﻿ Points vs rotisserie | The Hardball Times

# Points vs rotisserie

An intrepid reader, Dave, sent me a great question and comment about the relative merits of points leagues and rotisserie leagues. He felt, and brief investigation agrees, that points leagues are often left out of the fantasy discussion despite the fact that different players and strategies are recommended for each.

A points league rewards stats with points and then the owner with the most points wins. I’ll quote Dave’s league: “Our points league scoring is pretty standard. We did some tweaks to reward OBP, which basically means that we deduct for ABs, but it’s 1 point for a single, 2 for a double, 1 for a RBI, 1 for a run, 2 for an SB, 1 for a BB, etc. For pitchers, it’s 5 for a W, 5 for a QS, 10 for a S, 1 for a K, 1 for each out, -1 for each walk, hit, or ER, and -5 for a loss.”

Which type of league, points or rotisserie, is preferable is largely up to you and your league. A points league provides two big differences: players’ values change, and a team’s overall ranking depends a lot less on the performance of other teams.

To see how player values change, let’s turn to a simple trade-off scenario. Normally, when economists discuss trade-offs, we use a beer versus pizza example and the end result is that you trade some of your beer for some of your friend’s pizza so that you have some of each and not all of one. If you must know, this is due to something called Diminishing Marginal Utility—the more you have of something, the less you want an additional piece. Eventually, you’ve had so much beer that you’d prefer to have a first slice of pizza than an additional beer. A rotisserie league is like a beer and pizza league because if you lead in, say, RBIs, and are behind in stolen bases, you’re likely to want to trade some of the former to get some of the latter.

In a points league, to abstract for a second, there is no diminishing marginal utility. It is more like Miller Lite vs Coors Lite—you like each one equally and you’ll buy which ever one is cheaper. No matter how much Coors you already have, you’ll keep buying Coors as long as it is cheaper. In a points league, you’re not going to trade RBIs for stolen bases just because you don’t have many stolen bases.

What are the practical effects of this difference? In a points league, a trade of like-for-like, such as one outfielder for another, should only happen because the two owners involved in the trade have different expectations about these outfielders’ future performances. Otherwise, there’s no reason to trade an Adam Dunn for a Carl Crawford.

A points league also gives the commissioner more control over the relative value of different stats. In rotisserie, each chosen stat is equally valued. So, if your points league wanted to discourage the common, all-reliever strategy but still keep saves as a stat, you could just down weight the number of points that saves get. Of course, if you’re not careful, you could end-up over-rewarding a particular stat, thereby encouraging teams to fill up on, say, home run hitters.

Also note that in points leagues, your strategy is more independent of other owners’ strategies. The value of a particular stat to you is independent of how much of that stat you think other owners are going to get (however it is not independent of the availability of that stat on the waiver-wire). So if a lot of teams are drafting or auctioning closers, the remaining closers are not more valuable than they would otherwise be. In a rotisserie league, scarcity of closers can drive up the price of saves.

Lastly, points leagues provide more avenues for catching up to the leading teams in your league. Furthermore, tanking teams no longer hurt your chances of doing so. To catch up, all you need to do is get sufficiently more scoring stats than the leading team (and any other team ahead of you). It doesn’t matter which scoring stat you do that in though.

To summarize, points leagues mean less scope for trades, more control over the value of particular stats, less scope for strategy and more opportunities for late-season comebacks.

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NoPepperGames

I’m also in a points league, but I have to say that I’m not a big fan (but not as much of an anti-fan as I am to Head-2-Head leagues).

I have to wonder how ridiculously overpowered closers are in reader Dave’s league are.  One year we had saves at 10 pts (the same as wins), and loading up on closers pretty much sealed my win by July.  We knocked them down to 5 pts the next year.

