Last week, while I was wilting away in my cube, I had the pleasure of staring off into space for a few minutes. What was in my ears while I did it? The soothing sounds of Donkey Teeth and B_Don. They were discussing all the different league offerings the NFBC can provide with Darik Buchar of SportsHub on Razzball’s Goin’ Deep Podcast. I enjoyed the informative nature of the podcast, but it brought to a head something; a belief has been simmering inside of me for quite some time. My belief is that the NFBC, and the strategies used by those who play in those leagues, has become the principal source for many fantasy baseball content consumers, but the strategies applied in these leagues are misused by content consumers as they aren’t applicable to single league set ups.

Why NFBC Draft Strategies Aren’t Applicable to Most Content Consumers

This is not an attack on the NFBC. The NFBC is an outstanding organization where many great fantasy baseball players play a large percentage of their leagues for the season. These players are playing for significant sums of money. However, most NFBC contests are set up as a league of leagues with a large overall prize. This league style differentiation matters. Sharp players are outlining strategies and making selections based solely towards the overall championship, because a sizable portion of the prize pool is centralized there. A majority of fantasy baseball content consumers play in stand-alone leagues.

What is a League of Leagues?

Teams are ranked in scoring category totals against all the teams in a single league to earn points, as in a typical stand-alone rotisserie league. Simultaneously, the teams are ranked according to all the teams in all the other leagues in the contest in the same scoring categories. It is a great way to play. For example, Owner A is playing in a contest with ten different ten team leagues. Their team scores 1000 runs for the season. They finish 4th out of 10 teams in the category in their own stand-alone league and earn 4 points. The team also finishes 35th out of 100 teams in the overall category to earn 35 points towards the overall competition.

Note: Our Razzball Commenter Leagues are all combined into a league of leagues, join for free now!

The Main Differences Between Stand-Alone Leagues and League of Leagues

  • Changes the requirements to win
  • Rewards teams for winning categories by wide margins
  • Allows for multiple teams in a single contest

The system changes the requirements to win

Typically, a stand-alone rotisserie league will require approximately 80% of the total league points available in order to win the league. A 12 team 10 category league will have a maximum amount of points available set at 120. The average championship teams will score around 96 points. It might be slightly more; it might be a slightly less. It depends on the compression and competitiveness of the league. Alternatively, the overall winner of the Main Event in 2019 finished with 93.6% of the available points. This was the second highest score of all time, but we can assume it will take at least 91% of the total available points in order to win the contest. Teams can win significant sums of money further down the overall leaderboard, but to make five times the cost of an individual entry in the overall pool a team needed 83% of the total points. Thus, changing the requirements to win and how owners approach draft strategy.

In stand-alone leagues the combination of categories you use to get to 80% of the total points does not matter. Teams can feasibly finish around the middle in multiple categories and still win a league. This offers draft flexibility. If an owner in a 12 team stand-alone league finishes 6th in the steals category they would need to average a 10th place finish in all other categories to have a feasible chance to win. This flexibility is essentially non-existent in an overall contest. If an overall contest winner needs 91% of the total points and finishes in the 50th percentile of the steals category in a 500 team contest (250/500) that team would need to finish at the 95.6th percentile (478/500 teams) in every other category to win. This is incredibly unlikely.

The system rewards teams for winning categories for wide margins.

This is not the BCS. Owners don’t get style points for winning categories in stand-alone leagues by a wide margin. However, you do get bonus points for doing it in an overall competition. Continuing with the example above if a team wins the strikeouts category in a stand-alone league by 200 strikeouts, they will get the same amount of points (12) as if they won the category by 1 strikeout. In a league of leagues scenario above that 200 strikeout margin in the single league does not matter, because the team can get all the way to 1st place in the category out of 500 teams.

This system allows for multiple teams in a single contest.

Owners can often have multiple entries in the same league of league contest. If this happened in a stand-alone league it would be collusion.

Why Does This Matter?

This matters because it effects both roster construction and ADP. The ADP of upside players, positions scarce players, and category scare players is going to go up. I will continue to reference NFBC ADP in this series, because I think the ADP over so many drafts are relatively normalized. Additionally, as long as readers are aware of the ADP differences in NFBC leagues, I’m comfortable using it as a reference point.

The roster construction aspect is far more significant to me and is sole reason why I wanted to deviate for a week from the finding aces piece to discuss it at length. I recently drafted a 15-team stand-alone draft and hold on Fantrax. A competing manager drafted starting pitchers in 4 of the first 5 rounds. This team will likely finish in 1st in 4 pitching categories by a wide margin. However, there are no bonus points for these wide margins! The hitting side of the roster is projected for less than 300 home runs, 1000 runs, 1000 RBI, and 90 steals. This owner is donating money in a stand-alone league unless several hitters hit an absolute ceiling season. This is a losing strategy. Owners should be attempting to finish around the 80th percentile coming out of stand-alone drafts in all categories unless the draft is overvaluing categories, or players at such a premium that it makes more sense to take a small hit in a specific category while gaining an advantage in a majority of the others.

