Tips for Mendoza League Owners

How Mendoza Baseball is different from other fantasy leagues


Most fantasy baseball leagues use a pretty simple set of stats: home runs, RBIs, batting average, etc. Mendoza leagues are far more sophisticated. We use all the stats that really mean something and none of the stats that don't. That means we do use walks, GIDP and caught stealing. It means we don't use RBI, wins, losses or saves. This is good news and bad news. The bad news is that Mendoza values are a little different than other fantasy leagues. The good news is that they track very closely with more advanced player performance metrics such as RC, EQA, VORP, etc. (the major difference being that Mendoza stats are not park-adjusted). So don't overspend for that speedy outfielder who never gets on base, or that closer with the 4.50 ERA. Do spend for that walk-happy slugger or stingy starting pitcher. And it doesn't matter a bit whether what team they play on.

League Depth

Mendoza leagues are very deep leagues, with 9-12 teams for an AL league and 11-14 for an NL league. This means you'll have to follow your league very closely, keeping track of who's playing where, who is injured and when they're likely to come back, who will pick up the slack and get some temporary playing time. If you don't know who the backup center fielder is for the Pittsburgh Pirates, you're giving your competitors an advantage over you. Luckily, there are any number of services that will keep you up-to-date with the latest transaction news. Check out one of the following sites:

We even log MLB transactions here at the Mendoza site at, though we don't offer the witty commentary you'll find at other sites.

Gameplay and Money

Mendoza Baseball is designed to be a simulation of franchise ownership, not just of the game on the field. As such, money is an integral part of Mendoza League play. After paying your franchise fee, you'll be eligible to assemble your lineup. The bulk of your lineup will be generated via the pre-season auctions, which always occur just prior to Opening Day. After the pre-season auctions, you'll pay for your team via PayPal.

Over the course of the season, you'll be able to add to your team via trades, weekly in-season auctions, and "instant" auctions (players you can add to your roster immediately who have cycled through either pre-season auctions or 4 in-season auctions without getting picked up). You won't have to pay for new players at that time, but you're welcome to; instead, your end-of-season payout will be deducted for any outstanding transactions.

Given that you're putting real money on the line, each franchise owner has to decide how important winning is versus making a profit. Are you a George Steinbrenner type, who wants to win at any cost? Or are you a Billy Beane, who can consistently put together a contending team on a shoestring budget? Mendoza leagues give you a chance to try out either role.

Whichever role you choose for yourself, it's best to make a plan and stick with it. Are you a little uncomfortable with all the complexities of Mendoza baseball? It's OK to hang back for a year and gain some experience while trying to finish in the middle of the pack. But if that's your plan, there's no point in spending $30 on an All-Star shortstop (wouldn't you agree, Tom Hicks?). Do you think this is your year to go for it all? Then fill all your positions with decent players. Don't spend $150 on your top 6 or 7 players and get nothing from your other positions.

Roster construction

Position players: depth and flexibility!

Depth is perhaps the most important component of success in Mendoza leagues. You get credit for 25 positions, so you need to find 25 guys who can contribute to the success of your team. Championship teams get contributions from every position in the lineup! In fact, you really need more than 25 contributors, because at least three of your guys are going to get hurt during the year, and you'll want someone to fill in.

Try to fill each of your 14 starting positions with someone who's going to get at least some playing time. In most leagues, you'll only have 10-12 players who could really be considered starters. But ideally, your other guys should be semi-regulars or platoon players. It's not a bad idea to grab some guys with flexibility to play multiple positions. That allows you to reshuffle your lineup in the event of an injury without losing too much production.

Starting pitchers: manage the penalty!

The biggest preventable mistake most newbies make is not getting enough innings and ending up with lots of penalty runs. Even well-managed Mendoza teams sometimes finish with 100 or more penalty runs. How important is this? Well, replacing those 100 innings with a pitcher with an ERA of 6.00 would save 33 runs. That's 3 games in the standings.

How do you manage the penalty? Here's a start:

  • Get six or seven starters. To get the 1,458 innings you need to avoid the penalty, you need five starters at 200 innings each, plus 7 relievers at 65 innings each. That's a lot of innings. And the reality is, not many starters go 200 innings any more.
  • Follow your team throughout the season. If one of your starters goes down, get a replacement in there ASAP.
  • Don't be afraid of racking up extra innings early in the season. While you don't get an extra credit for them, they do give you flexibility later on. But if you get to July and it looks like you'll have more than enough innings, you might think about dealing from strength to upgrade one of your other positions.

