A retrospective of Scott White’s 20 years playing Fantasy Baseball, complete with stat lines and anecdotes


I didn’t realize it at the time, but 2019 marked my 20th year playing Fantasy Baseball. How crazy is that?

Since time is at a standstill for all of us right now anyway, it seems only fitting to take the time to remember each of those 20 years, revisiting key stat lines and moments.

There’s only one format that spanned all 20 for me: a 10-team Head-to-Head points league. I’ll lean heavily on that one for Fantasy context while also highlighting what was happening in a general baseball sense.

So put on your party hats and grab some of those blowy roller things that retract like a lizard tongue. It’s a momentous anniversary, and it’s high time we celebrated.

2000

MVPs: Jason Giambi, 1B, OAK | Jeff Kent, 2B, SF
CYs: Pedro Martinez, SP, BOS | Randy Johnson, SP, ARI
ROYs: Kazuhiro Sasaki, RP, SEA | Rafael Furcal, SS, ATL

League average ERA: 4.83
League average K/9:
6.5
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 37 

League average BA: .269
Hitters with 20+ homers: 102
Hitters with 20+ steals: 42

Hitter I was obsessed with: Jose Vidro, 2B, MON
.330 BA (606 AB), 24 HR, 51 2B, .918 OPS, 49 BB, 69 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Jeff D’Amico, SP, MIL
12-7, 2.66 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 162.1 IP, 46 BB, 101 K

My first year was against a bunch of randos on a then-popular site called Sandbox.com. I was 16. Players were distributed automatically based on how users ranked them at each position, but I didn’t even bother to do that. I remember being thrilled I got Greg Maddux, Chipper Jones and Andres Galarraga and spent the early part of the year trying to trade for even more Braves. I then made the hella dumb decision to trade David Wells (a 20-game winner that year) for Rick Heller and Andy Ashby, convinced quantity mattered more than quality at starting pitcher and not realizing there was a yearly start limit of 162. I ran out in mid-August and stopped checking thereafter.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 8th

2001

MVPs: Ichiro Suzuki, OF, SEA | Barry Bonds, OF, SF
CYs: Roger Clemens, SP, NYY | Randy Johnson, SP, ARI
ROYs: Ichiro Suzuki, OF, SEA | Albert Pujols, OF, STL

League average ERA: 4.47
League average K/9:
 6.7
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 45

League average BA: .263
Hitters with 20+ homers: 90
Hitters with 20+ steals: 44

Hitter I was obsessed with: Lance Berkman, OF, HOU
.331 BA (577 AB), 34 HR, 55 2B, 1.051 OPS, 92 BB, 121 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Barry Zito, SP, OAK
17-8, 3.49 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 214.1 IP, 80 BB, 205 K  

I had more or less decided not to play again, not liking the way it divided my loyalty between my real team and my Fantasy one, but curiosity got the better of me with the season approaching. I wanted to see how well I could do after the lessons I learned that first year, resolving to leave my fandom out of it altogether. My goal became to acquire the top player at every position by offering up two nearly-as-good players and backfilling off the waiver wire (which no one else had seemed to discover yet). And that’s exactly how it played out.

I’m pretty sure everyone hated me by the end, which begs the question: Why did they keep trading with me? As difficult as it is to get people I know just to respond to trade offers these days, why did these randos so consistently do it — and why so often with a “yes?” I’ve often wondered this, as well as if my enthusiasm would have waned if they didn’t. As it was, I cruised to an easy victory and was hooked.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 1st  

2002

MVPs: Miguel Tejada, SS, OAK | Barry Bonds, OF, SF
CYs: Barry Zito, SP, OAK | Randy Johnson, SP, ARI
ROYs: Eric Hinske, 3B, TOR | Jason Jennings, SP, COL

League average ERA: 4.30
League average K/9:
 6.5
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 42

League average BA: .261
Hitters with 20+ homers: 90
Hitters with 20+ steals: 33

Hitter I was obsessed with: Brian Giles, OF, PIT
.298 BA (497 AB), 38 HR, 15 SB, 1.072 OPS, 135 BB, 74 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Wade Miller, SP, HOU
15-4, 3.28 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 164.2 IP, 62 BB, 144 K  

