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One of the greater joys of fantasy baseball is the satisfaction of properly valuing a player – e.g., selecting the right 1st round pick, getting a ‘steal’ in a later round, avoiding a guy who you know is going to have a bad year, trading a guy right before he tanks, etc. But while there are rewards in avoiding or trading overvalued players, the greater rewards are in retaining and acquiring the most successful players.This reward system is one-sided. In investing, you can short-sell stocks that you know are going to tank and be rewarded. But if you KNEW Jason Bay was going to suck in 2007, all you could do was avoid him. What kind of reward is that?

This inequity is at the heart of a new fantasy baseball game that we at this FLB Blog are christening as Razzball. Razz is a card game similar to Texas Hold-em where the object is to have the worst hand possible. The objective of Razzball is to compile the worst fantasy baseball team possible.

HOW DOES IT WORK?
The rosters are the same as currently found in standard MLB leagues: 13 hitters (C / 1B / 2B / SS / 3B / 5 OF / Corner IF / Middle IF / UTIL) and 9 pitchers.

The stats are a bit different as there is a need to both reward below-average performance while making sure this isn’t achieved by avoiding active players. Since the aim is to be able to use a Yahoo or Sportsline free league for Razzball, we stuck with statistics that are generally available in those services:

Hitters:
AB (High = 10 points)
R (Low)
HR (Low)
RBI (Low)
K (High)
AVG (Low)

Minimum – 5200 team ABs (avg of 400 per position). Any ABs short will receive the pro-rated stats of 550 ABs at .320 AVG / 120 R / 35 HR / 120 RBI / 50 K

Pitchers:
IP (High = 10 points)
L (High)
HR allowed (High)
ERA (High)
WHIP (High)
K (Low)

Maximum – 180 starts

For hitters, R / HR / RBI / AVG are the core offensive Razzball stats. The lowest in each category gets 10 points, highest 1 point.

Since this could conceivably be done via inactive players, several countermeasures are in place. ABs rewards teams that use active players (Outs would be better but it is an unavailable stat in standard online leagues). Strikeouts also serve as a reward for keeping an active roster while reflecting the least valuable action a hitter can contribute (Ok, GIDP is worse but roll w/ it). The minimum of 5200 ABs penalizes any team that falls short of a 400 AB per position minimum.

One exception that was made vs. traditional fantasy hitting stats was the removal of SB. This has always been an admittedly overrated stat in FLB (vis-à-vis actual value). We considered using Caught Stealing but it’s rather unpredictable and low in frequency. In addition, removing SB makes it easier to draft OFs as speed-only guys like Juan Pierre and Willy Taveras become attractive high AB, low HR/RBI guys.

For pitchers, L / ERA / WHIP / K serve as the core pitching Razzball stats. Losses makes for a great replacement over wins as it rewards playing bad active pitchers. ERA/WHIP/K are similar to R/HR/RBI/AVG in that teams are rewarded for poorest performance (highest for ERA and WHIP, lowest for K’s). IP is added as a countermeasure and HR serves as a mirror to offensive Ks (the least valuable action a pitcher can contribute). The maximum of 180 starts is consistent with many leagues and protects against an extreme amount of pitcher flighting.

The exception vs. traditional pitching stats is the absence of Saves. We considered blown saves but this is somewhat unpredictable and VERY low in frequency. So it’s likely that many closers will not be drafted – rather, there will be the greatest demand for middle relievers that pitch a lot of poor quality innings with, hopefully, some of those games on the line (to accrue Losses). We also considered using BB instead of low Ks but felt that was already factored into WHIP.

We’re still undecided on whether roster changes can be made on a daily or weekly basis but we’re leaning towards weekly.

STRATEGY 101
Since Razzball is such a new concept, it’s really a blank slate for strategy. No collective wisdom over years and years of play and analysis. No publications or ‘experts’ to rely on. Should make for an exciting inaugural season.

As with regular FLB, strategy is dictated by the depth in performance at each position. Since MLB leagues tend to use about half the starting player pool, the depth in positions is nearly inverse so that the lowest valuable contributor (or Best Available Option as we’ve opined here and here) is very similar in both leagues – think Luis Gonzalez for OF (.277 / 74 R / 16 HR / 68 RBI).

Also similar to regular FLB, predicting pitching proves to be more unpredictable than hitting. In fact, the most valuable Razzball starter of 2007 was drafted in most regular leagues (Scott Olsen).

This points to an additional factor that makes for a very exciting variable – the chances that a below average performing player remains in the lineup / staff. The worst enemies are a player’s low upside, antsy coaches, contending teams, and unforgiving local media. Your best friends? A player’s high upside, smug coaches, floundering teams, and ineffectual local media.

Since there are only so many poor performing players out there, it will be important to retain them on your roster. So on the hitter side, we expect a similar amount of player activity as seen in FLB – there’s no way you’re dropping a Cristian Guzman but you’re going to rotate through 5th OFs in hopes of finding a guy on a cold streak or stumbling on a big find like a Norris Hopper (Reds OF from last year that managed 0 HR and 14 RBIs in 307 ABs!).

