FB103 – Setting Up a Fantasy Baseball League

05/20/2007 12:00 PM - 

FantasyBaseball.com University Series
Contributed By: John Diaz

Whether you are new to fantasy baseball or your existing fantasy baseball league just isn’t as active or as competitive as you would prefer, this article is for you.  Here, the finer points of setting up the foundation of a successful fantasy baseball league will be examined.  It is easy to set up a league and it’s more fun to have all of your friends in your very own league rather than playing with a bunch of people that you don’t know.

The first thing you want to decide on is the host website for the league.  How much you want to pay and what quality of service you want are the most important factors in this decision.  In the article titled “FB101: How To Play Fantasy Baseball” I talked about choosing a website to play in a public league on.  Most websites are very user-friendly and will give you a detailed tutorial to read and will guide you through very methodical steps in every detail of your league.  So, first you will want to choose the website that will host your league, and then be ready for all of the questions that the tutorial asks after you have set the league up, like how many owners you will have the type of scoring and more.  There are many different options for leagues for every type of baseball fan.


Whether you have a bunch of family members, friends, co-workers or a bit of each that you want to set up a fantasy baseball league with, the website will make it very easy for you.  While it might be time consuming, if you put in the time, the fruits of your labor will show once the season starts and owners that you invite into your league will thank you for it when they are all enjoying themselves.


Most websites charge money to host a league.  Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com) will host your league for free, but with that, the commissioner powers are not as expansive.  So you will have to decide what you are looking for from a host website.


How many teams will be in your league?
10 teams will suffice and this is a good number to start off with.  You can expand into a larger league in the future.  Having too many owners, too early invites inactive owners and that will cause frustration for you and your owners.

 What will be your scoring method?
There are many options that you can choose such as “Rotisserie” scoring with categories.  This type of setup is often called 4×4 or 5×5 because you are using four (or five) pitching categories and four (or five) hitting categories such as batting average, runs scored, home runs, runs batted in and stolen bases for hitters and strikeouts, earned run average, WHIP (walks + hits divided by innings pitched), saves and wins for pitchers.

You can instead play “head to head” with the same amount of categories used for Rotisserie play.  However, instead of totaling up the points accrued for the whole year like Rotisserie, in head to head, you have a different opponent every week.  Scores are based on the same eight or ten categories listed above, and teams get one point for each category they “win”, or score more than their opponent.  Or, they can get a “win” for winning more categories than their opponent in a given week, with tied categories thrown out or counted in a certain way.  At the end of the regular season, the top teams advance to the postseason to determine the league champion.

How many players on a roster?
The standard for fantasy leagues is to have 23 players on a roster.  A standard fantasy roster usually consists of nine pitchers, five outfielders, two catchers, one first baseman, one second baseman, one shortstop, one third baseman, one middle infielder (either 2B or SS), one corner man (either 1B or 3B), and one utility hitter – this can be another hitter of any position.  Usually seven out of the nine pitchers will start per week and of the hitters, nine of 14 will start and the rest will be on the bench.  For pitchers, you may want to force owners to start at least two relief pitchers and five starting pitchers.  It’s your choice, but if you make no guidelines, owners can take advantage of this by drafting no relief pitchers and crowding their starting lineup with starting pitchers to take advantage of certain statistics.

To determine position eligibility, a player is eligible to play at any and all positions at which he appeared in at least 20 major-league games the previous year. Once the season starts, players are also eligible at any other position they appear at in at least 10 games.  Having up to three injured reserve spots is a good idea as well.

The Draft

The draft is probably the most fun day of the year because this is where all of your league owners will come together, whether in person, or on the internet to draft the players that will make up their teams.  For a first year league, a recommended way to start is with what’s called a “straight draft”.  To give every owner an equal chance to acquire players in the straight draft, a serpentine structure works well. Serpentine is where the team that drafts first in the first round drafts last in the second. The team that drafts last in the first round would draft first in the second and so on. 


Acquiring Free Agents

After your draft, you will need a way for all teams to claim free agents if one of their players gets hurt or is playing poorly and they want to replace them.  One way is to make the process first come, first serve for all free agents except those who have recently been dropped.  You can put a 48 hour freeze window on players who have recently been released from rosters to allow all owners to have an equal chance to view these players who are now able to be acquired by any team.  You can enforce the fairness of this by going from the worst team to the best in terms of record to award these recently released players.  If two teams claim a player and one team has a worse record, that team would get the player.  However, for players who haven’t been picked up by anyone for more than 48 hours, they are available to anyone who gets to them first.  This will hopefully promote more league activity from your owners.


Trades and the Trade Deadline

Part of the fun of fantasy baseball is being able to trade Alex Rodriguez for Barry Bonds.  Owners should be allowed to trade at their discretion, but there is bound to be a trade that one or more people view as unfair.  The commissioner will have to make a decision about this, and it often isn’t an easy one.  If a trade that the league feels is one-sided happens, the commissioner should contact both owners who were part of the trade and ask them to give a reason why they did it.  If they can, the trade should be allowed as two people should be able to trade with each other, on their own, if they see fit.


Late in the season, you’ll want to implement a trading deadline sometime between July 31 and August 15.  This is important so you don’t have questionable trades happen very late in the season that can throw off the league’s balance.  While this can happen at any time of the year, it is especially possible late in the season when teams are trying to find any edge they can to win the league’s championship.  You must be alert for any sign of collusion, which is defined as: secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose.  Basically, it is when two owners conspire together to build a super team with one team trying to trade its stars to the other team for very little.  This can be very harmful to a league, so watch out for it.



In a “Rotisserie” style league, there are no playoffs.  The season will end a week or two before the MLB season ends.  However, in “head-to-head” leagues, you will need to figure out how many teams will make the playoffs.  With 10 teams, four to six teams can make the playoffs.


Commissioner and Veto Powers of Owners

If you are reading this, you are likely trying to learn how to set up your own league.  Since you are doing the reading, odds are you might become the league’s commissioner.  While this isn’t necessary, it is important to figure out who the commissioner will be as from reading this article you can see there is a lot of work to do.


An important detail to decide is how will owners be able to vote to veto trades and rules or if they will be able to at all?  This can be abused and you don’t want it to happen very often, so you want to consider this.  You can require a 75% vote to overturn a ruling or trade or just limit the number of protests per owner in a season.


Now you can form your constitution for your league by using the topics covered here.  These are all recommended tips, but you can adjust them to how you see fit.  That’s the beauty of your own fantasy baseball league – you make the rules!  Most important, have fun!

Click Here to check out the entire FantasyBaseball.com University Series!


Comments are closed.