This year marked the first in which I recruited friends to play with me instead of just mixing it up with strangers, but rest assured, they all learned to hate me, too. In addition to myself, two others still remain from that initial group of 10. My 2-for-1 trade offers still mostly worked, with the waiver wire largely serving as my own personal stockpile, but I made the mistake of leaning too much on one league-mate who was all too willing to deal with me. The league chased him out the following year, but it wasn’t the last I heard from him. He married my sister 15 years later.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 1st 

2003

MVPs: Alex Rodriguez, SS, TEX | Barry Bonds, OF, SF
CYs: Roy Halladay, SP, TOR | Eric Gagne, RP, LAD
ROYs: Angel Berroa, SS, KC | Dontrelle Willis, SP, FLA

League average ERA: 4.42
League average K/9:
 6.4
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 44

League average BA: .264
Hitters with 20+ homers: 86
Hitters with 20+ steals: 26

Hitter I was obsessed with: Marcus Giles, 2B, ATL
.316 BA (551 AB), 21 HR, 49 2B, .917 OPS, 59 BB, 80 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Mark Prior, SP, CHC
18-6, 2.43 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 211.1 IP, 50 BB, 245 K  

My first year of college also brought significant changes to my Fantasy Baseball life. We moved our league from Sandbox to CBS Sports, taking our scoring periods from semi-weekly to weekly and introducing me to the concept of two-start pitchers. We also had an actual draft for the first time, and I’ll never forget my first seven picks, which were basically me paying homage to all of my obsessions up to that point: Alex Rodriguez, Lance Berkman, Brian Giles, Chipper Jones, Jose Vidro, Mike Sweeney and Wade Miller. I mean, I couldn’t have scripted it any better.

It was actually my eighth pick, Mark Prior, who proved to be the most pivotal. Yup, that was the season. I also scooped up Esteban Loaiza for what turned out to be that season, as in the one where he inexplicably became a Cy Young contender at age 31. These are the kinds of things you could do at starting pitcher back then, which is why my approach was so hitter-heavy for so long.

Unfortunately, 2003 was also the year we introduced playoffs to our league, and I learned firsthand just how fickle they can be (as if my time as a Braves fan hadn’t already revealed this). It’s a lesson that would be reinforced many times in that particular league.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 3rd, because of the playoffs

2004

MVPs: Vladimir Guerrero, OF, ANA | Barry Bonds, OF, SF
CYs: Johan Santana, SP, MIN | Roger Clemens, SP, HOU
ROYs: Bobby Crosby, SS, OAK | Jason Bay, OF, PIT

League average ERA: 4.50
League average K/9:
 6.6
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 42

League average BA: .265
Hitters with 20+ homers: 93
Hitters with 20+ steals: 27

Hitter I was obsessed with: Adrian Beltre, 3B, LAD
.334 BA (598 AB), 48 HR, 121 RBI, 1.017 OPS, 53 BB, 87 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Brad Lidge, RP, HOU
29 SV, 1.90 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 94.2 IP, 30 BB, 157 K 

Tensions were running high. A couple of bad eggs had found their way into the league the year before and sown discord on their way out. Neither was a big fan of me personally, but one of them nonetheless traded me Vladimir Guerrero during a lengthy IL stint (possibly not accounting for the new keeper policy), which didn’t help matters. I was in the crosshairs for many who had grown weary of me dealing my way to the top. Every trade was now heavily litigated. Vetoes became standard practice. I’m sure I threatened to quit a few times, and I think I meant it. Mistrust had taken all the fun out of it.

It’s all laughably dramatic in retrospect, but it seems like every league goes through a phase like this, particularly when the participants are of a certain age. I can’t help but chuckle whenever someone emails me of a similar plight because, yeah, it’s a natural part of a league’s maturing process. In the moment, it feels like all the joy has been sucked out of the room, but you all come out the better for it. I’m not sure our policy on vetoing trades ever officially changed, but we haven’t overturned one in over a decade.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 5th  

2005

MVPs: Alex Rodriguez, 3B, NYY | Albert Pujols, 1B, STL
CYs: Bartolo Colon, SP, LAA | Chris Carpenter, SP, STL
ROYs: Huston Street, RP, OAK | Ryan Howard, 1B, PHI

League average ERA: 4.34
League average K/9:
 6.4
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 50

