitcher each in four categories: Batting average, home runs, RBI and stolen bases for hitters, and ERA, wins, saves, and baserunners per inning (a.k.a. "WHIP") for pitchers. Many leagues use a "5x5" category system (adding runs scored for hitters and strikeouts for pitchers) rather than a "4x4" category system.

It was several years before I actually joined a fantasy baseball league, but in 1993 I was invited to join the nascent League of American Cheese founded by a bunch of computer science graduate students (including myself) in Madison, WI. We used a 5x5 scoring system, and our draft was actually an auction: Every team had $13.00 to spend to draft 23 players, and bidding occurred in 5-cent increments. The very best players went for around $2.20, and the last few players always went for the minimum, of course.

Here's a copy of LoaC's rules circa 1998.

I was a part of LoaC for six years, 1993-1998, and served as commissioner and the stats/results guy for several years during that time. (This basically meant that I either handled the weekly transactions or downloaded raw statistics and ran a program on them to generate the weekly and final standings.) Here are some essays on the six years, my teams during that time (nicknamed the "Hot Rawds"), and how I did:

  • 1993: 1st place
  • 1994: 3rd place
  • 1995: 3rd place
  • 1996: 4th place
  • 1997: 1st place
  • 1998: Don't remember, but don't think it was good
The rules of LoaC had their plusses and minuses. I do enjoy the auction approach to drafting a team, as a straight draft (picking players in a rotation) can be very frustrating at times, although it does go faster. But rotisserie ball's big drawback is that the scoring system dramatically overvalues the "save" and "stolen base" statistics, compared to their actual value in real baseball. Since part of the fun of fantasy baseball is to evaluate players based on their real-world value, this is frustrating at times.

But I had a great time in my six years in the league, and played with many great people, and don't regret a minute of it.

By the way, LoAC got mentioned in John Hunt's column in the 22 April 1998 issue of Baseball Weekly, under the headline "Cheap Win". Here's what Hunt wrote:

Here's a weekly stat line you don't see all the time: 0 innings, 0 earned runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 1 win.

That's Rick Krivda, who pitched in a suspended game on Monday, April 6 in Oakland. All his stats were recorded for that week, except the win, which came two days later when the game was resumed. That was Krivda's only appearance for the stat week beginning Tuesday, April 7.

And in an equally bizarre turn, one owner in the League of American Cheese (yes, it's in Wisconsin) had Krivda inactive for the week ending April 6 but active for the week beginning April 7. League owners are leaning toward disallowing the win.

This mention almost made the effort I went to to diagnose this weird stat worthwhile! Well, okay, it was worthwhile, but since 1998 was the one season I was doing our stats, and since I'd been wrestling with my new software for that purpose for several weeks, it was kind of a drag to have to handle this, too. But I'm sure I'll look back at it and laugh by the end of the year! Sort of like I'll be laughing at my pitching staff, too...

Another footnote: In strike-shortened 1994, I was in a "Mini-National League" roto league. The eight owners drafted players from 11 of the 14 NL teams of the time (all but Cincinnati, Houston and Pittsburgh), and wasn't played for money. We used the standard eight stats (replacing WHIP with strikeouts), had a rotation draft rather than an auction, and a severely limited reserve list. I only played in 1994, although the league continued in 1995. It was all run through e-mail and the stats were generated by one of the owners by hand, which was pretty amazing, in retrospect.

My team in this league, which didn't have a proper name, was called the "Rawdon Hells". I finished in second place that year. I have no idea at this point who was on my team.

In early 1999 I left Madison and moved to the California Bay Area. I was fortunate to be able to basically "fall into" a new fantasy league co-run by my longtime acquaintance on the Red Sox Mailing List, Keith Woolner, and I stepped into the league without missing a beat.

The Out of Our League group is considerably larger, with 16 teams drafting from the entire Major Leagues. While we do a straight draft rather than an auction, the scoring system awards points for specific accomplishments (hits, innings pitched, etc.) and better reflects the real-world value of the players. (It does undervalue pitching generally, in my opinion, but that's another story.) Here are OOOL's rules in early 2001.

The other thing that makes OOOL different is the presence of several people with a serious bent towards baseball analysis. It makes drafting players quite challenging, since you're competing against so many people who really know the Major and minor leagues well. It's quite an experience.

Here's some summaries of my teams in OOOL to date. My 1999 team was unnamed, while my 2000 team was named the "Center Field Quintet" after the five outfielders I drafted:

  • 1999: Somehow I finished 3rd despite drafting just weeks after moving to California.
  • 2000: I finished a sad 12th place after a misguided draft.
  • 2001: I slipped further to 13th, thanks to a miserable pitching staff.
  • 2002: I improved to 7th, but it wasn't enough to finish in the money.
  • 2003: Moved up to 5th and won the prize for best offense!
  • 2004: 4th place, and another best offense prize.
  • 2005: Under our revamped rules I finished 4th again.
  • 2006

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