As mentioned last week, ottoneu is a deep fantasy game that comes in a variety of formats (5×5, 4×4, and two flavors of linear weights based total points), but one thing that all ottoneu leagues share is the $400 salary cap and keeper process. While ottoneu may not be a dynasty league in the literal sense, it does function as a very flexible auction keeper league, where the only limit on how many keepers a team can have is the need to stay under the salary cap and 40 man roster limits.
History of the Surplus Calculator
Even before I started playing ottoneu, there was a process I went through for every auction keeper league I was in. With every team in the league entering the auction with keepers that theoretically are worth more than their salary, I wanted a way to compare my keepers against my competition. In order to do that I would go through each team’s roster and determine the players I expected to be kept, and using dollar values I created for the league I could tally each team’s projected keeper salary and keeper value. Ranking teams by how much surplus (total keeper value less total keeper salaries) they had would allow me to identify who had the best selection of keepers, and therefore went into auction with the best chance to build a strong team.
As I played in more and more ottoneu leagues, I quickly realized that I needed a way to automate my keeper ranking process, and that automation is what led to the creation of the ottoneu Surplus Calculator. Ottoneu is uniquely suited to making this calculator easy for everyone to use, as ottoneu owners can go to their league page and download a rosters.csv file that includes their entire league rosters by team that includes salary info and Fangraphs IDs. Having that exported roster file means not having to manually assign players to teams, and makes tying the player values to the rosters a simple matter of a vlookup function.
What is surplus and why is it important?
Before I begin talking about using the calculator itself, I wanted to discuss what surplus is and why ottoneu owners should care about it. Surplus is very simply the amount of excess value a player has above and beyond their salary. For example, if Mike Trout has a $60 salary and you’ve calculated him to be worth $65, then he carries a $5 surplus. In theory every team will keep all their surplus assets, and cut all their non-surplus assets at the 1/31 cut deadline. In practice that isn’t what actually happens, for a couple of different reasons. Many players will be kept that appear not to have a surplus because their owners place a different value on that player than you do. Maybe the owner of the $4 Chris Coghlan is a huge Cubs fan for example, and wouldn’t dream of cutting Coghlan. The inverse is true as well, there may be a player cut that you thought had a surplus value but their owner thought was overpaid. Minor league prospects and young major league growth assets are the other types of players often kept, despite not having a true current year surplus. A $2 Clayton Blackburn or $4 Nomar Mazara might not return any value in 2016, but those players might be kept due to the promise of gains in future value, and represent a possible surplus opportunity for the future.
The reason surplus is important in any auction keeper league, including ottoneu, comes down to the resources and limits every team is faced with. In the case of ottoneu, every team has 40 roster spots and $400 to spend, so making sure your $400 goes as far as possible is key to having a strong team. Imagine playing a stock market game where every player begins with $1,000 imaginary dollars and has to pick exactly 10 companies to invest in. The winner of that game will be whoever identifies the most stocks that are currently underpriced and thus will return the most gains. Owning a surplus asset is like getting a discount on today’s share price, giving you a leg up on the competition. Owning more surplus assets in ottoneu than your league mates is not a guarantee of victory, but it will increase your chances of fielding a competitive team. The other benefit of having surplus keepers is the flexibility it allows an owner to have at the auction.
Using the Surplus Calculator
You can find the Google Sheets version of the Calculator here, and the Excel version can be downloaded here. Before using the calculator, I want to add a few disclaimers. First, the calculator itself is intended to be a framework for determining keeper surplus and inflation regardless of ottoneu league type. It can be used for a 5×5 league , a 4×4 league, a Fangraphs Points league, or a SABR Points league, as long as the dollar values used in the calculator correspond to that league type. Second, I have included dollar values for Fangraphs Points and 5×5 in the calculator itself based on recent Steamer projections, but I want to caution everyone that those values are really just meant to be illustrative and not treated as gospel. I will continue to update those values periodically as Steamer releases updates, and will also incorporate ZiPS projections once they are available. Lastly, the calculator assumes that only players with surplus (based on the dollar values loaded) will be kept, but you can override those selections by changing Column M on the Rosters Tab (select yes to force a player to be a keeper, and select no to force a player to not be a keeper).
There are instructions to using the calculator on the Instructions tab of both versions (that also includes a Change Log so you can see when features are added or dollar values are updated), but I will quickly run through the setup. If you are using the Google Sheets version, you will need to click on File: Make a copy to save a copy of the calculator that you can edit for your specific league. The next thing you will need to do is download the rosters.csv file from your ottoneu league page, which is located on the Teams Tab (there is a link to download next to Watchlist). On the Rosters tab of the calculator, clear columns B through H, and then copy the data from the rosters.csv file and paste the data into the Rosters tab starting at cell B1. Depending on whether you are using the Excel or Sheets version, you will need to perform one small change to get the Team Totals tab to display correctly, so be sure to carefully read Step 6 on the Instructions tab for detail. Once that is done your league totals will be shown on the Team Totals tab, and you can identify which teams have the most surplus and the highest projected team value after auction (which is a calculation that adds Keeper Values + Remaining Dollars to be spent at Auction X inflation “discount” rate).
Applications & Conclusion
Using the Surplus Calculator before the 1/31 cut deadline will allow you to get a sense of how your team compares to the others in your league, and more specifically whether your team stands a chance of being a contender or is a likely rebuild. In my experience, any team with $100 in Surplus or $500 in Projected Value is a strong contender. Having that information about where your team falls on the competition curve should have an impact on your offseason trading and keeper strategy.
Using the Surplus Calculator after the 1/31 cut deadline serves a different purpose. You no longer have to guess at which players will be kept or not, as you now know exactly which players each owner decided to keep. The inflation percentage that is calculated on the tool is now meaningful, and you can use that inflation percentage to adjust your dollar values at auction.
If you have any questions about the Surplus Calculator please leave a comment below and I will answer. You can also watch a tutorial video that Trey Baughn put together here or listen to a podcast we recorded about the Calculator here.
Justin is a life long Cubs fan who has been playing fantasy baseball for 20+ years, and an ottoneu addict since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @justinvibber.