In fantasy baseball, the most common league formats are a cumulative method, known as rotisserie, and a head-to-head version, in which teams face new opponents every week. Both are fairly simple, but differences can be seen in the nuances and strategies. Head-to-head fantasy baseball is becoming more popular as fantasy owners recognize that this format more closely resembles real baseball and resembles the most popular fantasy football format.
Rotisserie: Assuming a 12-team league, the team that has the most home runs has 12 points, the team with the second most has 11, etc.; the team with the fewest home runs earns just one. This is repeated for the remaining groups, with a maximum of 120 points (10 categories multiplied by 12 possible points) possible in a 5x5 league and 96 in 4x4. The minimums would be 10 and eight, respectively, although almost certainly no one reaches these high and low watermarks.
Head-to-head: Each team in the league competes against only one other team over a seven-day span. Whoever leads in the specific categories at the conclusion wins the week. Although it's a fading format, some leagues assign point values to each statistic, much like in fantasy football, with the winner of each matchup for the week determined by whoever earns more points.
For roto head-to-head leagues that count each category as a win, loss or tie, a perfect week in 5x5 would be 10-0; in 4x4, 8-0. Your score becomes part of your cumulative record. In formats that award a single win, loss or tie, whoever wins the most categories wins the week.
Determining a champion
Rotisserie: Your team competes over an entire season with all other teams in your league in the designated number of categories. The point total you have at the conclusion of the season, based on your rank in each category, determines your final total. The team that amasses the most points from all the categories at season's end earns the championship.
Head-to-head: At the end of the fantasy league's regular season, which usually falls around the beginning of September, a predetermined number of teams reach the playoffs. The champion emerges from that group based on continued head-to-head play.
Whether it's a format that awards a weekly win or loss for each category contested, one that grants a single victory or defeat based on whoever wins the most categories or a points format, whichever teams have the best records make the playoffs. The number of teams that make the playoffs (four or six in a 12-team league, for instance) depends on the size of the league and what the league determines before the season begins.
Basic draft strategy
Rotisserie: The focus is usually on putting together a roster than can compete in most or all categories. It's a fairly straightforward approach but one that's difficult to master. Consistency is less important. Streaky players still contribute to the cumulative goal without much concern for when the numbers come - assuming your assessment of their ability to do so is accurate. Consistency, however, is a viable asset because it means owners feel less uncertainty.
As you assemble your team, note the areas in which the players you've selected contribute. Some of the top picks will make an impact in all areas. As the draft progresses, you'll be faced with selecting players who excel in certain categories but are either non-factors or detrimental to your team's cause in others.
If you ignore this, you may find yourself with an unbalanced roster - for example, one with a ton of power hitters but almost no speed. Remember, you receive the same number of points if you're leading a category by one or 100, which makes focusing on certain areas at the expense of others unwise.
Head-to-head: It's important to remember that you can find many ways to gain an advantage based on your league's rules and requirements. Matchups are a major factor in determining your fantasy lineup for the week. For instance, you may find it beneficial to sit one of your solid fantasy pitchers if he's facing a stacked lineup to play your No. 4 starter with two great matchups on the docket.
As a result, other than certain high-end options, starters have a little less value. Closers and base stealers do also. Steals and saves are also generally less dependable than other categories and should at least be marginally devalued. If your head-to-head league uses a points system, you can worry about these things a little less because everything leads to points. Keep in mind that one-dimensional players can leave you high and dry in some weeks in this format, too.
A balanced roster is still something to strive for. In fact, it helps to seek balance in areas that are largely meaningless to rotisserie players, such as players with home and road splits that aren't so severe or players who hit well from month to month. Strategies incorporate the monopoly of the best starters or relievers, too. This approach is strictly to take advantage of the league's innings requirements for a given week. It's always important to realize that you must adjust to your league's settings.
Rotisserie: Owners will add and drop certain players based more so on performance or speculation; otherwise, rosters generally have more continuity. This adds importance to the draft; it's easier, over the course of a full season, especially in deep leagues, to remain on contention if you own a well-drafted team than it is to piece together serviceable one-week lineups based on matchups.
Whether you are in the lead or last place, complacency is not the best tactic. However, long-term vision is generally more important than short-term production. The goal is to score the most points for the entire season. The face of the standings can change rapidly. Superstars experience slumps, aces are lit up, and closers blow saves - it's all part of the game. Keep that in mind when deciding whether to cut an underperforming veteran or pull the trigger on a deal for a rookie who has been tearing it up since he was promoted two weeks ago.
Head-to-head: You will need to track trends and play the matchups for your fringe players, particularly pitchers. In roto head-to-head leagues, you may play different players based on the strengths and weaknesses of the team you're facing as well as other elements that ordinarily affect your decisions. The core of a head-to-head roster may remain pretty static, but there will likely be shuffling. This depends on your league's rules, though. Some have a minimum innings threshold for pitchers for the week; others do not.
It's natural to be less forgiving of downturns because numbers resetting each week. That necessitates more focus on daily performance. However, that doesn't mean each week should be viewed as a new season. Don't overreact with your top players. Keep in the back of your mind that while you want to win the current week, you also want to be winning six weeks down the road.
Almost without fail, there will be a couple of your roster spots that will resemble a turnstile as you add and drop players to take full advantage of great matchups and hot streaks. There can be a bit more of a balancing act between addressing immediate needs and keeping your fantasy team viable for the long haul.
Rotisserie: One of the inherent shortcomings of a league that accumulates numbers over a six-month stretch is that teams are more likely to become buried in the standings. Unfortunately, casual players tend to lose interest in something if they aren't competing for the top spot. Some teams can effectively be out of the hunt by the All-Star break, depending on the depth of the league. If you don't have a dedicated group of owners, this can become a serious problem.
Head-to-head: Each week begins with a fresh slate. Even if your team finds itself in last place, you can still relish the role of spoiler, and bragging rights are always at stake. Plus, you only need to win enough games to qualify for the playoffs - that means several teams will be earning a crack at the title with only a few weeks to play.
Your odds of catching another contender are a little greater. If your roster wasn't been good enough to win at first but comes on strong later on, you still have a chance. Whether you lost several categories by a little or a lot doesn't matter. If you were blown out in many weeks but received only one loss each time, a turnaround can help you earn W's and quickly get back into the think of the race.