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Back in the pre-season, we launched a new player rater methodology called Point Shares to estimate fantasy baseball player value.   There aren’t a lot of Player Raters to be found other than ESPN (Y! and CBSSports.com don’t have ones) but we feel ours is better because it factors in variables like a player’s position (e.g., Hanley Ramirez’s 33 HR is worth more than David Wright’s) and the point totals actually represent something.

A ‘point share’ is the estimated impact on a team’s points by substituting a player for the average drafted player at his position on a team filled with average players.  So in a 10 team league, this team would otherwise earn 5.5 points per category (55 points).  Substituting Cliff Lee for Zack Greinke on an average roster would mean an average of 6.6 points (6.40 for Cliff Lee, -0.24 for Greinke).

Our 2008 Player Rater that is based on a 10 team MLB league with 5×5 scoring.  Only the top 50 are displayed below the post.

We will use this as the foundation for future articles but here are answers to some anticipated reactions:

1) How could pitchers be in the top 4 slots?

It might be surprising to see starting pitchers in the first 4 slots.  This isn’t a flaw in the ratings- it’s a flaw in your thinking (sorry).  The best pitchers in a season generally dominate 4 categories (W, K, ERA, WHIP).  While they don’t contribute in Saves, there is little opportunity cost to this since saves are concentrated in 30-40 players and there are 90 pitching roster spots.  For hitters, it’s rare for a player to be excellent across more than 3 categories and there’s a larger opportunity cost for the categories they are not great (i.e., OFs like Ichiro and Taveras hurt HR/RBI).  Only 6 hitters in 2008 ranked above average across all 5 categories – Pujols, Wright, Berkman, Holliday, A-Rod, and Braun.  Hanley Ramirez had a great year in Runs (125), HR (33), and SB (35) but was mildly valuable in AVG (.301 or .006 less than Ryan Theriot) and negative in RBI (67 or tied for 6th among SS).  Converting Roy Halladay’s stats to an OF (W=R, HR=SO, RBI=WHIP, SB=SV, AVG=ERA) would net 119/34/121/10/.335.  Sabathia, Lincecum, and Cliff Lee weren’t far off this.  The reason why it’s usually not advisable to draft a pitcher in the 1st round is the unpredictability of who’ll be the top pitchers (none of the top 4 were top 50 picks based on MockDraftCentral’s Average Draft Position) vs. their true value.  Here’s a more thorough explanation of a pitcher’s fantasy value.

2) Why are there are only 110 players that have positive value when there are 230 open roster spots?

In Point Shares, 0.0 represents an average player at their position.  So it is expected that about 1/2 the eligible players are above average, 1/2 are below.  A negative score doesn’t mean that a player isn’t worth having on your roster – it just means that he’s below average.  If the system was built with 0.0 representing a roster-worthy player, the points would then represent the value of a player on a team in last place.  This overestimates the value of a player when measuring the impact of a player swap (e.g., Lee for Greinke) for every instance except when a team actually did finish last.  The best approximation of player value is starting from the middle.

3) What is the highest/lowest score possible?

Theoretically, the best possible score should be 4.5 pts in each category (moving someone from 5.5 to 10) or 22.5 for a 10 team league.  Any other league size, just divide the team total by 2 and subtract 0.5 (12 team = 5.5).  A simpler way of looking at it would be to consider how one would calculate the average value per team of a player with 50 SBs.  For the team that’s 1st in SBs, his value is 0.  For the 2nd team, it could be worth +1.  Take this to its logical conclusion and you get (0+1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9)/10.  That’s 45/10 = 4.5.

While no hitting scores fall above 4.5 or below 4.5 (closest is Willy Taveras’s 4.3 in SB), the Point Shares system is just a model so it is conceivable that an extraordinary performance would net more than 4.5.  The only cases in 2008 were extraordinary bad ERAs and WHIPs.   (You’d think K-Rod’s 62 SV but that only netted +3.9).

46 Responses

  1. Andy says:
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    Thanks, this looks interesting. Are you ever going to post a more detailed methodology? I’d be interested in learning how you actually arrive at the numbers.

  2. @Andy: We don’t have plans to go into more depth on it than we did in those initial posts this year – partly b/c it gets real dry/dorky and partly because we want to keep some of it proprietary. But if you’ve got a specific question, post it and we’ll do our best to answer it….

