Playing fantasy baseball means that you’re attempting to predict the future. We’re trying to predict a player’s future performance, are we not? Sure, we are using past performance to predict future results, but c’mon, this is time traveling, future teller stuff we’re playing with!
I say we take prediction to another level. I don’t want to just predict player performance, I want to predict where the game of fantasy baseball itself will go. I’m talking big time prognostication. We’ll do this for play styles, strategies, trends, and everything big and small in between. Here are 5 predictions for the future of fantasy baseball, in no particular order or category:
Future Shift #1: Play styles will change, BIG time. We’ll begin to see more “pick ‘em” type games and less Roto. There’s a sadistic beauty to the long grind that is rotisserie baseball, but it doesn’t capture the daily nature of baseball. Head-to-Head isn’t the answer as it merely tries to jam the oval peg of football into the round hole of baseball.
And we’ve already seen the rapid rise of daily baseball and the not-quite-gambling sites that are all the rage. I’ll buy into the rage as I’ve found the daily nature to be a lot of fun (and it doesn’t hurt that I’ve made some money off the sites). Look for this fantasy baseball trend to continue into the future and push into the mobile sphere as well. (Disclosure: I have the development of some fantasy baseball iOS games in the hopper.)
Future Shift #2: We’ll see more use of stats and more understanding of advanced stats. WHIP was created specifically for the game of fantasy baseball, yet we see it on Major League scoreboards now. Advanced statistics are seeing rapid understanding and adoption for the utility they bring. While 5×5 will continue to be the standard, advanced players are beginning to flock to points leagues like Fangraph’s Ottoneu that are based on linear weights. Is it time for your league to shift from AVG to OBP? Maybe, if you want to be ahead of the curve.
Future Shift #3: ERA and WHIP are trending lower league-wide, which will subtly influence future draft strategies. Sometimes the trends in real baseball heavily influence fantasy baseball. The long ball era is long gone and baseball is seeing more and more pitchers sport healthy ERAs by fantasy baseball standards. Why draft a pitcher early when you can now wait an extra round or two? Plus, those 1.40 WHIP baselines just won’t cut it anymore if you want to win your fantasy baseball league. This will require you to notice trends in real baseball and how you can exploit those in your fantasy baseball league.
Future Shift #4: Norms of positional scarcity will feel uncertain for the foreseeable future. Remember in 2009 when first base was absolutely dominate? Remember in 2011 when we thought third base was the most shallow position? Well, second is thinner than ever but catcher is on the rise. And on and on it goes.
How will position scarcity play in 2013? Well, it looks like the only thing that is certain is that it certainly won’t play the same in 2014. Major League tradition said corner infielders and corner outfielders had to look a certain way, but modern realities are dictating that teams are being more creative in this. The takeaway is that you can’t use last year’s data in regards to this year’s positional scarcity. Positional depth is a shifting thing and it looks like this will continue in the future.
Future Shift #5: We’ll see more rookies make a greater impact. Mike Trout shook up fantasy baseball when at age 20 he was the fantasy baseball’s MVP. Let’s not forget that Bryce Harper was no fantasy slouch at age 19. I think the future of baseball will have players peaking earlier. We’ll say that players will hit “baseball puberty” a little younger, if you want to. It used to be the age 28 season that everyone worked their strategies around, but age 26 is looking closer to the breakout norm, with many players like Andrew McCutchen or Giancarlo Stanton catching stride earlier than that.
Maybe it’s because greater skill and financial resources trickling down into high school game, in addition to better training methods. If 16-year-old kids are being surrounded with coaching and training that was previously only available to 19-year-olds, then you have to think that players could hit their peak a little earlier. Plus, I think something is in America’s water (in more ways than one).
I’m curious to know everyone’s thoughts on this. What are your predictions or the the game of fantasy baseball’s future? Or what do you think about the 5 predictions listed above? Let me know in the comments.