Spring training has begun in the world of Major League Baseball which signals the time of year that fans start salivating in anticipation for fantasy baseball. A game for fans of baseball as a sport, fantasy baseball allows players to create their own dream team which plays against other teams within a league. Scoring is based on stats chosen by the commissioner of the league and as the season goes on scores adjust based on how the players from across MLB do on a game to game basis. The game encourages players to watch all of baseball as opposed to a single team.

Responsibilities as a team manager include rotating pitchers in and out depending on who is starting, relieving, or closing; rotating positions players in depending on who is playing that game; and picking up new players to replace under-performing or injured players. Duties can also include heckling other managers, but this should be done with care because early in the season the leader board can change at the drop of a hat.

I have been invited to participate in my husband’s league and as the only female I feel a slight amount of pressure to perform. My husband doesn’t understand this because he is a man and highly proficient at the art of fantasy baseball. It’s cool though, I’m going to do my best. The first step for any beginning fantasy baseball manager is to wrap the mind around the stats that you will be held accountable for. In the case of our league those stats are the following:

Batters Stat Categories: Runs (R), Home Runs (HR), Runs Batted In (RBI), Stolen Bases (SB), Strikeouts (K), Total Bases (TB), Batting Average (AVG), On-base Percentage (OBP)
Pitchers Stat Categories: Wins (W), Losses (L), Saves (SV), Strikeouts (K), Holds (HLD), Earned Run Average (ERA), (Walks + Hits)/ Innings Pitched (WHIP), Quality Starts (QS)

Batters’ Stats

We’ll deal with the batters’ stats first. Runs, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, strikeouts, and batting average are pretty easy for the average baseball fan to understand. Runs are if the player crosses home plate safely, home runs are if he does it in one hit, RBIs are runs that a batter brings in as a result of his at bat (and those players consequently record runs of their own), stolen bases are bases earned not as a result of a hit, strikeouts are when a batter doesn’t get a hit (or a walk), and batting average is just a cool number proving that you can perform at 38% and make millions of dollars (take these lessons to heart high schoolers!).

Two stats that I have not had to track in my one year of experience are total bases and OBP. Just FYI, on base percentage is the number of times a player reaches base divided by the number of times he comes to the plate and total bases is totaled for each at bat: one for each single hit, two for a double, three for a triple, and four for a home run. Thanks Wikipedia!

So when managers research their prospective players they should seek out a good balance of all stats either between players or within the abilities of each player.

Pitchers’ Stats

The pitchers’ stats are a bit more murky, because while the game doesn’t completely rely on the performance of the pitcher he is usually credited with the win or loss. And even those stats aren’t so cut and dried as runs or home tuns. Let’s break it down.

1. Wins: pitcher was pitching while his team took the lead and went on to win

2. Losses: pitcher was pitching while the opposing team took the lead, never lost the lead, and went on to win

*The two above stats aren’t always given to the starting pitcher. If a relief pitcher or a closer meets these requirements they would be awarded the stat.

3. Saves: the pitcher enters a game led by the pitcher’s team, finishes the game without surrendering the lead, is not the winning pitcher, and either (a) the lead was three runs or less when the pitcher entered the game; (b) the potential tying run was on base, at bat, or on deck; or (c) the pitcher pitched three or more innings.

*So Papelbon comes in, the score is 3-2, and he pitches out of the 9th for a Sox win. I think that qualifies as a save…but my husband can correct me on that if not.

4. Strikeouts: If they strike a batter out. Fun part is when a pitcher on the team is pitching against a batter on the team. Which stat do you need more? Want to avoid the strikeout or improve your pitcher’s ERA or strikeout record? Tough decisions.

5. Holds: A stat generally attributed to a relief pitcher but not a closer, it is the number of games a pitcher enters in a save situation, records at least one out, does not surrender the lead, and said pitcher does not complete the game.

6. ERA: total earned runs (runs which did not come about as a result of an error or passed balls) multiplied by 9 and divided by the number of innings pitched. Math = Awesome.

7. WHIP: Good ol’ acronym, (walks+hits)/innings pitched.

8. Quality Starts: Lastly a stat which balances out a loss nicely, a quality start is when a starting pitcher completes at least six innings and permits no more than three earned runs. This pitcher could still earn a loss for the game if the rest of the team isn’t backing him up with runs, but at least he gets some credit for being a good pitcher despite a loss stat.

Next week (if I remember) we will discuss strategy in choosing players and I’ll reveal my top picks for some of the positions. Knowing that only my husband and a few friends read this blog I won’t be giving anything away and honestly the players I have listed are probably on everyone else’s list too. The question is in which round will they choose to take them? See you next week.