Fantasy Baseball Round Table: Strategy for month-long leagues

by Todd Zola, on July 3, 2013 @ 15:40:00 PDT


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Six months is a long time. Managing a fantasy baseball squad for half a year is a grind. Understandably, this serves as a detriment for some considering giving the hobby a go. Fortunately, our colleague Ron Shandler has a solution that is a compromise between the marathon nature of the full season and the variance inherent to the daily games that have become quite popular -- monthly games. You can read all about it on

Monthly leagues still entail much of the player projection and valuation aspect of traditional leagues as well as the economic considerations since the brainstorm Ron has unveiled is a salary cap game. Specifically, you choose 30 players each assigned a salary based on his performance to date according to the league's scoring system. The only caveat is the aggregate salary for all 30 is capped at $300 and you need to be able to field a legal lineup from those 30 players.

Toronto Blue Jays SS Jose Reyes
Reyes: too good to pass up?

Twice a week you'll be allowed to make moves between active and reserve, but you are stuck with the original 30 players for the duration of the month as there are no free agent pickups. The scoring system is roto-style 4x4. Hitting categories are HR, OBP, runs+RBI-HR and SB. Pitching categories are W, K, ERA and saves+holds. Note each side has only one ratio category, which will be relevant during the ensuing strategy discussion.

The inaugural setup has 30 teams per league. The response was outstanding as 372 individuals (including Ron) are managing 444 squads. The champion of each league can claim bragging rights with pride, of course done in a dignified manner.

Knowing several of the Knights entered squads I posed the following question to the assembly:

Who entered a team in Ron's new monthly league contest? What were some of the strategies you employed?

Perry Van Hook was the first to respond.

Monthly games are a great idea and while I haven't played them (or midseason leagues) they are a good concept. I will not be participating for the exact opposite of some of the reasons Ron stated reasons for people to play. I'm still very much alive for a money spot in several leagues and want to focus my attention there.

Rob Leibowitz followed.

Since the values/budget is based on player values to date in the season, I focused to great extent on players who under-performed and/or did not accrue significant at-bats to derive a high value. Case in point would be Jose Reyes at $5. While he could be a complete bust if the ankle becomes an issue or he fails to start stealing basis, it is hard to find players with his upside at that price point. I also elected to draft 3 relievers per team and wanted to make sure I had an excess of starting pitchers so I can stream them in and out of my roster given the two transaction periods of every week, a backup catcher, and a position-flexible bench. I also took a chance on Josh Hamilton as an end game/maybe he'll start to come alive $3 speculative pick.

Tim Heaney's strategy:

I joined a league at the last minute and enjoyed the concept of putting this squad together. Considering the one-month window, you have to put the scope in perspective when it comes to price and performance. You have to catch certain players at the right point, those that are somewhat peaking.

Some values ($6 Yasiel Puig, $2 B.J. Upton, $1 Aaron Hill, $5 Jose Reyes, $2 Matt Cain, $3 Yovani Gallardo and $1 Hanley Ramirez among them) for players coming off early-season struggles or injuries -- or in Puig's case, a late ascension into brilliance -- opened up my strategy to fit in similarly accomplished players at more bona fide prices. Manipulating the somewhat artificially deflated market value should be your first step in salary cap games of this makeup.

In a defined window, it helped to target and time the use of hitters with loaded weekly schedules and 2-start pitchers to stream as many K outlets as possible; the way the schedule falls, some will have a better chance at a PT advantage. In the end, I probably didn't cultivate these as much as I could've, as I instead focused chiefly on skills.

The fact that this league combines SV and Holds tempered, in my opinion, the need to focus on RPs. It's an easy category to ease up on, if not punt.

Ron has pointed out on numerous occasions that the fantasy world should offer a balance between your typical fantasy league and the rising trend of daily games. I agree wholeheartedly and think this is a building block toward that goal of appeasing every type of fantasy player. This should serve as an intriguing baseline to see what facets of the game could be added or removed, and tweaked.

Lawr Michaels also is playing.

I'm in league 15 but only have one reserve pitcher, deciding instead to make sure I maximize at-bats with my reserves.

Perry commented.

Seems pretty short on pitchers to me.

Lawr responded:

Not if they don't get hurt or anything.

I got seven starters (as in pitchers). Not sure how much more streaming would help. In a pinch I got Aaron Crow. Maybe one more arm would have been good.

Lord Zola's commentary

We have our first disagreement with respect to strategy. Perry feels the reserves should have more pitchers while Lawr opted to load up on hitters. I chimed in with the following:

It's only one month and you only get 7 reserves and you're allowed moves twice a week.

I think the play to win mindset is to assume everyone is healthy and design a roster to have optimal strength each half week.

I understand wanting to have injury hedges over a 6 month draft and hold, but in a one-month contest, I think you go for it.

Nick Minnix agreed.

Todd makes the point well, I think. If it's a blend between a daily game and a full-season game, then there's a blend between short-term risk and long-term reward (blandly speaking). If you get a few injuries, in a one-month league, you're probably done anyway.

I don't have a team. Those who can't do teach. Or coach. Or fake writing about it.

Lawr added:

And the completely clueless teach a class on how to write about it?

My late wife, Cathy, always said even if you are an idiot, if you continue to call yourself an expert at something, eventually the world will recognize you as one.

To which Lord Zola replied. ...

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About Todd Zola,

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at and, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums. Fantasy Baseball

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