Department of redundancy department

In the past I have been accused of being judgmental, or projecting my values upon others. In fact, a few weeks ago a commenter took issue with my suggestion that those who aren’t ready to put their rooting interests in real sports aside to embrace owning stars on rival teams shouldn’t even bother inserting themselves into serious fantasy baseball leagues.

I freely admit that I can be very prescriptive as to what should and should not be; in fact this behavior is not, by any means, limited to the subject of fantasy sports. But, since I’m not here to write about anything else, I’m going to subject you to all to another prescriptive fantasy opinion. When I write here, I usually presume that the preamble disclaiming my opinions as just that – opinions – is simply taken for granted, but every now and then, I guess it’s important to explicitly state that disclaimer.

With that out of the way, I’d like to ask something of a rhetorical question regarding what I feel to be questionable decisions in league construction, particularly when it comes to delineating scoring categories. I know many of us like to experiment with tweaks on the traditional 5×5 categorical set-up. I, too, sometimes play in leagues that are 6×6, or those that substitute OPS for AVG, net SBs for raw SBs, or K/9 or K/BB for raw Ks.

However, there are certain tweaks that I do not understand. I’ve had prospective commissioners tell me that they intended to expand the traditional categories to make inclusions such as a triples category, and I’ve seen leagues that include both average and OBP as individual categories. These tweaks seem senseless to me. There are two main things that I suggest commissioners avoid when setting up scoring categories in their leagues.

First, I would suggest you avoid selecting arbitrary and incomplete niche categories. For example, triples may seem an enticing category add because triples are exciting to watch and their supply is highly limited (I’d actually argue that they are too limited, making them a bad category choice as their mere inclusion tilts the value of some players so drastically). But, the simple question is, why triples? Triples are simply one variation of base hit. So, why choose to privilege their importance or relevance above singles or doubles? The inclusion of a category like triples is not only arbitrary (granted, all category choices are arbitrary to some degree), but they represent only a small fraction of a larger group of like events.

Now, I’m sure some of you are just waiting to lash out, “what about home runs?” Doesn’t the same logic by which I criticize triples also apply to homers, too? Well, not exactly. Home runs have a few things going for them that singles, doubles and triples do not. For one, they are a part of the standard, traditional scoring system. And, yes, their inclusion there is, or rather was somewhat arbitrary, but we mustn’t let the notion of arbitrariness devolve into a slippery slope that undermines the category selection process. Home runs have a well-established place in fantasy baseball scoring and to treat the initial arbitrary nature of that decision as akin to the arbitrary nature of including triples as a category while excluding doubles is disingenuous. I’m just going to hope we can agree on that.

Second, the home run is the pinnacle of offensive achievement and it is defensive independent, which makes it a per se wise choice for inclusion as an offensive statistic. I normally frown on the inferior double counting of stats (I’ll get to this in a minute), but the home run is a unique animal. Seeing as how R and RBI are also traditional and common categories, the home run is the most pure way of accumulating offensive production; it is a hit, a guaranteed run, and a guaranteed run batted in at the same time. It is complete and pure. Unlike the double or triple, the home run is not just one of several different kinds of base hits.

The other dynamic I think prudent to avoid when setting up scoring categories is what I’m going to call inferior redundancy. I think it’s a good idea to try to encompass crediting as many offensive achievements as possible by using stats that reflect different kinds of success and distinguish between incremental successes. In the same vein, I think it is a poor idea to choose to include two or more categories when one is basically duplicative of the other(s) and more profound.

For example, I can understand choosing to use AVG, OBP, SLG, or OPS individually as an offensive stat. However, I don’t think it is sensible to use AVG in combination with OBP, as both stats are essentially aiming to measure how successful a player is at reaching base (in the case of OBP that’s what it does, in the case of AVG that’s how it is commonly misapplied). They’re more similar than they are different.

I also don’t think it is makes sense to use both AVG and SLG, as AVG measures how often a player succeeds at getting on base via batted ball, while SLG does as well, but differentiates between the value of different kinds of hits.

To me, it seems most logical to use OPS alone (or wOBA or something else that counts walks and credits extra base hits) if you are just going to use one rate category. If you need an extra category to counteract an extra category on the pitching side (I hope nobody is playing with an uneven amount of pitching and offensive categories), I think the most sensible choices are either OBP and SLG, which simply breaks the single best choice into its components, or AVG and OPS, which includes the simplest and most encompassing choices and utilizes an original, traditional stat thereby invoking the damage control argument of, “yes, this system is flawed, but I’m not introducing new flaws into the system.”

I hope I’ve been sufficiently diplomatic in stating these preferences. I have given a fair amount of thought to them and try to adhere to an internal logical consistency when I determine how I think things “should” be done. I have been known to decline to play in leagues because I think the set-up is flawed and I think everybody should be willing to do the same. If you enter a league thinking that the set up is flawed, it will negatively impact the experience you have participating.

It is entirely possible to create novel league set-ups and scoring systems, and I’m all for innovation, but league set-ups need an internal logic and a consistent vision in terms of the real life events it wants to reward. If you are tempted to create your own system, please give it thought and kick the tires before rolling it out. You don’t have to reach the same exact conclusions that I do, but you owe the effort of vetting it to all your prospective leaguemates.


