Unlike with real baseball, it can unequivocally be said that fantasy baseball is 50% about hitting and 50% about pitching.  Yet it is close to a foregone conclusion that fantasy baseball drafters should invest disproportionately in hitters vs. pitchers.  If someone were to draft a pitcher in the first round or three in the first five rounds, the average fantasy baseball player would scoff at them (scoff I say!).

Why is this the case?  Here are some theories…

  1. Hitters have more perceived (and maybe actual) reliability than starting pitchers.
  2. The possibility that a hitter could provide value across 5 categories increases their perceived value vs. starting pitchers who could only contribute in 4 categories.  (Note:  Only 11 hitters were at least average in all 5 categories according to 12-team 2011 Point Shares (which factors position) – Kemp, Ellsbury, Braun, Bautista, Pujols, Pedroia, Upton, Votto, CarGo, Gordon, Francoeur)
  3. Most fantasy baseball writers/experts primarily play deeper league formats like AL/NL-only where playing time becomes an additional variable favoring hitters.  (e.g., worst case, you can always fill a pitching spot with a middle reliever whereas there are a finite amount of hitters who get 3+ games a week).  This influenced early adopters of 12-team mixed leagues and had a snowball effect on ADPs.
  4. A perception that starting pitchers are easier to a) pick up via free agency and/or b) draft in bulk or stream pitchers and play the match-ups.
  5. It’s a clear preference of fantasy baseball participants who feel more confident in their ability to successfully draft late-round pitchers and pitchers off waivers.

For this post, I’m going to focus on point #1 but I might do a follow-up post to focus on #4 (which I think has some merit – PARTICULARLY the ‘b’ point).

I am also going to focus on the ESPN default roster format (C/1B/2B/SS/3B/MI/CI/UTIL/9 P) for this post but it should translate very well to two catcher leagues as well.  This is the first year I’ve estimated Point Shares for the standard Yahoo! format so I can only theorize what the best mix would be for that format.

Lastly, it is a lot easier describing this hitter/pitcher mix for auction leagues vs. snake drafts.  By converting draft picks into auction dollars, however, we can handle both draft formats at once.

So here’s the question I’m trying to solve:

For 12-team MLB leagues, do hitters provide more reliability than pitchers and, if so, what would be the optimal hitter/pitcher investment during the draft to exploit any opponent draft bias?

The most well-known hitter/pitcher ratio is $180 hitter /$80 pitcher which – in the ESPN format – represents about $26 shifted from pitchers to hitters (13/22*260=$153.63).  This tends to be the average in expert AL/NL-only leagues – for instance, the 2012 AL LABR ended up with a $182.50 average and $181.50 median hitter investment (note: that’s a 2 catcher league where the average 2nd catcher got $4).  FWIW, our 2011 NL-only LABR draft was a $179/$81 mix.

The closest ‘expert league’ format to the 12-team MLB format is the 15-team MLB format.  The 2011 Tout Wars mixed league averaged $178 for hitters so the $180/$80 ratio seems to hold true.

Interestingly, when I converted the current ADP for ESPN and Yahoo to auction dollars, both ended up with a 167/93 hitter/pitcher mix.  The 2011 Razzball Commenter League ADP came out to 178/82.  So, consciously or not, the average ESPN/Yahoo snake drafter invests more in pitchers than the average auction drafter.

To test the  optimal hitter/pitcher mix, I did the following:

  • Took my preseason projected Point Shares for 2010 and 2011.
  • Adjusted the auction dollar estimates based on the following mixes:  153/106 (even), 160/100, 165/95, 170/90, 175/85, 180/80, and 2011 Razzball Commenter League ADP.  Re-ranked based on those adjusted $ figures.
  • Created a weight for every draft pick based on the $ estimates observed in preseason data (to avoid over-crediting top picks because no one could predict a season like 2011 Matt Kemp)
  • Multiplied each weight against the estimated $ value for each player based on 2010/2011 end of year Point Shares.  Any player with negative value for the year – either because of injury or incompetence – was credited with a zero.  I tried two different weights – one proportional to the ranking (20.0 for #1, 19.9 for #2….0.1 for #200) and one that mirrors auction $ proportions ($40 for #1…$5 for #200)
  • Added up these weighted $ values for the top 200 players.

For instance, let’s say Albert Pujols was the #1 pick, was worth $35 based on end of year Point Shares, and the 1st pick receives a weight of 20.0.  Player ‘Barely Rosterable’ was worth $2 and was the 200th pick in the draft which receives a 0.1 weight.  Pujols would be worth $700 ($35*20) to the end sum whereas ‘Barely Rosterable’ would only contribute 20 cents ($2*0.1).  This might seem extreme but it ensures that rankings that projects a valuable player earlier in the draft should be credited more and vice versa when non-valuable players are ranked earlier.

This test does not factor in real-world drafting – just testing how successful each of the hitter/pitcher-weighted rankings perform based on league parameters.

