Points league tips
January 27, 2003
Imagine if a player gained or lost points
depending on how he did each day. Then imagine if a player's salary was
based on such a system. Intangibles are worth nothing. You get no bonus
points for being the “perfect fit in an offense.” And you get no advantages
for versatility or clutch hitting.
I could see it now. Juan Gonzalez says: “Yeah, the team's 15-60, but that first-inning homer put me over 500 points.” What about those three whiffs and the two errors that led to the loss? “Hey, I got my points, right?!”
Indeed, it would create an “every-man-for-himself” philosophy because the only thing that would matter is a player's point total. There are many attributes that go into making a good ballplayer, and most elite players excel in most areas. However, point systems offer a clear way of determining which guys had the best seasons.
All right, this could be a rotten way to evaluate big-league players, even though it might eliminate the need for salary arbitration. But this format is perfect for fantasy ball and is much easier to analyze than 5x5. You wouldn't have to figure out how much a 2-for-4 night helped your squad. You wouldn't need to figure out the risk of trading for a pitcher who has a bad WHIP but is headed for 18 wins. The bottom line is all that matters.
So let's talk draft strategy for points leagues, where the preparation is more important than the draft. Though scoring systems vary from league to league, here are some general rules:
THE SPREADSHEET DON'T LIE
The beauty of a points league is you can easily see how players scored last year. Obviously, rookies and injured players are tougher to judge, but it's much easier to quantify a typical player's value.
I've said this before, and I'll say it again: A player's stats are generally consistent from year to year. Rarely will a seasoned vet shoot way up or down a scoring list without good reason (age, injury, new ballpark, etc.). Take a look at how the scoring broke down last year in your league and use those totals as a big part of your 2003 draft rankings.
Outside of run production, most points leagues are based around total bases and times on base. And there's nobody who racks up points in those categories like the big dogs. For instance, if I get a point for every base a batter collects (total bases), 5x5 legend and 2001 MLB hits leader Ichiro Suzuki would have been the 28th-ranked batter in 2001. Troy Glaus' .250 season ranks just below that. If you line up the leaders in total bases, it'll usually resemble a homers list.
Walks, another important category in many points leagues, is also owned by the big men. Of the top 13 in walks last season, only one had fewer than 26 homers: Bobby Abreu, who has the reputation of a slugger but didn't show it as much last year. Since most sluggers also rack up a ton of runs and RBIs, your strategy is set.
Meanwhile, the stolen base is just another one-point category in many points leagues. For example, Luis Castillo, the majors' 2002 leading basestealer, finished in a tie for 112th in total bases last season despite batting .305, and his 48 steals wouldn't have helped much in the common “point-ber-base” league.
BEWARE THE WALKING WOUNDED
Good health is very important in points leagues, especially if you're playing head-to-head or in some form of weekly contest. Of course, an injury-prone guy is a risk in any league, but in points leagues, the guys who play only 140 games a year can be burdens. Each game those players skip is a guaranteed zero. Meanwhile, some bum on an enemy squad goes 1-for-4 with a double and scores points to knock you down.
In points leagues, a good OBP is less important than how often he reaches. Pop quiz: Who had more hits last year, Fernando Vina or Larry Walker? Of course, it's Vina (had to be a trick question, right?), who batted .270 in his 150 games vs. Walker's .338 in 136 games.
I'm not saying to avoid Larry Walker, but you can't rank guys like him as highly as you would in a roto league.
KEEP THE DOCKET IN YOUR POCKET
Last time I checked, a player can't score if his team's idle. Thus, owners in daily-transaction leagues should maximize games played on travel days (Mondays and Thursdays). Such owners should consider how many games are played each week when setting their lineup.
Of course, some players should never be benched. But if Player A and Player B are averaging four points a game, and Player B will have two more games next week, your choice is obvious. Evaluate games played right along with the upcoming opponents.
DEPTH PLUS VERSATILITY EQUALS FLEXIBILITY
Not only is a capable bench essential to help you guard against injury, but it's also nice to have interchangeable parts should the schedule or opponent call for it. If superior Player A has five games on the road, three against the Braves' potent pitching, and inferior Player B has seven games, including four in Coors Field, I'd probably start B. Having one or more guys on your bench who qualify at different positions is quite an asset. Also, swapping outfielders and pitchers out of your lineup based on matchups isn't a bad thing. For instance, a lot of owners might use Jason Jennings on the road (3.35 ERA in 2002) and ditch him at home (5.65 ERA).
FIRST ENEMY: THE SCORING SYSTEM
There are always ways to take advantage of a scoring system. Does it lean towards starting pitchers or relievers? Hitters or pitchers? Does it favor innings-eaters?
Look over that spreadsheet and note players who scored better than you expected. After you have studied the scoring system, target players who take advantage of the nuances you've found. Oh, and if your league commish hasn't sent out the scoring system, tell him to do so ASAP.
DON'T FORGET THE VETS
The best way to find a guy who can score well is to get an established player in his prime. All too often, owners draft youngsters with potential rather than the guys who consistently score well. Obviously, there's a different focus in keeper leagues, but there's no need to stray significantly from your spreadsheet, otherwise.
POSITIONS: APPLY WITHIN
Just like in other leagues, evaluate based on position availability and what you should expect from each position. Don't be thrown by the fact that your stud keeper, Mike Piazza, is No. 59 overall. In fact, the spreadsheet might help you determine the average performance at each position.
GIVE YOUR MIND A BREAK
All the number-crunching could fry your brain, especially if you are mathematically impaired. Don't get burned out. As my dad always used to say, “Son, it's just a game.” If only he knew.