I write this column with a bit of pause, but I trust my NFBC brethren will consider it in the vein it is intended. A few years ago, after a series of forum discussions, the NFBC enacted what has become to be known as the Friday activation rule. The intent was to help alleviate some of the injury-related luck and insure owners could field a full lineup for as many days as possible. Originally, Friday substitutions were permitted for all players put on the disabled list by a designated time. The first iteration of the rule was to allow free substitution for hitters only previous to Friday games, with pitching still subject to disabled list classification. At the time, there was a push for eliminating the designation for pitchers as well, but NFBC management made the decision that doing so would permit too much streaming of starting pitching, a decision I personally agree with, but that is besides the point. Actually, to be completely forthright, my personal preference would be for once a week moves and deal with it. But, I understand how the addition of Friday moves helps marketing and growing the contest.
Recently, it has come to light that it is possible to use the Friday pitcher’s rule for a couple of unintended purposes. The purpose of this discussion is not to editorialize or judge the legality or ethics of this quirk, but simply to describe the actions as a means to set up what is to follow. The first utilization of this quirk is to bypass an undesirable early week start for a pitcher by beginning the week with a guy on the DL, then replacing the injured hurler with a guy with a favorable weekend matchup. The second is to start a pitcher expected to come off the disabled list early in the week then reserve him after the Monday deadline, but before the DL tag has been removed, replacing the original pitcher with another arm. The result here is either getting an additional start from that roster spot or improving the matchup for the second start.
As mentioned, both of these quirks were unintended and against the spirit of the original DL rule. As a scientist, I have seen countless instances where the results were not as expected, no matter how meticulous the experiment was planned. Heck, read about the discovery of penicillin if you want a real-life example of this scenario. NFBC management has promised to look into these IT based accidents and to rectify the situation. Who am I kidding; we all know who NFBC management is, Greg and Tom. Hey, at least I did not call them “the powers that be”. Greg and Tom have assured us they will work with the STATS programmers to provide us with a scoring mechanism that reflect the desired intent of the rule. And their track record is such that their word should be trusted.
With that as a backdrop, back when the second transaction period was initially discussed, I proposed an idea that was bandied about, but was obviously not adopted. In the spirit of intelligent and constructive discussion, I would like to use this space to reintroduce the concept to see if it has any legs. But before I do, I would like to emphasize this is an idea I had way back when and it is not due to the recent consternation. Now, as I did then, I simply believe this notion offers a bit of innovative strategy that improves upon the Friday activation rule we now have in place and what we are likely to have in place next season if this idea has no traction.
My proposal is to allow each NFBC owner a fixed number of discretionary moves, to be used when they want, for whatever reason they want. The Friday rule is eliminated. Say your Tim Stauffer is slated for a home start on Tuesday and road start in Colorado on Sunday. You can take him out Wednesday and replace him with another starter with a desirable matchup or perhaps a solid reliever. If Nick Swisher has a three-game series to start the week at home while Seth Smith is scheduled to face three righties in a four-game series from Thursday to Sunday, you can begin the week with Swisher then replace him with Smith before the Thursday games. If Shin-Soo Choo gets hurt Friday night, you can sub in another player for the final pair of weekend games if you so desire.
To determine the number of allowed moves, a review of how we all presently manage our teams can be undertaken. If on the average, we all do two moves every Friday, perhaps the number is 52. If we average three, we all get 78, etc.
Every suggestion of this nature has some advantages and disadvantages as well as the need to make sure the STATS commissioner service can handle the rule. I will now discuss this and welcome you to chime in as well; I am sure I am missing something.
1. Owners will no longer be at the mercy of fate with respect to the timing of injuries. The injury to Choo was just referenced. If he went down on Thursday night as opposed to Friday, his owners would have been afforded the chance to replace him on Friday. As is, his owners absorbed a pair of zeroes on Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes, a player is pitcher is hurt and is going to unexpectedly have a start skipped but not officially be placed on the DL. When this happens, his owner can replace him if he wants.
2. Owners will no longer be burned by scheduling alterations due to rainouts and the like. We all set our lineups based on the information available on Sunday or Monday. There are always several instances of pitchers having their anticipated favorable start be moved to one less desirable. His owner can use a discretionary move to substitute in a pitcher with a better matchup.
3. Having a fixed number of moves adds an additional layer of strategy, not unlike that associated with FAAB and how to manage your reserve list. Do you use your discretionary moves early in the season or save them for later when you may have a better feel for what you need, but less flexibility in terms of what you have at your disposal? Do you use them for pitching or hitting? How many do you set aside for injuries?
1. The time necessary to manage your team is increased, since at minimum, you will need to make sure you did not suffer any injuries during the previous day’s games. I can honestly see how this can be a deal-breaker for some and I completely respect that. To help alleviate the timing issue and restrict it to just tracking injuries after the initial Monday moves, my suggestion is to have the ability to input discretionary moves in advance. The system would need to be set up such that we could deem a move as discretionary and set the date for the move to occur. We would be at the mercy of fate, hoping the player moved into the lineup does not get hurt, but that would be the risk of doing the move in advance. Of course, this means there could be additional attention necessary to set these moves in advance, but like I said, if this additional time commitment is the roadblock, I am perfectly okay with that going forward with the changes that Greg and Tom deploy for next season.
2. The system would have to be designed so that nobody can uncover a similar unintended consequence that spurred this discussion. Obviously, the moves would have to be tracked, which should not be an issue. The discretionary move mechanism would have to allow only one move at a time as opposed to the multiple we can now do with each clicking of the submit button. There would need to be a delineation of the regular Monday moves for those that want to set their regular lineup in advance. It would be very helpful if there is an “are you sure” warning before a discretionary move is official to account for errors, otherwise someone will no doubt “waste” one of their moves correcting their mistake. We would have to decide when the deadline would be each day, first pitch first game of does each player lock at their game time? As mentioned, I am sure I am missing something but that is what the forums are for, to point out my omissions.
3. Owners would need to learn the new interface which may curtail signups. That said, if you can learn the FAAB system, you can surely learn this.
To wrap up, I realize there is always more to an idea than originally anticipated and it could be contest suicide to make a change of this nature without adequate testing. If for some off reason this idea is deemed worthy of consideration, perhaps setting up some satellites would be the way to go, assuming of course the programming is not too difficult. And for those that want to counter this proposal with “luck is just part of the game”, I concur. Remember, my personal preference is for once a week lineup moves for hitting and pitching. But since it is apparent we will not be traversing that road, I thought I would at least table an alternative to the present Friday rule.