Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fantasy Baseball 2011

Looking for the best fantasy baseball site in 2011? Look no further than Fantasy Sports Live. Next week will mark the beginning of our 5th season of daily fantasy baseball. We were the first site to offer salary cap based daily fantasy sports for money in June 2007, and have evolved our offering over the years based on customer feedback to what we feel is the best daily fantasy game on the web. For those new to the site or new to daily fantasy baseball, I am going to cover in detail the daily fantasy baseball leagues offered by FantasySportsLive.

Salary Cap Types

Performance based Ranking Cap Leagues (pts)
For our most popular ranking cap leagues, player costs are equal to their average fantasy points scored per game times 10. For example a left fielder who averages 4.2 fantasy points per game played in our scoring system will cost 42 points of cap to add to your fantasy baseball team. At the beginning of the season we use last year's average fantasy points. During the first month of the season we start to move player costs to their 2011 fantasy point averages. By the end of the first month, player costs will be entirely based on 2011 statistics. Player costs are updated weekly during the first few months of the season, and every two weeks after that. There is no maximum price for a player, but we use a minimum cost of 10 points for any hitter who averages less than 10 fantasy points per game, and 100 points for any pitcher who averages less than 10 fantasy points per game.

Pay Based True Salary Cap Leagues ($k)
Our Salary Cap leagues are true salary cap leagues in that they are based on actual player salaries. Pay is only loosely correlated with performance, so player pricing can be radically different in our salary cap leagues vs. our ranking cap leagues. For all players except starting pitchers, we take the MLB players 2011 actual salary and divide by 162 games to get their per game cost to the team. For starting pitchers we take the players salary and divide it by 32 expected starts to get their per game cost to the team (starting pitchers only play in games that they start typically). Position players get a minimum cap of $10,000 if they earn less than 1.62 Million per year. Their is no maximum cap value for position players. For starting pitchers we use a maximum cap value of $350,000 and a minimum cap value of $100,000. The maximum cap is in place, because many top paid pitchers would cost more than the entire cap amount for your fantasy team if not capped. We use the minimum cap level because drafting a pitcher who cost less than 100k would leave you with too many options for top hitters. We find that this balance works pretty well for our salary cap leagues. Since player costs are based on actual salaries and not in season performance, these costs are fixed for the entire season and are not updated. The total cap value of your team represent what it would cost you in actual dollars to field your fantasy baseball roster for one game.

No Cap Leagues (No)
If your not very good at math, or are a top investment banker our No Cap leagues may be right for you. For our no Cap leagues all players cost the same ($0), so you just draft whoever you want for each of the nine fantasy baseball starting positions. The skill for these leagues comes from the ability to project the top fantasy scoring player at each position without any concern for cost. You generally end up with star studded fantasy dream teams that put up epic fantasy scores, which can make for some pretty exciting fantasy leagues.

Auto Draft Leagues (Auto)
If you don't like the possibility of sharing a fantasy player with your opponent, an Auto Draft league may be right for you. In our Autodraft leagues you rank your top two choices at each of the nine fantasy baseball positions. Your heads-up opponent does the same. At the start time of the league we use an automated procedure to select nine unique players for you and your opponent, among the 18 players that you each ranked. We use a modified snake draft to go through each position, minimizing any draft order advantage. First pick is determined by the lowest ranking cap total of the 18 players selected between the two heads-up opponents. Our auto leagues were designed from the ground-up for daily fantasy baseball, and are not simply an automated live draft. This makes them fast and easy to use daily.

Daily Fantasy Baseball Scoring
Our fantasy baseball scoring system from 2010 remains in place for 2011. Our scoring system is designed to allow for the widest variety of competitive fantasy baseball teams to be created among our draft pool. Keep in mind that for ranking cap leagues a player's cost is exactly 10x their average fantasy points scored per game. Players that score high in our scoring system cost a lot, and players that don't score much, don't cost much. You can build a competitive fantasy team using any mix of high scoring and low scoring players that you like.

Hitter Scoring
Single = 1 pt
Double = 2 pts
Triple = 3 pts
Home Run = 4 pts
Walk = 1 pt
Run Scored = 2 pts
RBI = 2 pts
Stolen Base = 2 pts
Strike Out = -1 pt

Starting Pitcher Scoring (hitting stats not counted)
1/3 Inning pitched = 1 pt
Strike Out - 1 pt
Win = 8 pts
Hit allowed = -1 pt
Walk allowed = -1pt
Earned Run allowed = -2 pts

What's New for Fantasy Baseball 2011

Lower Rake
We have new lower rake for our Heads-up leagues in 2011. We now keep just 6-7.4% of entry fees in all heads-up leagues. We lowered our rake to allow for a much larger percentage of our players to make money long-term from fantasy baseball, and it works. FSL has more profitable players than any competing site that we are aware of, because of our rake structure that is 26-40% lower than a typical 10% rake site. For multiplayer leagues our rake is now 9% maximum, and we continue to offer guaranteed prizes in multis. For example any league that has 2 or more entries will run and pay out the listed prizes, even if the league does not completely fill up. As a result of this the long-term rake we get for multiplayer leagues is in the 7-8% range, and much lower than other sites that cancel all leagues that do not fill up.

