Why One-Catcher Leagues and Millennials are Ruining Fantasy Baseball
Alright, you caught me. The title above is pure clickbait. I don’t hate millennials. In fact, I kind of envy their youth. I just wish they’d stay off my damn lawn. Nor do I think fantasy baseball is being ruined in any way, even if I’m not always happy with the ways it’s changing to appeal more to the masses. One thing is true though. One-catcher leagues do piss me off, even more than the damn millennials on my lawn.
Before I get too far into my rant, I’ll give a little disclaimer. These views are mine and mine alone. Fantasy baseball is like pizza and making love; even when it’s bad, it’s good (at least that’s what I told the girls in college). You play fantasy baseball the way you enjoy playing it and make love just how you like to do it. I’m just here to lay out my case that the move to one-catcher leagues takes a lot away from the game of fantasy baseball. How this turned into Dr. Ruth does baseball I have no clue.
I get it. The catching pool is worse than ever. If you go through my Twitter timeline, you’ll even find a few posts where I’m moaning and complaining about writing profiles and projections for the catcher position. Many fantasy owners are treating catchers like kickers and just waiting until the last round to grab whatever’s left. I’m with you on the sad state of the position, but comparing them to kickers goes too far. The current crop of catchers may be thin and lack many impact hitters, but they are still regular players we can project just like any other position. Their performance is not just the result of random chance.
The kicker position should be banished from fantasy football. That’s because they are in effect, basically a scoring category unto themselves, and no significant source of fantasy points should be based on the proverbial roll of the dice. Catchers are a part of your fantasy baseball team and their numbers contribute to your team’s totals just like your slugging first baseman. No matter how bad the catching pool looks there is variance within that pool, meaning the way we draft them is an active choice that impacts our chances of winning. More on those active choices in a bit.
If you’re like us you can’t wait until spring to get the 2019 fantasy baseball season started? Well, you don’t have to. Leagues are already forming at Fantrax.com, so head on over and start or join a league today.
When Did One-Catcher Leagues Start Gaining Steam?
What’s ironic about this push for one-catcher leagues is that I think it may have begun with a good friend of mine. I’m not sure Jake Ciely was the first to mention it, but I know it’s the first I heard of this sacrilege. To be honest I’m also not sure Jake is a millennial. What’s the cutoff for that? Jake looks 19, but I think he’s actually 64 or something like that.
Jake, who’s now with The Athletic, came up through the fantasy ranks when I was Executive Editor over at RotoExperts. I always joke with him that I made him everything he is today, but it was pretty obvious right away that he was a quality writer and a quality person. He was never too off-the-wall, but he did always seem to find a new way to look at things. That’s a good quality to have in an industry that can get stale real fast, and it’s served him well as he’s built a great reputation in this business… Now he needs to shut his big fat trap! (he’s not the fat one in case you wondered)
So I didn’t think about it too much after my talks with Jake. I was away from the industry for a couple years (dealing with my own stupid millennials). and I come back to find the Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational in full swing, hosted by our very own mothership Fantrax.com. It’s an incredible idea and I’m looking forward to participating this year. But… You guessed it. It’s a one-catcher league. Now I’m still on board with it, but I have to admit that I wish it wasn’t. I’m generally a pretty progressive guy, but sometimes change happens for no real reason. For me, the reason for change here is a bit of laziness.
Why One-Catcher Leagues are Bad…Mmmmkay
I debated this with The All-In Kid a few times. He’d usually laugh in my face (he didn’t), and say how exciting it was choosing between Caleb Joseph and Christian Vazquez, or two other bum catchers of the day. And to his credit, as we’ve discussed the catcher pool is rather hideous, with very few impact bats. Just check out our 2019 Catcher Rankings if you need to be reminded.
But that thin pool of catchers is exactly what’s so great about having two catchers. It forces you to make tough choices. And tough choices are where good fantasy owners win their leagues.
If we’re afraid of the thin pool of quality catchers, why do we even use positions at all? Why don’t we just draft our 14 hitters from one big group of homogeneous players? Then we would only be drafting the very best hitters and wouldn’t have to compromise because of positional requirements.
I’ll tell you why. Because it’s boring and it takes a huge chunk of strategy away from the game! It brings the entire game down to just who did the best job of projecting the players (and avoiding injuries). Now there’s no doubt that evaluating players is important. Like probably every analyst who’ve ever put their fingers to keyboard, I think I’m pretty good at it. But the thing is, even the best projections in the business are wrong a whole lot of the time. Look no further than fantasy icon Ron Shandler for validation on this.
So projections are a bit of a crapshoot as is. Now throw in the overload of information we now have access to, and the variance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ projections gets a lot closer. So as the window of realistic projection narrows, winning starts to come down to who got lucky on the right breakout player or who avoided big injuries. Is that really how we want to crown a champion? Is there any gamesmanship in that??
Position Scarcity is a Great Thing
Two-catcher leagues and the position scarcity they entail add an opportunity for strategy and game-play. Do you settle for the two bum catchers Jake seems to love so much? Maybe you pay up for two solid bats like J.T. Realmuto and Salvador Perez. Maybe it’s somewhere in the middle. The answer is up to you and it might be different every year. My point is that answer could go a long way in winning you a championship… or losing you one.
It’s one more opportunity where a good owner can use strategy to differentiate himself from his league-mates. For me that’s a big thing. Projecting MLB players is all about them. I want the game of fantasy baseball to be just as much about me. Somewhere in this deluge of data we face everyday, we’re losing the game part of fantasy baseball. We here plenty of stuff about launch angle, exit velocity, and xwOBA, but how often do we see writers delve into the strategy of actually building a tea? [Spoiler Alert: Most of my preseason content will be geared toward the strategy of winning fantasy baseball leagues]
It’s the same reason I enjoy the rotisserie format over points based games. The categories allow me an opportunity to take my projections, which are undoubtedly faultless, and manipulate them to gain an advantage. So even if you do a better job of projecting player performance, I can still use strategy to outperform you in the standings. Some people see exploiting categories or certain rules in fantasy baseball as not in the spirit of the game. I say it’s what makes it a game.
After all Fantasy baseball is a game in and of itself. Yeah, we use MLB players and the numbers they produce, but shouldn’t the game be about us? I want every opportunity possible to find ways to be the best. One-catcher leagues are just another way we lose some of those opportunities.
Enough with the rant. Go play fantasy baseball the way you like to play. Hopefully I’ve at least given you food for thought. Don’t just go with something because the cool young whippersnappers are chirping about it. Embrace the diversity in the player pool and use it to help win your leagues… And stay off my freaking lawn!
Doug Anderson is an 11-year veteran of the Fantasy Sports industry. His work has appeared on RotoExperts.com, Yahoo.com, SI.com, and NFL.com, as well as in the pages of USA Today’s Fantasy Baseball Weekly and various other magazines. Doug has participated in both LABR and Tout Wars, the two preeminent expert fantasy baseball leagues in existence. Doug was formerly the Executive Editor at RotoExperts and is now Managing Editor here at FantraxHQ. You can follow him on Twitter @RotoDaddy.
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