I’ve seen several NFBC drafts in which an owner has deployed this same pitcher heavy approach. This owner may have 10 different teams in the same contest. Therefore, they may be building out a core of players in every draft with different combinations on the hitting side which increases the likelihood that the team could hit the lottery. The owner may also be deploying the lottery philosophy by not caring if they finish last, but only attempting to gain the upside to finish first by having a different roster construction than every other team in the contest.

After over a thousand rambling words I’m going to get to the point… I’ve read multiple articles this offseason stating you must do x, y, or z. This typically revolves around steals and top tier pitching. I’m here to plead with our readers to not draft based on rigid rules. You do not have to do anything. You can win in thousands of different ways. My theory is that the NFBC has become the go to reference for content creators and consumers. This has driven the idea of a starting pitching and steals scarcity that is non-existent.

In 2019, 12 of the top 24 finishing starting pitchers on the Razzball player rater were drafted in the double-digit rounds. Some were not drafted at all. However, I hear and read every day about the need to draft pitchers earlier. This may be true in the NFBC overall competitions. It is not true in stand-alone leagues.

In order to finish in the top half of a standard 12-team roto league in the steals category you will need approximately 115 steals. If you can get a single player who steals 20 bases (steamer has 19 projected) and another player who steals 15 bases (steamer has an additional 12 players projected to do this), without a single steal from your catcher you will need to average 8 steals from the other positions to reach 115 (steamer has over 100 players projected to do this). However, I hear and read every day about the need to draft speed. This may be true in the NFBC overall competitions. It is not true in stand-alone leagues.

I repeat from above. You do not have to do anything. Understand your league type, remain flexible, try to hit statistical landmarks, and come out of drafts with a balanced team that has a chance to endure the course of a long baseball season.

 

 

Footnote from Grey:

If you want to play in an NFBC league against me (Grey), Rudy, MattTruss or Donkey Teeth, put your email in the signup sheet below. It is $150 to play, but you can win $150,000 (I think, check their site for rules and prizes). In fact, last year’s overall winner of, like, $150,000 was one of our commenters. I’ve placed in the top 20 overall and won around $3500. You can also become a thousandaire if you win just your league. Plus, it’s fun (okay, no one’s here for fun. Fun’s on vacation! Wait, then fun would be having fun…Hmm… Moving on!). Leagues should start in about two weeks, and it’s a slow draft, so you don’t need to be available to draft at any set time. Any hoo! Join us by putting your email below, then Rudy will reach out to the peeps.

 
  1. IV says:
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    Nice article Pat! This is something I have not thought too much about before reading this, but makes a lot of sense.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Appreciate the read! Hopefully it steers everybody in the right direction.

  2. kelly leak says:
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    Good article. Some things that I did not think of as an NFBC noob. Thank you.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      I hear a lot of the NFBC guys talk about the rough transition period the first year people enter NFBC conteats and I think not understanding the league type is the key component driving the struggles. As an NFBC noob myself I had to flip that switch to an overall prize mindset for a draft last night.

      • Dave D says:
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        I’ve played satellite (stand aone) leagues through NFBC and have really enjoyed them. The prize money is much better for league with no overall pool. Two years ago I played a $250 league and won $2000. I recommend them as alternative for those who share some of your feelings about the overall tourneys.

  3. Tom says:
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    I think even in the NFBC’s where an overall prize is offered in conjunction with an individual league prize the goal is still to draft the best and most balanced team possible. With that being said your point is valid that some NFBC players that have multiple entries in different leagues that are playing for the same overall prize ( like the 50 round draft and hold Draft Champions leagues, or Main Events) they may take a very unorthodox approach.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Completely agree. I will always build NFBC teams as balanced myself. Primarily because I dont think a sink/swim draft mentality is going to result in a profit very often.

      For instance, I am always aiming to hit the 80th percentile in steals. However, if there is a competitive advantage as a draft goes along to finish “middle of the pack” in steals (coming out of the draft) while solidifying other categories even further in a single league I would just take the value at other categories. There might even be two teams soaking up all the steals and the 80th percentile might be sinking as a draft goes on. That said, last night I was in this exact scenario in an NFBC draft and had to flip it and go take some shots at steals because I knew that being projected for 90 steals coming out could be a death sentence for the team unless I was really lucky on the wire.

      I think more than anything what I wanted readers to be weary of is content driven out NFBC draft strategies and if that is applicable to their own league situations.

      Thanks for the read and comment!

