The Impact of Games Started vs. Innings Pitched Caps in Ottoneu H2H

The standard pitching metric of production in Ottoneu points leagues is points per inning pitched. With a 1500 IP cap, innings are currency and you need to maximize the return for every inning pitched. But in head-to-head leagues, innings are no longer the scarce resource managers have to manage. Instead, each team can throw an unlimited number of innings, but there’s a limit on games started per week. For Ottoneu head-to-head, or any other league with a games-started cap for pitchers, the pitching metric that matters for SP is not points per inning pitched, but points per game started. And that can swing values. The question is, how much does it matter?

2019 FanGraphs Points Comparison
Pitcher Total Points IP Pts/IP
Zack Greinke 1099 208.2 5.28
Max Scherzer 1044 172.1 6.07
Aaron Sanchez 340 131.1 2.59

This shows why points per inning pitched matters more than total points in season-long leagues. Greinke outscored Scherzer in total points in 2019. Season-long points leagues come with a 1500 IP cap, and while there is value in getting an extra 26.1 IP from Greinke, it doesn’t make up for the higher points per inning from Scherzer. If you to choose between Greinke or Scherzer as your ace, you could take Scherzer and his 1,044 points, then pick up Aaron Sanchez to throw the 26.1 IP you didn’t get from Scherzer for another 68 points, giving you 1,112 total. And that is practically a worst-case scenario, as Sanchez was at least a full point per inning pitched below replacement level. Scherzer plus another arm on your roster probably would have gotten you more like 1,150 points.

In H2H Ottoneu leagues there is no inning cap, but you are limited to a set number of games started per week. For example, the FanGraphs Staff League has a weekly cap of nine games started. So when you are deciding between two SP, the calculus is different.

2019-20 FanGraphs Points Comparison
Pitcher Total Points IP Pts/IP IP/GS Pts/GS
Jake Odorizzi 760 172.2 4.42 5.06 22.4
Noah Syndergaard 818 197.2 4.15 6.16 25.6

In this case, Odorizzi was better on a per inning basis. But if Odorizzi and Syndergaard were both starting and you had to pick one or the other for your H2H league, you would be better off picking Thor – even at lower per-inning production, the extra innings he gets you in each start means he produces more than Odorizzi.

Published Ottoneu values, including Justin Vibber’s Surplus Calculator and the FanGraphs Auction Calculator aren’t going to directly account for that shift from IP to GS – those values are still useful, but they are missing context relevant to H2H leagues.

To get a sense of which pitchers gain or lose the most value as a result of this, I pulled “as-starter” split data (to eliminate any relief innings thrown) from Baseball Reference’s Stathead for 2019-20 combined. I filtered that down to 252 SP who made at least five starts over the two years and averaged at least four IP per start. This eliminated anyone who made too few starts or who was starting as an opener. I then calculated points per IP and points per GS, and created ranks, based on both, for these pitchers, then compared the ranks. You can see the full list of 252 SP and the relevant data on this spreadsheet.

I then filtered to eliminate anyone who wasn’t a top 100 SP by at least one of those two metrics, and sorted by the difference in their rankings to find pitchers who moved up or down the most as a result of the shift from Pt/IP to Pt/GS.

First, a list of the 20 SP whose rank across 2019-20 in Pts/GS is at least 15 places better than in Pts/IP:

