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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Reducing the "luck factor" in H2H leagues
Q & A: Week 7

Last Week's Question: What do readers think of the "mulligan rule"?

Last week's column featured an explanation from Randy about the "mulligan rule" in his league, which allows an owner to substitute a high-scoring bench player for a low-scoring active player at the same position after the relevant games have been played. Randy burned his mulligan in Week 3 by switching out a ho-hum performance from A.J. Green (who was originally designated as "active" on his roster) for a career game from Antonio Brown (who was supposed to be riding the pine that week on Randy's team).

Randy plays in a head-to-head (H2H) league that awards one mulligan each year to the owner with the highest losing score from the previous season. Almost everyone who plays in H2H leagues eventually has to swallow the bitter pill of putting up the second-highest score in the league on the day when they just happen to be matched up against the owner with the highest score. It leaves us all with the feeling of having been robbed, and the mulligan appears to be an attempt to take the sting out of that experience.

For as long as I have been writing this column, I have maintained that each league has to find its way to the rules best suited to the temperaments of the owners involved, and as long as everyone in Randy's league is happy with their mulligan rule, all I can say is "More power to 'em." However, most of the responses I received concerning the mulligan shared my own sense that even if Randy really did get robbed in 2012 by putting up the highest losing score of the season, the owner he played against in Week 3 of this year has now also been robbed. I'll feature Mike's response because he didn't just write in to say what he didn't like about the mulligan, but to explain more equitable alternatives that address the frustration of putting up the second-highest score and losing:

I don't like the mulligan idea you wrote about. What does the previous season have to do with the current one? And the two situations are unrelated. What does losing with a high score have to do with benching a player who scored a ton of points? Answer: Nothing. Worst rule ever.

The simple solution to "the single most frustrating thing" is what our leagues do: one is a double header league. If you have the second highest score, you get at least one win.

In the other, you play every team, every week (which also has the added benefit of solving the previous week's question: when an owner checks out, it affects every team equally).

James isn't even sure that the frustration of losing with a great score in H2H leagues merits any special rules at all:

Mulligan??? Are you kidding me??…….in our league, this is what we call the “bonehead” of the week award, leaving someone on your bench that could have gotten you the win…….as I did last week not starting Alshon Jeffrey and lost by 7pts…… That’s just the breaks, suck it up and move on.

Bernie found the idea of using 20/20 hindsight to make lineup decisions so comical that he sent me this little joke:

Help! I just tried the “mulligan” idea at the race track. Told ‘em I meant to bet that horse that just won and paid eighty bucks. They’ve got me down here in Security and won’t let me go! Would you ask that “mulligan” commissioner what I should do now?

In addition to asking for comments on Randy's mulligan rule, I invited FFers to share any rules in their leagues that might qualify as mulligans in their own right. Eric sent in the only answer that came close:

I'm commish of the Semi-Tough FFL, and we have a rule that isn't quite a mulligan rule but is close enough to warrant mention.

We do not allow teams to make free agent or waiver pickups once the playoffs start. This means it is important to get your roster in order with adequate depth in the last week or two of the regular season.

We have one exception rule in the event that every player on a team's roster at a particular position is listed as Out or moved to IR on the official NFL injury report. For example, if a team only has one rostered TE and he is injured in a game or practice and is subsequently listed as OUT or moved to IR , that team can invoke the rule and drop the injured player for a waiver/free agent player. However, if the player is only listed as Doubtful, Questionable or Probable, no move is allowed.

That last distinction has bitten a few owners in the butt, usually at QB or RB: if they are carrying 2 QBs and one is Out while the other is Doubtful, it's tough luck; also, we start 1 RB, 2 WR and have a WR/RB Flex position, so same tough luck if only carrying 2 RBs on the roster with one RB Out and the other Doubtful.

My thanks to everyone who wrote in (whether I had space to include your answers or not). Thanks also to Randy for sharing his weird mulligan rule with me. Even if the idea wasn't a hit with the readers of this column, I wish the mulligan league the best of luck.

This Week's Question: How can you reduce the "luck factor" in H2H leagues?

Bob doesn't like the "mulligan rule" from Randy's league, but he is interested in ways of taking the sting out of the wins and losses in H2H leagues that seem unfair. It doesn't just bother Bob to see teams with high scores losing to teams with slightly higher scores. It also bugs him when the second-lowest scoring team of the week just happens to be matched up against the lowest-scoring team. The lowest-scoring team might not feel robbed in those circumstances, but every other owner who outscored the second-worst team is likely to grumble that the win should have come their way instead. Bob calls the solution that he is considering an "electoral college" type of system.

This system would solve the 2nd highest scoring team issue addressed by the “mulligan” It also helps to eliminate the instance of [absentee] owners late in the year because it wouldn’t be the case of someone playing against a losing owner [who has checked out] and someone else playing against an active losing owner. [With my system,] if owners become less active, it has no effect on anyone, it would still depend on your own team's performance. We all know the frustration of missing the playoffs because you're fighting for a final spot and the team you are fighting against is playing a team that didn’t set its lineup while you play a team who picked up that scrub waiver wire pick and trounced you. It still keeps the win/loss aspect of football, but isn’t totally points based. The inherent flaw in both systems is in the win/loss weekly schedule, you can have a 2nd highest scoring team loss and a 2nd lowest scoring win and in the points based you can be out of it too early in the season and never be able to catch up without scoring 200 points in week.

