What should you do with RP slots in points leagues?

I play in two points leagues, both of which use lwts-style scoring (although what follows applies to most other points systems).  They differ in format, however: one is a head to head points league with weekly lineups (my yahoo league), while the other is a more traditional points league with game and innings caps but daily transactions (my ottoneu league).

One of the biggest differences between the two systems is what the rule differences mean for reliever value.  In a head to head points league, it’s all about point accumulation.  And in my league’s scoring system, like in many points systems, a major key to generating the most points in a season is playing time, i.e. innings.  Because you can only set lineups once per week, this means that starters who have RP eligibility are tremendously valuable.  As an example, here are the top 11 pitchers who had RP eligibility in Yahoo last season, based on total FanGraphs Points:

1. Brett Myers, 1011 pts
2. Colby Lewis, 911 pts
3. Clayton Richard, 860 pts
4. Shaun Marcum, 848 pts
5. R.A. Dickey, 777 pts
6. Justin Masterson, 754 pts
7. Brandon Morrow, 720 pts
8. Brian Wilson, 679 pts
9. Phil Hughes, 675 pts
10. Carlos Marmol, 661 pts
11. Chris Narveson, 659 pts

As you can see, the effect of having a quality pitcher with RP eligibility is staggering.  I had Myers and Richard last year, and their production was a big part of the reason I made it to the playoffs.  In truth, for most of these guys, there was little difference between a true closer and a starter most weeks.  But in two-start weeks, a starter with RP eligibility can be worth double the value of a closer, and that alone probably resulted in a few wins for me last year.  We actually opted to increase the points allotted for saves and holds this year in my yahoo league to help mitigate this, but the value of SP/RP’s will always be “feature” of this kind of league.

Things change quite a bit when you move to a game like ottoneu, where there’s an innings cap.  By way of illustration, in ottoneu, there is a 1500 inning cap for all pitchers.  Let’s say you had 5-man rotation of Weaver–Cain–Hudson–Scherzer–Buchholz last season (these were the 6th, 18th, 30th, 42nd, and 54th-best starting pitchers according to fangraphs points).  These five pitchers threw a total of 1045.7 innings, and totalled 4659 points (4.46 pts/ip).  That would leave 455 innings to be filled by your five relief slots.

Let’s see what happens if we use our top three elite SP/RP’s from last year to fill those innings: Myers, Lewis, and Richard.  Those three pitchers combined to throw 626.3 innings, totaling 2783 points last year (4.44 pts/ip).  If we pro-rate that rate to 455 innings, we get a total of 2021 points from our RP slots.  And that’s certainly the best-case scenario, as one’s chances of picking up the top three SP/RP’s are probably pretty low.

What if we instead use true relief pitchers?  Here’s a fairly middle of the road bullpen (the 6th, 18th, 30th, 42nd, and 54th-best relievers, by fangraphs points in 2010): Joakim Soria–Leo Nunez–Rafael Betancourt–Brandon League–Jason Frasor.  Those five pitchers combined to throw 335.7 innings last season, so we’re still 120 shy of our cap.  And yet they totalled 2324 points last year–6.9 points per inning!  If we add in another 120 innings from a scrub starting pitcher we stream in as needed–I’ll use Joe Saunders and his 3.5 pts/ip rate from 2010–we add another 420 points, giving a total of 2744 points from our non-rotation pitchers.  That’s an improvement of 723 points over using the top three point-getting pitchers, which is equivalent to the difference between Roy Halladay and Jeremy Bonderman.  It’s huge!

The reason, of course, is that true relievers get holds and saves, which are worth a nice chunk of points in most points leagues.  That makes their average points per inning, which is already pretty high for top relievers, far higher than anything a starting pitcher can do.

So, if you’re in a league with weekly transactions but no innings caps, consider using starters with RP eligibility in your relief slots.  But if you have an innings cap, save those RP slots for true relievers–and ideally closers and setup men who stand to earn lots of saves or holds.  Otherwise, you’re wasting your precious innings on starters.




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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.


14 Responses to “What should you do with RP slots in points leagues?”

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  1. Brad Johnson says:

    Even if you’re in a linear weights based points league, you should find that relievers compile more points per inning than all but the best SP.

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    • Justin Merry says:

      I think that’s pretty much the take-home. Or do you mean without using saves/holds? Even then, you’re right, good relievers will generally give you more points per innings than most any starter.
      -j

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  2. adohaj says:

    I bet the pts/ip for your streamed in pitcher would be higher than joe blantons average since you would only choose to stream favorable match ups. Such as only streaming starters who pitch against the mariners offense.

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    • Justin Merry says:

      Yeah, I was sort of bending backwards to bias the results in favor of using the SP/RP’s. The best 3 SP/RP’s last year vs a middling bullpen and a terrible streamer. And yet, the latter is still way better than the former.
      -j

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  3. DominicanRepublican says:

    Don’t forget that in points leagues with limited RP or P slots and SP-eligible closer is extremely valuable. In non-head-to-head leagues for pitching the name of the game is points per inning pitched. In yahoo leagues I suggest stashing David Hernandez and Aaron Crow. They’ll get you wins and holds in the meantime with a long-term shot at closing (Putz is awful and Soria may get traded). They should get more p/ip than most, if not all, starters this season.

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    • Justin Merry says:

      Yeah, Jeff had a nice post on this a week or so ago. Another name, at least in ottoneu, is Michael Wuertz (once he gets off the dl). I’m not as sold on Crow, though early returns are good…
      -j

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  4. Kevin Wilson says:

    But in leagues with daily moves, most of this is negated, as starters can easily be moved from your bench to an SP or P slot, negating any extra value from RP eligibility.

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    • Justin Merry says:

      You’re right, I was assuming that the h2h league uses weekly transactions. That is how I have mine set.

      Honestly, I don’t think a points league would be fun to play without either weekly transactions or innings caps, as it’d be a stream fest. It works in category leagues because your rates take a hit, but not so in a daily league. I guess if you really crank down the number of possible weekly transactions, and maybe minimize the bench, it could still be ok. But I’d think a lot of teams would be getting 10+ starts per week.

      Anyway, you’re correct and I’ll note this in the post when I get a sec.

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    • Tonio says:

      A non-h2h points league without an innings or game started or transactions cap? That’s just lunacy. If those leagues exist they deserve to be abused.

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  5. Donald Trump says:

    I agree. In my H2H league, I totally punted pitching, and obviously that enabled me to get the best offense in the league. I didn’t draft any closers, but filled my roster with 7 rp/sp starters, as well as a few traditional sp guys. I aim to have as many double starts as possible. This enables me to roughly split W/L/SV/K, leaving whip and era up in the air. Seems like a decent bet, as I should win most offensive stats most weeks.

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  6. sanderson13 says:

    Who’s the best pickup in the ChiSox bullpen?

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  7. jdubb says:

    Im in a H2H points league with a 7 start limit per week. If I have a SP/RP in my RP spot and he starts the game, it counts as one of the 7 starts. Since it is easy to get my 7 starts without using one of the RP slots, I haven’t paid too much attention to starters with RP eligibility.

    That said, a SP/RP eligible pitcher who is coming out of the pen? Money. I can slot him in the starter spot all week and not use starts. If one of these guys ends up closing, you wind up with a significant advantage over your oponent.

    Its an interesting loophole that some of the guys in the league still haven’t picked up on.

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    • Justin Merry says:

      I like the idea of a start limit in a h2h league, but yahoo doesn’t have a way to enforce it, and I’m not interested in trying to enforce it on my own. What platform do you guys use for your league?
      -j

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