Friday, December 9, 2016

Open Comment Thread on Possible Rule Change - Changes to Roster Size and Carryover limits

I continually try to look at ways to keep leagues competitive, although that doesn't mean we make a lot of rule changes.  One move a couple years ago was to make multiyear contracts more expensive, but that's a slow change that may be starting to take effect as some cheaper long-term contracts begin to expire.  I don't want to necessarily penalize really good teams and keep them from contending for repeats.  And I know that in some cases, the quality of competition within some divisions over the years has allowed some long strings of repeat division winners.  Still, it's a bit discouraging to watch - and I'm sure it is for teams in these divisions - when some pennant races appear to be over after 3-4 weeks.

Over the last few years, I've received a couple of seemingly conflicting requests from multiple people:
  • "Maybe we should limit the number of players teams can keep so that it promotes more good players going back into the free agent pool"
  • "How about if we can keep more of the younger players to allow time for prospects to make it to the majors?"
I used to think these were exclusive options - but as I thought about it through the 2016 season, I think they can be done at the same time.  This would be a major change in the roster composition that has largely been in place since BWB began in 2000.

As I talked to one of BWB's original players this summer, the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" phrase came up - so I am doing this with some caution.  And I don't think it's necessarily broken, but might be made better.

So please provide any feedback you might have toward this option.  We're already baseball nerds playing this game instead of just a simple roto game, but it shouldn't be too complex.

IF this were to happen, it would take effect after the Redistribution Draft - it will not affect your current carryover of 28 players.

Please comment to this post if you have any feedback.  It's not really a vote, but if there's significant leaning one way or the other that will help me.

More details to be fleshed out if the rules actually take effect, but here are the basic ideas:

40-man roster changes to a 50-man roster with this breakdown:
  • 14 active hitters (9 starters, 5 bench)
  • 12 active pitchers (5 SP, 5 RP, 2 spot)
  • 4-man taxi squad, increased from 2 - provides a bit more flexibility for injuries and minor league demotions for players with salaries 251 and higher
  • 10 players, down from 12, in the minor leagues - must have salary 250 or lower
  • 10 players in a new "Low Minor Leagues"
  • plus the one IR spot that doesn't count against the roster

The Low Minors work this way:
  • After the Redistribution Draft and at any time during the season, players can be designated for the Low Minors with these conditions:
    • 100 salary only
    • Can never have played in the majors (at the time of designation)
    • There is a non-refundable charge - probably 100 - for moving a player to Low Minors - let's call it "player development costs"
    • Move is permanent for the current season - cannot be moved out of the low minors until after next season's Redistribution Draft, but can be traded or cut.
    • Players in the low minors do not count against the total number of players carried over in December (though can be cut at that time).

Roster Carryover:
  • Players in the Low Minors are not counted against carry over numbers.
  • Maximum number of players that can be carried over from the 40-man section of the roster into the next season is decreased from 28 to 20
  • Teams must pay for the salaries for the next season for all the players they keep at this time

Redistribution Draft:
  • Players in the Low Minors do not count against roster size
  • Draft proceeds as it currently operates, with maximum roster limit for drafting new players remaining at 40
  • After the Redistribution Draft, the players in the Low Minors are moved back to "Regular Minors" and the process starts over to move players into the low minors for the next season

The "40-man roster" would still be a consideration during the regular season for transactions/trades.  To sign a player, there would have to be room on that 40-man portion - so corresponding moves of eligible players to the low minors may be needed.  I would plan on providing a new signing option - to allow eligible players to be signed directly to the Low Minors so that rosters don't have to be torn up when signing new prospects.

There would be a time after the Redistribution Draft where there might be more than 40 players on the "40-man" roster.  Before Opening Day, teams would need to move players down to the Low Minors - and would not be able to acquire any new players at all during the time the roster is above 40.

To cover an extra 10 roster spots of players at minimum salary, an extra 1000 would be added to the salary cap.  But the transaction cost of 100 per move to Low Minors would NOT be added to the cap.

New leagues would draft with a roster limit of 40.  The moves to Low Minors would open when the league moves to weekly transactions.


john hula said...

Comment part 1:

I'm glad to see a public post on this, I think it would help to have a regular public forum for discussion of BWB, and not just potential rule changes.
I'm of the "improve it without breaking it" school not the "if it ain't broke" school. I think it's pretty clear to anyone looking at the history of Rule Changes that BWB is constantly evolving, and generally for the better.