Here are the summarized results:

Using Proportional Weights (#1 = 20.0…#200 = 0.1)
Hit/Pitch 2010 Rank Index vs. 154/106 2011 Rank Index vs. 154/106
154/106              24,451 1 100          30,029 3 100
160/100              24,406 2 99.8          30,011 4 99.9
165/95              24,298 3 99.4          30,052 2 100.1
170/90              24,212 4 99.0          30,055 1 100.1
175/85              24,057 5 98.4          29,964 6 99.8
180/80              23,951 6 98.0          29,923 7 99.6
ADP*              23,873 7 97.6          29,984 5 99.9


Using Auction $ Weights (#1 = 40…#200 = 5)
Hit/Pitch 2010 Rank Index vs. 154/106 2011 Rank Index vs. 154/106
154/106              36,308 1 100          44,412 2 100
160/100              36,244 2 99.8          44,248 4 99.6
165/95              36,070 3 99.3          44,343 3 99.8
170/90              35,883 7 98.8          44,186 5 99.5
175/85              35,912 6 98.9          43,952 7 99.0
180/80              35,977 5 99.1          43,985 6 99.0
ADP*              36,064 4 99.3          44,436 1 100.1

*ADP is based on Mock Draft Central for 2010 and Razzball Commenter Leagues for 2011.

While I’m not sure these results are statistically significant, the success of the even hitter/pitcher split (154/106) vs. the extreme hitter/pitcher splits (175-180 hitter/85-90 pitcher) at least directionally refutes the theory that hitters provide more reliability.

It is more difficult to determine the optimal draft strategy for a real-like 12-team MLB draft given draft room dynamics.  The biggest challenge with 154/106 is that you constantly have SPs at the top of your draft board.  Even if Justin Verlander warrants a 1st round pick, you will get less value than if you can get him in the 2nd round or a comparable pitcher in the 3rd round.  (Here’s a recent post I read that goes into more detail on the topic of market vs. performance value in fantasy baseball.).

I have found that for 12-14 team MLB leagues, a 165/95 split provides the best balance of market and performance value.  This works best in auction leagues as it delivers not only a strong pitching staff but the fairly conservative hitter $ values help provide discipline in early rounds when some drafters pay premiums for top hitters, resulting in strong hitter bargains later in drafts.  The above would also hold true for snake drafts where drafters skew heavily towards hitters.

For typical snake drafts – where ADP seems to be indicating a more moderate skew towards hitters – I think you can succeed with just about any hitter/pitcher mix – as long as you are getting value with each draft pick.  (I still prefer 165/95.)  If you’re going 180/80, you can’t then exceed your already inflated hitter auction values/rankings and you have to be really disciplined in your pitcher selections.  I’ve also found that some fantasy baseball players feel more confident in finding waiver wire value in certain positions.  I think this is fine to factor into how you weight your hitter/pitcher mix but realize that the positions that seem to have the most depth on the waiver wire (OF, SP, RP) are also the ones where you will face the most competition (since there are more roster spots for these players).  My preference is to find positions where there will be little waiver competition – 2B/SS/3B and C in one-catcher leagues seem to be the best.

  1. Love the economic concepts of game theory and imperfect markets, and it’s what makes me absolutely love auctions. The bottom line basically comes down to “zig while other’s are zagging… just be aware if they’re all trying to zig, too.”

    • @Eric Yeomans, I almost put a zig/zag comment in the post but held off since I probably say it so much. That’s what always surprises me about mixed league auction drafters who go with the stars/scrubs approach (invest heavily in stars and then fill the rest of the roster with $1 players). It can totally work if you’re the only one doing it but if 4 other drafters are doing it, you’ve been zigged!

  2. Eric says:

    You are missing out on alot because your point-shares are against average and not against replacement. If you valued against replacement you would naturally see the ~167/93 hitter/pitcher split.

    One thing you can do to test the theory is take someones projections, and then draft some teams using Point-Shares against average and some using Point-Shares against replacement. I bet you will find that the against-replacement-drafters would fair much better in their projected standings.

    Another interesting thing to do would be to take the RCL leagues from last year and check how ones draft-investment in pitchers correlated with final standing.

    • @Eric, Maybe. My biggest contention with replacement value for fantasy baseball is that it is awful for evaluating hitters since CI/5 OF/UTIL/Bench exhaust the deeper 1B/OF positions to the point where the replacement level for a non-C hitter is about equal. By using average, I think it better differentiates position value. Went into more depth in this post comparing ESPN vs. Yahoo – https://razzball.com/espn-vs-yahoo-roster-formats-and-their-impact-on-fantasy-baseball-rankings/

      For pitchers, I think every player in every format has to be on the lookout for solid SPs and closers on the waiver wire. I don’t think the issue with valuing pitchers has to do with average vs. replacement value – I think the issue with valuing pitchers has to do with rotating pitchers based on matchups. I think a team willing to roster 8-9 SP (2-3 on bench) and rotate based on matchups and being careful to maximize IP/GS based on league constraints can ‘beat’ their draft projections. Assuming some teams do this in a league, it depresses the replacement value even further.

