Back in July, the man behind the scoring system for ottoneu FanGraphs Points leagues made a modest proposal for an update on pitcher scoring. Justin Merry was generally happy with the scoring system but found that the scores for a few random games made no sense.
To fix those, he recommended adding hits as a category, penalizing pitchers for each hit they allow, and reassessing the value of each of the other stats in accordance with that change. As we head towards 2012, the decision was made to accept his proposal and update scoring for pitchers. By looking back at 2011 stats, we can see the impact this scoring change will have.
First, let’s look at the old and new systems side by side.
As you can see, there are only three changes: Hits, previously not part of the equation, are now worth -2.6 points, while an inning pitched gained value and home runs became less damaging in comparison to other hits (although they are actually more damaging overall, since a HR now costs you -12.3 for the HR and -2.6 for a hit).
The obvious change is that pitchers who give up a lot of hits will get hurt. In fact, a pitcher whose H/IP ratio is greater than .923 (2.4/2.6, the change in H value over the change in the value of an IP) will suffer as a result of this change, while those with a ratio under .923 will benefit. This isn’t a perfect rule, since pitchers with extreme HR totals (low or high) will also see a change.
Overall, the scoring change seems to hurt starting pitchers and help relievers. The average SP with at least 75 IP in 2011 would lose 14.8 points off his season total with this scoring change. The average RP with at least 20 IP in 2011 would gain 7.7 points.
It also seems to favor elite pitchers. The chart below shows average changes by tiers, with the tiers defined by scoring under the old system. For example, the “26-50” row below represents the average change for pitchers who ranked 26-50 in points based on the old system.
As you can see, the change in system is going to lead to the rich getting richer, relative to the poor. The difference is less stark for RP than for SP, but relievers are starting from a smaller base – the average top 25 SP accrued 1109.1 points last year, compared to just 558.1 from a top RP.
Of course, another change that jumps out is that the gap between SP and RP is going to get a bit thinner – the average top 100 RP will gain 21.8 points thanks to this change, while a top 100 SP will lose 2.5. That said, those SP put up 842.1 compared to 421.9 from the top 100 RP, so the 24.3 point closing of the gap makes a difference, but not a huge difference.
Finally, let’s take a look at the biggest gainers and losers among SP and RP. This table shows the top ten point gainers and losers among SP with 75+ IP and RP with 20+ IP.
|SP Gainers||Diff||RP Gainers||Diff|
|Justin Verlander||166.8||Tyler Clippard||94.3|
|Clayton Kershaw||118.1||Jonny Venters||74.8|
|James Shields||109.6||Antonio Bastardo||70.6|
|Jered Weaver||106.4||Koji Uehara||64.9|
|Ricky Romero||100.6||Mike Adams||64.8|
|Josh Beckett||98.3||Craig Kimbrel||62.1|
|Cole Hamels||92.3||Alfredo Aceves||60.8|
|Jeremy Hellickson||88.7||Daniel Bard||59.1|
|Matt Cain||78.1||Aroldis Chapman||59.0|
|Michael Pineda||77.2||David Robertson||55.6|
|SP Losers||Diff||RP Losers||Diff|
|Carl Pavano||-132.3||Chris Jakubauskas||-61.1|
|Jeff Francis||-129.9||Chad Durbin||-51.8|
|John Lackey||-129.8||D.J. Carrasco||-51.5|
|Ricky Nolasco||-126.0||Frank Herrmann||-45.1|
|Brad Penny||-124.4||Shawn Camp||-44.7|
|Joel Pineiro||-112.4||Jason Berken||-44.0|
|Nick Blackburn||-106.5||Ryan Franklin||-42.8|
|Jo-Jo Reyes||-105.3||Ramon Troncoso||-42.0|
|Brian Duensing||-99.1||Aaron Laffey||-41.9|
|Rick Porcello||-96.6||Aaron Heilman||-35.0|
Not a ton to see here — as we saw earlier, the best get better, and some pretty mediocre guys get mediocre-er. There are a few exceptions, though. Jeremy Hellickson was the 85th highest scoring SP last year, but the new system would move him to 56th, which is a pretty significant jump. He kept his hits down and the new system rewarded him generously. On the other end, Carl Pavano and Ricky Nolasco were 33rd and 25th last year, respectively, but the new system drops them to 64th and 45th. This actually seems pretty reasonable to me. Does anyone really believe Pavano and Nolasco belong so high in the rankings? Does it make sense that they are both THAT much better than Hellickson?
So what does this mean for players preparing for a FanGraphs points league? To some extent, it suggests you shouldn’t change much. Pitchers as a whole lose a bit of ground here, but the top 100 SP barely shift and the top 100 RP gain ground, and that should account for almost all the pitchers owned in an ottoneu league. This suggests you should allocate slightly more money to RP last year than you did, taking ever so slightly away from your spending elsewhere. And by slightly, we are talking a couple dollars – a very minimal change.
You should also consider re-allocating your pitching dollars to focus more on elite arms, both starters and relievers. As noted above, the gap between elite arms and less than elite arms will grow noticeably, which means the cost of an elite arm, relative to any other, should grow, as well.
But probably the most important change is that you need to keep a close eye on pitchers likely to give up a ton of hits (or very few). With the new scoring system, a pitcher’s ability to avoid hits matters a lot. For the most part, this means getting a lot of strike outs – allowing fewer balls in play is the most tried-and-true method of allowing fewer hits.
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