Larger Fields
We are now running 25 and 50 player fantasy leagues with the top 5 paid. Last year we had a maximum league size of 10 players.

Beginner Leagues
Beginner leagues do not allow players with more than 100 cash wins on Fantasy Sports Live to enter them. If you are new to FSL, they are a great place to try out our leagues and build-up a nice bankroll before taking on some of the stiffer competition on the site.

Daily Fantasy Baseball Strategy

This is a pretty big topic, so I am just going to touch on it briefly here, and specifically for our most popular ranking cap leagues. The best daily fantasy players try to project what each MLB player will score in each of a daily league's games, and then try to build the highest projected scoring team that will fit under the salary cap. Its both as simple and as complicated as that. Some players use advanced mathematics and statistics to project fantasy baseball scoring and some just have it all in their head from years of following Major League Baseball. Let me cover a couple of strategy topics.

Top Pitcher, Top Hitters, or Some Kind of Mix?

Lets take a typical 450 point ranking cap league. Since player costs are 10 times their average fantasy points scored per game, if you use all 450 points blindly you will have a team that scores 45 fantasy points on average. When you apply some skill to your selections, your average score should be even higher. The texture of your fantasy team is an important consideration. Top pitchers can cost 225 points or more, and low end pitchers can cost 100 points. If you go with a 225 point pitcher in a 450 point cap, you are planning on getting 50% of your fantasy score from the starting pitcher position. If you go with a 100 point pitcher, you are planning on getting less than 25% of you fantasy score from your pitcher. These are huge differences. If you are better at handicapping hitters, than starting pitchers, you may want to spend your cap money on top hitters vs. a top pitcher. If you really know starting pitchers, you may want to do the opposite. The point is that the most important decision you make may be how much to spend on your pitcher, because that has a lot to do with the texture of your fantasy baseball team.

How to Project a Starting Pitcher's Fantasy Score
I like to start with their average fantasy points scored per game, and then adjust for any game specific factors that would tend to make a pitcher score higher or lower than average. Game specific factors to consider include:

1) Offensive strength of the opposing team
2) Strength of the opposing pitcher
3) Home or Away
4) Quality of relief pitching on both teams
5) Pitchers recent performance

How to Project a Hitters Fantasy Score
For hitters it is the same routine. Start with their average fantasy points scored per game, and then adjust for any game specific factors that would tend to make a hitter score higher or lower than average. Game specific factors for hitters include:

1) Strength of the opponents starting pitcher
2) Strength of the opponents relief pitching
3) Starting pitchers throwing hand
4) Home or Away
5) Hitters recent performance

Building Your Daily Fantasy Baseball Team
Once you have projected your players, and know what each players cost is, you draft the team that is projected to score the most points while staying under the cap. This sounds easy, but is often one of the tougher things to do. What I like to look at is a players projection relative to their cost. Lets say a player is projected to score 30 points and costs 15 points, while another player at the same position is projected to score 40 points and costs 25 points. The player projected to score 30 points is actually a better selection, because he is projected to score a higher percentage above his cap value than the 40 point player. So you don't necessarily want the top fantasy point projected player, but want the one who is expected to be the best value relative to their cost. Saving the 10 cap points by going with the 30 point player allows you to spend it elsewhere on other players who are likely to exceed their cap values greatly.

Stay Away From Top Name Players If You Can
Often some top name, more expensive players will have some value. While you may want or have to draft them you need to be careful. It is often better to build a team from lesser known players as long as they project out to similar or better values. Less skillful players will tend to gravitate towards names that they recognize, so there is a bigger chance your teams will have overlapping players, reducing your skill advantage. Also, top name players tend to be expensive, and have more difficulty blowing through their cap cost vs. lesser known players. The sweet spot is typically in second tier type players that look to have excellent match-ups vs. that top name player that consistently puts up big numbers.

Final Thoughts
I am going to stop here for now, but will touch more on daily fantasy baseball strategy going forward, so stay tuned, and good luck with Fantasy Baseball 2011 at Fantasy Sports Live

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