On Topic:
This current potential change raises what I call the "diversity of play" issue. There are enough leagues at BWB and enough players to make room for more than one way to play BWB. For example, fantasy football and baseball drafts elsewhere provide a diversity of drafting formats (snake, auction, and custom) and scoring styles (points-per-reception and custom methods in football; head-to-head, roto, categories, points-based scoring, etc in baseball). I know from lots of experience that diversity of play has to be sufficiently narrow as to not eliminate group consensus -- if only 8 people liked a certain variation of BWB, there would never be enough players for the requisite 16 to start a league in that variation. But that is also part of the elegance of design -- only the variations that are truly popular survive.

It raises that issue because it affects the "philosophy of play", i.e. what is BWB focused on? Is it focused to an overwhelming degree on rewarding those owners who are very talented at evaluating future future prospects like high school draftees and developing college players who will cost 100 for several years? Does it foster a situation where only those owners who have those talents excel? As I see it, there are a lot of different strategies that can be employed to be successful at BWB right now. But I'm concerned that this rule change would help to make it so that a particular strategy becomes a necessity and that the owners who excel at that strategy will dominate the competition.

Does BWB ever want to expand its owner base beyond the super hardcore "baseball nerds" who follow the future future prospects because that's the game it wants to be, or perhaps could there be a variation of play for more casual fans that still uses the BWB system we all love but focuses more on evaluating the established players? I think that with diversity of play it could do both, and more.

There could be leagues every year that use some kind of Low Minors system being drafted alongside leagues that use the current format. Also, that's an excellent way to test out potential changes without affecting the entire owner base. The creation of one league in 2017 which is the only league following that format would be a great way to test it out. To be clear, I would not be in favor of the Low Minors system as described if it affected every league in BWB. And, if it ends up getting implemented anyway, I would very much be in favor of it only affecting leagues who conducted their start-up draft after the change and not retroactive to all leagues. It would provide a very high reward to teams in older leagues that already carry a lot of $100 players over teams that do not simply because they drafted and traded and built their team around the current rules.

john hula said...

Comment part 2:
As to the Low Minors changes:
To my mind there are lot of extra restrictions being created when the idea is pretty simple -- expand the number of $100 prospects teams can carry on their roster and carry from year to year. I think you could achieve the same results by creating a 10-slot Minor League outside of the 40-man roster that is not part of the active roster, and creating a Minor League-eligible carryover limit that is separate from the Major League carryover limit. I'm not sure how important it is that the players in the Low Minors have no Major League experience and only cost $100. I understand it from a Game Flavor standpoint, and maybe there are some owners who would really dig that, but from a Game Mechanics standpoint I don't really see it. There are a lot of players who get a little bit of time in the Majors who don't immediately become Major Leaguers and are still very much prospects. One of my favorite players to look at in this regard is Darin Ruf, who was still a prospect when I joined BWB in 2014. He played only 12 games in 2012 then only 73 in 2013, 52 in 2014, 106 in 2015, then back to 43 in 2016 and has dropped back down to $199 in 2017 and is Minor League eligible again. And there are definitely players every year who fall back to $100 after costing more in prior years due to Major League playing time.

Regardless, I don't think that move to Low Minors should be permanent. It seems to me that you're trying to balance the perk of carrying over more prospects than usual against a measured risk of choosing only prospects that are likely to need more time to develop, but I don't think it's necessary. If I put a guy like Steven Brault in my Low Minors and then the Pirates unexpectedly call him up, it makes sense that I should be able to call him up as well and start reaping the benefits of having him in my roster immediately by making him a cheap Spot Starter. (On a side note I'm not fond of the fact that the IR spot is permanent either -- they do that in the NFL with its 16 game season but not in MLB with its 162 game season). I don't believe that the $100 "player development cost" to move a player to Low Minors is necessary. Investing an initial draft pick priority and $100 and then $100 each new season to keep them on your roster to develop seems a sufficient cost to me already. I don't think it's needed for competitive balance because in theory every team in the league would be using its Low Minor system, and so I think it just adds needless paperwork.

john hula said...