This is why I am considering an “electoral college” type of system in our league. The end result would be wins in a head-to-head system, but to lessen the impact of teams putting up the 2nd highest score getting a loss and the team with a bottom 2 or 3 score getting a win, we would award wins to top half of scoring teams each week. so the 5th highest scoring team would get a win in a 10- team league. I feel like this effectively keeps the head to head scoring yet minimizes some of the luck factor of the schedule and such. This would continue into the playoffs. Weeks 1 and 2 the top half scores would move on and then face off in the championship.

Bob's proposal seems a lot less brutal than the "mulligan rule." I haven't played with a setup like the one Bob describes, so I can't comment on it with any sense of authority, but it sounds like a clever sort of hybrid league. The best thing about H2H leagues is that owners get a sense of every Sunday as its own special thrill ride. The worst thing about H2H leagues is that the luck of being scheduled against good teams on off days often plays a disproportionate role in determining which owners advance to the playoffs. The best thing about tally leagues (in which owners simply accumulate points from week to week) is the way that such leagues eliminate the "luck factor" tied to scheduling. But the worst thing about tally leagues is that once the emotional thrill ride is stretched out over the course of the entire season, individual Sundays become less meaningful.

Do you think Bob's model does a good job of combining the best elements of the two systems? Do you have any recommendations for him to consider before he implements his hybrid? I look forward to hearing from you and sharing your thoughts next week.

Survivor Picks - Week 7 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Trap Game: Atlanta over Tampa Bay
The Falcons were the #2 seed in the NFC last year and were expected to make a big push towards the Super Bowl in 2013. Six weeks into the season, these same Falcons are hoping that they can win enough games to sneak into the playoffs after a 1-4 start. Julio Jones (IR), Stevan Jackson and Roddy White are all expected to miss this week's game, which leaves Matty "Ice" working with a bunch of new faces. Meanwhile, Tampa is trying to find an identity with Mike Glennon leading this team, and Doug Martin alone just may have enough talent to surprise an Atlanta team reeling from their Monday night loss to a big underdog Jets team (which yours truly chose two weeks ago).

#3: Miami over Buffalo (5-1: KC, NEP, MN, NO, SF, DEN)
Rarely so late in the season do you have three or four choices for a survival pick that seem like "no brainers." Miami at home against division rival Buffalo seems (at first glance) like one of them. The Bills travel south as double-digit underdogs in part because of a quarterback carousel fueled by injuries. How can any offense that is forever practicing with a new guy under center expect to defeat a strong divisional rival in a hostile environment? A closer look at the relevant statistics, however, suggests that (on paper at least) the Bills should win this game. They generated 22 more points over the first 6 games than the Dolphins, and now they face a Miami offense that, in terms of total yardage, is dead last in the AFC and next-to-last in the NFL. The teams are far more evenly matched than the line suggests. Still, I expect Miami to win. On paper, Miami's 31st-ranked offense is about as scary as Buffalo's 29th-ranked defense. But these teams won't play on paper; they'll play on the Dolphins' turf, and home field advantage will tip the scales in Miami's favor.

#2: Green Bay over Cleveland (4-2: DEN, PHL, SF, IND, STL, HOU)
I thought about this game long and hard before deciding that Aaron Rodgers, with rookie Eddie Lacy, could overcome a Cleveland Browns defense that is ranked 7th in the NFL in yards allowed per game but playing a tough Packers team at Lambeau Field. Green Bay will be without James Jones and Randall Cobb (short-term IR), which adds to the difficulty of overcoming a revamped Browns defense suddenly capable of stopping almost any team, let alone one missing two of its primary weapons. If this game were played in Cleveland, this would have "upset special" written all over it. But look for the mystique of Lambeau to be the difference for the Pack to win a game that three weeks ago looked like an easy blowout on the schedule.

#1: San Diego at Jacksonville (5-1: IND, OAK, SEA, DEN, ATL, CHI)
The networks aren't climbing over each other to televise this barn burner this week, but Phillip Rivers and first-year head coach Mike McCoy have quietly revitalized a passing attack that is averaging almost 100 yards more per game than the 2012 version. But this contest is less about San Diego's strengths than it is about Jacksonville's glaring weaknesses. The Chargers are poised for their first back-to-back win of the season and should have little difficulty with the Jaguars whether Cecil Shorts takes the field or not. Stick with the plan of betting against Jacksonville until further notice (or at least for this week). You would still be in your survival pool with this tactic, and that's really all that matters. Too bad many of you have already used San Francisco in your pools because the 49ers visit next week.

Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999. As a landlocked Oklahoman who longs for the sound of ocean waves, he also writes about ocean colonization under the pen name Studio Dongo. The latest installment in his science fiction series can be found here.