Hitter-Pitcher Mix Tool for Drafts

A few days ago, many of the best fantasy baseball minds got together for the 15-team mixed LABR draft. While several storylines existed with it, the running joke in the draft chat was it if Mike Podhorzer or Scott Pianowski would blink first and draft a pitcher. Mike did and took Jake Arrieta in the 7th round while Scott held out until the 12th. While these two owners obviously took accumulating hitters to an extreme level, other owners took a more balanced approach or bought into pitching. Finding a hitter-pitcher balance, especially in a draft can be tough to calculate on the fly. The following a simple tool to help with that in draft confusion.

The first concept to understand is that the talent is not evenly distributed. I went over this concept earlier this week showing the non-linear talent drop using auction prices. Using concepts from this analysis can help create a simple framework by giving each round its own auction value. This can be done by going to our auction calculator, entering your league settings, and downloading both the hitter and pitcher values.

One option which owners need to consider on the auction calculator is the pitcher-hitter mix. Ideally, this value would be the percentage of hitters compared to pitchers in the league. In a standard 14 hitter/ 9 pitcher team, this value works out to 61%/39%. Historically, owners go with more of a hitter heavy mix at 67% batters or even higher.

Owners need to determine what mix they like to target and remember this value for later. First, two recommendations before going forward.

  1. I like to target the mix for the league’s average owner if known. By going with this approach, I don’t pigeonhole myself into a single unique strategy. If the single strategy doesn’t work, mainly from others trying the same approach, there is no backup plan. I like going with a general Plain-Jane approach and adjust depending on the auction and draft. If closers are dropping, grab the top guys. If steals are being overvalued, pick up the top arms at a discount. If several owners dump Saves, the owners who buy them at huge discounts will gain the biggest advantage.
  2. When setting the dollar values, any value can be used and owners might try to set it to a total that is not $260. This may help the owner as the $260 is a bizarre amount. Try to not reset this total. So much on the industry uses the $260 total, owners should get used to hearing the values and relating it to a talent amount. A little confusion and frustration now can lead to better understanding player values later.

To combine the pitcher and hitter values, copy all the hitters to the pitchers’ spreadsheet, insert the costs in the first column, and promote by the largest to smallest dollar value. Then take the average of the first-round picks which will be equal to the number of teams in your league. Do this same averaging for each round’s picks. In the end, there will be a dollar value for each round. The total may not equal your total dollar amount because of rounding. Add or subtract the extra dollars from the highest dollar amounts.

During the draft just keep a total going for both pitchers and batters and try to notice if and correct undesired unbalance. It’s easier to fix this imprecision early during the draft while talented players still exist instead of during the endgame and/or the waiver wire.

While this procedure sets just one value for each round, owners can go a step further and create their own individual auction values. These price points can then be totaled up for the hitter-pitcher mix. It’s a little harder and time-consuming to put together.

Here are the values for a 15-team league with a $260 budget: $38, $28, $24, $21, $19, $17, $15, $13, $12, $11, $10, $9, $8, $7, $6, $5, $4, $4, $3, $2, $2, $1, $1

Owners next need to figure out the mix they can spend on pitching and hitter. I’ll assume a 68%/32% mix with the total values working out to a $177/$83 hitter-pitcher mix. If owners want to maintain this mix during the draft, they’ll need to find the instances when they may need to target a certain player to help keep the balance.

For an example, the above league settings are the exact same ones as those used for the LABR draft. I went through and found the mix for the two RotoGraph teams (Podhorzer and the Sporer-Collette duo).

Hitter-Pitcher Mix for LABR Teams
Sporer-Collete Podhorzer
Roster Spot Batters Pitchers Hitters Pitchers
1 $28 $38 $38 $15
2 $24 $21 $28 $10
3 $19 $17 $24 $9
4 $15 $13 $21 $8
5 $12 $9 $19 $6
6 $11 $7 $17 $5
7 $10 $2 $13 $4
8 $8 $1 $12 $3
9 $6 $1 $11 $1
10 $5 $7
11 $4 $4
12 $4 Hitter% $2 Hitter%
13 $3 58.1% $2 76.5%
14 $2 $1
Total $151 $109 $199 $61

I have no idea what each one’s plans were for a mix but they weren’t near the historical mix.

Additionally, here are the projected standings after the draft.

This difference in mixes can be seen with Sporer-Collete’s pitcher total coming in at #3 but the hitters at #15. For Podhorzer, his hitters were #6 and pitchers at #10.

The process is not perfect but it does provide some framework to achieve the desired mix. For another example, say an owner wants to have the 68%/32% mix but also wants to take as many hitters in the first rounds as possible. It works out that he can take hitters for seven rounds but would then need to pitchers for the next nine straight picks to end up with a pitching total value of $81. Then, they would need to go with all hitters until the draft ends. They get their desired mix of a Stars-and-Scrubs approach with hitters and some average pitching depth.

The preceding procedure a nice simple method to help owners maintain their hitter-pitcher mix in drafts. It’s easy to follow in the hectic chaos of a draft once the values are calculated. It allows an owner the flexibility to create their own draft plan and still provide options if it veers off course.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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6 years ago

Do you do a Hitter/Pitter split for Ottoneu auctions too?

I followed Chad Young’s “Auction Values for All Three Ottoneu Formats” method –which seems to be a highly-recommended article–to come up with values and he does not mention doing a hitter/pitcher split. Quite the opposite, he seems to directly compare hitters and pitchers.

The problem is, when I did his method for FangraphsPoints using a mix of pretty standard projections (Steamer, etc.), I had pitchers coming out as significantly more valuable: 32 of my top 50 values were pitchers. I don’t think any of my math is wrong. Any suggestions? Should I just do a manual hitter/pitcher $ split like is discussed in the article? (It’s a first-year Ottoneu auction, if that helps)