Comment part 3:

The one change included I wholeheartedly agree with is increasing the taxi spots from 2 to 4. I believe this should be implemented regardless of whether Low Minors is implemented, and I've been planning to suggest it for a while (I try to pace out the frequency with which I suggest changes so as not create an overwhelming array to consider). Injuries are definitely a factor but "minor league demotion" is far from the only basis. Under the current system every player you carry on your team who costs $251+ is expected to be an every day contributor and there is literally no space to put such players who aren't. (Let's face it, there are enough injuries in MLB to keep the 2 taxi spots full all season long). This is not reflective of MLB where they have lots of players on their roster who don't play full time and even AAA call-ups, who frequently make between $251-$999 at BWB. There should be a spot on our rosters for a guy like Darin Ruf or Brock Holt who may only play 70-90 games a year or a pitcher like Matt Boyd who won't make the Tigers rotation but will make occasional spot starts. And the players who make $250 or less are far from the only prospects that BWB owners whould be able to carry until they develop. There are lots of guys that cost between $251-$750 or even $999 who are still completely prospects. Like most of the #6 and #7 starters throughout MLB. And lots of platooning and part-time hitters. Just like MLB teams there should be a way for owners at BWB to keep those guys in their organization instead of hoping they stay free agents. If Ryan Howard had gotten a season-ending injury and Ruf had become the every day starter, as an owner who invested in Ruf, I should be the one who got to take advantage of that. If Daniel Norris flames out or Jordan Zimmerman gets hurt again, I should be able to put Matt Boyd in my Rotation without having to worry about whether I can sign him off the free agent wire when I'm picking 12th because I'm winning my division. I like the Game Flavor of having the 40-man roster staying at 40 and so I wouldn't suggest changing that, but I definitely think increasing the number of taxi spots (maybe even to 6) would be a huge improvement. Maybe also the creation of a Mid-Major status apart from Minor League Status. For example, instead of carrying 12 $100-$250 players, teams could carry 6 $100-$250 players who are "Minor League eligible" and 6 $100-$999 players who are "Mid-Major League eligible".

john hula said...

comment part 4:

The one change I am extremely against is reducing the number of players who cost $101+ you can carryover from 28 to 20. I think that this enforces a strategy of owning minor league players that not every owner should have to adopt. I also think that it goes against the philosophy of BWB as a keeper league that mirrors the way MLB actually operates. If I take the time to draft, sign, and develop 28 players who I want to carry over to the next season I shouldn't be forced to dump some of them and hope that I can resign them during the redistribution draft. Without literally looking at all of my teams I can attest that they almost uniformly have more than 20 players I plan to carry over who cost $101+ and even a fair amount over 20 who cost $251+. I don't think that this type of change is necessary to improve the ability of teams to better themselves year-to-year and compete with prior division winners which I seem to recall you have lots of data showing happens with a reassuring frequency. Also, I have seen teams that have had more than 20 players making $251+ under contract. What happens to those teams under such a change? I also don't see that this change is at all required even if the Low Minors was implemented. Under your description players in the Low Minors never count against the carryover count so a team could keep 28 players who cost $101+ and still keep as many as 10 Low Minors players.

Roland Dupont said...

Completely agree with everything said by John Hula. Current rules allow for a reasonable distribution of good prospects - this change would tend to let a few teams dominate the good prospects and become superpower teams later when the prospects get to the majors. So instead of promoting fewer "dynasties" the opposite could actually occur.

Daniel Foley said...

I like the idea of having a "low minors" but 10 players seems like a lot. I think you could still make it worthwhile even if it was just 4 to 6 players in that category. I also agree with the comments above that if a guy gets called up for 4 games and sent back down in MLB....then that will make it really tough as to whether you should keep them and cut some other MLB regular the next season...maybe that is the point though.

I have mixed feelings about the taxi squad change. Instead maybe leave the taxi squad at 2 players, then have a "DL" where you could put 2 players? This would be different from the IR, because you could bring them back from it. The idea would be that you could only add them to the DL if they were on the DL in real life, but you could re-activate them whenever you felt like it. Maybe there could be a cost associated with putting on/taking off the DL. Maybe that makes it too complicated, I don't know.