League average BA: .263
Hitters with 20+ homers: 78
Hitters with 20+ steals: 27

Hitter I was obsessed with: Travis Hafner, DH, CLE
.305 BA (486 AB), 33 HR, 42 2B, 1.003 OPS, 79 BB, 123 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: John Patterson, SP, WAS
9-7, 3.13 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 198.1 IP, 65 BB, 185 K 

It was around this time — or maybe a little before —that I came to realize Fantasy Baseball advice was a thing people got paid to give. I took a particular liking to Tristan Cockcroft, now with ESPN, whose opinions not only seemed most in line with my own but who also articulated them so well. I became a consumer of the highest order, often participating in chat sessions and mock drafts. It was comforting to see that others were obsessing about this stuff on the same level I was, and it spared those closest to me — parents, friends, girlfriends (ha, like I had any) — from hearing any more about my Fantasy Baseball team.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 1st 

2006

MVPs: Justin Morneau, 1B, MIN | Ryan Howard, 1B, PHI
CYs: Johan Santana, SP, MIN | Brandon Webb, SP, ARI
ROYs: Justin Verlander, SP, DET | Hanley Ramirez, SS, FLA

League average ERA: 4.59
League average K/9:
 6.5
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 45

League average BA: .268
Hitters with 20+ homers: 91
Hitters with 20+ steals: 35

Hitter I was obsessed with: Nick Johnson, 1B, WAS
.290 BA (500 AB), 23 HR, 46 2B, .948 OPS, 110 BB, 99 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Aaron Harang, SP, CIN
16-11, 3.76 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 234.1 IP, 56 BB, 216 K 

It was all just second nature to me now. My year revolved around Fantasy Baseball season, and when it came, I was ready for it, no longer waking up in a cold sweat convinced that I missed the draft and auto-picked Cal Ripken or some other long-retired player. And it’s a good thing I found serenity through Fantasy Baseball because I was a stressed mess otherwise, unsure of what to do once I graduated college. I don’t remember the conversation, but my roommate from back then swears he asked me one day what I’d do if I could get paid to do anything. “Write about Fantasy Baseball,” I said. Crazy, huh?

While keepers had been a regular part of our league by this point, we introduced a couple minor-league slots, allowing me to dip my toes into those waters for the first time with a pair of Diamondbacks, Stephen Drew and Carlos Quentin. But my most consequential pick was Matt Holliday in Round 6 (or what would have been Round 10 sans keepers), who broke out with a .326 batting average, 34 homers, 114 RBI, 119 runs and 45 doubles.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 2nd  

2007

MVPs: Alex Rodriguez, 3B, NYY | Jimmy Rollins, SS, PHI
CYs: CC Sabathia, SP, CLE | Jake Peavy, SP, SD
ROYs: Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS | Ryan Braun, 3B, MIL

League average ERA: 4.53
League average K/9:
 6.6
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 38

League average BA: .267
Hitters with 20+ homers: 86
Hitters with 20+ steals: 42

Hitter I was obsessed with: Kelly Johnson, 2B, ATL
.276 BA (521 AB), 16 HR, 10 3B, .831 OPS, 79 BB, 117 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Erik Bedard, SP, BAL
13-5, 3.16 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 182 IP, 57 BB, 221 K 

By this point, I’m a grown-up with a grown-up job as the sports editor for a newspaper in Waycross, Ga., mostly covering high school sports but also writing a weekly column about whatever topic I chose. And the topic I chose might have been Fantasy Baseball once or twice. I remember conducting my draft from the newsroom because I didn’t trust my dial-up connection at home (lean times, lemme tell ya) and being thrilled to grab a couple up-and-coming lefties named Cole Hamels and Rich Hill (yes, he was around then). But the most notable thing about this 2007 team is that it was the only time I ever had Barry Bonds (for what turned out to be his final season). I ended up trading him for Erik Bedard, who went on to lead the majors and K/9 and finish fifth in AL Cy Young voting.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 3rd  

2008

MVPs: Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS | Albert Pujols, 1B, STL
CYs: Cliff Lee, SP, CLE | Tim Lincecum, SP, SF
ROYs: Evan Longoria, 3B, TB | Geovany Soto, C, CHC