  3. peter says:
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    Nice work, Rudy. Some interesting suprises/reality checks, too.

  4. @peter: Thanks. Let us know if you have any specific feedback – i.e., how could that player get ranked so high/low? The great part of the methodology is that you should be able to test it. So if you wanted to test the value of Youk vs. Ortiz, you find two teams in one of your league, swap the stats, and see what the change is in the standings. The changes will vary based on the league but should be in the general neighborhood….

  5. Shogun says:
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    That’s pretty cool, Rudy. Using the point share system, do you usually end up drafting pitchers with your first round pick?

  6. I’ve drafted Santana in the 1st round of 3 out of 4 drafts (Peavy in the other) over 2 years. This is b/c he’s been so reliably great. Last year, he finished #4 on Point Shares. This year he finished #9 but should’ve been #2 if he got run support (he led the league in Quality Starts).

    But going into next year, I don’t think I’ll draft a starter. Santana’s WHIP and HR rate increased again this year. His Ks are down. And their bullpen sucks. I don’t think there’s another starter that I trust enough to take #1….

    I’ll predict this though – at the end of the year, at least 5 of the top 10 most valuable fantasy players will be starters…

  7. Shogun says:
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    Santana did regress a bit this year, but I’m betting on him to have an even better fantasy season next year because he shouldn’t have so many hard luck losses (assuming the Mets do something about their pen). I’d consider using a late first round pick on him next year, even though I think that Lincecum or Sabathia could end up with better numbers if their arms don’t fall off before then.

  8. The WHIP increase scares me but he may be worth a late 1st round pick next year. I’ll run the Point Shares once projections are out to see if it’s worth it….

    2004 – 0.921
    2005 – 0.971
    2006 – 0.997
    2007 – 1.073
    2008 – 1.148

  9. BSA says:
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    OK, I am sitting here watching the carnival on TBS and all that runs through my head is WTF. Sorry Rudy have to interrupt the data talk but sitting here watching this bullshit (from a Boston perspective) has me fed up. Hell even King has resorted to reading in the stands.

  10. BSA says:
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    Call the fireman boys the gas can just got thrown on the inferno.
    If you throw a can of gas into a building that is on fire, does it make an explosion or just blend into the heat?

  11. Shogun says:
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    @Rudy Gamble: Thanks. I’ll look forward to your analysis.

  12. Nick says:
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    Fascinating work, Rudy. One thing I found particularly interesting is how your system brings to light the extreme value of those players at the upper margins. Pujols 100 runs is obviously studly, but Pedroia’s seemingly small advantage in that category (18 runs) is worth almost a full point (.7 to 1.6), a significant difference. Conversely, Pedroia’s excellent .326 average is very helpful, but the twenty more points in BA that Pujols provided is worth a whopping 2.8 points, again almost a full point more.

    So it would seem that your system makes clear the advantages of having the very best of the best, and why trading two stars for a superstar is often a winning strategy.

  13. Nick says:
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    One more thing. I’m curious as to how your results would change if you reduced the number of OFs to 3. Generally, leagues that I play in that use 5 OF also us CI and MI positions, while those that do not only use 3 OF. It would seem that using more OF would lower the average, inflating the points for outfielders.

    As a fellow math/stats geek, I wonder how your formulae would be affected by changing the positions and/or number of teams (and therefore I would think the average production for each position).

  14. @Nick: Thanks Nick. If you check your league standings in a 10 team league, I imagine the average distance b/w teams is in the 18 range. 18 extra runs could probably be worth 3-4 points in some leagues. And twenty points in a players BA would equate to .0015 extra on a team BA (if you assume same ABs for every position, it’s .020 / 13). Same case as the runs.

    But this system isn’t that enamored by stars. A 2 for 1 trade is usually a 2 for 2 trade (with the 2nd being an FA pickup). I’d then rate the trade based on the sum of Point Shares. So hypothetically, let’s say you traded Dan Haren and Jermaine Dye for Johan Santana and we don’t factor in your team’s strengths/weaknesses vs. the league. Just everything equal. Haren (3.06) + Dye (1.94) = 5.00. Santana = 5.35. The trade makes sense as long as the OF/hitter you fill in for Dye performs at league average (or, technically, above – 0.35). Randy Winn came in at -0.33 which would make the trade basically a draw…but going with a Brad Hawpe (-1.37) would’ve hurt your team…

  15. @Nick: If you reduced the # of OF slots to 3 and kept everything else equal (C/1B/2B/SS/3B/CI/MI/OF/OF/OF/UTIL/9 P), OFs would reduce in value since there are so many decent ones in free agency.

