Is a $65 Mike Trout a keeper in ottoneu? What about a $59 Mike Trout? What if I told you that I kept a $65 Trout but decided not to inquire on a $59 Trout as a trade target. And that it had nothing to do with available cap space or team makeup?
It was all about scoring format. ottoneu comes in four flavors (two points systems, 4×4 and 5×5) and each has it’s own unique traits. But the reason to pass on that $59 Trout might surprise you.
Most ottoneu players know that 4×4 and Points leagues value OBP (or walks) while 5×5 does not. Most know that SB matter in 5×5 but only marginally in Points and not at all in 4×4. But Trout is great across the board. He has value if you need steals, if you over-weight HR, if you value OBP or XBH or anything else, really. So why did I have him as a $75 value in FanGraphs Points, $64 in 4×4 and $47 in 5×5? Check out this graph:
That shows hitter values in ottoneu ranging from the most to least expensive player, in each format. You can see, very quickly, where Trout (the priciest player in all formats by Steamer projections) sets the curve. You can also see that FanGraphs points leagues drop off much quicker. The three graphs below give you closer looks at the top, middle, and bottom tiers of hitters.
The pattern is pretty clear – points has the highest peak, the steepest drop and the cheapest players near the bottom. 5×5 has the lowest peak, but has the most expensive players in the middle and cheapest tiers. 4×4 sits in the middle throughout.
The reason has to do with the number of categories. 5×5 leagues have, of course, five categories for offense and five for pitching. This creates some balance in the player pool. You need to pay for SB and Saves and Wins and HR and RBI and so on. And being super-great in one of those categories has diminishing returns if you aren’t balanced enough in others to score points across the board.
We don’t think of points leagues as having categories, per se, but they are effectively roto leagues with only one category – points. I don’t care if you steal three bases or get one hit – those are worth roughly the same value. And it doesn’t matter if my team steals 1K bases or 1, if I get enough points. The result is that there is no need for balance. Trout is just straight up better than everyone else. Billy Hamilton might steal 200 bases and become a stud in 5×5, but he’ll still get fewer points from that than a player who hits 30 HR.
And because you can make those direct comparisons, you can easily distinguish between two players and start to push down the value of the cheapest guys. There are no one-category-heroes, guys who should be owned in 5×5, in points leagues.
4×4 sits in the middle because, well, four is between one and five (or because eight is between one and ten).
This becomes an important factor when thinking about auction values – don’t pay for 5×5 Trout like you pay for a points (or even a 4×4) Trout. He’s just not worth as much.
Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.