Making it so that you can only bring back 20 players....just looking at the players I'm planning to bring back MINUS the ones that I'd be able to leave in the low minors, these are the players I'd cut from my teams (keep in mind NONE of these teams were division winners):
Team 1: I'd keep 2 players in the low minors, and I'd have to cut 6 additional players - they'd be: cut Jake Thompson, Mallex Smith, Blake Treinen, Homer Bailey, Hunter Strickland, and Howie Kendrick

Team 2: I'd be able to keep 4 players in the low minors and have to cut 2 more players - They'd be Tony Kemp and Guillermo Heredia

Team 3: I'd be able to keep 2 players in the low minors and I'd have to cut 5 more players. I'd cut Gillermo Heredia, Tommy Pham, Brad Hand, Drew Smyly and Luis Valbuena

Team 4: I'd only be able to keep 1 player in the low minors, and I'd have to cut 7 players. I'd cut: Gavin Cecchini, Cory Spangenburg, Guillermo Heredia, Marco Gonzalez, Shawn O'Malley, Domingo Santana and Daniel Hudson.

Team 5: I'd be able to put 3 players in the low minors, and I'd have to cut 2 more: they'd be Domingo Santana and Ketel Marte

Team 6: I'd be able to put 3 players in the low minors, and have to cut 5 players. The cuts would be Guillermo Heredia, Gavin Cecchini, Tony Kemp, Joe Mauer and Jose Peraza

Team 7: I'd be able to put 3 players in the low minors and have to cut 5. The 5 cuts would be: Taylor Rogers, Carson Kelly, Felipe Rivero, Luis Valbuena and Carlos Beltran

It's hard to say though because I'd have probably tried trading some of these players if the rules were different. But this gives you an idea as to what kind of players might be let go in this scenario, at least the first time we go through it.

Jesse Roche said...

One item I think adds needless additional work for you, Jon, and a lot of potential confusion among owners is the requirement that low minors designees "never have played in the majors (at the time of designation)." This seems like an awfully difficult thing to continually track.

Jesse Roche said...

One thing that immediately jumps out to me is this rule change materially changes the value of players who cost less than 250, but more than 100 (assuming Jon does not require a low minors designee to never have played in the majors, which I advocate). Presently, such players have a lot of value as they are cost efficient and can be moved to the minors. Under the new rule, many of these players will have to compete with established players for precious roster space. Indeed, as I will demonstrate below (at least for me), many of those players will be cut:

In Beer League, I would have 2 players eligible for low minors (Brinson and Groome) and I likely would drop or attempt to trade: C.J. Edwards, Matt Strahm, Hunter Dozier, David Paulino, Raimel Tapia, and . . . Chris Archer? Strahm, Dozier, Paulino, and Tapia have MLB experience so they hit the chopping block. I think it is odd that I would be hoping a player does not receive a September call-up so they can retain a low minors designation. Whenever you place a fantasy owner at the whims of player management decisions of MLB organizations like this, it detracts rather than adds imo.

I think if you add a low minors designation, owners should be permitted to place any minors eligible player there.

Roland Dupont said...

Many winter trades now involve teams that have too many high-salaried players trading some of them away for a package of low-priced alternatives. Reducing the carryover limit to 20 players would probably make it impossible for these teams to keep enough of the cheap players to make this strategy feasible (most of the low-priced players are not pure $100 level prospects). Thus, there's less incentive to make such trades and that would remove the ability for poor teams to use some of the major-league callups they can get from the in-season drafts to improve themselves by trading them next winter for established players. Like John Hula said, there are many hidden pitfalls in changing the current rules that could actually make BWB worse rather than better.

Roland Dupont said...

If you do increase the taxi squad by 2 players (which seems to be a good idea) I think the total roster size should remain at 40 by reducing the minors count from 12 to 10. The 40-man roster is a good size to balance the decisions owners have to make about how to construct their rosters and teams can still put prospects on the taxi squad if that should be their preference.

Tom Twomey said...

I like the idea of the "low minors" but if anything we need to try to keep our game simple not make it more complex. Any outsider coming into this game for the first time is already perplexed with all the intricacies of BWB without layering additional roster regulations. So IMO if we were to adopt this "low minors" designation we should just have it for players - whether they have been in the majors or minors - who have a $100 salary and leave it at that. No $100 charge to move them around. And we should just be able to move them around on our roster as needed if for no other reason than simplification.