      I’m open if someone else who has thought through a player valuation system wants to give this a try. It’s certainly possible that my system overrates/underrates certain positions. I haven’t found a good way to test this though (tried mockdrafting with LastPlayerPicked.com a couple years ago but it didn’t work)

      Good point on the RCL league test. Will have to see if VinWins captured when players were drafted. Great idea!

      • Eric says:

        @Rudy Gamble,

        I do think it is replacement. It easy to check if the worst batter played is more standard deviations from the average (0-point shares) than the worst used pitcher is form average.

        I think positional value against replacement can be taken into account well, just needs a little more theoretical work.

        I can do the study of the RCL leagues if you give me a list of League IDs.

        • Eric says:

          @Eric, When you calculate point-shares do you include the number of IP and AB a team is expected to have. If not, it may over value ratios and lead to pitcher overvaluation.

          • @Eric, I do have IP/AB estimates per league.

            Here’s what I have this year for 12-team mixed (ESPN roster format – 1 C):
            AB – 7,135
            IP – 1,413

            Here are the average results in RCL 2011:
            AB – 7,020
            IP – 1,341

            So, if anything, I’m slightly undervaluing pitching ratios.

          • Eric says:

            @Rudy Gamble,

            I find different results. But our individual results back up what we are each saying.

            I would have expected both hitters and pitchers to follow normal(ish) distributions, and since you start twice as many hitters, the lowest starter would be statistically much worse.

            Perhaps this is for another time.

            BTW, excellent work. It is great to blogs on this stuff.

            • @Eric, Good discussion!

  3. chata says:

    2 questions :

    1) how many OF-ers ?

    2)”My preference is to find positions where there will be little waiver competition – 2B/SS/3B and C in one-catcher leagues seem to be the best.”

    preference for what ??
    in finding waiver-wire value ???

    thanks .

  4. timSTi says:

    Rudy my man. Prepping for a highly competitive deep 14 team mixed auction. Did this mockeroo last night. 12 team ESPN standard. My bench was autodrafted after I passed out. Whatta you think??

    C Salvador Perez 1
    1B Albert Pujols 45
    2B Howard Kendrick 12
    3B Kevin Youkilis 15
    SS Hanley Ramirez 36
    2B/SS Jose Altuve 2
    1B/3B Mike Carp 4
    OF Ryan Braun 40
    OF Alex Gordon 16
    OF Adam Jones 16
    OF Ben Revere 5
    OF Alfonso Soriano 4
    UTIL Brandon Belt 3
    P Tim Lincecum 24
    P Mat Latos 14
    P Anibal Sanchez 9
    P Vance Worley 1
    P Matt Capps 3
    P Sergio Santos 2
    P Ryan Vogelsong 1
    P Mike Leake 1
    P Jonathon Niese 1
    BE Edwin Jackson 2
    BE Matt Thornton 1
    BE Homer Bailey 1

    • @timSTi, Definitely check out for 14 team point shares – we used it in a 14-team draft two days ago sponsored by our pal Scott Pianowski at Yahoo and it worked like a charm. You definitely went top-heavy with this mock but it’s pretty solid. Pretty weak in 5th/6th SP and a little risky in closer but this team would have a chance. I think you’ll find that it’ll cost you a bit more for those top players in the 14-team draft and the $1-$3 players won’t be as appealing.

      • timSTi says:

        @Rudy Gamble, I went off the 12 team point shares for this draft. Fully plan on using the appropriate point shares for the 14 teamer. One question, in addition to the ESPN standard we have 2 UT not 1. How much should this inflate hitters $? I was planning on raising the top guys $2-3 and the lower ranking guys $1-2.

        Also, is there any write up on that auction draft? Would love to see the results of it and use it as a basis. This is my first auction league and its a deep one with some legit gamers. Thanks for the thorough response man!

  5. Hooverville says:

    Hey Rudy, I have a keeper quandary and it is somewhat along the lines of this post: Right now I can keep 5 of the below:

    Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Upton, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Cole Hamels, and David Wright.

    I was leaning towards taking all of the hitters in the above and then going SP heavy to start the draft – this is the direction Grey suggested. But in the above you say put a larger emphasis on SP. So of the above, who are you keeping, does Hamels make the cut? Standard 10 team H2H.

    • Tony says:

      @Hooverville, keep the offense you’ll be fine, go SP with your 1st pick then in the draft…

    • @Hooverville, Jeez, that’s a murderer’s row of keeper hitters. I’d drop Wright and keep Hamels. If you can’t dominate with those 4 hitters as your foundation….

