Friend Eno explored the world of punted statistics yesterday. For those of you not in the know, “punting” occurs when a fantasy owner does not attempt to score in a specific stat. It’s most commonly seen with stolen bases and saves. Eno’s findings confirm that those are the optimal categories to punt.
Eno also discusses when to punt, noting that it’s a much more viable strategy in an H2H league than Roto. He explains the details, so check it out. If you’d like to discuss why H2H and Roto leagues are treated differently, let’s chat in the comments.
I have my own variation on punting. I suspect many of you already use a similar tactic, so consider today’s article a vindication of the approach. To win a Roto league, you usually need to fire on all cylinders. Scoring a one or two in any category is usually the end of a title run.
Rather than willfully punting a category, there are a few that can be ignored. Let’s look at batting average. It’s not closely correlated with any other standard 5×5 stat, yet it’s not uncorrelated with anything but stolen bases. If you draft to maximize runs, RBI, home runs, and steals, you’ll usually end up with a middle-of-the-pack batting average. The category solves itself.
On the pitching side, saves and wins usually work the same way. If you draft strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP, your starters will tend to win ball games and your relievers will usually work their way into save situations. Some might be cursed with a bad team (think Cole Hamels) or stuck behind another relief stud (Wade Davis), but those counting stats are likely to resolve themselves over a season.
Ignorance has another advantage over punting – you have the option to pivot midseason. If your Chris Carter–Lucas Duda tandem are not producing enough home runs, you can try to gain ground in batting average. If the Mariners just aren’t giving Felix Hernandez run support (again), you can swap him out for David Price. Closers can be purchased if you want to bolster your saves.
In Roto leagues, a pure punt will leave you dead in the water in August. Everything has to go exactly according to plan. Nothing ever goes according to plan. Leaving a few categories to work out on their own gifts you with alternatives. You’ll have flexibility to your overall strategy. You can jump on any opportunity and benefit. Simply put, it’s a better approach than punting.
It’s still best to address all categories in a draft. A punt should never be strategy 1a. To draw on the football term it’s named after, nobody punts on first down. Or second down. Or third. Punting is a “I do this or I lose” tactic. It’s a sign that you botched your draft. Now you need to hope your opponents screw up too.
Ignoring a category is more like a third-and-long screen pass. It’s a safe play, and dammit, it actually works sometimes. It’s still a sign that things are not going your way in the draft. You shouldn’t plan to ignore average or wins from the first pick.
In short, optimize everything. I always try to win every single category. Just know which categories you’re willing to fudge if and when the time comes.
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