Greetings of the New Year, and, it hardly seems like the 2011 baseball season ended a little over two months ago, let alone that we are on the verge of bombarding ourselves with information to support 2012 baseball drafts.
Whether you play in one league, or several, chances are this time of year you and your league mates are talking trade and speculating draft positions and strengths and weaknesses - providing you are in keeper formats - and looking at what you can do in one of two circumstances.
In concert with this, I am also guessing all the discussions regarding your league rules are currently moving ahead with a full head of steam.
Lawr likes healthy Ike
So, over the next couple of installments of Tumbling Dice letís look at some of the rule changes that have been suggested in my leagues, starting with the MidWest Strat-O-Matic league.
To refresh your memory, the Midwest League is a 30-team sim league - meaning we replay the previous season - where each team plays in a major league park, playing out the schedule of that team.
So, my Berkeley Liberators, who call AT&T Park home, are in the National League West Division, and the Libs play the Giants schedule, so, instead of the Giants playing the Dodgers on a specific date, the Libs would play Todd Zolaís Fat, Drunk, and Stupid squad who "live" in Dodger Stadium.
In the league we are allowed 29 freezes each year, which is perfect in a format that is considered a dynasty league.
Additionally, we have strict usage rules, allowing an owner to use a player for 20% of innings or at-bats over that personís 2011 totals.
Since the league is so deep, each team is given two each extra hitters and pitchers. Now, these players are not very good. For example, the pitchers can toss 150 innings, but they post a mark of 7-35, 7.50 with a WHIP of 2.00, while the hitters get 250 at-bats based upon .150-0-24 totals and a .175 OBP.
Well, this season we had two proposed rule changes in the league, the first dealing with those extra players. It was suggested that owners must use all their available at-bats and innings before being able to use the numbers of those extra players.
I had to vote against that one, not so much because it would be difficult to track this usage when we have 30 owners with 30 teams, each advancing and demoting players on a monthly basis.
But, more important, I donít think it would impact the standings relative to the amount of work tracking the moves would entail.
I personally make it a yearly plan to make sure I never have to use those extra guys, and I donít remember ever using one of the hitters over the past eight years. But, I have indeed used the extra pitchers a few times when my opponent has scored ten runs in the first few innings. Having those extra arms allows us to throw a rag arm out there to eat innings, and ideally preserve our 'pens.
The other rule change that was brought forth was reducing the total of frozen players from the existing number of 29 to 15, a suggestion that brought fear to my heart and mind.
For, it is exactly because we are allowed those 29 keepers that we can truly build a team and rebuild seriously.
In this league having both a deep 'pen and bench is essential to success, and by reducing the core of keepers by nearly one-half would destroy that, changing the league from truly being a dynasty, to as one of our league mates noted, "just another fantasy league."
Really driving this home is the free agent draft, which now is limited to players who broke into the majors the previous season, usually by accumulating more than 40 innings or 100 at-bats.
So, the draft is truly a rookie affair, and one that allows owners to really rebuild their forces from the bottom up, and plan out up to a couple of years ahead.
Were the number of keepers reduced, then the question year-to-year becomes "do I take a right handed set up man, a fourth outfielder, or a prospect?" knowing that the bench players could likely be thrown right back in the following year, just as the prospect, who might not be protected.
Two years ago I traded several of my star players for first round picks in 2011, and rebuilt nicely, though unfortunately not well enough to win. And, this year I will be marking time, hoping sub-par seasons from Ubaldo Jimenez, Hanley Ramirez, and Aubrey Huff, coupled with healthier seasons from Ike Davis, Jonathan Sanchez, and Jeff Niemann, will put me back in the pennant hunt in 2012.
Because, in the MidWest league, rebuilding really is as much fun as being in the hunt. At least it is for me, and limiting keepers as proposed would compromise that fun.
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Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.
Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.