      • Hooverville says:

        @Rudy Gamble, …. then I haven’t read enough Razzball. Thanks for the advice Rudy! It was a great article as well. Keep crunching the numbers

  6. NewbieRazz says:

    Thanks for all the hard work Rudy! This is great stuff!

    • @NewbieRazz, You’re welcome!

  7. Rar says:

    In keeper leagues, I find pitchers are undervalued and via trade you can easily build a strong staff. In 2-for-2 trades you can usually swap pitchers in order to “balance” the trade wherein you can unload your decent arm for their very good one.

    • @Rar, Yes, it does seem to be the case with keeper leagues. It’s a lot easier to dominate pitching stats than hitter stats.

  8. Gavin says:

    I’ve done many mock drafts where my plan is to be strong at MI and get one stud OF. So after 3 rounds I may end up with Tulo/Kinsler/McCutchen. Or Upton/Hanley/Pedroia. Something like that. My problem every time is what to do with my 4th round pick. There are always unappealing options at the corners. MAYBE Zimmerman is there. Otherwise it’s blech guys like Konerko, Sandoval, Santana, A-Rod, Youk, etc. I feel like I could get some more useful talent in the 4th and hold out even later for a Hosmer or Berkman. Any suggestions to accommodate my wait on the corners strategy? Or should I scrap that draft plan? ***Note I always try to go offense until the 7th-ish round.

    • @Gavin, Not sure how many teams are in your league. If you can get two of Hanley/Tulo + Cano/Kinsler/Pedroia as your MIs, can’t really fault it. Especially if you snag one in the 3rd round. But it really matters where you draft – if you end up with a top 3-pick or a late pick (so you have two picks near the turn), I think you’re reaching a bit to take an MI with your 1st (if early) or 2nd pick (if late and assuming Tulo/Hanley/Cano off board).

      If the strategy works out, I’d take best available player off the board. OF is probably the most likely position if you don’t want an SP. Don’t reach for 1B/3B.

  9. RandomItalicizedVoice says:

    Rudy –

    Do you like Cain better than CC in a 12-team roto keeper league that uses QS rather than Ws (rest of pitching stats are standard)?

    Would you rather have Konerko than either of those two (league uses OPS rather than AVG, rest of hitting stats are standard)? Guys like Stras, Grienke, Haren, Gallardo, Sheilds plus whomever I don’t keep from above would be available with my first pick (#8).

    • @RandomItalicizedVoice, Checked Cain/Sabathia in Point Shares. QS vs. W cuts a lot of Sabathia’s advantage but Sabathia trumps Cain on Ks much more than Cain’s slight advantage on WHIP.

      I like both guys more than Konerko in a vacuum (where CC would weigh less). But I like some of those arms better than Sabathia/Cain so keeping Konerko could definitely work. But I’d probably keep CC and then draft one of Greinke/Haren/Gallardo with the 1st pick and then load up on offense for a few rounds.

      • RandomItalicizedVoice says:

        @Rudy Gamble, That could work, too. My other keepers are Kemp, Fielder and McCutchen…so that’s a pretty good start, and even better in an OPS league. I think I may go your route. Would love to pair up CC and Greinke.

  10. Ian says:

    What ultimately happens with Ogando? The latest news I read is that he’ll be stretched out for the rotation, but may get bumped to the BP by the time opening day comes around. Is he worth stashing over a bench setup pitcher like Salas?

    • @Ian, He dies and his Ubuntu permeates his friends and family. Oh, with fantasy baseball. I think he’s a 7th inning pitcher who’ll get his share of holds and be a good K guy. Don’t think he’ll be starting this year. Coin flip vs. Salas as I think Motte will get the saves in STL (I think the new mgr will distinguish himself by not being a bullpen-tinkerer)

  11. Eddy says:

    Excellent work, Rudy.

    I think that because I really took to Razzball in late 2009, I subconsciously draft roto for every league (even H2H). Every year in my main league I do an All-Star Break post and a year-end post, converting my league’s stats into roto and I blow everyone out of the water.

    That being said, you can guess that balance is how I like to draft. How would I achieve the 165/95 split in a snake draft? For example, what are the first three round you draft a pitcher?

    Second, unrelated question:

    Knowing you have Votto, CarGo and Ellsbury in a 12-team, H2H OBP league, which pair of 3B and OF work best together?

    3B: Hanley and Wright
    OF: Nelson Cruz and Matt Holliday

  12. Son of a Beachy says:

    Thanks for writing these types of articles Rudy, gets me to look at a different side of the fantasy game than I usually would. I’m just wanting your opinion on a 14 team H2H keeper league, where we keep 14 (yes, 14!) every year. I won the league last year, but kind of blew up my roster a bit. Losing V-Mart blows, but is there any places you think I should make an upgrade or trade away certain guys?

