By Nick Caron
I have been playing fantasy football for over a decade now and it’s an absolute blast. I love the pre-season preparation, I love drafting my team, I love watching my guys score, and most of all I love ridiculing other owners while I hoist the championship trophy at the end of the year.
It was my love of fantasy football that led me to joining my first fantasy baseball league this year. Though I have absolutely no interest in baseball and I drafted arguably the worst team ever assembled, I have combined pure luck with the waiver wire to put me on the track that led me to locking up my division last week.
Fantasy baseball holds little relevance to the subject at hand, other than that it got me interested in the way that the game is scored. Unlike standard fantasy football leagues, your average fantasy baseball league doesn’t use “points” to calculate who wins or loses a game. Instead, it uses a number of pitching and batting categories to determine which team had the more productive week overall.
For example, your league may be a “5 x 5” league, which would indicate that there are five batting categories and five pitching categories. These categories may vary but could include things like Batting Average, Home Runs, Runs Scored, RBI, and Stolen Bases on the batting side; with Wins, Strikeouts, Saves, ERA, and WHIP on the pitching side.
This type of scoring system allows teams to be assembled in a number of ways. An owner could decide to focus on pitching while hoping to steal a batting category or two; or he or she may do the complete opposite by focusing on hitting. An owner could also decide to try to assemble a more balanced team which could win both batting and pitching categories, but is not particularly strong in one area. The combinations of strategies in fantasy baseball are endless.
In addition to the various drafting techniques, fantasy baseball is also interesting because it makes room for players who have more specific roles. Players who are great base-stealers, for example, can be owned in leagues simply because they could potentially single-handedly win their owner the ‘stolen bases’ category. While it is only one category, it could be the difference between winning and losing the game for the week if things are close in other areas.
Fantasy football is different, however, in that it does not really leave room for players who fill specific roles for their team. Instead, we focus on which players will get us the most total “points,” regardless of how those points are accrued. We don’t care if Michael Turner runs for 200 yards and zero touchdowns, 80 yards and two touchdowns, or 20 yards and three touchdowns – all that we care about is that he got us 20 fantasy points this week. Furthermore, most fantasy leagues completely neglect individual defensive players and kick returners, instead focusing on a boring (and many would argue pointless) position that we call “Defense/Special Teams.”
With these issues in mind, I decided to look at what fantasy baseball does with categories and try to apply it to football. At first it seemed like a simple idea that would be relatively easy to implement, but the more I looked into it, the more I began to realize that football statistics are difficult to turn into categories. Determined to figure out a way to do this, I looked all around and I believe that I’ve found an effective, fun, and unique way of using categories for scoring in this new style of fantasy football.