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D Wrek
Great article. Im going off of a small sample here, I apologize.  I was in a points league once and felt it very difficult to catch up.  I was pretty much stuck in my position all season.  Like you said trades arent as valuable and the waiver wire is what it is (just more points).  Am I supposed to trade a guy getting points for another guy getting points?  Seems like a wash.  Small sample, but it seems like its all about the draft and dilligent waiver wire work. However roto leagues offer more avenues to improve via trade.  You… Read more »
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Patrick DiCaprio
I have played in a 12 team mixed head to head points league for about five years, and that format really ratchets up the luck factor. the end of season points champ usually has around 8,000 and the last place team is usually around 7200 or so. it makes things interesting on a year to year basis and even the weaker owners have a good shot every year; for good or ill depending on your point of view. You are 100% right about the tradeing issue. In fact in this league we have only had about one or two trades… Read more »
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JC-L
In my experience, it’s been easier to come from behind (or, unfortunately, to be overtaken) in a points league. Think of it this way: You’re in a twelve-team rotisserie league, and the guy you’re chasing has the home run lead and you’re only getting 8 points in that category. As players drop out (which happens even among “serious” leagues), the league splits into two halves. You know that there are 6 players who won’t pass the league leader in home runs, so you can’t get help from them, so you need the other players already ahead of you to help… Read more »
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Pete Schneidler

Has anyone done a points league and attempted to use the actual values of the different events?  For example, a stolen base and double are usually both 2 points, but we know that they are not equally valuable in the real game.  And there are numbers detailing the precise value of just about every event, based on historical averages.  It seems like such a simple idea but I’ve never heard of anyone doing it…

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NoPepperGames

Pete, I’d like to hear more as well.  I thought of something walking to my car from work yesterday (when it seems I get the most thinking done…) – how exactly does Reader Dave’s league work?  Are they really valuing a walk more than a single (if they’re subtracting for an AB, and adding a point each for a single and a BB, then the BB is worth more)?  Is that justified, do you think?

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Derek Carty

I’ve never played in a points league, but I wanted to jump in and say great article, Jonathan, in addition to some great comments as well.  I think I’ll always be partial to roto, though I like the thoughts about making up ground in points leagues.  One of the biggest drawbacks of roto is people dropping out mid-year and having it affect the standings.  I’ll definitely have to try a points league one year.

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cannatar
I’ve been doing a points league since the mid-90s. I’ve tweaked the scoring system a bit over the years and it could be tweaked a little more, but it’s pretty close to “correct” values: 1 for a hit, 1.66 for a TB, 2 for a BB/HBP, 1 for a SB, -1 for an “out” (AB-H+CS). Pitching is a little trickier. I use 2.75 for an IP, -4.5 for an ER (works out so that a 5.50 ERA = 0 points), 1 for a K, -1 for a BB, 1 for a Sv. There’s an argument that you only need to… Read more »
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Jonathan Halket

These are great comments.  I had actually thought about including a paragraph on some ways to set up point systems, but ultimately didn’t because I realized I could write a lot about it. I’ll write some about it in my next article.

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Dave
Jonathan, thanks for writing on this topic. I’m the original Dave who emailed you, and wanted to address some of the comments here. This might be a long post, so please bear with me. Of course, my original motivation for writing to Jonathan is to get more recognition for points leagues overall. I love reading fantasy baseball analysis, but find it overwhelmingly skewed towards rotisserie, despite CBS reporting that (I think) around 10-15% of leagues are points-based. At any rate, let’s dive in and address some of the topics in the comments: – Trades As I mentioned in my email… Read more »
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Mark Evans

Pete Schneidler said…
“Has anyone done a points league and attempted to use the actual values of the different events?”
The points league at STATS.COM was originally developed by Bill James with realistic relative weights for all the events. This game went dark for several years when MLB was throwing its weight around to turn fantasy baseball into a cartel, but it’s back in business now.

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D Wrek

Good stuff Dave.  The league I was talking about was cumulative over the whole year, rather than a weekly h2h.  As I mentioned, I didnt like cumulative, but could see myself enjoying the weekly H2H.  Definitely agree that roto based h2h leagues involve a lot of luck and I do see how points based h2h could eliminate some of that luck.

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John
I’m involved in a 12-team (mixed) keeper league, based on points.  We’ve been tweaking the points system for 6 years, and last year we finally settled on something that lines up very well with runs created and pitching runs created. We just couldn’t stand the thought of being one of those leagues where Juan Pierre was being taken in the top 5 rounds, and Chase Utley was being traded for Brian Roberts because the guy who owned Utley “had enough homeruns, and wanted more steals.” Imagine actual baseball teams were run that poorly?  What a joke. I don’t like the… Read more »