    C: Salvador Perez
    1B: Albert Pujols
    2B: Michael Cuddyer
    SS: JJ Hardy
    3B: David Wright
    IF: Adam Lind
    LF: Brennan Boesch
    CF: BJ Upton
    RF: Shin-Soo Choo
    OF: Dexter Fowler
    Util: Coco Crisp/Jason Kubel

    DL: V-Mart

    SP: Josh Beckett/Jon Lester/Zack Greinke/Brandon Beachy/Jordan Zimmermann/Tim Stauffer
    RP: Joel Hanrahan/Rafael Betancourt/Jim Johnson/Brett Myers

    Thanks again Rudy! And I look forward to reading future Razzball posts throughout the season.

    • @Son of a Beachy, You’re welcome and thx for the kind words. 14 keepers? Jeez….here are the top 11 guys I’d want to keep: Pujols, Choo, Fowler, Wright, Upton, Lester, Greinke, Beachy, Zimmermann, Hanrahan, Cuddyer. I guess Boesch and the closers would be next.

      I’d try to deal one of the fringe closers and/or Crisp and/or Hardy and/or Lind (don’t trust him). I’d just look for overall value for a hitter – either a .290+ guy with solid power/speed/R/RBI or a guy who can hit 25 HRs without killing your AVG.

  13. JEH says:


    You’ve have hit my favorite fantasy baseball topic. I am going to risk wearing out my welcome and going off topic a bit in the hopes of giving you some food for thought for your part 2.

    I have written at length on this before and the short version is that under certain league rules a 50-50 split ($130 for hitters, $130 for pitchers . . . the number of points available, not the number of players, is what matters) is correct, but we don’t get those conditions in regular leagues and the differences tend to favor the hitters.

    There are several reasons, but three important ones are:

    1. Pitchers are drawing from two semi-distinct pools of players (starters and closers). A league with Holds as a separate category further dilutes pitcher values. Imagine a 7×7 league where the two additional batting categories were Pinch Hits and Sac Bunts.

    2. More pitching comes from bench players. Whether it’s daily or weekly transaction, starting pitchers get benched on off days and guys that were not acquired at auction are inserted into the line-up so the dollars you spend in auction are only buying a certain percentage of your pitching stats. Batters acquired via auction make up a larger percentage of a teams ABs than the pitchers do for IPs.

    3. Demand. Over-spending on hitters becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy under many circumstances. It’s good to zig when half the league zags . . . but when ten zag then two who are zigging run the risk of getting run over.

    Injury risk and projection volatility are two other differences sometimes cited.

    A lot of this is obvious if you assume perfect projections and a limited player pool. E.g., do an auction on last years players using last years stats and just put enough players into the available pool such that everyone is rostered and there is no bench. Half the money should go to pitching and half to hitting. It’s when we get away from that things start to split from 50-50, but any pricing model should handle this root case.

    • @JEH, JEH=John Eric Hanson, right? If that’s the case, don’t apologize about wearing out your welcome – your success in Tango’s Insidethebook Forecaster Challenge earns you immunity.

      Interesting that you’re saying 50-50 doesn’t mean same $ per player but same $ overall which means the average $ of pitchers would be greater. Can’t argue w/ that logic. Might be interesting to test backwards from 154/106 to 130/130 to see how those ratios do.

      I agree that anything beyond 5×5 has an impact on the ideal hitter/pitcher ratio. Adding Holds definitely hurts SPs. There’s almost no additional hitting stat that can hurt as much as SB does for hitters like Miguel Cabrera.

      I think the best test (proposed in comment #2) is to test this against our commenter leagues. Have to see if this can be done for 2011 (do we have detailed draft records) or something we’ll do with 2012. But across 40+ leagues, there should be a solid correlation of success and hitter/pitcher draft investment.

      • JEH says:

        @Rudy Gamble,

        That’s me. Nice to be immune to something I didn’t receive a shot for.

        I haven’t read the whole comment thread below post #2 yet, but I did get far enough to say I am in a different camp. I would argue that when pricing players in roto the starting point (for an MxM league, closed player pool, perfect projections, no substitutions) is 50% hitting / 50% pitching and the key would be identifying how a particular league differs from that root case and what the impact of the differences are. I.e., leagues with different rules (and different player pools [including different years]) will have different batter/pitcher pricing splits. I think doing the observations is useful and may give you a better starting point than you have (and 2011 seems like a pretty typical year from memory [and I could be wrong on that] unlike 2009 and 2010 where all of the injuries seemed to be batters and pitchers stayed amazingly healthy.

        Here’s a cut and paste job of a post I made over at Tango’s site, it’s an extreme example of a case where some pricing models break down and should hold up. It does highlight the 50-50 split in

        “I want to start with the simple question of Tango’s post #38 which was, I believe, in reply to Sky’s posts (36 and 37) [I thought Sky’s posts were on target].

