A Look at Yahoo and ESPN Owned Percentages

I have had several discussion in the comment here at Fangraphs that the players we discuss are not available in the reader’s leagues. I decided to look at the percentages owned at ESPN and Yahoo and see how they compare. Also I will look at what size of league in total players on rosters corresponds to what percentage owned.

I have seen some huge discrepancies in the owned percent between Yahoo and ESPN. I took the percentages of the top 250 owned pitchers and hitters. I didn’t match them up, I was more looking at just the percentages. What I found was that there were basically 3 zones of players. Those owned by all teams (>90%), those owned by some teams (more than 10% and less than 90%), and those owned by few teams (<10%). Of the 500 total players 194 were in the top 90% for ESPN and the top 114 for Yahoo. In next bracket of players, ESPN has 107 in that group and Yahoo has 245. ESPN leagues seem to take more top players and then drop off quickly, while more of the middle players are used in Yahoo. This leads to be believe that Yahoo has larger leagues as a rule and the percentage owned will be higher.

The following data is the percent owned for the different sized leagues. The number is for the total number of players (roster size * number of teams).

Total Players Yahoo ESPN
200 – 66% 87.8%
250 – 45% 58.4%
300 – 26% 11.5%
350 – 11% 3.7%
400 – 6% 1.7%
450 – 3% 0.5%
500 – 1% 0.2%

With these numbers and taking into account previous comments, I will write only on percent owned cutoffs for leagues of 300 total players or higher.




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.


18 Responses to “A Look at Yahoo and ESPN Owned Percentages”

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  1. Gigantic Phil says:

    Just as I suspected. Thanks for the footwork.

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  2. Goose says:

    Check CBS leagues too, make ESPN and Yahoo look like amateur hour.

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  3. Seth says:

    Interesting to note: in a post yesterday it said Clay Buchholz was owned in 43% of Yahoo Leagues. He’s owned in 97% percent at ESPN.

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    • Gary says:

      A lot of those are based on the automatic rankings at each site.
      Buchholz was probably ranked relatively low on Yahoo and thus never got hit by autodraft and never got noticed in a lot of drafts
      He was probably above the 260 autodraft pick for ESPN and got lots of autodrafts/was noticed by lots of people as he approached the top of the list

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      • Nate says:

        Yahoo’s rankings were really bad this year. After the top 30 or so, it was almost random.

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  4. Gigantic Phil says:

    I think that’s an interesting discrepancy related to how hard Clay has been pimped by ESPN writers.

    An East coast company who constantly touts Red Sox vs. Yankees as the only baseball games worth watching probably influences their fantasy gamers. That isn’t meant as a slam, just speculation.

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  5. Ted Hoppe says:

    Can’t the “Owned %” of a pitcher vary greatly if the pitcher is one that is being streamed? I’m thinking of pitchers like Colby Lewis, Cj Wilsom, Millwood, Correale, even Marcum has bounced around. Add in Pavano, Masterson, Penny, and Blanton.
    I lot of top drafted pitcher have not pitched well: Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Wandy-Rod, Vazquez, to name some, and as such teams have reverted to streaming more for an added W or more Ks. The top guys will reamain owned, but to open a slot for a spot starter there has been more turning over of the second tier pitchers than normal.

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  6. Ben says:

    Autodrafted teams in leagues always end up skewing the results. ESPN right now has Joe Nathan rostered in 5.9% of leagues. I personally don’t trust percentage owned as a way to analyze players in competitive leagues.

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  7. Jake says:

    I believe that Yahoo defaults are 12 teams while ESPN is 10 teams which would affect the number of players owned between the two sites.

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    • David says:

      Sure, but in Buchholz’s case, shouldn’t that increase his % in Yahoo and decrease it in ESPN? There is obviously another big factor at play.

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  8. UnkleFester says:

    While noone is claiming that CBSSportsline has the best analysis on the web, certainly I think that CBSSportsline hosts a lot more mature, deeper leagues. I am curious to see how they rank up versus Yahoo and ESPN.

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  9. JL says:

    I think most Yahoo leagues start fewer players on average. The ESPN leagues I’ve seen have 6 infielders and 5 outfielders while most Yahoo leagues have 4 infielders and 3 outfielders, so that could make a big difference.

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  10. JayCee says:

    I use Yahoo! stats for another reason as well- to esimate the percentage of Yahoo! public leagues with idle teams. You can see things like Joe Nathan still owned in 7% of leagues as one estimate of a baseline. You’ll see guys who’ve been on the DL for more than a week who are still starting in around 15% of leagues.

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  11. Cary says:

    ESPN expert leagues have 10 team leagues. Karabell, Berry etc. speak of this quite often.

    Every Yahoo league I’ve been in has been a 12 team league with 6 infielders, 5 outfielders and a UTIL, but it’s really too subjective to calculate.

    There are 5 team leagues, 16 team leagues with no bench, etc. Too many outliers to postulate the discrepancies of percent-owned in my mind.

    Nathan is owned in 7% of leagues? Can’t we safely assume those are keeper leagues?

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  12. Lazar says:

    Or they’re in keeper leagues. I own Nathan in a league, keeping him stashed on my DL for next year. He’s definitely worth the hold until next year.

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  13. Robert says:

    You can watch a lot of funny videos about these athletes..

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