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Players new to fantasy baseball can quickly get overwhelmed by new terms and acronyms. Many are specific to fantasy baseball and won’t be found in real Major League Baseball. The term “max” comes to mind.
Max in fantasy baseball is short for maximum, and it refers to caps placed on certain positions or statistics. A maximum over an entire season is more common in the Rotisserie format of fantasy baseball, while caps on a weekly basis might be set for head-to-head leagues.
Common maximums in fantasy baseball rules are: for innings pitched over a whole season; for games played by position over a whole season; and number of transactions.
That goes the other way, too, like minimum innings pitched by a pitcher. The bottom line is these minimums and limits are set to prevent questionable roster moves, and outright shenanigans, by managers in leagues.
That said, let’s explore the max and min of fantasy baseball.
Fantasy baseball is played by super-competitive people. Many die-hard managers will scour their league’s rules, and build and set their roster of real MLB players accordingly. Some do this on a daily basis, often to gain advantage over friends who have limited time to manage a fantasy baseball team.
Sometimes things that aggressive managers do ~ like starting only relief pitchers (see explanation below) ~ could give them an advantage in certain statistical categories. However, in doing so, they make game play unlike real baseball. Which is kind of the point of fantasy baseball, right?
Hence, invention of min limits and (max) caps on statistics. They are aimed at making that league’s play as realistic as possible; or to prevent a certain manager (or more) from doing goofy things like swapping out all pitchers every single day for new ones who are scheduled to start.
These are included in fantasy baseball’s rules of play, often in private leagues. Some large public fantasy baseball platforms start with standard maximums and minimums that it recommends; but allows freedom for leagues to make changes.
Some platforms, like Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball, start with a standard of at least 9 innings pitched per week for head-to-head leagues.
That’s to prevent managers from starting only relief pitchers, and no starters at all. The idea would be to win the ERA, and WHIP categories, because it lessens chances that a pitcher will have a bad outing and raise one or both. This strategy totally ignores the Wins and Strikeouts cats, and banks on winning in Saves. Some fantasy baseball managers play like this, choosing which stats to focus on and then just trying to win 1 more game that week than his opponent.
Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. However, many league managers may balk at extreme measures just to chase specific stat categories, mainly because it doesn’t mimic the real game of baseball.
So a majority of a league’s managers could vote or otherwise convince the league’s commissioner to establish minimums (like number of innings pitched per week before pitching stats count; or maximums (like 900 innings over an entire season).
The whole objective in fantasy baseball is to be the best at A) choosing the best players; and B) placing them in the lineup in games to achieve the best statistics possible. If you are only allowed, say, 200 starts in total over a whole season, you’ll want each one to count.
It makes managing more about knowledge and strategy, and less about who has the most time to scour waiver wires.
Managers have figured out a lot of ways to finesse fantasy baseball rosters since the game began some 40 years ago. Here are some tricks that resulted in the invention of league maximums or minimums.
- Streaming. This is the practice of dropping pitchers and adding starting pitchers nearly every day, with the idea of maximizing the number of starts in any given week, to win the Wins and/or Ks categories. In this strategy, managers see who’s scheduled to pitch the next day, then grab them, only to drop the players as soon as that game ends. Solution: Cap the number of transactions allowed each week (e.g. just 6 from Monday to Sunday); or over a season (like 50 total, then none allowed after that).
- Punting Wins and Ks. This is the situation above where a manager starts only relief pitchers, or mostly relievers, with interest in winning in Saves, keeping ERA and WHIP low, and luck out on a few Ks and maybe even a Win. Solution: Minimum innings pitched.
- Streaming for Offense. Some leagues allow more than one player per position, e.g. 2 catchers. Major League Baseball games are not held every day, so often a player on a roster cannot add stats for a day. In this trick, managers drop players and add new ones just for days when their current players are off. Then they do it all the time, accumulating transactions and holding an advantage over managers who do not have the time to watch the Waiver Wire every hour. Solution: Maximum transactions per week or season.
- Packing Innings. Related to Streaming but used more for Rotisserie leagues, this trick has managers making transactions daily with intent to just accumulate as many innings pitched as possible. The concept is, the more innings over a season, the more Strikeouts and Wins attained. Solution: Maximum innings pitched per player or team; max starts per season (usually 200); or a cap on the total number of transactions. This makes managers strategize and optimize use of players on their daily roster ~ like real baseball.
- Packing At-Bats: This is like the above trick, only for batters. Managers flip hitters daily to get as many turns to the plate as possible. Solution: Maximum number of games played by position; after the max is exceeded, stats no longer count for that position.
Some managerial tricks, like “punting” Saves or Stolen Bases, are difficult to prevent. And besides, it very well could happen that a MLB manager cares nothing about SBs, or even Saves if he uses a closer-by-committee.
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