    The average composite OFer goes from 85/22/82/15/.286 to 92/24/88/16/.293.

    The top OF (Manny) goes from #6 to #10, 2nd OF (Berkman) goes from #11 to #15…

    But that’s not the craziest part…the craziest part is that by reducing the number of hitters (13 to 11), you make each hitter more valuable. Part of the reason starters are so valuable is that most teams only have 5-6 of them.

    This change to only 11 hitters would catapult Hanley to #2, CC goes to #3, D-Wright to #4, and keep Pujols at #5. Lincecum and Lee are #6 and #7. The differences between the players in the top 7 would be statistically near equal.

    So in a league with 11 hitters and 9 pitchers, there’s a definite increased value for top hitters….

  16. Nick says:
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    Hmmm… So then it would be interesting to see what levels of production in each category are “league average” for each position, and then compare that to available free agents (replacement level). Actually, since most free agents are going to be below average, that would end up being in favor of the team getting the two stars.

    Might also be interesting to see how “league average” has varied over the past few years when using projections to create point values for next year.

  17. Nick says:
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    Yes! I’ve always kind of thought that the difference between the number of hitters and pitchers in a league was critical in determining values, but none of the so called “experts” ever seem to acknowledge this.

    Man, I could think about this stuff all day long.

  18. @Nick: The average composite hitter is at 84/22/83/11/.286 and it skews as you’d expect per position (1B and 3B have higher RBI, 2B and SS have higher SB…).

    The replacement player is worth about -3.0 in a perfect league where the best performers are picked. But that’s impossible on several levels. The first being that there are many hitters that are either unproven and go largely unowned despite putting up roster-worthy stats or proven in the past and have a bad year. Plus, someone could be great for 3 weeks and then you could dump before he gets cold.

    I didn’t run Point Shares for 2007 but the 2008 projections I used to do pre-season Point Shares were eerily close: 84/21/82/12/.284. The mean is all powerful – regress in its presence…

  19. Nick says:
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    Okay, indulge me. 9 hitters and 7 pitchers…

    Sorry to be so demanding.

  20. Nick says:
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    Okay, indulge me. 9 hitters and 7 pitchers… I expect we’ll see replacement level on the pitching side shoot up (as I guess hitting would too, but maybe not so drastically?)

    Sorry to be so demanding.

  21. @Nick: 9 hitters and 7 pitchers in a 10 team league looks pretty much the same as 13 hitters and 9 pitchers. The averages go up. The only guy to move dramatically in the top 10 is Pujols went down to 11 as his AVG points dove down (less low AVG 1B make rosters to drive down the average). Wright becomes the most valuable hitter with Hanley right on his coattails….

  22. Nick says:
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    Cool. Thanks, Rudy. You are truly awesome.

  23. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Rudy Gamble: This is top notch work, Rudy. I’d nominate you for a Webby or a Bloggie or an Independent Blog Spirit Award if I could.

  24. BigFatHippo says:
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    @Grey: At least the Dodgers have The Fonz on their side, AAAAAAYYYYYY?

  25. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @BigFatHippo: How random was that? The city of the TV and movie industry and they had The Fonz. Was Angela Lansbury busy?

  26. BigFatHippo says:
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    @Grey: No, dead. Wait, that was Estelle Geddy.

    I’m thinking the Fonz must be a big Dodger fan, watches 4 innings and leaves when the surfs up.

  27. BigFatHippo says:
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    BTW, Rudy’s player rater is great.

    Love the way he factors in positions.

  28. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @BigFatHippo: The Fonz needs to pound his fist on the top of the Dodgers’ dugout for some runs. We call him The Rally Has-Been.

  29. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @BigFatHippo: Right after I submitted I realized they should have dressed him up in his leather jacket and called him The Rally (grease) Monkey.

