Kill the Catcher

Breaking news:  I play in a fantasy baseball league. 

Not anything too crazy – it’s not some 14 team, AL-only keeper league where you have to keep tabs on draft picks and players in the minor leagues for 10 years.  It’s a 12-team league, $250 buy in.  For those of you curious and familiar, its a mixed league, head-to-head scoring.  It’s a bit unique in that there are 13 categories – 7 hitting and 6 pitching. 

I’ve played fantasy sports for probably over 20 years now, ever since we got the internet when I was a kid.  The free, public salary cap leagues for fantasy football were where I cut my teeth.  I’ll never forget that I ‘bought’ Kurt Warner for the league minimum in 1999 right after Trent Green got injured.  I’ve played in 2 quarterback football leagues, bad quarterback football leagues (shout to Grantland, RIP), ESPN standard baseball and football leagues.  My college roommate Flash once joined a baseball league through his work, and I ghost-owned that team for him. We (I) won the championship.  One time we didn’t have enough people for a basketball league, so my buddy Diesel and I recruited Flash to be our front man, while we made all the moves behind the scenes.  Between the 3 teams the two of us ran (our own plus ‘Flash’s team’), neither of us won the championship.

This baseball league I’m in now is my favorite league I’ve ever been in.  The money is enough to keep everyone interested and active.  While I do wish there was a bit more interaction among the league members, it’s a good league for trades, controversy (I squeaked into the playoffs one year and ended up getting second place thanks to obscure tie-breaker rules), and free agent activity.  Waiting until a top prospect is actually called up to the major leagues is usually too late.

There is one glaring problem though.  And it’s not just with my fantasy league.  It’s with all fantasy baseball leagues.  The problem can be described in one word, and anyone who has ever attempted to play fantasy baseball will nod in agreement, or roll the eyes in agreement, or simply smh in agreement.

Catcher.  That’s the problem.  It’s time to kill the catcher in fantasy baseball.

The fantasy catcher is the worst position in all of fantasy sports.  What about a kicker in football, you might ask.  No, sorry, because at least you know the kicker is going to suit up every day.  Same thing with a defense – even if they are the 2015 New Orleans Saints, at least they will be on the field.  But with catcher, there is no discernible formula for whether a catcher is going to be in the lineup that night.  You have to keep your eyes on the lineup situation, and god forbid your catcher plays a late game and the lineup doesn’t come out until after other games have started.  Oh you wanted to stream catchers and make a free agent pick up?  Sorry, that’d be too practical.

In 2017, the most games played by a catcher was 141 out of 162.  For context, that number would be outside the top ten for every other position except, strangely, center field (it’d rank 9th).  For my 12 team league, if everyone only had one catcher, the 12th-most games started by a catcher was 120.  Which means you either have to carry TWO catchers on your roster (which is limited to maybe 3 bench players), or be incredibly shrewd in your roster maneuvering.  Even if you have the best catcher, you’re still missing out on at least 20 games of counting stats.

And that brings up another question of value – how do you value a catcher?  Is it one who plays the most games?  Last year, Martin Maldonado was third in games played among catchers, and slashed a not-exactly-Ruthian .221/.276/.368.  But at least he played!  Austin Barnes hit .289/.408/.486 last year, but he only played in 102 games.  Who would you rather have?

The solution to this is easy – just eliminate the catcher position altogether.  Who says every position needs to be accounted for?  I’ve seen some proposals to just not draft a catcher, and while I wish I had seen those before the season started, why do we even need the position to begin with?  Nobody wins their fantasy league because they somehow out-managed everyone else in the catcher position.  It’s time to send the catcher to the farm where all the other catcher’s live and they can sit on the bench when they want and where all their gear until their little hearts desire.

It’s time to kill the catcher.

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