ASK ROTOMAN: Do We Value Relief Too Much?

Hey Rotoman,

A few weeks into a league in its inaugural year and looking for some advice for next year. We seem to have skewed our format and put too much weight on relief pitching. Here are the specifics:

-H2H points league using pretty much all scoring categories offered in ESPN standard format. (including Total Bases which gives hitters a significant boost)

-Roster spots for all positions + 2 DH + 1 extra infielder & outfield. 5 starting pitcher spots + 3 relief pitcher spots.

-8 start limit.

I think our issue arises from the 3 RP spots. With 12 teams, there are not enough ‘starting closers’ to cover this position and our draft showed this with many people loading up on closers in round 5-8. I also think our 8 start-limit is too low and limits the value of quality starting pitching. My thought is if we increased the start limit to 10 or 12, it would even out the people hoarding closers vs the people with depth at starting pitcher. Or would dropping relievers from 3 spots to 2 be better?

Any thoughts are much appreciated, thank you!!

“Cat In The Bag”

Dear CITB:

It is my personal opinion that you can make any game you want, so I have little to say about league-specific rules. But since you are unhappy and asked, here’re a few thoughts:

Limiting the number of starts per week to a low number means that you’re effectively taking IP off the table. Starters on good teams gain value, as do those with high strikeout rates, since you’re turning the K category into a ratio, like K/9. If you have daily ups and downs, maybe there is a reason to limit starts, but it should be fairly high, so that teams can choose to run up the innings OR protect their ERA and Ratio as a way to gain points.

Another good reason to have a Starts limit is because of the S/R designation, which often makes a mockery of fantasy pitching staff balance. But since you’re complaining about the relievers having too much value, something else is going on in your league, and I’m not sure what it is. Limiting teams to three relievers, when there are only 32 closers, seems like a red herring. Too many teams right now have no closer, or multiple arms to feed save ops. Sure, the best relievers might go early, but isn’t figuring out when to jump there  a key part of the game?

And I’m not sure the guy who went early for Craig Kimbrel is feeling that good right now.

For me, any set of rules can take a few years to gel. Maybe teams thought something would happen this year, drafted accordingly, and they’re now learning that it didn’t, and so the team that marched to a different drum will win in the end. You have to decide if that’s a good or bad thing.

I’m personally in favor of as few rules as possible that describe how the game has to be played. Multiple strategic approaches makes for a more fun and challenging game. So maybe don’t cap starts or innings, but cap the number of decisions a team can have (162 wins + losses, for instance). When a team reaches that number it no longer accrues pitching stats.

Or broaden categories, so that relievers count for saves and holds, instead of just saves. I recommend half-holds + saves as a category, giving value to middle relievers while recognizing that the role of closer has a value unto itself.

The thing to recognize is that the shallower the mixed league, the less the fantasy league is likely to look like real baseball and the more it’s going to become something else. Whatever that is is just fine, if it pleases you and your leaguemates, but my advice if you’re looking for fix things is to make the rules expansive and encourage creative play rather than trying to stick everyone in some restrictive box.

Hope the end of this bit comes as a relief.