For a brief while (2014-2015), fantasy legend Ron Shandler attempted a new fantasy baseball format: monthly fantasy leagues. They didn't take off, but what would it take to make them work?
I've recently been a bit infatuated with Shandler Park, a now-defunct site that offered these monthly leagues. I've been digging up the remnants of it on the Internet Wayback Machine, and there's lots of interesting stuff. For example, the Shandler Park leagues used pretty unique 4x4 scoring (HR, SB, OBP, and R+RBI-HR for hitters, ERA, SO, W+QS, and SV+HLD for pitchers), which strikes the perfect chord between tradition and true value.
Ron's logic for monthly leagues makes a ton of sense to me:
Those years around 2014-2015 were one of my periods of low interest in fantasy, so I admit that I didn't pay attention at the time. I'm not sure why the idea didn't take off. I guess I could ask Ron, but I have some speculation:
So, even with the beauty of the month-long format, there are some challenges to gaining widespread adoption.
With those obstacles in mind, how could you make monthly leagues work?
First off, I'd go back to snake drafts or auction drafts, rather than a salary cap game. That restores the excitement you feel when you are making decisions on the clock.
The problem of live drafts is that it exacerbates the difficulty in getting them scheduled. (I can't be the only person who has had a group of friends spend 50 emails trying to pick a draft date and time.) I'm sure that's the reason Ron went with a salary cap format to begin with. So, with a small initial pool of users, how on earth do you schedule live drafts every month?
Each player drafts against bot opponents. Maybe you could just use bots to fill leagues that were partially human, but you wouldn't have to.
You just need to make sure your AI is decent enough that it doesn't revert to drafting against the site ADP. That's a pretty low bar to clear.
Anyone who thinks bots are no match for human intelligence needs to play in more public leagues on ESPN and Yahoo, where tumbleweeds are rolling across half of the rosters. Bots would be a huge improvement.
I think you could make bots that not only draft intelligently, but also make reasonable roster decisions. But we can keep things simple with a format that limits the in-season action.
With Best Ball, you're stuck with points scoring, which wouldn't be my first choice. I think Draft and Hold is actually a pretty solid compromise. It would be much easier to have bots that put in an optimal roster than to have them make intelligent adds and drops.
And no need for crazy deep benches like season-long Draft and Hold. If you get hit with injuries, you just try again next month.
Shandler Park only offered paid leagues (at $9, $39, and $299 price points). I think you'd want to have some free options to get more people in the door.
Free options may not be essential to success. Ottoneu and NFBC seem to be doing well with exclusively paid leagues. But it seems like it would spur adoption for a new format, and the only cost is the server resources (i.e. not much).
If you're still tracking your draft with a custom spreadsheet or even just pen and paper, you need to try DraftKick.
It is packed with features to help you succeed on draft day:
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I'm Mays. I've been playing fantasy since I was in high school (over two decades ago).
My speciality has always been player valuation—converting player stats into rankings and salary values. VBD for fantasy football? Rotisserie z-scores? We go way back. In 2009, I started Last Player Picked, a site that generated fantasy values customized for your league.
These days, I'm building DraftKick and Projectile, a fantasy baseball site with in-season projection visualizations.
You can find me on Twitter at @MaysCopeland or email me at email@example.com.