Pts/GS Gainers
Player Total Points Pts/IP Pts/IP Rank Pts/GS Pts/GS rank IP/GS Difference in Rank
Sandy Alcantara 860.24 3.60 92 22.06 52 6.13 40
Mike Minor 995.9 3.77 81 23.16 43 6.14 38
Marco Gonzales 1028.98 3.78 80 22.87 46 6.05 34
Dallas Keuchel 651 3.70 87 21.70 57 5.87 30
German Marquez 1002.98 3.93 65 24.46 35 6.22 30
Madison Bumgarner 850.44 3.41 104 19.78 75 5.79 29
Adam Wainwright 815.24 3.44 100 19.88 72 5.78 28
Zach Plesac 653.3 3.82 76 22.53 49 5.90 27
Merrill Kelly 켈리 715.88 3.34 109 19.35 84 5.79 25
Brad Keller 859.9 3.91 66 23.24 42 5.95 24
Jose Berrios 1034.74 3.93 64 23.52 40 5.98 24
Deivi Garcia 118.54 3.48 98 19.76 77 5.68 21
Dylan Bundy 839.34 3.70 88 20.47 67 5.54 21
Eduardo Rodriguez 802.74 3.95 60 23.61 39 5.97 21
Miles Mikolas 606.5 3.30 111 18.95 91 5.75 20
Jon Gray 643.18 3.42 102 19.49 83 5.70 19
Chris Bassitt 768.7 3.81 77 21.35 60 5.61 17
Aaron Civale 530.38 4.04 53 24.11 37 5.96 16
Framber Valdez 380.4 3.80 78 21.13 63 5.56 15

Some of these differences are significant in terms of pitcher value. Alcantara falls at 92nd on a per IP basis and the Surplus Calculator puts a \$1 value on the 92nd most valuable SP. The 52nd most valuable SP, however, is \$8.30. The move Mike Minor makes from 81st (\$2.80) to 43rd (\$11.70) is even bigger. Some of these pitchers go from spot-starters to regular parts of your rotation. Some go from being unrosterable to end-of-the-bench types you might use on an as-needed basis.

Here are the 20 SP whose rank across 2019-20 in Pts/GS is at least 15 places worse than in Pts/IP:

Pts/GS Fallers
Player Total Points Pts/IP Pts/IP Rank Pts/GS Pts/GS rank IP/GS Difference in Rank
Randy Dobnak 273.5 4.14 47 18.23 99 4.40 -52
Tyler Chatwood 145.94 3.55 96 14.59 143 4.11 -47
Julio Urias 355.94 4.50 30 19.77 76 4.39 -46
Jordan Montgomery 168.3 3.66 89 15.30 131 4.18 -42
Josh Lindblom 린드블럼 162.14 3.76 83 16.21 119 4.31 -36
Carlos Rodon 154.24 3.85 74 17.14 109 4.46 -35
Blake Snell 695.6 4.43 33 20.46 68 4.62 -35
Rich Hill 416.64 4.29 40 19.84 73 4.62 -33
Taijuan Walker 202.94 3.75 84 16.91 113 4.51 -29
David Price 432.04 4.03 55 19.64 81 4.87 -26
Luke Weaver 448.34 3.86 71 18.68 96 4.84 -25
Triston McKenzie 123.54 4.25 41 20.59 66 4.85 -25
Dustin May 275.2 3.99 56 19.66 80 4.93 -24
Dane Dunning 152.4 4.48 31 21.77 55 4.86 -24
Corbin Burnes 254.48 3.96 59 19.58 82 4.94 -23
Joe Ross 171.18 3.87 68 19.02 90 4.91 -22
Steven Brault 491.44 3.56 94 16.95 112 4.76 -18
Lance McCullers Jr. 250.5 4.55 29 22.77 47 5.00 -18
Spencer Turnbull 793.2 3.87 69 19.35 85 5.00 -16
Jake Odorizzi 760.28 4.42 34 22.36 50 5.06 -16

For Odorizzi, who we talked about previously, being the 34th best SP, per the Surplus Calculator, is worth roughly \$14.00; being 50th, as he was on a per-GS is worth just \$8.70. Julio Urias would have been worth more than \$14 on a per-inning basis, but on a per-GS basis he’s less than \$4. Dobnak, Weaver, and Rodon go from guys you want to roster to waiver fodder.

This analysis is all backward-looking and the obvious next question is how to use this information to adjust plans for 2021 auctions. We’ll cover that in another post.

A long-time fantasy baseball veteran and one of the creators of ottoneu, Chad Young's writes for RotoGraphs and PitcherList, and can be heard on the ottobot podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.