Rule Ideas for Running a 60-Game Season Fantasy Baseball League

Baseball is returning! Whether or not it gets shut down before late July and we get to put on hold again, keeper leagues need to start planning their season to maintain continuity for the 2021 and beyond.

A sixty-game schedule is a ridiculously small sample size and short-term variability will be the largest in determining factor who wins your league without the time available to regress over the length of a traditional seasonal available. Given this, it’s important to adjust some of your league rules and focus on designing the season to be 1) fun, and 2) avoid conditions that could have long-term repercussions when we return, hopefully, to full-season play in  2021, and more likely, 2022.

First off, if having to work from home for over the past three months has taught us anything, we now all have enough experience using platforms like Zoom to have a certain level of comfort to handle an online auction or draft without having to use third-party drafting websites. In fact, as someone who uses draft-ware or an excel sheet regularly to draft, having zoom running in the background while I auction will feel just like an in-person draft with only a single screen and the room to concentrate upon. Handling Tout Wars with an audio chat, draft-ware, and a third-party draft site was fraught and the only way to handle that is to isolate yourself and use pencil and paper in conjunction with a third-party site. A zoom auction instead of the third-party ware “normalizes” draft day in least in terms of your setup, letting you choose from the most complicated of draft software to the most minimalistic approach.

As someone whose day job regularly involves managing public meetings with over 20+ participants while juggling members of the public and their comments and avoiding zoom bombs I assure a 12-person draft is quite manageable.  After all, we are all looking for a means to connect and have a 12-person in-person draft, unless you can run it in your backyard and can still hear everyone’s bids given masks and social distancing, an online meeting is the only way it is going to work.

So, make it personal, or interpersonal for that matter. I know many of us are tired of Zoom work meetings but this is a chance for an entirely social experience that brings you closest to having a normal draft day experience and in some ways, it may even be easier as you won’t have to wait for “so and so’s stuck in traffic”. Afterall you were going to set aside time from your schedule to have a draft day away from the normal workings of your day anyway, so now all you must do is find a quiet spot for a few hours. Which in my case in a family of five, can be a bit daunting unto itself!

So, the first thing you will need to do is get that auction or draft setup.

Auctioneering and In-Auction Setup
If you are lucky enough to find a third party to serve as your league auctioneer, go for it. If not, you will have to identify the main auctioneer and a few back-up auctioneers who can jump in if the main auctioneer is involved in the bidding. You will also have to have someone volunteer running the official budget sheet. I highly recommend using google sheets to this (I could supply one to users here if you so desired for your use). Having done this for years over teleconference, it can be clunky, but it works, and everyone being in the same medium at their locations will be a boon. I have had situations where some of the league has gathered in person and others on their cell phones or landlines and tried to use a conference call to mixed results. The more mediums, the more issues.

Once in the auction, set the auction cadence in advance so everyone uses the same one, and require that no side-chat occur once a player has been nominated and bidding has closed. You may also want everyone to wear a headset with mic to avoid any outside noises being picked up and to enhance the chance everyone is heard clearly. I highly recommend running a practice session first so everyone just to see how it works. Keep in mind that depending on the quality of connections, turning off video might be a good idea but will require everyone to say their name to confirm their bid. There are settings within zoom to highlight the speaker as well which may aid in identifying who bid first. So, to repeat emphasis, run a test run to devise a means of identifying the most comfortable settings for your league.

Snake-Draft Alternative
For some, running an auction over zoom may simply be too daunting. Or the dynamics of an auction and different strategies teams might have, whether owners are really playing to compete for this season’s prize (more on that later) or not could lead to some unusual bidding compared to normal. So, as an alternative, you may wish to run a snake draft and then assign values by round or even pick made in declining value order. If you want to get even more granular, the available pool is not a mystery at all if you decide to go the snake-draft format. In that scenario come to a consensus on a set of values for players and use them when a player is taken. The bonus with a snake draft style is you won’t have to worry about side-chatter and management of the actual online meeting event is much more relaxed.

Adjusted Rule Ideas

Keeper Contracts – Given the shortened season I am recommending you that suspend the rolling over of contracts for one year. In the case of those leagues where a player is due to get a long-term contract have the owner identify that long-term contract, but do not count 2020 as a year on that contract.

Prizes – If your leagues utilize a monetary prize lowering dues is highly advised since the element of chance is more of a factor than typical for 2020.  It is also recommended that you set a minimum threshold for games played to even award prizes. I’m recommending that at least half the sixty-game schedule be played and if it is fewer than sixty, that it be prorated with some of the funding returned.

Prizes and League Style for 2020 – Your league must now answer the question about how they want 2020 to function. Do they just want to consider this year as in “maintenance mode” by running the draft and avoiding possibly dynamic trades and concentrate on FAAB or do you want it to feel more likely a typical season.

For example, in my twelve-team AL-only league, we normally distribute prizes to the top four teams with the majority going to first place. The fifth-place team doesn’t get a monetary prize, but gets the first pick in our next year’s minor league draft and goes from there to the 12th pick and then starts up again with the 4th place team getting the next pick after the 12th and so on until the winner receives the 12th overall pick. So, for this year, I recommend considering shifting your prizes to first and second place only and winner take all. (And if use a minor-league draft-place reward like we do, moving up that up to the first place that does not receive a monetary prize).

In this way, the lower cash stakes might still add up to approximately a full-season prize for first place and may encourage more aggressive trading and FAAB bids to make it feel more like a regular season. You and your league will have to make this decision, knowing the context of how your league operates. If dump trading is the norm, this may result in some significant dump trades for a short season gain that could have long-term consequences. So, if you have a salary cap, restricting it a bit more to avoid complete, wholesale dumps deals, might be in your best interest. So if you use a $325 in-season cap perhaps lowering it to $310 or $300 might be advised temporarily.

This is article is meant to get ideas flowing. So, If you have any other league ideas and alternatives to share or best practices for running an auction over the Internet, feel free to share in the comments below.

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