The Roto Grotto: format-sensitive players

One of the bigger challenges for fantasy players—especially those who play in several leagues with different scoring rules—is allowing the scoring of a specific league to change your opinion on the value of a player. There is so much information and advice out there that it is easy to strip down all the things we hear into Player X is underrated. In general, that is not a mindset that will kill you, but some players see a dramatic difference in fantasy value with specific scoring rules.

Now that I can rank players from 2012 in roto scoring based on their total Z-scores, I wanted to see which players had the biggest discrepancies in their rankings in that format compared to a typical total points league. For the latter, I awarded hitters one point per total base, one point per run, RBI, walk, and stolen base, and I subtracted one point per caught stealing. For pitchers, I awarded three points per inning pitched, one point per strikeout, five points per win, and I subtracted one point per walk or hit allowed and two points per earned run allowed.

Since I built my Z-scores on per-game totals, I also added a qualifier that hitters must have played in 130 games and pitchers must have pitched in 27 games. I did so to avoid returning a list of players like Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria who are elite when healthy but missed significant time last season. Because of that, these player rankings are only of the qualified players.

First, here are the players who benefited most from roto scoring in 2012:

Player Roto Rk Points Rk Rk Diff Wins K Saves ERA WHIP
Huston Street 74 242 168 2 47 23 1.85 0.718
Chris Perez 80 202 122 0 59 39 3.59 1.127
J.J. Putz 93 212 119 1 65 32 2.82 1.031
Stephen Strasburg 46 155 109 15 197 0 3.16 1.155
Tim Hudson 114 215 101 16 102 0 3.62 1.207
Jeff Samardzija 135 236 101 9 180 0 3.81 1.219
Ivan Nova 140 240 100 12 153 0 5.02 1.468
Carlos Gomez 50 148 98          
Felix Doubront 139 237 98 11 167 0 4.86 1.447
Gavin Floyd 127 223 96 12 144 0 4.29 1.363

It is not a huge to surprise to see a top-10 half full of closers. After all, roto leagues give one-fifth of total weight to saves, a category that means much less in a league designed to attempt to mirror actual production and value.

For me, the other names are more interesting. There really are two archetypes of pitchers. There is the Stephen Strasburg, Jeff Samardzija, and Felix Doubront variety. They are all elite strikeout pitchers that suffered from some other limitation. For Strasburg, it was his innings cap. For Samadzija, it was his inability to record wins on a poor team. For Doubront, it was his elevated walk rate.

The other archetype is the Tim Hudson, Ivan Nova, and Gavin Floyd variety. They all won a high rate of their total games played. There will be a handful of pitchers each season that manage that feat, but they are far less predictable than strikeout-heavy guys.

Overall, pitchers are far more valuable relative to hitters in roto scoring compared to points leagues. Carlos Gomez is the lone hitter in the top-10, and you have to continue several more rounds to reach the next one (Ian Desmond). Gomez is more of an anomaly than anything. He managed to contribute heavily in home runs and stolen bases—19 and 37, respectively—but was held to 137 games played because of a DL-stint. He also sported a .260 average, which is higher than the power-speed guys that see the bigger boost in points leagues. If he provides any instruction, it’s look for guys with power and speed but reduced runs and RBI because of missed time, as those numbers will be there with an increase in playing time.

Next, here are the players who benefited most from total points scoring in 2012:

Player Roto Rk Points Rk Rk Diff HR SB RBI Runs Average
Yonder Alonso 347 131 216 9 3 62 47 .273
Carlos Pena 328 126 202 19 2 61 72 .197
Jhonny Peralta 327 146 181 13 1 63 58 .239
J.J. Hardy 239 86 153 22 0 68 85 .238
Dan Uggla 223 73 150 19 4 78 86 .220
Carlos Lee 272 128 144 9 3 77 53 .264
Dustin Ackley 260 118 142 12 13 50 84 .226
Michael Young 253 115 138 8 2 67 79 .277
David DeJesus 263 130 133 9 7 50 76 .263
Daniel Murphy 250 121 129 6 10 65 62 .291

In contrast to the roto list, the top-10 of the total points list is all hitters. Because these players are all in the 70-150 range—which, remember, is only of hitters who played 130 or more games, so their actual rankings would be lower—none are stand-out players.

For the most part, they all follow the same formula, which is to produce a lot of runs and RBI relative to their power and speed. And, really, it seems to me that it is more about batting order than player quality. Players like Alonso, Pena, Lee, and Ackley all hit in the middle of their lineups, which they could do because of the lack of elite options on those teams. Meanwhile, players like Jhonny Peralta, Michael Young, and Daniel Murphy all benefitted from their presence in elite lineups.

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Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson

I don’t often see points leagues that use similar categories to roto leagues. For example, my points league is based on linear weights, so RBI/R are not counted. Leaving out RBI/R seems fairly common in general. I assume that results in massive changes to these leaderboards.