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Know When to Fold’em

Last week, I sent out a tweet (Follow me! @chadyoung) asking readers & ottoneu enthusiasts what they wanted to see in this space this week. Amidst a handful of “should I trade this guy for that guy” responses, came this:

‏@ChikeErokwu: How/when do you know you’re a contender for the year? Is there a point/date benchmark? I’d like to see a story about that.

Anyone who has played in an ottoneu league before knows the standings can flip on their head due to some well-timed trades. A team suffering near the bottom in April can turn a handful of prospects into a smaller handful of stars, and that can make all the difference. So knowing when to buy or sell can be crucial. I’m sitting on both sides of this right now. My team in the original league finally climbed out of the cellar and up to 6th, but is vastly under-performing expectations, while my Experts League team has shot up to 3rd despite getting 0 PA from my biggest auction buy (Hanley Ramirez) and 11 decidedly poor IP from my supposed ace (Jered Weaver).

I am not yet ready to buy in the Experts League (although I am trying to make some deals to swap my world-beating steals and saves to bolster my awfully poor HR and RBI); nor am I ready to sell in the original league. The way I went about making that determination helps to answer Chike’s question.

For points leagues, let me introduce you to a stat I use to determine how I am faring in the league. The stat is equal to (1944/1500)*(Pts/G)+(Pts/IP). The 1944/1500 term is because over the course of the season you will have the chance to use up 1944 games played but only 1500 innings pitched, so an added points per game is worth more (1.296x more) than an added point per inning pitched. Note that this does not mean that adding an ace is lees valuable than adding a big bat – that ace can impact 13.3% or more of your pitching points (200 IP/1500 total) while the batter can only impact 8.3% of your hitting stats (162 GP/1944 total).

Looking at the FanGraphs Staff League standings, my score is 11.81, which is good for…8th. Yuck.

For rotisserie leagues, I start by taking the standings and converting all the counting stats into rate stats. Throughout the season, there can be significant variation in how many games played and innings pitched teams have used up, and that can make quite a difference. On each team’s page you can find their total games played by position. I add up total games played and total IP, then find HR/G, R/G, SB/G, RBI/G, W/9IP, S/9IP and K/9, and recalculate the standings.

This early in the season, there is still plenty of time for teams to make up for missed games or IP, so I still assume everyone will use up their full allotment of playing time. As the season moves on, I make adjustments. I basically assume you can make up 1 GP per week at every position except C (at which you can make up 1 extra GP per day if you want) and OF (where you can make up 2-3 GP per week). I don’t start adjusting IP until very late in the year. If you make adjustments to assume that teams won’t fill up games played or innings pitched, you need to add another step – taking HR/G, R/G and K/9 and multiplying them by GP or by IP/9 to find a new counting stat total for each team. But today, we get to skip that.

Looking at the original league standings, there are four teams that are noticeable movers – West Coast Wellness and Last Year’s Leftovers gained 6.5 and 3.5 points respectively. The former moved from a distant fourth to tied for third while the latter moved from eighth to sixth. The reason is that Last Year’s Leftovers has used up the second fewest games played while West Coast Wellness is well behind in IP.

Meanwhile, Dave Stewart’s Balls and Overpaid Scrubs each dropped six points, falling from second and sixth to tied for third and ninth. The former is leading the league in games played, the latter in IP.

In the Experts League, ESPN Quintong was by far the big gainer – grabbing 10.5 extra points, a result of his having used the second fewest games adn the second fewest IP. The tumbler in this league was For Whom the Honkbal Tolls – this team was second in GP and third in IP and lost 13 points.

My teams did not move much. I gained 1.5 points in the original league (I am about middle of the pack in GP and IP, but a bit below average in both), but arguably LOST ground – I am still in fifth but the gap between my team and fourth grew by five points. The opposite happened in the Experts League, where I dropped 1.5 points, but moved from third to second, thanks to KFFL losing 8.5 points and falling to fourth (that team is third in GP and first in IP).

The last thing I do, regardless of format is look at changes I expect in my team moving forward. For the original league, I know Matt Moore will fall off a bit, but I expect big bounce backs from Jay Bruce, Jason Heyward, Jason Kipnis, and others. In the Experts League, the return of Hanley Ramirez and eventual value from 2B (where I am currently using Dustin Ackley and Jedd Gyorko, but have Jurickson Profar ready to go) will help, while Brandon Crawford and Starling Marte will likely cool off soon. In the Staff League, Felix Hernandez has been human and Matt Cain has been something less than that – that should change.

Most importantly, there is still 85% of the season left to play. In the Staff League, if I can put up 5.5 Pts/G the rest of the way (4th best as of today) and 5.4 Pts/IP the rest of the way (tied for 4th best as of today), there is no reason I can’t be right in the thick of things late this Summer.

But I’ll re-do this exercise in a month or two, and if the results aren’t looking good, that will be when I know it is time to cut bait and start the firesale.