ASK ROTOMAN: A Pain in the Astros

I am in AL only auction leagues. We use the $260 salary cap for a 5×5 league with 9 pitchers and 14 hitters. With the Houston Astros coming the AL, I am wonder what changes you might suggest. Do we add one more pitcher? Add another DH? How do we handle the minimum IP and AB requirements? Thanks for your thoughtful response.

“Honey, I Blew Up the American League”

Dear Honey:

Adding the Astros to the American League means that there will be about 5,500 more at bats available for a 12 team AL only fantasy league, and about 1,425 additional innings. This is a lot. These at bats and innings pitched dilute the pool by about 15 percent, so it’s going to make a difference. But how much of one?

A different way to look at it is to consider that the AL is adding one regular catcher, one regular first baseman, one regular second baseman, etc. etc. I’ll stop, I think you get the point. So the practical difference is that instead of 12 roto teams selecting 24 catchers out of a pool of (roughly) 28 AL catchers, the roto teams are taking 28 catchers out of a pool of 30. Two catchers don’t make the cut and are part of six undrafted catchers, rather than four. Since these two additions to the free agent pool are the worst available players, the total difference on your game will be negligible.

The same is true at every position. The number of quality players goes up a little, the amount of available stats goes up 15 percent, the improvement in the replacement pool is very small.

What rules changes should you make because of this? I think it’s a fair guess that if you don’t make any changes to your game it will be fine. You will have some additional players in the free agent pool, at least at the start of the season, but depending on your reserve rules I doubt this will make much difference (or that they’ll stay in the pool if they’re any help at all).

The increase in available stats will make it easier for teams to get to the minimum at bats and innings pitched. You don’t say what level you have for these, but in a 5×5 league they should be pretty irrelevant. The only reason to have them is to keep teams that are suffering from bad luck from desperately adopting a Sweeny-type plan on the fly during the season. It should be every team’s goal in 5×5 to collect as many AB and IP as possible, so raise these minimums if you think it might help, but it probably isn’t necessary.

In terms of roster configuration, I can report that in the American Dream League (AL, 4×4) last year we added a 10th pitcher as an experiment, and I don’t think anyone thought it made the game much better or much worse. It was fine. There’s every reason to go that way this year, but you probably won’t notice much of a difference.

In Tout Wars last year, we converted the fifth OF to a Swingman, essentially a second DH or a Pitcher. Team managers liked having the option to play a 10th pitcher when there wasn’t a worthwhile hitter available in the FA pool. There aren’t many leagues playing with this rule yet, but I think it’s a very natural progression. One alternative in your league might be to continue to roster five outfielders, and add a Utility Swingman, who could qualify at any position or be a pitcher, increasing your overall roster from 23 to 24 players.

I’m sure that would work, but I’m equally sure that if you do nothing no catastrophe will ensue.