Breaking from Consensus: Where ottoneu Rankings Differ

A couple weeks ago, I covered C, 1B, 2B, and SS. Since then, I have also shared my rankings spreadsheet. Today, we cover 3B, OF, SP, and RP.

The lessons are going to remain pretty similar – guys with high walk rates rank higher, guys with a lot of speed rank lower – and will extend to the pitching sphere nicely – closers lose some value, guys projected for close to 20 wins lose some value, pitchers who keep the ball in the yard gain value. But it is still informative to look position by position and see where the differences manifest.

Third Base
Chase Headley is the first name you notice a meaningful difference on. The consensus rankings see him as a top 5 play at 3B, while the ottoneu rankings push him down to 11th, just barely starter quality. Part of that is a lack of power – his Steamer projection calls for a .418 SLG which means that even with the 18 HR that system projects, there will not be enough other extra base hits to keep his value high. The other issue here is likely that the projection systems see 2012 as an outlier in a mediocre career, while the human rankers see a breakout from a guy who has always carried big promise. I think the projections in general are about right – Headley is a solid play at 3B, but not the star/MVP candidate he appeared in 2012.

In the other direction, the projection systems seem a-ok with the aging Kevin Youkilis in pinstripes, while my fellow Rotographers have dropped him a long way. The Greek God of Walks is a natural favorite for ottoneu, as he gets on base plenty and provides solid doubles power in addition to decent HR totals. But the difference between being the #23 player at his position and being #10 according to the projections is pretty significant. It’s worth noting that my system won’t ding him as much as most others for missed playing time, assuming you will fill that in with a replacement level player. The second half of last year, Youk was back to being, well, Youk. He will come cheap in auctions and, while I wouldn’t want to count on him as my only 3B, using him in a platoon or as a flyer in a backup role, he could provide huge surplus.

A couple other guys who fall – Mike Moustakas (low OBP will kill you in ottoneu) and Kyle Seager (appears the projection systems just don’t love the guy).

The differences in the OF rankings can be pretty easily summarized as “ottoneu doesn’t care if you are fast and the projections don’t trust your breakout.” Juan Pierre, Michael Bourn, Desmond Jennings all fall quite a bit. Carlos Gomez and Josh Reddick are not nearly as favorably rated.

But Giancarlo Stanton leapfrogs as handful of players (going form 8 to 3) because his one-dimensional talent is the right dimension, so far as ottoneu is concerned. Same with Jose Bautista and Adrian Gonzalez, who both land in the top ten for ottoneu.

Perhaps the most surprising rise is Dexter Fowler. Ranked 62nd in the consensus rankings, he jumps to 21st in ottoneu rankings. Why? He projects to be among the better OF in non-HR extra base hits and gets on base at a pretty decent clip, putting up a 12.8% walk rate last year. It’s worth noting that while ottoneu has no time for your 50-base-stealers who hit nothing but singles, a 15-15 guy who uses that speed to add on 30 doubles and 10+ triples is going to be pretty valuable. Remember, a triple is worth only 3.7 fewer points than a HR, so those 10 triples, compared to the 0 that will be accrued by most power hitters, can add up.

Starting Pitchers
The pitching differences come right off the bat. Clayton Kershaw tops both lists, as he should, but the consensus #2 (Verlander) is #6 in ottoneu, with Strasburg climbing from 4th to 2nd. Cole Hamels is 5th for the rankers, but 10th for ottoneu.

Matt Cain suffers one of the biggest falls near the top, going form 9th to 18th. This may well be related to his now famous ability to “out-perform” his FIP. If the projection systems are assuming he keeps getting “lucky” and the rankers are giving him credit for being able to maintain the ERA-FIP gap, that would explain much of the difference in ranking.

Beyond that, there are some odd discrepancies. The projection systems are concerned about R.A. Dickey‘s breakout, and have him 91st (which seems a bit extreme), as compared to his #22 ranking for the consensus. You’d think think that this pattern would apply to other breakout successes, but Lance Lynn is 36th in ottoneu vs. 53rd in the consensus, Yu Darvish barely moves (9th vs. 11th) and Gio Gonzalez fares slightly better (12th) in ottoneu than he does elsewhere (17th).

Along the same lines, the projection systems expect Jon Lester and Tim Lincecum to bounce back better than the rankers do (23rd and 15th in ottoneu, 32nd and 28th in the consensus) but the two rankings more or less agree on Roy Halladay (16th vs. 19th) and Dan Haren (26th vs. 30th).

Where you will see consistent patterns is in HR allowed and strike outs. Felix Hernandez and his miniscule HR/9 jumps to 3rd in ottoneu, improving on his 6th spot in the consensus, while Edinson Volquez, another who keeps the ball in the yard, is a top 40 SP in the ottoneu rankings and is outside the top 100 in the consensus. And the aforementioned Lynn and Lincecum both put up elite K/9, which helps them stay elevated in ottoneu.

Relief Pitchers
I’m not going to go into a detailed player-by-player comparison here, but instead give you some simple rules, as I think they are more informative:

1) Saves matter way, way more in 5×5 than ottoneu. In points leagues, you get 5 for a save, but 4 for a hold, which means that an elite middle reliever is worth almost as much as a closer with the same stats. A perfect inning with a K and a hold is worth 13.4 while a perfect inning with a K and a save is worth 14.4. So, assuming, for example, Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel put up matching years, with Jansen pitching the 8th and Kimbrel the 9th, Kimbrels value shouldn’t be more than 5%-10% more than Jansen’s.
2) Keeping the ball in the yard is vital. I just paid $4 for Tyler Clippard in an ottoneu league, and his struggles with the long ball (1.11 career HR/9) really make me nervous. In 5×5, it’s his lack of saves you worry about, but in ottoneu, those HR are killers. That perfect inning with a hold and K? If you add a HR, it goes from 13.4 to 1.1 points. Big shift.
3) Ace relievers are a huge value, because there is so much volatility elsewhere in the pen. But outside the top 10-20 guys, you can probably do just fine picking up a player in May who is piling up holds with solid rates.

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Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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Not sure why people keep scratching their heads about Matt Cain. The recent Fangraphs article re. pitchers who outperform FIP showed 2 characteristics of these pitchers: 1. high pop fly rate. 2. high swinging strike rate. I’m not sure about swinging strike rate, but Cain has always induced an lot of pop flies. I call it putting the other team in his popcorn popper!

So, when is FIP going to be revised to incorporate these factors?

As he has added pitches the last few years, He’s getting more ground ball outs and less pop ups, but he still gets his share.


It’s not swinging strike rate, it’s swinging strike rate on pitches IN THE ZONE. Key distinction.


Whatever. Maybe they need to fix it in the FIP calculation?