      • Tom says:
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        No problem, you made some good points. Since I only do a few NFBC’s my goal is always first to win the league I’m in (which I’ve done a few times) and if it pans out manage that team for the overall as the season plays out.

  4. packers2018 says:
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    Informative post. I’ve drafted several 50 and hold teams, but I have also tried to just win my 15 team league. Never tried to win the O/A with the different strategy you made me aware of. Got me thinking now…..

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      I certainly think if you are in draft and holds even with an overall component it makes some sense to just focus on winning your league and hoping the rest falls into place. The difference to me is if I’m slightly lacking saves in a stand alone draft and hold maybe I take a few shots on upside closers in waiting, grab some closer handcuffs, and a couple ERA/WHIP helpers and just see if I can chip away enough that it doesnt drag me down and I can still win the league. If there is an overall component in the same situation I might just draft all upside closers.

      Slight adjustment, but an adjustment.

  5. Tredegar says:
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    Shhh, this is one of my favorite inefficiencies to exploit……

    Also, I think I was in that league with you where the guy drafted a bunch of pitching on Fantrax, and I thought it was completely insane at the time.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      He will assuredly beat us.

  6. Big Magoo

    Big Magoo says:
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    Great post. I would add that the goalposts are always moving in terms of categorical goals that it’s silly to shoot for a specific number in any particular category (though it’s generally a good idea to have rough estimates in mind to avoid having to play catch-up).

    And I agree with you to know your format, but not be a slave to it. I recently drafted deGrom in the first round of a NFBC online championship league, but I might not necessarily have the same strategy in a stand alone league. Didn’t draft a single player with a steamer projection of more than 24 steals, yet have a projection of 129 from my starting lineup. Just draft the best players and shoot for balance, and you’ll be fine.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Agree with everything you said Magoo.

      • baby seal says:
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        Magoo is smart!

  7. Jolt In Flow says:
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    Hi Pat, thanks for the write-up! This helped me understand NFBC leagues immensely.

    Follow-up; if a team finished 35th out of 100 teams, wouldn’t they earn 65 points towards the overall competition (if playing in a 10 team league)? Just trying to clarify my understanding.

    Thanks Pat. Keep the reports/stories rolling.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      When I was writing this the way I said it in my brain made sense, but now that you bring it up I could have written those sentences better. I was envisioning 35/100 meaning their finish with 1/100 being the worst finish, but when you write finish 1st (2nd, 3rd, 4th, so on) you (the reader) are imagining 1st being the best finish. That’s my mistake! What you wrote above is correct. I should’ve used different words to represent that.

      • Jolt In Flow says:
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        No worries, Pat. I was 99.9% sure I knew what you meant, but needed to be 100% sure before I submitted my email.

        Very clear and well written article. Much appreciated.

  8. 183414 says:
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    I think the easiest way to explain the difference of a stand alone lg. and a league competing with numerous other lgs. for an overall prize, is in a stand alone lg. you can punt 1 or even 2 categories to a certain extent, as well as not having to kill it in any particular category, though the chances of doing that are better if you are punting 1 or 2 categories. When competing for an overall prize, balance is the key. However, no one leaves a draft having nailed down anything. Injuries, hot streaks, cold streaks, trades, call ups, and the very crucial weekly waiver wire, for 26 weeks, present an ability to overhaul your roster to achieve that balance.
    Many ways to skin this cat.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      That’s why fantasy baseball is the best. The variance in strategies and the many different ways to win in the end.

  9. baby seal says:
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    Great article, Pat! Learned a couple things here.

    I discovered the NFBC while doing prep last off season, but felt like A) my knowledge of the player pool needed serious improvement, B) I needed another year of experience after getting back into fantasy baseball in 2017, and C) wanted a year to figure out NFBC in general.

    I’m always the type to over prepare when there’s a competition, especially with money on the line!

    Have to say that was the right call. For anyone just finding out about NFBC — take your time to learn it — it’s not going anywhere. If you *really* want to join this year, they have $50 formats, so you can feel comfortable learning the site and getting familiar with the tools while not spending much…

    Everyone should read the rules multiple times. It’s amazing to get in a draft room, and e.g. someone asks if the clock stops overnight.

    I’m wrapping up my 3rd DC now. Pretty cool format. You get better at the drafts each time, IMO. And each room is different.

    My second league started out great. Lindor and Tatis from the 9th slot. But then the room started hammering pitching (even more than normal), and I was ill prepared for it, playing catching the entire time. This room had a bunch of top-notch players.

    My third league has a sick roster — the people in that room were clearly nowhere near as good as the previous. So, there are different factors besides yourself, obviously.

    If you’ve never done a 15-team league, NFBC style, roster construction is the biggest thing I learned. Think that’s really going to help me be a better player overall.

