So I was going through my teams earlier, setting my lineups for the week and I noticed I have a whole bunch of decent pitching performances on reserve. Brandon McCarthy, Chris Narveson, Brian Duensing, Phil Coke, Justin Masterson, James McDonald, Jonathan Niese, RA Dickey and Carlos Carrasco are all on the bench this week in my various leagues, mostly of the mixed variety with fifteen teams. I do not regret sitting these arms in favor of more established starters and safe middle relievers, this is part of a plan I affectionately call the spaghetti method: throw a bunch of arms against the wall and see what sticks. But seeing many of my reserves out-performing a few of my active chuckers reminded me how much I miss the old-school rules with no reserves.
Yup, that’s right, way back when we played the game with no reserves. You could only replace a player if he was placed on the disabled list or sent to the minors. Javier Vazquez struggles in his first outing? Tough, you are stuck with him in your active lineup and cannot take him out until he shows some promise. I like to say reserve lists are to fantasy baseball as the designated hitter is to regular baseball. I understand why they exist and why some people may prefer to play the game in that manner. But call me old school, I long for the good old days.
The primary reason I am not the biggest fan of reserve lists is their existence serves to mitigate a whole bunch of risk. If a player has a rough matchup, he is on reserve that week. You can stash some speculative players, usually pitchers, in the hope they demonstrate that they are worthy of an active roster spot. I say the heck with that. The point of this game should be to project a season’s worth of stats from a player and then sink or swim with those numbers. What fun is it drafting Clayton Richard and then deploying him solely for home starts? Is it really skillful to have Seth Smith in your lineup when Colorado is facing a righty at home?
I know the naysayers will argue that reserve lists add a huge layer of strategy to the game as it takes skill to properly set your lineup. But really, how much skill is involved? Most decisions are more logical than skillful. And many that are considered skillful are actually based on flimsy if not fallacious reasoning such as a hitter’s past performance versus a specific pitcher or the notion a player is hot or cold. To me, the real skill is the initial perception of player performance and the associated putting together of your roster and how risk management is part and parcel to the process.
Obviously, I am in the minority or reserve lists would not have evolved into being so much in vogue: the rule and not the exception. And that is fine. I have embraced the way the game is now played and made the effort to best manage my team with reserve lists in my arsenal. But a guy can dream, no?
Granted, the last thing most of us need is another league to play in. We are already stretched pretty thin. But that is not going to stop me from trying to recruit a group of eleven other open-minded competitors that want to try something a little different. Okay, maybe it is very different. Here is the idea. I want to put together an old-school league where you can only replace players when they are put on the disabled list or sent to the minors. The league will be mixed, with the following caveat: the top 200 or 250 players will be excluded from the player’s pool. That’s right, no Albert Pujols or Roy Halladay. Hanley Ramirez and Felix Hernandez will be sitting this one out. I want the back end of the player pool to resemble that in deep single leagues and I want the participants to be forced to play everyone they deem draft-worthy. I cannot draft Narveson, McCarthy, Niese and the like and wait for someone to emerge. Given that there are no true sleepers anymore, each roster should be dotted with the back-end players each owner feels will break out.
So who is with me? Who wants to really test their mettle?