League average ERA: 4.34
League average K/9:
 6.8
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 34

League average BA: .263
Hitters with 20+ homers: 92
Hitters with 20+ steals: 37

Hitter I was obsessed with: Carlos Quentin, OF, CHW
.288 BA (480 AB), 36 HR, 100 RBI, .965 OPS, 66 BB, 80 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Ricky Nolasco, SP, FLA
15-8, 3.52 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 212.1 IP, 42 BB, 186 K

Apparently, all of those departures into Fantasy Baseball with the Waycross Journal-Herald paid off, because CBS Sports hired me late in 2007. It wasn’t specifically for Fantasy Baseball, but when the opportunity presented itself for the start of the 2008 season, I went from having my one league to about a dozen, many of which were formats I had never played before. I was a quick study because I had been a Fantasy Baseball content junkie in the years leading up to it, and it helps that most principles really do apply across the board. I was even recognized by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, winning Best Baseball Series for my work on positional tiers, which sort of became my calling card in those early years.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 8th 

2009

MVPs: Joe Mauer, C, MIN | Albert Pujols, 1B, STL
CYs: Zack Greinke, SP, KC | Tim Lincecum, SP, SF
ROYs: Andrew Bailey, RP, OAK | Chris Coghlan, OF, MIA

League average ERA: 4.35
League average K/9:
 7.0
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 36

League average BA: .262
Hitters with 20+ homers: 87
Hitters with 20+ steals: 46

Hitter I was obsessed with: Ben Zobrist, 2B, TB
.297 BA (501 AB), 27 HR, 17 SB, .948 OPS, 91 BB, 104 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Zack Greinke, SP, KC
16-8, 2.16 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 229.1 IP, 51 BB, 242 K 

I was fully integrated into CBS Sports Fantasy Baseball coverage by this point, scoring big with pickups like Shin-Soo Choo and Ben Zobrist while accurately predicting a big breakout for Zack Greinke. I was a fierce proponent of hitters over pitchers in the early rounds and declared it as loudly as I could wherever I could, which by this point included video and a fledgling podcast hosted by Jamey Eisenberg. This time, the Fantasy Sports Writers Association saw fit to name me Baseball Writer of the Year, so I guess it’s been all downhill ever since.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 3rd 

2010

MVPs: Josh Hamilton, OF, TEX | Joey Votto, 1B, CIN
CYs: Felix Hernandez, SP, SEA | Roy Halladay, SP, PHI
ROYs: Neftali Feliz, RP, TEX | Buster Posey, C, SF

League average ERA: 4.09
League average K/9:
 7.1
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 45

League average BA: .256
Hitters with 20+ homers: 77
Hitters with 20+ steals: 35

Hitter I was obsessed with: Jose Bautista, OF, TOR
.260 BA (569 AB), 54 HR, 124 RBI, .995 OPS, 100 BB, 116 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Daniel Hudson, SP, ARI
8-2, 2.45 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 95.1 IP, 27 BB, 84 K 

Feels like this was the year when it became most evident that our landscape was beginning to change. Strikeouts continued to rise. Offense began to plummet. Two years after the Mitchell Report, the post-steroids era had arrived, leading to an unprecedented time of pitching surplus wherein it made all the sense in the world not to pay up for starting pitching. I mean, just look at the number of pitchers throwing 200-plus innings. A guy like Gio Gonzalez or Mat Latos would show up and take on a big workload right away. It’s in that environment that a 29-year-old journeyman named Jose Bautista broke out with 54 homers, a game-changing transformation that still blows me away to this day.

It was around this time that I began to develop a reputation as an aggressive bidder in auctions, quite deliberately throwing big dollars at the top two catchers (Joe Mauer and Victor Martinez) and top two shortstops (Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez) in one industry league. My goal was to box out the competition at the two scarcest positions at a time when position scarcity was still a thing, and it worked. I went on to win the league.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 1st  

2011

MVPs: Justin Verlander, SP, DET | Ryan Braun, OF, MIL
CYs: Justin Verlander, SP, DET | Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD
ROYs: Jeremy Hellickson, SP, TB | Craig Kimbrel, RP, ATL

League average ERA: 3.96
League average K/9:
 7.1
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 39

