Small leagues: Pros and cons

by on January 29, 2010 @ 00:00:00 PDT


Since the very first edition of Rotisserie League Baseball in 1984, we have been warned never, ever to form a league where less than 75 percent of the available player population is drafted. Why?

  • "In such mutant organizations, a GM inevitably puts together a team made exclusively of first-rank players.... That's too easy," says the Book.
  • "If you stick to (drafting at least 75 percent deep), you have to find a decent second-string catcher, decide which utility infielder has the most speed, figure which fourth and fifth outfielders will get more playing time, and pick a middle-inning reliever who won't slaughter your ERA and Ratio." Essentially, there's no challenge otherwise.
  • We are told if you don't have enough interested owners to draft that deep, cut back on the number of major league teams you draft from. Take just one division, or select a specific group of teams.
  • There's too much talent in the free-agent pool. A lucky owner could greatly benefit by having injured players so that he could grab the most desirable free agents.
  • With considerably less disparity between the top and bottom players chosen, luck may be more of a factor than in other leagues.
  • There may be less trading activity since no one has a glaring need.

I've always been curious about this obsession with having "just enough." Just enough owners, drafting just deep enough into the player population. But, what if you have only six owners who want to play, and they want to have access to the entire major league population? There are certainly some upsides to playing in a small league:

  • You can play within your small circle of friends without artificially bringing in foreign blood.
  • Reduced amount of pre-draft research allows for more quality time with your significant other and the kids.
  • Potentially shorter drafts.
  • Higher likelihood of filling your roster with players you like, thus increasing the possibility that you can maintain your home team fandom without putting a curse on your fantasy team.
  • Higher likelihood that you'll see your player in the highlights on Baseball Tonight.

And most importantly, all of the arguments against are easily resolvable with a few rule tweaks:

  1. Draft deep reserve squads to reduce the size of the free agent pool. Ten is a good number, and they can be selected in a straight round-robin draft at the conclusion of your regular draft. This also serves to promote more trading, as each team has more depth to deal from.
  2. Institute a rule that injury replacements must come from your reserve before the free agent pool can be accessed.
  3. Increase the number of stat categories used to at least 10. This broadens the value of each player and helps separate players of similar talent.

Basically, a competition is as easy or challenging as you make it. You play the game within whatever parameters are set. If all the owners, be it five, 10, or 30, have the same access to the same players, it all evens out. The challenge does not necessarily decrease because you are still competing to pick up the best players available.

Perhaps this will not require you to research all the second-string major league catchers, but if your choice comes down between Conor Jackson and Luke Scott, a choice still has to be made.

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