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Discover a world beyond the traditional 5x5

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Are you getting bored with your fantasy leagues? Are you able to quote almost any player's batting average or home run total? Are you tired of your league's traditional 5x5 league?

Then don't sit there, call your fellow fantasy owners and suggest alternate categories. Don't be satisfied with the five traditional offensive categories - batting average, runs, HR, RBI and stolen bases. Just say no to the five regularly used pitching categories - wins, ERA, WHIP, saves and strikeouts.

I was feeling just this way about one of my leagues last year, so I made a few suggestions, two of which were utilized.

On the offensive side we changed SB to "Net SB." Why reward a player just because he runs a lot. Instead we decided to reward the efficient base runner. And the change definitely had an effect on results.

Take a look at Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp's running statistics last season. Kemp stole 19 bases and in your "run-of-the-mill" league that would be a nice total. But he really was a horrible base runner. Check the numbers. He was caught stealing or got picked off 15 times last season making his success rate just 55.8%.

Compare Kemp's work to Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz. Cruz stole 17 bases, but was caught just four times. Who was the better base runner?

In the normal 5x5 league, Kemp had the better numbers, but in our league's new "Net SB" category, Cruz's total was +13, much better than Kemp's net of +4.

We also adjusted Saves to Net Saves. It revolves around the same theory of not rewarding the incompetent just because he's the team's only closer option and gets to pitch in every save opportunity.

Staying on the pitching side, how about jettisoning wins for quality starts. We all know that wins is more about the team, not the pitcher. You don't have to look any further than the year Felix Hernandez had last season to see that pitching well doesn't always lead to victories. Is that "King Felix's" fault? Certainly not.

Yet, if you keep wins as a pitching stat, fantasy owners will be forced to choose pitchers on winning teams rather than the best pitchers. Should you really be forced to pick Jon Lester (19-9, 3.25 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) before Hernandez (13-12, 2.27 ERA, 1.06 WHIP)?

I'm not saying Lester is a bad pitcher, just that he's getting the benefit of playing for a much better team, thus his fantasy value in leagues with wins as a category is artificially higher than his actual pitching performance.

Holds is a category that I have seen more of late, but I'm not a proponent of that category. That's because a middle reliever can come in with a three-run cushion and give up two runs while still earning a "hold." To me, that guy didn't do his job even though his team still has the lead.

Instead, I'd like to see a category such as "Inherited Runners Scored." A middle reliever, or closer (though these days closers only come in at the beginning of an inning) who leads in this category would be a valuable member of his team and your fantasy roster.

Back on the offensive side, our league long ago adopted OPS over batting average for a more accurate view of a hitter's performance. But there are plenty of other options.

Since doubles and triples have little value in traditional 5x5 leagues, you could go with extra base hits as a category instead of home runs. This change would take some of the bias away from power hitters and help the speed guys and "doubles hitters".

Or you could add a completely new area - defense. Many fantasy sites offer fielding percentage as a category. Now your players will need more than just a bat to help your team. They will need a good glove and a strong, accurate arm as well.

The new options I mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. As an example of the numerous possibilities, Yahoo offers 37 categories for hitters and 48 for pitchers.

So, if you are bored with your league's traditional 5x5 scoring system, you are really only limited by your imagination. There are plenty of choices to make your fantasy world new and exciting again.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at

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