League average BA: .254
Hitters with 20+ homers: 68
Hitters with 20+ steals: 50

Hitter I was obsessed with: Eric Hosmer, 1B, KC
.293 BA (523 AB), 19 HR, 11 SB, .799 OPS, 34 BB, 82 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Michael Pineda, SP, SEA
9-10, 3.74 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 171 IP, 55 BB, 173 K 

The continued decline of offense (and contact) led to a resurgence in stolen bases and the emergence of a new breed of superpitcher, with Justin Verlander claiming AL MVP honors and Clayton Kershaw winning the first of three Cy Youngs. This was also about the time I became convinced Troy Tulowitzki was the most pivotal player in Fantasy Baseball (again, position scarcity was still a thing) and pretty much always made him my first-round pick, regardless of where I was picking. The Fantasy Baseball Today podcast was fully off the ground by this point, recording five days a week with Adam Aizer as the host.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 5th

2012

MVPs: Miguel Cabrera, 1B, DET | Buster Posey, C, SF
CYs: David Price, SP, TB | R.A. Dickey, SP, NYM
ROYs: Mike Trout, OF, LAA | Bryce Harper, OF, WAS

League average ERA: 4.06
League average K/9:
 7.5
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 31

League average BA: .253
Hitters with 20+ homers: 79
Hitters with 20+ steals: 48

Hitter I was obsessed with: Allen Craig, OF, STL
.307 BA (469 AB), 22 HR, 35 2B, .876 OPS, 37 BB, 89 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Kris Medlen, SP, ATL
10-1, 1.57 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 138 IP, 23 BB, 120 K 

Longtime followers may recall a time when I was convinced Lucas Duda was the next big thing. He wasn’t and showed it this year, and  2012 was also the year of the great Brett Lawrie fakeout. The Blue Jays third baseman taught us all a lesson in sample size and sophomore slumps, unable to live up to the high draft standing procured by an impressive 43-game debut the year before.

The spike in strikeout rate is worth noting, but 2012 is probably most remembered for Mike Trout’s arrival, Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown and the MVP debate that ensued. The year also marked my introduction to Scoresheet, a week-to-week simulation that remains under the radar even though it may be the most rewarding version of Fantasy Baseball I have yet to find.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 1st 

2013

MVPs: Miguel Cabrera, 1B, DET | Andrew McCutchen, OF, PIT
CYs: Max Scherzer, SP, DET | Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD
ROYs: Wil Myers, OF, TB | Jose Fernandez, SP, MIA

League average ERA: 3.91
League average K/9:
 7.6
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 36

League average BA: .252
Hitters with 20+ homers: 70
Hitters with 20+ steals: 40

Hitter I was obsessed with: Matt Carpenter, 2B, STL
.318 BA (626 AB), 11 HR, 55 2B, 126 R, .873 OPS, 72 BB, 98 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Tony Cingrani, SP, CIN
7-4, 2.92 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 104.2 IP, 43 BB, 120 K 

It’s a moment that lives in Fantasy Baseball infamy. You know Nando Di Fino? He’s everyone’s favorite person, and I had the pleasure of working with him for an all-too-brief stretch that included 2013. Along with being impossibly likable, Nando is known for having an insulated valuation system that doesn’t seem to account for everyone else’s perception of a player. When he really likes someone, he goes whole hog for him, and I thought I could use it to my advantage in our annual Rotisserie auction.

Following another of my typically aggressive auction plans, I had already spent a combined $120 or so on the top two players, Miguel Cabrera and MIke Trout, when Jedd Gyorko, Nando’s not-so-secret top target, came up. I had to be really careful with my remaining money, so much that I’m not sure I would have spent even double-digit dollars on Gyorko. But knowing the way Nando operated, I pushed it to $24 before he — yes, Nando and not me — dropped out. 

That team still finished third, which is fairly amazing given how awful Gyorko was that year, but I can’t help but wonder what might have been if I had been able to allocate my remaining dollars properly.

