I’ve spent the better part of a decade in the food and beverage business in Sonoma County, the heart of California’s wine country. I’m not a grizzled vet, not a master of my craft, nor an industry personality. I am however, a contributing writer to Razzball, a generous person and one who enjoys testing the boundaries of my own comfort zone and palette. One of the few passions that has surpassed the culinary attention span of my life is fantasy baseball… ok and self-absorbed writing. If you’ve got a lack of storytelling in your life, I’ve got the anecdotes.
Presuming you hang with us regularly on Razzball, you’re accustomed to many digressions. Before I get to what we do best, lemme offer up a teaser of our actual job: talking about the clean, more socially acceptable fantasy… sports. I’ve been rapping not so poetic about some strategies and players to target all year, but I’ll take the platform here to plant some seeds for you next year. Points leagues are relatively obscure for baseball. They’re often viewed as fantasy football offshoots or ways to bring in the “casual” baseball fan to fantasy. Points leagues are not the short bus, ya’ll. In fact, if done correctly, they can be much better corollaries to actual baseball value than category leagues. The keystone of doing this is called linear weights and it assigns a point value to each action a player makes, whether it be on the mound or from the batter’s box (or in the field, but we’re not talking D cuz we’re too caught up in fantasy baseball to notice). Wait, where was I? Ah yes, beer.
About five years ago I signed on with a craft brew company. As one who was raised with a brew master in the mix I’ve always been a fan of the hopped and heavy and was very excited to join a respected craft beer company. At one of our weekly Wednesday 8:00 AM manager meetings, the Master Brewer carried the agenda—rolling out a project 9 years in the making. From the depths of his private cellar he pulled out three ales all bottled and cellared since the birth of his first born son—his three favorite recipes from the time, a Belgian Strong, a Scottish Wee Heavy and a Barley Wine. We were to showcase these aged beauties to our clientele at a premium, and thus, must be properly trained. After the regular nuptials and coffee we began to explore these three under his guidance. We worked our way through the three with presumed scrupulousness paying close attention to the narrative of the Master Brewer. Exotic flavors and exquisite mouthfeel led to the culmination of the exercise—tasting the lees. Wide-eyed from the splendor of novelty I jumped in with two feet. For brevity’s sake, the following 20 minutes of attempted concentration was an exercise in futility. If an intestinal tendon could be torn, I was on the verge. Two cups of coffee and two fluid ounces of 9+ year old yeast is a recipe for a Russian roulette type run for the toilet that happened to be 200 yards away and up two flights of stairs. The success of my venture is not relative to this analogy.
I hear your thoughts. Analogy? You’re making a bleeping analogy from that?!!?!!?!?!
I have spent exactly half of my life now trying to clarify the turbidity of fantasy baseball. What I see when I watch does not equate to what I evaluate from a fantasy perspective. I absolutely love watching baseball AND get great joy from playing fantasy baseball, but trying to marry the two often leaves me feeling like a polygamist outside of Utah. Trying to rectify baseball usefulness under the lens of categories of explanatory statistics (think box score numbers as opposed to things like wOBA, RC+ etc.) is like trying to digest the perfectly blended Molotov cocktail known as coffee and lees… at 8:30 in the morning.
As many of you certainly have devised by now, I am no analytics genius. I stake no claims to linear weights as my brainchild. This is merely my attempt to share something I find to be fantasy baseball genius with those of you curious enough to enter the Points League and Razzball world. There is a fantasy baseball format gaining very slow steam called Ottoneu. There are many things that differentiate this format from what most of us are used to, and I am not here to advocate for all of them. What I do find extremely intriguing, is the points system. It is actually the very basis of what the daily fantasy community (such as DraftKings) has based its formatting upon. Points are based upon linear weights—baseball actions that have linear values applied according to the likelihood they have at scoring or preventing runs from being scored. Many of us, myself included, have been enamored with sabremetrics and the Moneyball movement. This style of fantasy baseball seems to be the closest corollary. A basic overview is this:
Each batting outcome leads to a statistical value based upon the likelihood it scores runs. Strikeouts are the worst and home runs are the best. A double is much more likely to plate runs than a single, etc. I could attempt to explain the complexities, but it’s been done already. As such, refer to the wonderful nerds at Fangraphs. Here’s a link to get started…
The basics of scoring break down like this and are based upon the actual values of each outcome with 0 being the baseline of correlation to run expectancy.
These values should be adjusted yearly or every couple of years as the average value shifts based upon the actual results which vary based upon rule changes, style of play changes and performance enhancing practices in baseball.
I’ve yet to participate in one of these leagues and I’m extremely intrigued after analyzing it a bit over the past few months. I’d be more than excited to explore it with you all if you’re interested for next year. By all means let’s discuss and see what we can make happen. You’re the greatest readership in fantasy sports to start a league with. Hit me in the comments or find me on Twitter @Schlurricane.