Fantasy baseball offers chance for anyone to become GM

Now that Louisville has cut down the nets, it’s time to flip the sports calendar to baseball season. Instead of hearing about shooting percentage and RPI, sports fans are hearing terms like ERA and RBI for the first time since the San Francisco Giants defeated the Detroit Tigers in the World Series last season.

There is excitement in the air as teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays are improving their playoff chances by signing players and trading prospects for big names. On the flip side, there is a New York Yankee team that has been ravaged by injuries and is simply looking get into the playoffs. These are nice stories, but what about the fans of teams in a rebuilding phase? What do they have to look forward to? The answer: fantasy baseball.

For many baseball aficionados, fantasy baseball makes the summer more stressful, or at least keeps them busy until school starts up in the fall. The concept is simple: you sign up on a website that hosts leagues (ESPN, Yahoo, etc.). The leagues usually consist of eight or more people, usually a group of friends, and each person owns a team. A draft is held to assign players to the individual teams. If you are a rookie, I suggest you select the “auto-draft” option and let the computer pick players for you. Otherwise, pick wisely.

Scoring systems vary depending on how the league wants the scoring to occur. For example, a points system is where players are assigned points based on performance. Another scoring system is winning the most categories. Categories may include, but are not limited to: batting average, home runs, RBIs, ERA, saves, strikeouts and innings pitched.

Once everyone has agreed on the scoring system, it is time for the draft. Everyone gets one pick per round and then the list of players taken show up in a window to avoid two teams picking the same player. There is a time limit on your pick, so plan ahead on whom you want to draft. Also, if you fail to draft a player in the time allotted, then the computer will randomly pick for you. Some leagues offer a tool where you can look at players side-by-side or make a “wish list” so you do not have to search for the player again. Once it is said and done, there will be about 25 or so players on your team, just like a standard professional baseball roster. Lineups can be adjusted before a certain time each day or before a player’s game is scheduled to begin.

Now that the basics are covered, it is time to strategize. Everyone has a different approach, but I’ll offer my advice. In order to be successful, you need solid starting pitching. For your first two or three picks, pick starting pitchers that have been historically good such as Justin Verlander. After that, then it might as well be a mad scramble for the best players left. I recommend that you do not draft an entire team; do not draft the entire Yankees or Red Sox roster; have some diversity. Also, have a good mix of American League and National League players because you never know what teams will have an off day unless you constantly check the schedule.

Hopefully you will enjoy the chance to be a general manager of the best players in baseball. It’s not too late to join a league or make one. If you want to claim bragging rights over your friends, then make a league and give it a shot.

Just don’t end up living on your computer all summer.