        Again I want to use the limit case of an auction where every participant agrees on the player stats ahead of time. We can think of this as a retroactive selection. This is just to make it clear we are assigning a value to a stat line and not to a player (and all of the uncertainty associated with that). Also, let’s start by doing pitching only. This separates the valuation phase from the auction phase [during an auction the optimal pricing of a player can change both with respect to specific teams (as their composition change) and the league in general (as the player pool completes)]. Later I will argue that the composition of the hitting pool affects the pricing of the pitchers, or, in more general terms, the composition of one player pool affects the pricing of players in other pools (I will also argue there are more than two pools).

        Let’s consider a 6 team league, each taking 1 pitcher and 4 hitters (for simplicity, in case we need to get into examples). 5 pitching categories and 5 hitting categories. Further, let the pitchers have the same ordering in each category. So pitcher A is worth 6 points in every category (30 points total), Pitcher B is worth 5 in each category (25 total) down to pitcher F (5 points total, 1 per category). This is simply to make the math more straight forward.

        Pitching will generate 50% of the points in the league and we already know how they will breakdown:

        Pitcher A: 30 points
        Pitcher B: 25 points
        Pitcher C: 20 points
        Pitcher D: 15 points
        Pitcher E: 10 points
        Pitcher F: 5 points

        Also, we know Pitcher F has a value of $1. The value of the rest of the pitchers depends upon how the stats of hitters can be divided. The order, however, does not. Pitcher A must go first, followed by B and so on. If, for example, Pitcher B is

        So, how much do we spend on Pitcher A if he comes up for bid first? If Team 1 spends all of its available budget ($256, assuming a $260 budget to be spent on 1 pitcher and 4 batters) to select Pitcher A then it’s safe to say Team 1 should finish last in all of the batting categories where it could finish last (odd situations can arise, theoretically, where something else may happen, either a tie in a particular category among all players in the pool or a situation where players doing well in one category do so poorly in others they are not worth taking except under extreme circumstances. Under these circumstances Pitcher A is worth more than $256!). In that case Team 1 performs at the league average of 35 points with a spending split of $256 in pitching and $4 in hitting. That’s basically the definition of a fair price.

        Let’s say Team 6 purchases Pitcher F for $1 and spends $259 on hitting. Team 6 can do no better than the 35 points for league average, but should be able to come very close to that (at least); unless the categories set-up such that they come from more than one player pool (more on this later). So $1 for Pitcher F is both fair and unavoidable.

        In the absence of information about the hitting player pool, the teams that select Pitchers B through E should be distributed roughly evenly through the remaining salary spectrum (e.g., if Pitcher B goes to Team 2, pitcher C to Team 3 and so on the salary breakdowns for those 4 teams could be, respectively, 205 pitching / 55 hitting, 154 / 106, 103 / 157 and 52 / 208) so the average team spends 128.5 on pitching. I think the reasoning behind the even spacing for Pitchers B through E is obvious, but if not we can go through it later.

        I’ll let this sit for a bit to see if there are any objections or need for clarification before going into the cases where Pitcher A scores below 30 points (which should be also be obvious in the absence of info on the hitters) and then go into arguing that the hitting pool can impact the pitching pool.

        One last thing though, because it will come up fairly often:

        Batting / Pitching Split – This is a fuzzy distinction. Consider a league with three pitching categories: Saves, Holds, Wins. Those are three separate pools of players. Pitchers that get Holds rarely get Saves or Wins. Those that get Wins rarely get Holds or Saves. Those that get Saves rarely get Holds or Wins. So we are choosing from Batters and Pitchers, we are also choosing from Batters, Starters, Closers and Set-up men. Sometimes the lines on this are blurry (light-hitting SB specialists).

        When players are being selected from multiple pools but competing for the same points (in the same categories) we have added complexity.

        • I agree in concept that the starting point should be 130/130 but that is so far from the typical drafting baseline (verified by Yahoo/ESPN ADP) that it would inevitably lead to an over-investment on pitching and a brutal offense (best chance for points eould be to focus on SB/AVG).

          Agreed that holds adds complexity. I have never played in a holds league (i think the hold os stupid) but would virtually punt that stat given the turnover in MLB bullpens. Maybe I throw an extra dollar or two at a MR with great K rates (venters, robertson) but that’s about it.

          You should join a Razzball Commenter League and try out a 130/130 strategy. Might prove interesting…

  14. Jeff says:

    In a keeper league where I am paying $44 for four offensive keepers that are worth $80 and $9 for one SP that is worth $18, how should I adjust my split? I’ll have around $210 to spend. Assuming that hitters will be 10% more inflated than pitchers due to specific keepers, how should I adjust my spend? Its a two catcher league with five OF.

    • @Jeff, 165-44=$121 for hitters. 95-8=$87 for pitchers. Whatever total savings you have on your keepers will likely equal the total inflation you’ll spend on the rest of your team. I don’t see how if hitters are proportionally more represented as keepers they would also go as a premium for drafting. I can see this being the case for all young, cheap players though (hitters or pitchers). Net-net, I would stick with a 121/87 ratio and invest a little more in players that have a chance at being keeper-worthy next year.