Relief pitchers: look beyond the closer!

Another mistake inexperienced Mendoza players make is to overpay for brand-name closers. There is no extra credit for saves in Mendoza leagues. A Brendan Donnelly is more valuable than a Troy Percival, not only because he has a lower ERA but also because he pitches more innings. The best relievers only pitch around 100 innings or so. Even with the new system of differentiated reliever roles, that still makes a closer only two-thirds as valuable as a starter of identical ability. And other relievers are even less valuable. What's more, there are always a lot of relievers left over after the Spring Auction when every other position is depleted. It's a good idea to avoid overpaying for mediocre relievers.

Reserve Roster

Your Reserve Roster is your first line of defense against injury. As discussed above, an extra starting pitcher or two is essential. It's also a good idea to have one backup middle infielder and one outfielder. These should be guys who play at least twice a week. But if you find yourself with more than one regular on your Reserve Roster, you may be overpaying for depth. Consider a trade to try to upgrade one of your regular positions. Don't bother with an extra reliever; you can always find a warm body in the Instant Auction.

Disabled/Developmental List

Here is where you will stash any prospects that have already made their MLB debut, along with injured regulars. There really is no good reason not to fill any available DL slots with minor leaguers, even if they're complete long shots. They only cost a quarter each, and every once in a while one of them turns into Brian Daubach.

Spring auctions

Mendoza auctions are a totally stressful, adrenalin-producing, three-day rush. At first you'll feel lucky just to keep your head above the water. Here are a few tips to get you through it. By the second or third auction, you'll probably feel like you're beginning to get the hang of it.

Use the auction summary page

One way to make the auction easier to manage is to place bids on all players you think you might be interested in on a given night. Then track those bids using the auction summary page. This will allow you to narrow your focus to only the guys you're interested in. But you'll have to get to the auction page early; out-of-the-money bids are rejected and do not show up on the auction summary page.

The proxy is your friend!

Mendoza auctions use proxy bidding. You bid your maximum amount, but the price is figured as the minimum increment necessary to beat the next highest bid. The computer proxy automatically raises your bid each time someone else submits a bid that is above the auction price. This ensures that you never pay more than the minimum required to win the auction, regardless of your maximum bid. So there is no need to spend precious auction time going back and forth with another bidder one quarter at a time. Bump him a dollar if you're willing to pay it, and then check back later.

Fill your roster

Because of the depth of Mendoza leagues, nearly all of the decent players will be gone by the end of the Spring Auction, and demand for call-ups will be high among competing teams. This means that the Spring Auction is more important than in other leagues. You must come out of the Spring Auction with all your positions filled. You can upgrade through trades later, but you need warm bodies to start the season with. That means you'll have to pay attention to mid-level and lower-level guys in addition to the superstars.

Multi-year contracts

If your league allows multi-year contracts, you'll need to think about a long-term plan for your franchise. Are you planning to stick with your Mendoza team for two or three years? Then fire away! If you aren't sure you want to continue playing after this year, try to go light on the long-term contracts. You are on the hook for the entire amount of the contract, even if you decide to leave the league.

Mid-season auctions

Weekly Free Agent Auction

The Weekly Free Agent Auction closes each Thursday at 6 PM Pacific Time. It features all players who are new to the league (call-ups and players who come over from the other league), plus players who have been released by their Mendoza teams. The auction list is frozen each Monday, so try to look in at least once during the week to see who's available.

Instant Auction

The Instant Auction is continuous. All players who were not signed in the regular auction go into the Instant Auction and can be signed for the league minimum. Come here if you need a warm body to fill in and hopefully give you a few at-bats. It's also a good idea to scan the Instant Auction list every now and then for minor leaguers that others have overlooked. Players like Roy Halladay and Johan Santana have been picked up in the Instant Auction.

Contract extensions

Someday we'll get around to implementing a draft and a real reserve clause, but for now the contract extension process is how you keep your cheap players. The raises are steep, but you can keep a 25 cent player for six years before he gets to $8.00, so it's not all bad. It will be rare that you extend a veteran player.