The 2013 season also marked the start of the Scott White Dynasty League, a dream setup that has received a warm response. You can read all about it here.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 5th  

2014

MVPs: Mike Trout, OF, LAA | Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD
CYs: Corey Kluber, SP, CLE | Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD
ROYs: Jose Abreu, 1B, CHW | Jacob deGrom, SP, NYM

League average ERA: 3.77
League average K/9:
 7.7
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 34

League average BA: .249
Hitters with 20+ homers: 57
Hitters with 20+ steals: 39

Hitter I was obsessed with: Brian Dozier, 2B, MIN
.242 BA (598 AB), 23 HR, 21 SB, .762 OPS, 89 BB, 129 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Alex Wood, SP, ATL
11-11, 2.78 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 171.2 IP, 45 BB, 170 K 

Clayton Kershaw became the second pitcher in four years to take home a league MVP award, further backing the idea of an elevated super tier among the starting pitcher surplus. And I say surplus with a capital S because this was the year pitching peaked during that brief stretch between the steroids and juiced-ball eras. The number of hitters with 20-plus homers is one thing, but would you believe only 11 players hit 30 or more? It sounds like an alternate reality given the way things have gone the past few years. I remember 2014 wasn’t such a great year for me in Fantasy Baseball, but I dismissed it as a fluke — one of those years that’s bound to happen when you’ve played as long as I have — and pressed on.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 4th

2015

MVPs: Josh Donaldson, 3B, TOR | Bryce Harper, OF, WAS
CYs: Dallas Keuchel, SP, HOU | Jake Arrieta, SP, CHC
ROYs: Carlos Correa, SS, HOU | Kris Bryant, 3B, CHC

League average ERA: 3.98
League average K/9:
 7.8
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 28

League average BA: .253
Hitters with 20+ homers: 64
Hitters with 20+ steals: 30

Hitter I was obsessed with: Mookie Betts, OF, BOS
.291 BA (597 AB), 18 HR, 21 SB, .820 OPS, 46 BB, 82 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Carlos Carrasco, SP, CLE
14-12, 3.63 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 183.2 IP, 43 BB, 216 K 

But 2015 was even worse. It’s the year that first opened my eyes to what was happening at starting pitcher and at least made me rethink my longstanding conviction that hitters were the higher priority in the early rounds. It was also the year of perhaps the most spirited Cy Young race of my lifetime, when Zack Greinke (1.66 ERA), Jake Arrieta (1.77 ERA) and Clayton Kershaw (2.13 ERA, but with 301 strikeouts) all had a claim to the prize in the NL. That three such historic seasons could happen in the same year spoke to how super-powered the most high-end starting pitchers were becoming, but with offense down across the league, it might have been easy to overlook.

You remember the Daily Fantasy craze? Yeah, that was in 2015. It died down pretty quickly — with the help of outside forces, of course — but it also brought Heath Cummings into all of our lives. Net gain, I guess.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 2nd  

2016

MVPs: Mike Trout, OF, LAA | Kris Bryant, 3B, CHC
CYs: Rick Porcello, SP, BOS | Max Scherzer, SP, WAS
ROYs: Michael Fulmer, SP, DET | Corey Seager, SS, LAD

League average ERA: 4.21
League average K/9:
 8.1
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 15

League average BA: .255
Hitters with 20+ homers: 111
Hitters with 20+ steals: 28

Hitter I was obsessed with: Rougned Odor, 2B, TEX
.271 BA (605 AB), 33 HR, 14 SB, .798 OPS, 19 BB, 135 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: James Paxton, SP, SEA
6-7, 3.79 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 121 IP, 24 BB, 117 K 

Wait … the number of hitters with 20-plus homers was just 64 in 2015, but now it’s … 111? So marks the beginning of the juiced-ball era and a return to the inflated offensive production I became accustomed to seeing in my earliest days playing Fantasy Baseball. And yet it’s still not quite the same. The league-wide batting average is lower, and the strikeout rate continues to escalate. No, this offensive explosion is pretty much limited to home runs. The pitchers that can avoid them — or avoid contact altogether — have a serious leg up, then. And while right around 40 pitchers were throwing 200-plus innings back in the steroids era, only 15 were in 2016.

