For those baseball fans who are not content with simply following their favorite franchise, fantasy baseball provides an extra dose of baseball excitement. Some people enjoy the thrill of owning and operating their own "franchise" while others simply play for bragging rights at the family reunions or in the office. Whatever your motivation for playing fantasy baseball, there is always some pride that comes with out-playing, out-maneuvering, and out-smarting your peers, so here are some steps for joining in on the fun.
Find or create a suitable league
Several websites offer free fantasy baseball. ESPN.com, MLB.com, and Yahoo.com are a few of the more popular venues. Rules, scoring, and draft type vary from league to league, so a person should do a little research even before joining a fantasy league. One should choose the league that will best correspond with his baseball knowledge and the time that he has to devote to researching players and maintaining a team. For example, some leagues allow owners to choose individual pitchers while others simply allow owners to choose one team with its entire pitching staff. Obviously, if someone is in the latter type of league, he can significantly cut down on the amount of time he spends researching different pitchers. If someone joins a league that he cannot adequately be involved in, the other members may get frustrated.
If co-workers or friends or families want to compete against each other, they can create their own league instead of joining a random league on the internet. This allows for friendly competition and more control over the main functions of the league. Setting up a custom league is not difficult, and each website does a good job of walking people through this process.
Research players and draft a team
There are so many numbers in baseball because baseball is just that, a numbers game. Although every other sport is based on numbers as well, perhaps none come even close to baseball which has no shortage of statistics. Once again, a person must read the rules to see which of the players stats are the most important for that particular league. Listen carefully to the advice of experts who have played the game for years, but don't be afraid to go against their advice at times. Cheat sheets usually provide dependable projections for each player’s upcoming season, so studying those as well as factoring in a player’s past success and his current team are great ways to prepare for the draft. Injuries, age, and potential playing time should also be factored in when comparing players to each other.
The internet offers several tools to help league owners master the numbers of their prospective players. Here is a rundown of a few of the popular ones:
Everything from stats to daily advice to cheat sheets, this website should be accessed early and often.
A search engine designed exclusively for fantasy baseball fans and features 552 web pages of fantasy-baseball related information.
Highly-detailed players rankings, statistics, and projections
Don't pick exclusively
On draft day, it’s tempting for an avid baseball fan to pick the players from his favorite team. In fact, many people give in to this temptation and pay the price for their foolish decision. These teams have no consistency and their wins and losses are streaky, depending on the success of their team. The best possible players should be drafted regardless of personal biases.
It is also important to not load up at one position even if the talent is available. If a player stops producing or gets hurt, there should be a suitable backup at his position. It is impossible to receive the production from all those talented players anyway if they play the same position because they can’t all play at the same time.
Set the lineups and make necessary roster moves
This is the tricky part. Once again the rule book should be consulted for information on when the lineups lock, how the waivers work, and how to work with players who are temporarily injured. Because the baseball season is so long, and because teams and individuals fluctuate so much in productivity, an owner has to constantly change his lineup and adjust his roster. If a player is on a hot streak, it’s probably safe to start him. Players that are playing through injuries are risky because they may play well or they may be benched in favor of someone who is healthier.
Wise owners keep a close eye on the free agents and waivers, ready to snatch up the player that increases in playing time and on-field production. The team that is originally drafted may be completely replaced at the end of the year in some situations. This is rare, but in baseball anything can happen, and the same is true of its fantasy counterpart.
Play for the right reasons
Fantasy baseball can quickly consume a person's time, resources, and emotions. Enjoy the game, but don't get so caught up in the fantasy game that real life suffers. Don't sacrifice the important things in life for a game that can be played year after year. Sure, it's a lot of fun to compete and win, but it's equally disappointing to lose, and both of these can eventually have a negative effect on a person. Play to have fun and don't let the intensity of the game take away from your joy.
More than anything, fantasy baseball requires patience and commitment. It’s quick and easy to go online and join a league, but the actual season goes on for months. It’s not a game for the fainthearted, that’s for sure. It requires a lot of strategy and a little luck, but in the end, winning a fantasy baseball championship is like winning the World Series.