If you enjoy fantasy baseball you likely enjoy baseball stats. But are you enjoying all the stats as a part of your fantasy baseball experience? And are you a millennial-type who might like enjoying fantasy baseball ironically? There is a dark path through fantasy baseball that leads to a place where Mark Reynolds was a number one pick and Bruce Chen was a stud pitcher not that long ago. It’s a place where wild pitches are gold and hitting into double plays might win you a championship. It’s a concept we dubbed “ironic fantasy baseball” or “The Stinker League”.
The concept is really pretty simple: you take the traditional fantasy baseball concept and invert it so that you are scoring points for all the bad things that can happen on the diamond. I last did one of these leagues in 2012. I’ll walk you through how we set it up, though there is plenty of room to add your own twists. The Yahoo Fantasy format is surprisingly flexible, provided you set the league up as a “points league”. Once you have done that you have a whole suite of typically unused stat categories at your disposal (which I will detail below). You can also have some fun with the roster positions (3 catchers? Sure why not!), but we won’t get into that.
Remember, score points for bad stuff, lose points for good stuff. In our league each hit was -2, but each strikeout was +2. Each stolen base was worth -3, but getting caught stealing was +8. So the ideal player attempted to steal fairly often but failed most of the time. Getting hit by a pitch (+15) and grounding into a double play (+4) were both big money. But hitting a grand slam (-20) or hitting for the cycle (-50) would pretty much ruin your week. Getting a rare “catcher’s interference” was essentially our Yahtzee (+100), if you got one you would likely win the week no matter what else happened. Other fun options include intentional walks and sacrifice flys.
The ideal player here is a free swinger that hits for low average, gets beaned fairly often, and is a poor baserunner. At the time (2012) the stars here were Mark Reynolds and Kelly Johnson who each turned in 150+ K’s. But Carlos Pena was the real stud this season as he managed 186 strike outs (with less than 100 hits, hard to do) and got plunked 13 times. Adam Dunn struck out 222 times during this season, which translated to plenty of points as well.
There is less you can do with fielding, but here are still some fun categories here (these stats are technically applied to the batters). Errors are the obvious one, we scored an error as +10. Assists, outfield assists, put-outs, and double plays turned are all available options as well. Though with the exception of outfield assists, most of these are a measure of opportunity and not necessarily skill. That spoils the ironic fantasy baseball concept to some degree.
The Pitching stats were a little trickier. Big points for balks of course (+30). Hitting a batter was +15, wild pitches +10, and homeruns allowed were +4. Intentional walks, kind of considered a mark of shame for a pitcher, were +5. Getting a win (-3), a save (-3), or a hold (-3) were all ways to lose points. Pitching a shutout was a losing proposition (-15). A rare successful pick off really hurt though (-50). The “hot” pitchers in our league were guys like Fernando Rodney who managed 10 relief losses along with 10 wild pitches. Justin Masterson beaned 13 batters, had 14 wild pitches, and lost 15 games en route to nice stinker of a season. Luis Mendoza turned in two balks along with 11 wild ones. Lots of value there!
How did it work out?
The top position players drafted in 2012 were Mark Reynolds, Pedro Alvarez, and Danny Espinoza. The top pitchers drafted were AJ Burnett (who was struggling with some major control issues at the time), Randy Wolf, and Matt Capps (fresh off a near career ending season). As the season got underway my fellow league mates and I were giddy about the weirdness of what we’d created as we watched these bizarre stat lines roll in. Let me tell you, you’ve never played fantasy sports unless you’ve stayed up until the end of the Sunday night game to see if Carlos Quentin will either get hit by a pitch or commit an error so you can win your weekly matchup. This was a very strange ride. But the novelty wore off by early June. Overall, I would recommend this if you have a close group of buddies that watch a lot of games together and have an unconventional sense of humor that would lend itself to ironic fantasy baseball. It does allow you to develop an appreciation for some of the quirkier aspects of the game (like catcher’s interference, balks, pick offs, etc.). But if you’re a baseball or fantasy baseball purist this is likely not for you.