It all adds up to that super-pitcher class I referred to earlier having all the power at a time when mid-level pitchers are effectively nerfed by the long ball. In other words, the best starting pitchers are historically great at a time when it’s not so great historically to be a starting pitcher, which makes those high-end starting pitchers clearly the biggest difference-makers in Fantasy Baseball now. I would spend the next few years trying to convince myself of that before going full bore here in 2020.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 4th  

2017

MVPs: Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU | Giancarlo Stanton, OF, MIA
CYs: Corey Kluber, SP, CLE | Max Scherzer, SP, WAS
ROYs: Aaron Judge, OF, NYY | Cody Bellinger, 1B, LAD

League average ERA: 4.37
League average K/9:
 8.3
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 15

League average BA: .254
Hitters with 20+ homers: 117
Hitters with 20+ steals: 29

Hitter I was obsessed with: Tommy Pham, OF, STL
.306 BA, 23 HR, 25 SB, .931 OPS, 71 BB, 117 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Zack Godley, SP, ARI
8-9, 3.37 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 155 IP, 53 BB, 165 K 

The 2017 season marked my first playing in Tout Wars, the well-known industry league I had been hearing about since I first started consuming Fantasy Baseball content nearly 15 years earlier. Why only then? Good question! I guess I should have asked sooner. I was still trying to come to grips with what qualified as a high-end starting pitcher in this new world where they were of such importance to me and got faked out pretty badly by Robbie Ray. Sure, he threw just 162 innings with a terrible walk rate the year before, but the strikeout rate was my first fetish at starting pitcher and his was second to none. Live and learn.

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 2nd  

2018

MVPs: Mookie Betts, OF, BOS | Christian Yelich, OF, MIL
CYs: Blake Snell, SP, TB | Jacob deGrom, SP, NYM
ROYs: Shohei Ohtani, DH/SP, LAA | Ronald Acuna, OF, ATL

League average ERA: 4.17
League average K/9:
 8.5
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 13

League average BA: .248
Hitters with 20+ homers: 100
Hitters with 20+ steals: 28

Hitter I was obsessed with: Max Muncy, 1B, LAD
.263 BA (395 AB), 35 HR, 79 RBI, .973 OPS, 79 BB, 131 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Patrick Corbin, SP, ARI
11-7, 3.15 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 200 IP, 48 BB, 246 K 

With 2018 came the realization that dynasty play was becoming an important fixture in Fantasy Baseball, sort of overtaking the AL- and NL-only league among players who wanted a deeper experience. And look, my 3-4 dynasty leagues are probably what get 75 percent of my attention these days, so I’m right there. All of that trading I used to do back when I had just my one redraft league? That creative energy is pretty much limited to those dynasty leagues now. where the payoffs are longer lasting and the consequences more consequential. Finding the right content balance is tricky, especially since dynasty league setups are all so different, but it’s a new frontier that will only be explored further moving forward. 

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 6th  

2019

MVPs: Mike Trout, OF, LAA | Cody Bellinger, 1B, LAD
CYs: Justin Verlander, SP, HOU | Jacob deGrom, SP, NYM
ROYs: Yordan Alvarez, DH, HOU | Pete Alonso, 1B, NYM

League average ERA: 4.55
League average K/9:
 8.9
Pitchers with 200+ innings: 15

League average BA: .250
Hitters with 20+ homers: 130
Hitters with 20+ steals: 21

Hitter I was obsessed with: Ketel Marte, 2B, ARI
.329 BA (569 AB), 32 HR, 10 SB, .981 OPS, 53 BB, 86 K

Pitcher I was obsessed with: Matthew Boyd, SP, DET
9-12, 4.56 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 185.1 IP, 50 BB, 238 K 

Where I placed in my 10-team H2H points league: 2nd 

Even 20 years in and with more than 150 leagues on my resume now, I was still learning some of my biggest lessons as a Fantasy Baseball player just last year. My new approach to starting pitching finally crystalized after some indecision the past few years, made clear by the way things played out in Tout Wars after I passed up Francisco Lindor for Blake Snell in Round 2. Did I miss what Lindor could have given me? Not really. Even in a 15-team league, I found enough bats to give me a respectable finish in the hitting categories. But there was just no replacing what the injured and ineffective Snell could have done at starting pitcher, not in today’s all-or-nothing environment.

You need enough high-end starting pitchers to account for the inevitable losses there, and given how evenly home runs are distributed now, you need to trust that you won’t get as much of an advantage by paying up at the hitter positions. It’s the polar opposite approach from when I first started in 2000, but it speaks to how much can change in 20 years’ time.

Just ask this guy:

meincollege.jpg





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