Pitcher value in a FanGraphs points league

Continuing this series of comparing FanGraphs Points league scoring to traditional scoring, we’ll begin looking today at pitching.  To start, I decided to look at a traditional points scoring system compared to the ottoneu points scoring system.  There is no apparent “standard” fantasy points system, but I chose the points scoring used at CBSSportsline as my comparison, as it seems fairly typical of systems you see out “in the wild.”  Let’s start with a list of the top-10 pitchers by their system in the 2010 season:

CBSRnk Name CBSPts FGRnk
1 Roy Halladay 699 1
2 Felix Hernandez 651 2
3 Adam Wainwright 650 3
4 CC Sabathia 628 8
5 Ubaldo Jimenez 604 7
6 Jered Weaver 586 6
7 David Price 581 20
8 Justin Verlander 579 5
9 Chris Carpenter 563 13
10 Tim Hudson 561 31

For reference, I also included their rank according to total FanGraphs Points.  Overall, it doesn’t look that different, right?  The top three are identical, and most of the top-10 are ranked similarly in both systems.  There are two pitchers who had a ranking disparty of at least 10 spots, however: David Price and Tim Hudson.

What about the FanGraphs points ranks?  Here’s the top-10:

FGRnk Name Pts CBSRnk
1 Roy Halladay 1271 1
2 Felix Hernandez 1257 2
3 Adam Wainwright 1203 3
4 Cliff Lee 1167 14
5 Justin Verlander 1147 8
6 Jered Weaver 1127 6
7 Ubaldo Jimenez 1103 5
8 CC Sabathia 1079 4
9 Tim Lincecum 1047 16
10 Zack Greinke 1042 52

Lots of similar names.  But again, there are two who were ranked differently by 10 or more spots: Cliff Lee and Zack Greinke.  Let’s take a look at these four “oddball” pitchers’ stats last year, along with our top three:

Roy Halladay 21 10 2.44 3.12 251 1271 699
Felix Hernandez 13 12 2.27 3.15 250 1257 651
Adam Wainwright 20 11 2.42 2.95 230 1203 650
David Price 19 6 2.72 3.53 209 972 581
Tim Hudson 17 9 2.83 4.11 229 912 561
Cliff Lee 12 9 3.18 2.68 212 1167 534
Zack Greinke 10 14 4.17 3.45 220 1042 431

What do Price and Hudson have in common that Lee and Greinke do not?  It may seem obvious: the guys doing well in CBS’s system have better ERA than FIP, and lots of wins.  The guys who do more poorly in CBS’s league, but better in FanGraphs’ league, have better FIPs than ERAs, and may have fewer wins than expected (given their other statistics).  Greinke’s case is particularly interesting: huge swing between his peripherals (that drive FIP) and his actual performance, and he had a losing record.  Nevertheless, given his innings and FIP, FanGraphs points rates him as a top-10 pitcher.  While the strict ranks don’t show it, you see this same effect with the AL Cy Young Winner.  By CBS Points, Felix and Wainwright were essentially tied, separated by only a point.  But in FanGraphs points, Felix was closer to Halladay than he was to Wainwright.

So, big surprise: if you build a scoring system around FIP (which is how FanGraphs points are structured), pitchers that fared better by FIP than ERA will look better in that system.  That’s the sort of white-hot analysis we bring you here at FanGraphs.

The more interesting question, though, may be how this affects which pitchers to buy in a draft this year under this system compared to a traditional system.  …  And it may surprise you, but for the most part, I actually think the impact is minimal.  Reading the various fantasy prognosticators these days, you see a lot of attention paid to guys like Price and Hudson (or Trevor Cahill or Clay Buchholz), who outperformed their FIP last season.  Generally speaking, we expect the ERAs of guys like that to regress a bit this year.  And similarly, someone like Greinke or Cliff Lee is often heralded as a top-tier pitcher, despite both of them having relatively modest fantasy seasons last year.  In fact, many of the better projection systems actually build this sort of regression toward peripherals directly into the engine.  So, really, you can probably use quality, traditional fantasy starting pitcher rankings to good effect in a FanGraphs Points league.

Two exceptions to the just-use-traditional-fantasy-ranks side to all of this: bumps to pitcher value based on wins due to playing with a very good or very bad offenses…and relievers.  The former, I think, is pretty straightforward.  The latter, however, is more complicated…it’s an item for another day!

We hoped you liked reading Pitcher value in a FanGraphs points league by Justin Merry!

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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.

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Great system! Using it in a new keeper league I started and everyone’s already in love and the season hasn’t even started!