Print This Post
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Don G
Guest
Don G
Homeruns are defense independent, but not always park independent. We get points for “lucky” or “barely over” homeruns, so why not get points for triples or doubles? Who’s on base and who scores is not the fault of the hitter. If he misses a homerun by inches in Petco, why not let him get points for the double? We use 18 categories. Yes, really. It’s just because it’s fun and we like it. I admit we’re redundant in using AVG and OBP. We use Net Steals instead of SB. R-1B-2B-3B-HR-RBI-NS-AVG-OBP QS-CG-SHO-K-SV-HLD-GIDP-ERA-WHIP We do evaluate our categories each year and change… Read more »
Mikey
Guest
Mikey

I have used a 4×4 that I think works fairly well…

TB, R, RBI, SB
W, ERA, WHIP, K

Gives a little boost to the well rounded hitters.
Creates some equal ground for pitchers… why use SV but not HLD.

And requirements to qualify for 1st, 2nd, 3rd is you must be between 1400-1500IP (1458 is the AVG of innings played) and 146GP at each position (90% of all games played).

John K
Guest
John K

Good post – I definitely think it’s more fun to play in leagues that think a bit harder about which categories to use.  For instance, after switching to QS, I can’t imagine going back to a W league.

One thing we did when deciding which categories to (not) add to our 6×6 system was a quick correlation matrix.  I think this could have helped you make your above point more frocefully since it is basically what you were arguing in words.

Also, awesome title

Chris
Guest
Chris
In a league I’m rebuilding we use salaries and FA auctions and got flak from one of my managers over instituting OPS in the league (was a standard 5×5, now a 6×6 with OPS and HLD). He was complaining that now we’re paying twice for home runs and hits. My argument is that in a league trying to closely sim the MLB experience we should be paying for guys who get on base and guys that have gap to gap power, not just guys who hit for high AVG and HR. Hearing you say that AVG and OPS has helped… Read more »
The Baltimoron
Guest
The Baltimoron
Solution: sub OBP for AVG and XBHs for HRs.  The flaw with AVG is that it ignores walks.  Isn’t the point of that stat to determine how successful a hitter is in getting on base?  Then why use AVG?  I think we all have already switched over to OBP as the best indicator of that specific tool (in short, on-base percentage is the best way to measure how often a player…gets on base.  Duh).  So it’s also what we should use in fantasy. The next sub is to swap out homers for extra base hits.  The impetus for adding, say,… Read more »
The Baltimoron
Guest
The Baltimoron
@ Don G—I think those pitching cats are pretty thin, with CG, SHO, and HLDs.  Not enough of the first two, and holds are situational, lucky, vary on a yearly basis, and don’t really reflect pitching dominance.  The trick has always been finding pitching stats that are on par with the hitting cats when trying to expand over 5×5. @ Mikey—don’t see much reason for drafting RPs in that system. @ Chris—wouldn’t using my settings solve the problem of “paying for guys who get on base and guys that have gap to gap power, not just guys who hit for… Read more »
Don G
Guest
Don G

@ Baltimoron – I know what you’re saying with the pitching. I’m not really arguing that our cats are better. We just use them because it’s fun. I like seeing my guy hit a triple on Sunday to get that point back…and so on (it’s a H2H league). A few guys in the league just ignore Holds. What do you mean by pitching cats that are “on par” with hitting? Can you give an example?

The Baltimoron
Guest
The Baltimoron
@ Don G—Hey, I like fun categories too (my league is actually 6×6 H2H with Cycles and No Hitters added) and if y’all dig it, I certainly don’t see a problem.  I’m just advocating what I think is the best default system. As far as the “on par” statement, I meant worthy of being their own scoring category.  There are an innumerable amount of stats kept, but we don’t use them all right?  Why include GIDP, but not Balks or Wild Pitches?  To that end, you have to ask: what makes a good category?  I think it’s the question that… Read more »
Chris
Guest
Chris
@Baltimoron: The reason for this is that the league was already established and is trying to be revived. We’re bringing in new blood and keeping old managers. Part of the problem (that I may not have been clear enough in stating) is that we are a salary league with an arbitration scale for players with less than 6 years of MLB service time. This tends to be a confusing enough system as it is with the different pay scales based on performance, and to completely remove a category and replacing it with a new one that scales differently would mean… Read more »
Don G
Guest
Don G
@Baltimoron – I couldn’t disagree more about Wins. Yes, usually good pitchers will win games, but there are several excellent pitchers that don’t win games because of lousy run support and there are lots of terrible pitchers that win games. We took wins out because it doesn’t measure what your pitcher actually did. If Lincecum pitches 8 IP with 1 unearned run against Kershaw’s 8 IP, no runs, Lincecum would be saddled with a loss (or non-win). That’s, as they say, “whack”! We chose GIDP as a way to give groundballers some credit. When we set it up, GB% or… Read more »
Nate
Guest
Nate

Now why do you use xBH instead of TB?  TB would take into consideration that 3B are more valuable than 2B… and HR more than either… sure there’s “double counting” the singles in OBP and TB, but w/ xBH you are already double counting… The downside, I guess, is that power hitters, once again, have the upper hand… thoughts?

The Baltimoron
Guest
The Baltimoron

@Nate—Yes, Total Bases makes sense, too, but it does seem to skew things towards HR hitters and less for the speedy guys.  HRs already get a run and at least an RBI, so they are still more valuable in this setup.  Honestly, the original goal was to factor in all XBHs, so that was simply subbed for homers.  Perhaps most importantly, calculating XBHs is easier without the weighting required for TBs!

wpDiscuz