How hitting is scored in ottoneu FanGraphs points leagues

I love a lot of things about fantasy baseball.  But like many of you, when understanding players in real life, I have become increasingly immersed in the sorts of statistics that are commonplace here at FanGraphs: wOBA, FIP, WAR, etc.  And that created a problem for me as a fantasy manager: I just don’t enjoy leagues that reward managers for things like RBI, pitcher wins, etc.

Last year, I decided to do something about it.  Inspired by this post by Tangotiger, I created a custom Yahoo league that used a scoring system designed to more accurately reflect “real” baseball–or, at least, real player value.  It was a blast.  And on the basis of this success, FanGraphs adopted this scoring system as one of the ways that you can play the ottoneu fantasy game.

What makes it different from other points systems?  It is based upon those same, advanced statistics that we use to evaluate players in real life: linear weights for hitters and FIP for pitchers.

Let’s start with the point values for hitters:

AB: -1.0
H: +5.6
2B: +2.9
3B: +5.7
HR: +9.4
BB: +3.0
HBP: +3.0
SB: +1.9
CS: -2.8

These are based on linear weights, which are the basis for the entire family of w*** statistics, like wOBA, wRAA, and wRC.  I used Tango’s set of linear weights, specifically.  If you go to that link and look up the value of a single, you’ll see that the average single was worth 0.463 runs (in the lwts_rc column).  In our fantasy points, a single is an AB (-1 pts) and a hit (+5.6 pts), which sums to 4.6 points.  Similarly, a home run is worth 1.402 runs in linear weights (this is the average value of a home run, because they often at times with runners on base).  In fantasy points, it’s an AB (-1 pts), H (+5.6 pts), and a HR (+9.4 pts) = 14 pts.  In other words, this points system literally is linear weights, just multiplied by 10.

If you total up a player’s fantasy points using this system, you will get a number that is going to be very close to ten times a player’s wRC.  Here are the top-10 hitters by fantasy points in 2010, along with their wRC:

Name FP wRC
Albert Pujols 1287.8 135.8
Jose Bautista 1227.5 134.1
Miguel Cabrera 1226.7 130.5
Joey Votto 1218.2 135.8
Carlos Gonzalez 1138.7 121.5
Josh Hamilton 1113.9 123.2
Robinson Cano 1097.7 118.2
Paul Konerko 1097.1 120.1
Matt Holliday 1079.1 118.1
Adrian Gonzalez 1066.7 111.5

Any differences are attributable to slight differences in FanGraphs linear weights to those on Tango’s site (FanGraphs’ are a bit more generous, probably with a slightly lower penalty for outs), as well as rounding errors.  Not convinced?  Here’s a graph using 2010 data:

imagine a straight line of points

Neat, right? If you know a hitter’s actual hitting value, you know his fantasy value under this system.

The only meaningful difference between this system and the one that Tango invented for hitters is the baseline: we’re assigning points based on absolute runs instead of runs above replacement.  The reason is that many of the fringy catchers and shortstops that might have to start at times on some fantasy teams actually produce negative values in Tango’s system.  Using absolute runs solves this problem, in that virtually anyone with a pulse will produce positive points if given some playing time (Cesar Izturis produced 290 FP last year, despite his .248 wOBA in 513 PA’s).  The value lies in those players who not only get playing time, but can produce more points than other players in that playing time.

In future weeks, we’ll take a look at how we’re scoring pitchers, and then look at how these systems affect specific player values, strategy, and more!




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Justin is a lifelong Reds fan, and first played fantasy baseball on Prodigy with a 2400 baud modem. His favorite Excel function is the vlookup(). You can find him on twitter @jinazreds, even though he no longer lives in AZ.