I would also welcome the idea of one or two additional "Taxi" spots and would lobby to eradicate the IR slot if necessary. The IR slot, while helpful is just not simple. It should just be an extra roster spot. Again let's try to keep it simple! I also like 28 keepers per year, not 20. I really love that aspect of this game.

Been playing bwb/robot for well over 20 years and during those years I've never been the type to go after the hottest minor league prospects because 1) I'm rarely in a position to draft them during the season and 2) I simply don't have the patience to wait for them to develop, freezing a roster spot and 3) I actually prefer going after the sleeper/late bloomers who take a few years to marinate in AAA/mlb bench like Donaldson and Encarnacion and evolve from middling prospects/mlb platooners to studs. This past year I drafted little known sp Junior Guerra on all 28 of my teams and his Mil teammate Villar was also a middling prospect who hit amazingly last year. Older guys like Rich Hill and Carlos Carrasco were all cheap and readily available when they started showing signs of being great. Identifying the best bang for the buck is my favorite challenge with this game - not taking a scout's word for it and stashing a guy for years. All that being said - I generally use 10-12 of my 12 minor league slots (under $251) for these types of project players and middle relievers.

So adding 10 optional "low minors" slots would be fine to me. I really like the idea proposed above of trying this only on newly formed leagues, not to apply to existing ones.

Phil Gates said...

This is only the 3rd year I've played this format and the first time I've carried a team over, but regardless I feel very strongly against adding any more minor leaguer spots.

Force the teams with the best minor leaguers to make choices and if they have too many good ones tough then you have to let one go. You see a new one you want to take a flyer on, make it cost something to do so. That leaves more choices for teams in the FA pool, is there really 320 ML'ers out there worth keeping? 160 seems quite adequate.

The keeper list is too large, it needs to be trimmed some, I'm not sure what the premium number would be, but I'm convince that 28 is too many, maybe there should be a limit on the number of >$250 keeper players, something like maybe 14 or even less.

jason kiernan said...

I don't really see the added value of being able to have 10 more 100 guys on your roster in the low minors. In my years at BWB, it seems that very few teams even use all 12 minors spots that we have now. In addition, like the others have said, it can be very difficult to keep track of who has and hasn't appeared in the majors and there are lots of guys who still cost 100 that saw time in the majors but are still at least a year or more away from regular PT. If the "low minors" were implemented, I for one would probably just use the extra 1k in salary cap to make my team better and not really worry about 100 guys that are 3-5 years away or whatever.

I also agree very much with Roland that if you reduce the number of keepers by much, that trading in the offseason will be very hampered. I know that just this offseason, I have been on both sides of trades that are 1 superstar level player for 2-3 or more players. I think if the number of keepers goes down, then the person receiving the 2 or 3 players will have less incentive to do trades like that as they literally won't have space to add those players.

jason kiernan said...

I think where owners could use the most "help" in roster spots, are spots for guys who aren't minors eligible but who aren't regular contributors. So I like the proposed roster distribution of adding 2 taxi spots at the cost of 2 minor league spots. Or if you don't want 2 extras taxi spots, change to of the minors spots and call them "established prospects" or something that are guys that cost 750 or less (or 1000 or whatever price you choose), but can allow you to keep a guy that you "discovered" but is still might not get regular time. Think Jose Peraza if they Reds don't trade Phillips or Cozart, or Micahel Conforto if the Mets can't trade Bruce. Guys that have shown that they can play, but are blocked in some way (or get sent to the minors for some reason) that you want to keep because you "found" them and want to reap the rewards of that. I think taxi spots would be less confusing than some other sort of thing.

jason kiernan said...

As far as shrinking carryover, not really a fan. As I said before, I think it would hamper trading, but more importantly I am not sure what the goal of it is. If we look at what Roche and Foley posted, there isn't exactly a ton of earth shattering talent that would go back in the pool. Swanson probably has this number, but what is the average number of keepers that a team keeps? Is it 25.5? or 27.5? or 21.5? I think that could be important to the discussion as well.

For example, looking at one of my teams (it made the World Series), I currently have selected only 20 guys to keep (I could add one or two depending on how I feel), but the guys I am not keeping for the most part are either guys without jobs (pedro alverez), injured guys (marco gonzalez), or guys who have gone up enough that I can't really justify keeping them around as bench guys or whatever (jose iglasias, jimmy nelson, joakim soria, etc).