    The biggest thing I learned here was how crushing a category in an overall carries a lot of weight. Great food for thought! My goal this year was just to try and win my leagues, which is still pretty good ROI, then if I can compete for ~ top 50 in the overall, that’s just gravy.

    Thanks man and later!

    • Jolt In Flow says:
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      Good take on it, Baby Seal.

      I’m still thinking about it. Personally, I’d simply be looking to win my league as well. Exactly as you stated, anything else would be gravy. Clear goals and expectations.

      Everyone thinks they can win the whole thing. And that’s not a bad thing. Problem is, only 1 person out of all the entrants will be correct in their thinking.

      • baby seal says:
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        Thanks, JIF!

        What are you still thinking about now?

        And I totally agree. I don’t think you win an overall by setting out to win the overall. You try to build a competitive and balanced team, and hope it outperforms. Winning that is mostly luck once you’ve reached a certain skill level.

        Someone who placed like ~10th overall last year in a DC showed me their team. They took Carrasco in the third, and then punted pitching until round like ~20 LOL. They hit on Fiers, Lynn, Giolito, and maybe a few others. Certainly luck involved with that, but his hitting was filled w/ boring guys. Not taking shots on Buxton, Hampson, and the like.

        A lot of the teams that do well in these overalls were the ones who were lucky enough to have Verlander or Cole last year w/ a decent roster. Or maybe you had like Strasburg and Bieber. But, there’s no way to get that right 100% of the time. That’s called survivorship bias.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Agree on everything and I would echo your sentiment about roster construction. I think people spend far to much time ranking/tiering players than trying to figure out the player pool, the MLB league wide tendencies as a whole, and how the puzzle pieces fit together as you draft them. These are all more important than the order in which players A, B, and C should be placed.

      • baby seal says:
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        Agree, except for the figuring out of MLB league-wide tendencies as a whole. At least not before the season starts. I’m not sure how you’d go about that without doing a tremendous amount of work. I think it sounds easier than it really is to do. Feels like an easy way to make a few bad assumptions that put you in a hole unnecessarily. But, if you can figure that out, then just go to Vegas and clean up! $$$

        Reminds me of financial markets. There is a term, “macro tourist,” which means someone who doesn’t usually trade macro events (such as geopolitical, economic releases, Fed policies, etc.), but maybe they specialize in restaurant companies, as an example. Then they start making investment decisions and pontificating on how the macro picture is changing, because it’s such a juicy topic. Usually you end up losing your competitive advantage and find yourself making bets you barely understand.

        BUT, I do think you can glean a lot about what the year is going to be like after the first 1-2 weeks. League-wide trends tend to stabilize pretty quickly. So, if homerun rates are down from last year, and say Alonso slumps a bit to start the year, you could try and target him in a trade since you know that power should withstand a less juiced ball once he gets in a groove. And the relative value of that power will be worth more.

        • Pat

          Pat says:
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          Maybe league wide tendencies is the wrong term. I’m thinking in terms of:

          Steals scarcity/HRs Up-Down/Pitching Scarcity/Rule Changes: Is it true? How does it effect fantasy baseball? How can I gain an advantage?

  10. cream says:
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    Nice article, Pat.

    As someone who only plays NFBC these days, I suggest that Razzball readers dabble in a few $150 Draft Champions leagues (50 team draft and holds) to get a sense of the NFBC market and learn the player pool (starters, MLB reserves, and promising minor league players).

    If you build up some confidence, then you can graduate to the 12 Team Online championships that cost $350 per team. If you win your 12 team league, you get back $1400 whereas you double your $ with a second place finish. It turns out the top 2 finishers last year in the Online overall are Razzball readers and took home 125 K and 30K respectively. You can have a lot of fun with those winnings.

    So consider taking the leap and give NFBC a shot.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Thanks for the read. I play at the NFBC as well it’s a great organization and they run great leagues.

  11. keith o branstetter says:
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    Aren’t these leagues not weekly ? There’s just no way one could use NFBC for ADP when most everyone plays in daily leagues, and bench construction just isn’t the same either. I’ve played the last 2 yrs, finished 3th then 2nd in 15 teamers but I can’t draft the same way in NFBC as I do for my main daily leagues.

  12. bangin on a trash can says:
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    I wish AZ would deal with their antiquated gaming laws and allow its residents a chance to Play. I was picked for the razzball NFBC league only to find out that I could not enter, what a bummer!! Do others find this draconian law ridiculous in the states that don’t allow this type of gambling? To those folks that get to play in the razzball fan NFBC league, have a great season!! For those of us in States that don’t allow NFBC and DFS leagues let’s make this a thing of the past and give everyone an ability to enter the fantasy league of their choice!!!!

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