28 Responses to “How hitting is scored in ottoneu FanGraphs points leagues”

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  1. Wade8813 says:

    I’m setting up my own league based on linear weights for the first time this season. Last year I was trying to think of a scoring system that would accurately represent things, yet for some reason I didn’t think of LW – I just sat there trying to crank out my own values. Oh well – I had some down time, and it was my first year really doing fantasy baseball, so it’s probably just as well that I got a little experience before trying to do my own (I’d done fantasy baseball before, but those usually consisted of picking players and not paying much attention until the season ended)

    One thing I’m having trouble with now is what to do about pitchers. The only LW info I found right off hand is for batters. Currently, I’m just assigning them most of the same categories as hitters, just with inverse points (an IP = 3 PA. An event gives a batter X points, the same event will give a pitcher -X points). Batters get credit for SB and penalized for CS, and I gave pitchers a little bit of points for Ks to make up for the fact that pitchers seemed worth so much less even though batters don’t get penalized for Ks in my league.

    Also, I’m unsure what to do about relievers. They don’t get any credit for pitching in high leverage situations, but giving points for Saves/Holds doesn’t feel right even if it’s only a small amount.

    I look forward to reading how you decided to score pitchers.

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    • Justin Merry says:

      Right, you can’t use lwts for pitchers because the pitcher getting the highest point total would be the one who gives up the most runs! :)

      I will write about the pitcher points next week. I probably should leave you in suspense, but you can get a preview if you look at the support page for ottoneu: http://ottoneu.fangraphs.com/support

      Short story is that it’s built on FIP, with additional credit for innings that makes them match up to hitters. And then there are saves and holds…which I’ve concluded are a necessary evil, unfortunately. More on it next week.
      -j

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      • Brad Johnson says:

        At least one other lw league spawned out of the book blog last year, which I joined. We had a lot of success ignoring SV/H using a 5 RP format with an innings cap (I think it was 1450 but I don’t remember). My relievers were the most valuable part of my team per unit (IP or PA). Relief also generally had the highest ‘reward’ in net points between the elite and replacement level aside from catcher and shortstop.

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      • Justin Merry says:

        @Brad, that does require an IP cap. And that rules out head-2-head points leagues, which is what this system was originally built to use.

        But yeah, I can see that working. Relievers definitely have better FP/IP rates in our system, even without the saves. Our game at FanGraphs does use a 1500 inning max, so this could be something that we need to look at. I hit 1800+ innings last year in another league using lots of two-start starters and SP/RP players, so it’s an issue.

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      • Wade8813 says:

        Thanks for the link.

        It feels weird to see a system that gives credit for saves, but doesn’t care about base hits at all.

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      • Justin Merry says:

        The purpose of the saves it’s an imperfect way of giving extra credit for reliever leverage. More on this next week…it may not stay as is.
        -Justin

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    • William says:

      I’d use something different than 3 PA/IP, though, since there are more in an average inning… I don’t know the exact number, but maybe 4 1/3.

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      • Wade8813 says:

        Basically, I’m using PA since Yahoo (and ESPN) don’t allow batters to get penalized for outs, which is really what LW counts. So I just deduct for all PA instead, then adjust all values of positive events by a corresponding amount.

        With pitchers, 1 IP = 3 outs, so I just say IP = 3PA and then I don’t adjust the other events.

        I should have clarified that earlier, but didnt’ want to make my post too long.

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  2. Half Full says:

    Very cool way to see wRC compile as the season progresses. I may try out this system this year but I’ll be sure not to use the aforementioned Izturis no matter how shallow SS gets this year.

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  3. goatees says:

    As a fangraphs frequenter and fantasy enthusiast, I actually prefer more classic, dummy fantasy scoring formats. I find that there are two problems with the type of scoring system presented; it’s too predictable, and it takes out your ability to ‘game’ the system. Getting lucky or unlucky on a pitchers ERA is fun. You can still use advanced stats to make good guesses. I also like the idea that i can snag all the homer hitters and then use that for huge trade leverage. Its a game.

    I’ll let myself out, thank you.

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  4. William says:

    I’m all over Melky. Oh, wait, this isn’t razzball …

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  5. Justin Merry says:

    Just so folks know, I am going to be hosting a league on ottoneu. I need to figure out when I’m going to run the auction–it will probably be several consecutive weekday nights.