I like the fact that when I build my team, I know that for the most part, I am going to bring most of it back from year to year just like most major league teams. We don't see major league teams get rid of half (or more) of their roster every year. They tend to have the same guys with a few guys moving via FA, or trades, or getting promoted/losing their jobs.

I could see (and I mentioned it 2 years ago when there was the larger rules discussion) about dropping to 25 overall keepers (another nice baseball number), but even then, I am not sure how much extra talent would get added to redistribution (assuming that is the major aim at reducing roster carryover).

John Stroba said...

For the most part I think the ideas presented there are good. I like the idea of a low minors BUT ten players is a bit much. I would be okay with 5 low minors guys. I don't like the the idea of cutting down to 20 keepers though. Overall, I could get behind something like this

25 keepers (this would up the quality in the pool in the redis draft a bit and would encourage offseason trading)
10 "high" minor league spots (guys under 250 that HAVE MLB Experience before the season)
5 "low" minor league spots (guys under 250 without MLB Experience before the season)
4 taxi (this would really help with injuries)
2 IR (if you get really hit really hard with injuries)

I don't think there is would be a huge impact in going from 28 to 25 as the max but it would add some talent into the pool. Expanding the taxi squad would be a godsend to nearly everyone that has to deal with more than a couple injuries. I know I have had good teams just get knocked to also ran status, because had 4-5 injuries hit at the same time to the offense. And got the BWB negatives those really hurt.

Roland Dupont said...

The most recent comments have referred to the purpose of cutting the keeper limit as being to add talent to the free agent pool. I think that most people realize there will not be much extra talent being added. What this change really attempts to do is penalize strong teams that use the extra roster spaces to store players that can't help this season but will be contributors later. This would theoretically make it more difficult to build dynasties and open up the competition for other teams to win their division.

One comment above suggested a keeper limit of 14 players - I have played in leagues elsewhere that use a 14-man limit and they actually end up having more dynasties than BWB does. The best players never leave the strongest teams because there is no incentive for those owners to give them up.

I think many BWB owners have become addicted to this game because it does allow them to act like real-life general managers and it does provide enough flexibility to use more than one way to build a winning team. The Yankees had a 5-year dynasty about 20 years ago, but the normal dynamics of the game caught up with them and they have not been big winners for quite a while. The same thing happens in BWB - teams have to continually adjust to be winners and dynasties don't last forever. The fact of the matter is that some owners are better general managers than others and they tend to win more games regardless of what rules changes are made. I don't think this is a case of don't fix if it isn't broke - I think any drastic rules change such as cutting the keeper limit to 20 would significantly change the dynamics of the game and make it much less fun to play.

Roland Dupont said...

As a followup to my previous comment, one of the most satisfying things I have done as a fantasy baseball manager is to take a bad team that finishes in last place and turn it into a division winner. I understand that some newer players who are used to the rules used by ESPN or Yahoo or Scoresheet may not know how to do this - there the only real satisfaction comes from winning and the biggest factor in winning is doing well in the draft. BWB is the only current game that lets you expand your fantasy baseball experience so that playing the game well throughout the year is more important than just having a good draft (there used to be other games like this in pre-internet days but they didn't have enough resources to adapt to the internet). I feel very strongly that we must protect the things that make BWB unique rather than attempting to change BWB to be more like other games.

Jerry King said...

I agree with Roland, half the fun in this league for me is taking a crappy team and making it relevant. Couple times i told Jon to give me the worst orphan team and Id make them relevant again.
Overall I love the format here, even going back to its similarities from robot baseball when I played it by mail.
As for changing carryover numbers and expanding, for the most part I dont see it needed. Change for changes sake, etc.
If anything, maybe some minor tweeks.
Maybe split the minor category in half- 6-8 at 101-250, 6-8 at 100 only.
Change keeps from 28 to 30 or expand rosters from 40 to 42 or 44.
A lot of time it will still come down to cash management.
A lot of time if your teams successful, you will use the full 28 people to carryover. I usually only use less if its a bad team/rebuilding or am drastically cutting salary and cant make trades.
As for IR, could expand to 2 or 3 with the ability to pull back 1 or 2 say after 50 games ?
Anyway, love the game over the years and I am happy that Ive found a community here I enjoy immensely.