By Brian Walton
A few years back in Tout Wars, the available reserve positions were dropped from six to four. When the decision was first announced, I was less than enamored, because after all, who wants less flexibility?
Ready at the drop of a hat
A key element of the logic behind the change was to slightly deepen the very shallow pool of available players. This was especially a problem in the single-league formats of the American and National Leagues.
Further, with unlimited disabled list moves, Tout owners can stash away injured players and re-deploy those roster spots on replacements. That placed even more demand on the few unowned players actually worth owning.
Tout owner dialogue emails almost always evolve into some very interesting and involved discussions. After all, the participants are over three dozen of the most opinionated industry workers/fantasy players out there.
Recently, some Tout warriors came out in favor of eliminating the disabled list entirely and floated that idea to their peers. I am not completely sure what was behind that idea.
It did not draw a lot of support. Perhaps that was because the proposal would inject greater luck into the equation or more accurately, increase penalties for those who end up with an unexpected rash of injuries.
After all, real teams have disabled lists, too, and are allowed to maintain a 25-man active roster at all times. Why should fantasy teams be any different? There is already the penalty of having to use FAAB money to find a replacement - a player that will surely possess considerably less talent than the injured player.
Anyway, back to the four-man bench. Despite my initial concern, it did not take long for me to warm to the idea. I quickly realized that like many decisions of our parents, it was done to make us stronger.
Having just four precious reserve spots means we have to manage them extremely carefully. With midweek transactions allowed for players placed on the disabled list or sent to the minor leagues, some owners want to have a hitter and/or a pitcher ready to plug in on a moment's notice.
While multi-position eligible players always have increased value in this format, a change in the Tout rules for 2012 has opened up new possibilities to keep roster spots occupied with warm bodies - in other words, players actively accruing at-bats or innings-pitched.
The new swing player having been instituted in place of the fifth outfielder adds additional flexibility this season. A scenario could exist in which a second baseman injured on Tuesday could be replaced by a middle reliever on Wednesday.
It also means that an owner could conceivably run all season long with a tenth pitcher. That could toss out the window our preconceived, historically based views of the number of wins, saves and strikeouts that might be needed to take the league crown.
All in all, these moves provide additional opportunity for creativity for Tout owners when the inevitable roster challenges are presented. In my opinion, that increases the fun factor of playing.
So, in your play, be flexible and always on the lookout for rules variations that do the same for you.
In the end, isn't having fun what it is all about? Well, that and winning, of course!
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league's 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com and in-season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
Mastersball, founded in 1997, is a leader in providing in-depth analysis, research, projections and applications to the advanced fantasy baseball player. A 2010 merger brought the writers of CREATiVESPORTS into the fold, widely known for 15 years of insightful fantasy analysis and commentary.
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