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.