I love a lot of things about fantasy baseball. But like many of you, when understanding players in real life, I have become increasingly immersed in the sorts of statistics that are commonplace here at FanGraphs: wOBA, FIP, WAR, etc. And that created a problem for me as a fantasy manager: I just don’t enjoy leagues that reward managers for things like RBI, pitcher wins, etc.
Last year, I decided to do something about it. Inspired by this post by Tangotiger, I created a custom Yahoo league that used a scoring system designed to more accurately reflect “real” baseball–or, at least, real player value. It was a blast. And on the basis of this success, FanGraphs adopted this scoring system as one of the ways that you can play the ottoneu fantasy game.
What makes it different from other points systems? It is based upon those same, advanced statistics that we use to evaluate players in real life: linear weights for hitters and FIP for pitchers.
Let’s start with the point values for hitters:
These are based on linear weights, which are the basis for the entire family of w*** statistics, like wOBA, wRAA, and wRC. I used Tango’s set of linear weights, specifically. If you go to that link and look up the value of a single, you’ll see that the average single was worth 0.463 runs (in the lwts_rc column). In our fantasy points, a single is an AB (-1 pts) and a hit (+5.6 pts), which sums to 4.6 points. Similarly, a home run is worth 1.402 runs in linear weights (this is the average value of a home run, because they often at times with runners on base). In fantasy points, it’s an AB (-1 pts), H (+5.6 pts), and a HR (+9.4 pts) = 14 pts. In other words, this points system literally is linear weights, just multiplied by 10.
If you total up a player’s fantasy points using this system, you will get a number that is going to be very close to ten times a player’s wRC. Here are the top-10 hitters by fantasy points in 2010, along with their wRC:
Any differences are attributable to slight differences in FanGraphs linear weights to those on Tango’s site (FanGraphs’ are a bit more generous, probably with a slightly lower penalty for outs), as well as rounding errors. Not convinced? Here’s a graph using 2010 data:
Neat, right? If you know a hitter’s actual hitting value, you know his fantasy value under this system.
The only meaningful difference between this system and the one that Tango invented for hitters is the baseline: we’re assigning points based on absolute runs instead of runs above replacement. The reason is that many of the fringy catchers and shortstops that might have to start at times on some fantasy teams actually produce negative values in Tango’s system. Using absolute runs solves this problem, in that virtually anyone with a pulse will produce positive points if given some playing time (Cesar Izturis produced 290 FP last year, despite his .248 wOBA in 513 PA’s). The value lies in those players who not only get playing time, but can produce more points than other players in that playing time.
In future weeks, we’ll take a look at how we’re scoring pitchers, and then look at how these systems affect specific player values, strategy, and more!
Justin is a lifelong Reds fan, and first played fantasy baseball on Prodigy with a 2400 baud modem. His favorite Excel function is the vlookup(). You can find him on twitter @jinazreds, even though he no longer lives in AZ.