Learning More About Fantasy Baseball

Part 2 of 2: The Rest
In our first article, You Don’t Have to Be a Nerd to Play Fantasy Baseball, we provided an introduction for those who’ve never been involved with a fantasy league. We covered topics such as what it’s like to create a league with some friends, holding a draft day where you pick players and name your team, and what a fantasy baseball team’s lineup might look like.

That’s only the beginning. Now you might be wondering what happens next. Let’s answer that question and a few more.

Play ball!
How long does the fantasy baseball season last?
• A fantasy baseball season runs in sync with a regular baseball season. In fact, there’s a game practically every day, from start to finish, because the players on fantasy teams are made up of players across the league. (By the way, your league can decide to have only National League players, only American League players, or both.) Opening Day for the Majors is your opening day as well.
• There is one significant difference: Your fantasy league’s regular season will end about a month before the Big League’s season ends. Why? So that the leading teams in your fantasy league can have playoffs to determine a winner. Once the MLB’s regular season ends, only a few of the MLB teams make it to the playoffs…which means most fantasy team players won’t be playing and generating any statistics for fantasy leagues.
• Therefore, your league will use the last four weeks of MLB’s scheduled games to have semifinal and final competitions to determine your league’s champ for the season.

How are games played, and who does my team play?
Note: There are different options for running a league, and you can go online to learn more or you can ask friends what kind of league they’re in or prefer. One popular format involves using points and a head-to-head format, so that’s what we’ll talk about:
• With a head-to-head league, your team will be matched up every week with a team in your league for competition.
• The week starts on Monday and ends the following Sunday. The next Monday, you’ll be paired with a different team—think of it as a seven-day consecutive-game home stand!
• Because some players on your team may actually have a day or two off during the week, you might want to check your roster to be sure you field a team each day with players who’ll be in action that day.

How is a game played? How does it correspond to the actual MLB games being played?
• Let’s use Opening Day as an example. You’ll set your starting lineup as an MLB manager would: starting pitcher, starting infield and outfield. Of course, you’ll need to make sure your pitcher is starting that day and that other players aren’t sitting the game out. If your player doesn’t play, you’re just out of luck.
• You’ll have to wait for most of the games in the Majors to end to see how your team did against your opponent because the stats for all players and all games need to be available to calculate a fantasy team’s performance.
• If the players on your fantasy team had a solid day at the plate or on the mound, that’s good news for you.

How does the points approach work for determining who wins a game or week?
Your players earn points for having a good game. Here’s how that adds up in fantasy baseball:
• A single is worth one point, a double is two points, a triple is three and a home run equals four points.
• A run-batted-in for someone in your starting lineup is worth a point, and you’ll get a point if one of your starters scores a run (comes across home plate).
o If one of your players hits a grand slam, for example, he’d earn you nine points:
4 RBI + 4 runs + 1 run = 9.
• Pitchers earn points for strikeouts, wins, innings, etc. They also lose points for you if they pick up a loss.
• At the end of the game, if your starting lineup accumulates more points than your opponent’s, you win. It works the same way for the entire week. Whoever has the most points after Sunday’s games wins the week.
• A week’s victory is worth “1” in the win column for head-to-head competition. If you won three weeks in a row, your tally would be 3-0.

Does a fantasy game resemble a real baseball game, with innings, outs, no-hitters and shutouts?
• The simple answer is…no! It’s not like a computerized baseball game with players coming up each inning till there are three outs, and so on.
• Instead, it’s all about individual player performance: stats related to how your starting lineup did on game day, and how your starting and relief pitchers performed.
• It’s not too likely, but on any given day, your entire lineup might get hits and walks and never make an out!

Who does all the scoring and tracking of points, categories and wins? Sounds scary!
• Here’s great news: The website your league uses to create your league and teams handles it all for you. You will have your own unique league page—but the website’s software program will follow all the players and track their performance daily, tabulating points and determining the daily, weekly and season winner. It’s your scorekeeper and standings keeper all in one.
• The websites are so sophisticated that you can even follow your daily game in real time—the website will use the daily stats to keep score!
• You never have to worry about calculating points—you just want to put out a lineup that will help you win.

As you can see, it’s not so scary after all. Your role as the manager and general manager of your fantasy baseball team is to set your lineup daily, make trades, bench players, make substitutions, etc.

If you want, you can be a very hands-on manager or GM, changing lineups and trading players often. Or you can be very hands-off, keeping the same lineup game after game without ever changing your lineup from Opening Day. It’s up to you. If you do a bad job, you can fire yourself as the manager. After all, you are the GM.

If you want to learn more about fantasy baseball leagues, go to espn.com or yahoosports.com and explore their fantasy league options.

And what’s the most important rule in fantasy baseball? Have fun.