    I’ll have this worked out next week, and I’ll have a small “gimmick” of sorts to get in at the end of my next post. So, if you’d like to play with me, check back next week!
    -j

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  6. Kyle says:

    So question, I may sound ignorant asking. Where is the accountability for speed, other than steals? Lets say Billy Butler and Carl Crawford are on second for their respective teams. Someone hits a frozen rope to the corner of right field. Crawford goes home, while Butler huffs and puffs to get on third. Unless I am missing something they would both get the same amount of points, which does not account for their actual worth. I am probably missing something.

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    • Justin Merry says:

      You are correct that there is no explicit accounting for speed in this system, beyond the rewards for SB/CS and triples.

      However, the value of baserunning is typically pretty small over the course of the season: based on EqBRR, the league leaders in baserunning are usually around +7 or +8 runs per season once you remove SB’s. It matters, but it’s not huge, and I think our game still does a nice job of reflecting real hitting value. wRC/wOBA/WAR at FanGraphs does not reflect that level of baserunning either.

      One last thing–because most of the premium positions have a good number of speedy players, they get a bit of a value boost simply due to scarcity (and while ours gane doesn’t do this, some leagues do use LF/CF/RF to further give CF’s a boost in value).

      Justin

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    • Wade8813 says:

      It seems to me that speed (other than steals) is one of those things we can’t give credit for very well, but fortunately doesn’t matter too much.

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  7. Wade8813 says:

    I haven’t looked into it much, but runs seem to be more a factor of who’s batting behind you than how fast you are.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that the faster you are, the more likely you are to have the better hitters batting behind you…

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  8. Dan says:

    This looks like a big improvement over trad roto. Nice work, and I’m looking forward to your article on pitching values. But if you want to better mirror the real game, aren’t sims the best approach?

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    • Justin Merry says:

      Depends on what you’re after. If you like the basic idea of a fantasy game, especially a points-based game, but want a scoring system that matches up to reality, then this is a good option. It’s a simple game: pick your players, and watch their performances accumulate. It’s no more time consuming to play than normal fantasy, and you can do so in normal format leagues (or our cool year-round auction leagues at fangraphs).

      If you want another level of realism, you probably do have to venture into the world of sims. But with it, you get added complexity, time commitments, etc. And, at a certain point, the fate of your team lies not directly in the performances of your players, but in the algorithm that runs the sim…

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  9. darrenmaybee says:

    Nice work Justin. I do believe this is the best way to quantify all of a player’s tangible performance factors into a fantasy output. I would be interested in throwing my hat into your Ottoneu league when it becomes available. By the way vlookup () and bubble charts rock!

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  10. darjac35 says:

    i created my own points system. it’s not as well-researched as this, but the total points are pretty close. any chance i could get you to take a look and offer some opinions?

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  11. bearseatkids says:

    Very interesting though if the points are based off each at bat and the number of runs that an outcome would produce for a team (single = .463 runs), then shouldn’t a strikeout for a batter be an additional subtraction of points? It was my understanding that a strikeout results in less runs over the course of a season than a out on a ball put into play. Maybe this difference is just too small?

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    • Justin Merry says:

      An out (by strikeout or other out) does result in -1 points, because that results in an AB in almost all cases (except for SF’s, which get a pass here–whether that’s appropriate or not is an open question).

      Strikeouts do result in fewer runs than a normal ball in play, but it’s an extremely small difference: in this study (http://www.tangotiger.net/bsrexpl.html), it’s -0.111 runs instead of -0.098. Rounding to the hundredth place, and then multiplying by ten gets us to -1.0 points per strikeout and -1.0 points per out. Part of the reason that the difference isn’t greater is that balls hit into play result in double plays a lot more often than a strikeout, and so strikeouts can sometimes be preferable to a ground ball. Obviously, that depends on the situation, but on average, they really aren’t much worse.
      -j

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