      • Jeff says:

        @Rudy Gamble, The formula for inflation is Total $ available – total keeper $/total $ available – total keeper value. If you attribute 63% of $ available to hitters and 37% to pitchers and separate hitters kept and pitchers kept, you will get different inflation values for hitters and
        Pitchers. If there is a higher proprotionate value on hitters kept, they will be more deeply inflated. In my example, if I spend $112 on hitters and $95 on pitchers, my teams total value will have the 63% split. Confusing?

        • @Jeff, You’re right. Thanks for the correction!

  15. frank rizzo says:

    Rudy, Grey has Granderson taking a massive hit in production from last year. I know that was a career year for Grandy but I’d like to get your take on him. Do you believe he’s 2nd round worthy?

    • @frank rizzo, I have him at #21 for 12-team leagues. So late 2nd round, sure.

  16. TheRealTaz says:

    I don’t know if this is what JEH was trying to say in his first point, but Pitchers are mostly one position plus a couple of closers. Imaging if your batting lineup was: IF, IF, IF, IF, IF, OF, OF, OF, OF, OF, OF, Util. It would dilute the value of hitters a lot more since you can always find hitters — it’s a matter of fitting them into the right slots. If your pitching slots were RHSP, RHSP, LHSP, LHSP, RHRP, LHRP, P, P, P (or something to that effect) the value of pitchers will go up since CC Sabathia doesn’t have the same eligibility as Justin Verlander.

    • @TheRealTaz, I don’t think IF/OF would change it much since enough IFs are drafted in 12+ team leagues that you’d still end up drafting close to 1.5 MI per team. The fact that P allows for so many players to be slotted works both ways – it also means that the other teams competing for FAs have lots of roster spots for them.

    • JEH says:


      What I was trying to convey, in not enough words, was that when we draft hitters we are drafting from one pool of players . . . they all contribute their value in the same five categories. Pitching is somewhat different in 5×5 leagues. Closers and Starters each have their (almost) exclusive categories (Wins for starters and Saves for Closers). So, in a 5×5 league, each rostered pitcher is, more or less, a 4 category player. When buying pitching you have a choice: buy Wins or buy Saves. Of course, most buy both, but in the general sense the option increases the supply side of the supply/demand balance.

      • JEH – In my post, I argue that most players do not contribute across 5 categories and that most players are below average in at least one. An SP has no opportunity cost for Saves whereas a no speed MI has high opportunity cost for SB. And while relievers are clearly disproportionally contributing in Saves, they still impact ERA/WHIP/Ks to a lesser degree – the opportunity cost (another SP) is highest on Wins, lower on Ks (b/c replacement SPs are low K rate, good relievers high K rate), and negative on ERA/WHIP (relievers help, SP will hurt it).

        So I think 5 category vs. 4 category is more a fallacy than anything else…

        • JEH says:

          @Rudy Gamble,

          I appreciate your point and it is accurate . . . pitchers and hitters contribute in five categories even when they contribute nothing.

          My poorly worded point was that which bin you pick your pitcher from matters not so much because of the bin but the distribution of the stats you pool pit of it.

          I don’t know exactly how you price your players, but at some point you most likely determine which players are going to be drafted. In a points league that is straight-forward, but in a roto league it’s a bit trickier . . . and it is much trickier for pitchers than for hitters. If you include too many starters than the relievers become more valuable and vice versa . . . the player list doesn’t reach a stable equilibrium. It makes sense if you think about it . . . each Save or Win takes on a little more significance as others are added to or removed from the pool, but ERA and WHIP also change in value much more rapidly when replacing a high-inning 4.25 ERA guy with a low inning 2.70 ERA set-up guy. Replacing a 500 AB .270 10 HR 0 SB player with a 500 AB 2 HR 12 SB .285 player will have less of an effect.

          • JEH –
            Yes, I do determine which players are going to be drafted and set a target # of SP/RP based on RCL data, observations, and best guesses. Generally a 2:1 ratio for SP/RP tends to works for the league. Now my 72 best SPs for a 12-team league are going to differ from the top 72 drafted and it’s clear that some SPs will end up with only partial stats in the end of year league totals b/c of matchups, poor performance, or role change (including called up from minors).