  30. BigFatHippo says:
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    @Grey: He’s no has been, didn’t you see You Don’t Mess With the Zohan?

    Maybe the Dodgers will get Ralph Malph to take Scully’s spot when he retires.

  31. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @BigFatHippo: Oh my, did you just see the convo between Utley and the ump? The ump’s trying to make small talk and Utley’s like, “Um, I’m preparing to hit a 95 MPH fastball in the playoffs, can we finish this another time?”

  32. BigFatHippo says:
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    @Grey: Saw it and thought the same thing. Think the ump was trying to get Utley to buy him a couple hookers?

  33. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @BigFatHippo: Ha!

    BTW, if you haven’t seen Billingsley all year, he usually looks better.

    EDIT: Missing a word… Word!

  34. BigFatHippo says:
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    @Grey: I’ve had Bills since his rookie year.

    For all the fantasy players who actually watch real baseball, his stock for next year just went way down. No matter, I’m keeping him next year. He’s only gonna get better.

    As for watching real baseball, I’d watch it year round. I just love baseball man.

  35. BigFatHippo says:
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    At least my guy Hamels is gonna be MVP.

  36. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @BigFatHippo: Yeah, I’d watch it too. I think this might be the best thing that ever happened to Billingsley’s stock. He might just sneak through a bit now.

  37. BigFatHippo says:
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    @Grey: Unfortunately Hamels stock is rising. Unfortunate for others, I’ll refresh your remembery.

    My keepers next year- Halladay, Webb, Hamels, Bills and Shields. Love the fact that Halladay finished on top of Rudy’s Player Hater Rater.

    Gonna be a lot of Hippo Hatin next year too. We’ll just have to work on my bats. No problems with the pitching.

  38. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @BigFatHippo: Unfortunately pitching is the most unpredictable, but you have enough great pitchers that you should still be set.

  39. BigFatHippo says:
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    Furcal may pull a Donnie Moore tonight, but a good 1st baseman would have scooped that.

    How bout a new Razzball term? “Pull a Donnie Moore”.

    For instance, “Gagne just gave up another cosmic shot to Pujols? He’ll probably pull a Donnie Moore tonight.”

  40. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @BigFatHippo: Not bad, I suppose, as long as it’s not coupled with getting Tootise’d.

  41. Nick says:
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    The value rankings are excellent as well! You always hear how so-and-so is a “great value” in the 11th round or whatever, but I’ve never really seen it quantified like this. Outstanding!

    So please tell me that you’re going to do this with the pre-season projections and 2009 ADP info in the spring. Please! I’d also be interested in hearing what/which projections you plan on using…

  42. @Nick: Hey Nick…yeah, we’ll be doing a 2009 pre-season Point Shares. I’m a Baseball Prospectus fan….still TBD what other projection I may add to that…

  43. Nick says:
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    As much as I hate to admit it, I’m PECOTA’s bitch as well. Shandler is decent, but doesn’t really go out on a limb like PECOTA sometimes will. I ordered the 2009 THT preview cause supposedly their projections were better this past year (I didn’t see them myself). My one complaint about PECOTA is that it seems to regress batting average too much, and the stuff that THT does with batted ball data makes me wonder if they’ll be better at predicting that most volatile of categories. Supposedly Statcorner is working on this as well.

    Yes, these are the things I spend my free time thinking about. That and limited edition colored vinyl…

  44. Nick says:
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    Rudy,

    As you’re looking at which projections to use for next year’s player rater, you might find the discussion here interesting…

    http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/evaluating_the_2008_forecasting_systems/

    Looks like CHONE actually came out the “best” as far as 2008 goes, but I’m not sure about the applications for fantasy, where the things we care about most are the difficult to predict players, and where projecting playing time is critical (something not all systems do). Not sure if averaging projections would leave us with something more accurate or not. Anyway, if you’d like any help with this stuff, feel free to email me at nickojohnson at yahoo. Good luck!

  45. Thanks Nick! I read a thread on TangoTiger’s site last year that was very similar. Let it be known that those guys are statisticians and I am just a dabbler.

    I was leaning towards incorporating CHONE and now it’s official. Still debating whether blending 2+ systems would remove any bias. Maybe I’ll post the group…

  46. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Nick: BTW, Rudy’s got a Point Shares post coming Sunday night/Monday morning.

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