For pitching, it’ll be key to retain dud starters like Kip Wells and awful relief pitchers but we do foresee more turnover in pitchers than FLB since starting pitching reinforcements are generally worse than the pitching they replaced.

2007 POSTVIEW – WHO WERE THE TOP 10 BEST (AKA WORST) HITTERS AND PITCHERS?

Best 2007 Razzball Pitchers:
1. Scott Olsen (FLA) – 176.2 IP / 15 L / 29 HR / 5.81 ERA / 1.77 WHIP / 133 K
2. Livan Hernandez (ARI) – 204.1 IP / 11 L / 34 HR / 4.93 ERA / 1.60 WHIP / 90 K
3. Woody Williams (HOU) – 188 IP / 15 L / 35 HR / 5.27 ERA / 1.43 WHIP / 101 K
4. Daniel Cabrera (BAL) – 204.1 / 18 L / 25 HR / 5.55 ERA / 1.54 WHIP / 166 K
5. Dontrelle Willis (FLA) – 205.1 / 15 L / 29 HR / 5.17 ERA / 1.60 WHIP / 146 K
6. Jose Contreras (CHI-A) – 189 IP / 17 L / 21 HR / 5.57 ERA / 1.56 WHIP / 113 K
7. Adam Eaton (PHI) – 161.2 IP / 10 L / 30 HR / 6.29 ERA / 1.63 WHIP / 97 K
8. Edwin Jackson (TB) – 161 IP / 15 L / 19 HR / 5.76 ERA / 1.76 WHIP / 128 K
9. Kip Wells (STL) – 162.2 IP / 17 L / 19 HR / 5.70 ERA / 1.63 WHIP / 122 K
10. Kyle Davies (KC) – 136 IP / 15 L / 22 HR / 6.09 ERA / 1.65 WHIP / 99 K

Honorable Mention to Mike Maroth who had a fantastic 6.89 ERA / 1.88 WHIP / 51 Ks but his measly 7 Ls and 116 IP keeps him out of the top 10.

Best 2007 Razz Hitters:
1. Nick Punto (MIN – 3B) – 472 AB / 53 R / 1 HR / 25 RBI / 90 K / .210 AVG
2. Felipe Lopez (WAS – 2B/SS) – 603 AB / 70 R / 9 HR / 50 RBI / 109 K / .245 AVG
3. Alex Gordon (KC – 3B) – 543 AB / 60 R / 15 HR / 60 RBI / 137 K / .247 AVG
4. Brandon Inge (DET – 3B) – 508 AB / 64 R / 14 HR / 71 RBI / 150 K / .236 AVG
5. Nook Logan (WAS – OF) – 325 AB / 39 R / 0 HR / 21 RBI / 86 K / .265 AVG
6. Marcus Giles (SD – 2B) – 420 AB / 52 R / 4 HR / 39 RBI / 82 K / .229 AVG
7. Stephen Drew (ARI – SS) – 543 AB / 60 R / 12 HR / 60 RBI / 100 K / .238 AVG
8. Gerald Laird (TEX – C) – 407 AB / 48 R / 9 HR / 47 RBI / 103 K / .224 AVG
9. Brad Ausmus (HOU – C) – 349 AB / 38 R / 3 HR / 25 RBI / 103 K / .235 AVG
10. Craig Biggio (HOU – 2B) – 517 AB / 68 R / 10 HR / 50 RBI / 112 K / .251 AVG

Honorable Mention to Lyle Overbay who was able to out-Razz Richie Sexson due to 425 ABs that managed 49 R / 10 HR / 44 RBI / 100 K / .240 AVG in the usually productive 1B slot. He was just good enough to stay out of the top 10.

WHAT’S NEXT?
This won’t be the first article on Razzball. Follow-ups will include a 2007 Razzball Player Rater, an evolving Razzball Glossary, and details on our inaugural 10 team league.

We will be reserving at least 5 slots for fellow fantasy baseball bloggers/columnists.
Any open slots will be filled by submissions on this site. To get your name in early, comment on this article. The more you comment on the site, the more you’ll be considered (of course, if you’re a dumbass on the boards that won’t help your cause…even though that might seem to be a positive trait for Razzball). Also, Razzball questions can be sent directly to info@razzball.com.

  1. cigmata says:
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    This sounds like a really fun league. I remember in 2001 or 2002 a co-worker of mine was in a similar style league that worked on a points system. The amusing part was that we both had Mark Bellhorn (I did well with his homers, RBI, and walks . . . he feasted on the crappy average and high strikeouts.

    If you still have vacancies I’m interested.

  2. rudygamble says:
    (link)

    cigmata -
    cool. we’ll keep you posted. e-mail us at info@razzball.com so we’ll have your e-mail address on file.

    mark bellhorn. he was about as 3 outcome (K, BB, HR) as you get for a middle infielder…he was like adam dunn’s little brother…

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  5. This sounds like it would be right up my alley…. and I really wouldn’t have to alter my normal drafting strategy.

    Albuqwirke’s last blog post..saving time in a cigar tin

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