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The definitive ranking of how to use Shohei Ohtani in your fantasy baseball league

  • Thu, 15 Feb 2018 02:37

Come and decide on the fate of your league with me, a person who doesn’t really care about fantasy baseball and can be rational about this.

Shohei Ohtani might break baseball. Almost every article about him is required to slip in a Babe Ruth comparison because that’s all we have. It’s not a great comparison — Ruth was one of the greatest hitters of all time, and he stopped pitching to focus on hitting — but that’s it. Babe Ruth. It would be like a 6’10 left-hander with a mullet and a mustache who throws 91 mph. Sure, the velocity doesn’t match up, but who are you going to compare him to? It’s like that with Ohtani and Ruth. Because of the pitching and hitting. Have you heard that Ohtani is both a pitcher and a hitter? Lemme just verify that on the internet ...

It’s only fitting that Ohtani might break fantasy baseball, too.

I was alerted to an Ohtani fantasy baseball controversy because of this article, which included these words in the subhed:

Shohei Ohtani will only be one player in ESPN’s fantasy baseball leagues this year, a contrast from Yahoo’s maligned “two Ohtani” decision.

I’m seeing double! Four Ohtanis! But focus on the “maligned” part. Because, apparently, fantasy baseball nerds have serious opinions on this. As they should, considering that this decision could mean the difference between winning or losing a league, which means it’s a decision that could make or cost people a healthy amount of money.

And where there are serious opinions, I promise, I will be there with an under-informed take.

I’m not that deep into fantasy. I’ve been in the same league since Vladimir Guerrero was a rookie, and that’s all I need. It’s weekly. No keepers. I’ve done a mock draft or two online and regretted it immediately. My strategy isn’t quite like this ...

... but I can appreciate the merits of that strategy.

All of this makes me the perfect arbiter of how your fantasy league should handle Ohtani. You need someone a little removed from the situation, but someone clear about the stakes and rules. Here is the definitive ranking of how your league should use Ohtani in fantasy baseball:

6. Let him rack up all the stats

Easily the dumbest one. When I draft Madison Bumgarner, I don’t get his dingers. This is normal. This is what we’ve all agreed on. If there is a league out there that just lets Ohtani float around and collect innings and at-bats, this is an awful league and you should leave and form a rival league. Then you should make the people who join your league sign covenants not to compete, and they will do so gladly because that old league was stupid.

Don’t let him be a pitcher whose hitting stats just happen to count.

On the other hand, that’s sort of what’s happening in real life. The Angels get those innings. They get those at-bats. They get it all. Don’t you want your fantasy league to be like real baseball?

No. No, you do not. You don’t want to lose your fantasy league on the last day of the season because Jon Lester went 0 for 3 and Patrick Corbin went 2 for 3 on someone else’s team. And you don’t want Ohtani to get all of the stats.

5. Choose his position before every eligibility period (daily leagues)

Daily leagues are stupid anyway. There’s always one or two jerks who are WAY too into it and monopolize the waiver wire with tricks to get more starting pitchers and innings and strikeouts, and there’s always one or two people who forget they’re in a league, and they’ll have Jason Bay in their lineup on the last day of the season. If you are my employee and you’re in a league that allows you to set the roster every day, guess what? You’re fired. Either you’re wasting my company’s time screwing around with your team, or you’re too incompetent to realize you shouldn’t be in a daily league. Pack your crap, Carl.

In a daily league, you shouldn’t get to decide if you get all the pitching stats at the expense of one day’s worth of hitting stats. It doesn’t mimic real life (the Angels don’t have to choose) and it’s an unfair advantage for the person who drafts first in a non-auction league, which was probably decided by drawing numbers out of a hat or something. It’s the worst of all worlds.

4. Choose your Ohtani before the season starts

In this scenario, you draft Ohtani and then declare if he’s going to be a pitcher or hitter on your team. This doesn’t change.

It’s boring. It’s fair. Your league isn’t disrupted. There isn’t a random superplayer created by a Game Genie.

But, really, it’s boring. At least have a little fun. Gimme at least some of the dingers.

3. Choose his position before every eligibility period (weekly leagues)

OK, this isn’t so bad. If he’s having a two-start week, maybe you put him in, but maybe he’s in a groove at the plate and you need those RBI, but maybe ... see? It’s a dilemma. With the most unique player in fantasy baseball, you also have the weirdest choices to make.

Mostly, you get a player who can help you with both your pitching or hitting, but you have to choose between the two.

2. Two Ohtanis

This one apparently makes fantasy aficionados very upset, which means we’re on the right track. We know that Ohtani is something like a first- or second-round pitcher. I’m guessing he’s something closer to a 10th-round DH. When you mash them up, he becomes a first-overall pick or highest-cost player because of his ability to help a roster accumulate all sorts of stats.

And I’ve realized what bugs me about a lot of these discussions: Fantasy baseball is a game that’s based on the accumulation of stats. It’s not about actually winning a nine-inning game. It’s about a little counter that spins and spins and spins when Joey Votto and Clayton Kershaw have good games. Most of these strategies allow Ohtani to be a miner in all of the stat mines. The counter gets to spin twice, even though he’s still trying to help the Angels with one counter in real life.

The win counter.

Man, just typing “it’s not about the stats in real baseball, it’s about the wins” makes me go into one-sentence-paragraph mode.

Because fantasy baseball is just that.

A fantasy.

It doesn’t matter in fantasy land if teams actually win or lose the games.

Which is, you know, the point of sports.

Sorry, sorry, I’m better now, anyway, letting that stats counter spin twice would be like the Angels getting an extra double header or two every week and letting their raw wins count in the AL West standings.

I want to see where Ohtani is picked by the people who value his pitching. I want to see where he goes by the people who are evaluating him as a hitter. And, mostly, I don’t want the league to have exactly one (1) player who gets to rack up extra stats in a game that’s based on racking up stats.

1. Play in an NL-only league because the American League is dumb

There’s a league that uses players who don’t even have to play in the field? Ha ha, looks like we have the real definition of “fantasy baseball,” but, no, seriously, folks ...

So there you have it. Hopefully I’ve helped your league decide which Ohtani strategy to use. And if there’s one that I’ve forgotten, please leave it in the comments, which I will definitely read. It’s probably the most elegant solution of them all.

Good luck, and don’t forget to update people regularly about the successes or failures of your fantasy team this year, especially if your team is having injury problems. Everyone is really, truly fascinated by the twists and turns, and you owe it to them. Thank you.

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