            With our commenter league data, it’s possible (at least for 12-team) to look at end of year modeled results (Point Shares) and compare it vs. real behavior. Here’s the 2011 comparison:

            2011 Point Share projected league average for 12-team MLB:
            IP: 16,093
            W: 1,044
            SV: 997
            ERA: 3.26
            WHIP: 1.19
            K: 13,740
            AB: 79,308
            R: 11,352
            HR: 2,829
            RBI: 11,031
            SB: 1,932
            AVG: .278

            RCL Averages:
            IP: 16,102
            W: 986
            SV: 1,091
            ERA: 3.58
            WHIP: 1.23
            K: 14,014
            AB: 84,249
            R: 11,679
            HR: 2,838
            RBI: 11,230
            SB: 1,947
            AVG: .268

            My net takeways:
            Hitters – AB difference driven by using replacement hitters during DL stays. This has negligible impact on counting stats. AVG has notable difference vs. model – perhaps driven by replacement hitters, perhaps driven by bias towards counting stats. If comparing vs. preseason stats, differences vary per year depending on modeled hitting environment by projector(s) + counting stats likely lower due to regression + variable difference on AVG (FWIW, I have a .270 AVG for 2012 12-team)

            Pitchers – The IPs nearly line up perfectly with model. The W/SV differences seem to indicate a higher % of innings given to marginal relievers (model called for 37 relievers which can include MRs). This increases SV and reduces W. ERA/WHIP difference impacted by higher % of IP to marginal relievers + potential bias towards counting stats (W/K).

            • JEH says:

              @Rudy Gamble,

              That’s nice stuff. The real vs projected data isn’t the path I was going down. The difference between projected and observed rate stats jumps out.

              If at anytime it’s not a hassle you might try changing your model from say 72 starters and 36 relievers to 78 and 3o or 66 and 42 and see how prices change for the pitchers that are drafted in either scenario.

              I am a fan of Monte Carlo pricing, but if I use a typical z-score or SGP model and use an iterative process (price X pitchers, keep the top Y and price them, keep the top Z and so on until I get the number I want) I find the prices of some pitchers will change a couple of dollars under certain league rules at the penultimate step if I recalculate distributions. I have not observed that when doing the same thing with hitters and I don’t have an explanation beyond the categories used.

              • Thanks. So you’d be more interested in seeing 2011 projected totals (pre-season) vs. what was seen in RCL? I can post that if you want it…

                Here’s how $ value changes for SPs based on SP/RP ratio (66/42, 71/37, 78/30) – (i use 71/37) using 154/106 pricing.

                Roy Halladay – $32.4 / $32.3 / $32.5
                Matt Cain – $15.5 / $16.1 / $16.9
                Jaime Garcia – $7.0 / $7.8 / $9.0
                Jon Niese – $1.2 / $2.3 / $3.6
                Seems pretty straightforward – more SPs = more $ value per SP

                The Halladay case is more difficult – I think it could be that any ERA/WHIP gains brought on by adding substandard pitchers gets balanced out by having a lower % of average team IP. Seems like K’s is the only area where the higher # of pitchers makes Halladay more valuable
                (Point Shares: W/SV/ERA/WHIP/K)
                66/42 – +0.9 / -0.2 / +1.2 / +2.3 / +0.6
                71/37 – +0.9 / -0.2 / +1.2 / +2.2 / +0.7
                78/30 – +0.9 / -0.2 / +1.1 / +2.2 / +0.8

                • JEH says:

                  @Rudy Gamble,

                  That actually surprises me a little. I thought relief pitcher value would go up as their numbers dwindled. Perhaps it has two do with the distribution of saves in your projections or perhaps a flaw in my reasoning. I still suspect the relief pitchers will get more valuable if you reduce their representation further.

                  I did a similar test with the data on my screen . . . except I rebalanced the $ per point numbers based on the top 140 pitchers for a 7×7 league (ERA,WHIP,K,W,SV,IP,HD) and then assigned dollar values to everyone.

                  Players bounced around in a range. After 8 iterations the range for some players was:

                  Halladay: 28.3 to 32.8
                  Cain: 11.9 to 13.7
                  Marmol: 7.7 to 9.1

                  The takeaway on this might be that dollar values are rather fuzzy values. (Which will remain true even with better calculations). Go the extra 15% on a player you really like. :)

                  • The less relievers drafted, the better the replacement pitcher and the better the average RP. So I think RP value increases when more RPs are drafted.

                    Not sure it has an impact but you have a bigger pitcher universe (mine was 12×9=108) and it’s unclear the impact of the two extra stats. That said, the ranges seem generally in line.

                    I like your thinking (monte carlo pricing, etc) but i think that drafter behavior falls within smaller bounds than one might expect from game theory. Will have to check all league IP totals to see how much variation there was…

          • chata says:


            ” … but ERA and WHIP also change in value much more rapidly when replacing a high-inning 4.25 ERA guy with a low inning 2.70 ERA set-up guy.”

            this is a tough concept for me to understand , especially since most owners in contention for league titles attempt to max out their IP limit , AND , since I’m unaware of any site carrying out their tie-breaks in these categories beyond three numbers to the right of the decimal point .

            certainly , the logic is valid , but just how ‘much more rapidly’ seems inconsequential , since you’re reaching the same stopping point .

            • JEH says:


              I was speaking in the general sense. When there is a cap on IP my example fails in translation. :)

  17. Project_badass says:

    16-team, non-keeper, H2H, 6×6 (OBP, QS)

    Drafted last night and could only stay for the 1st 10 rounds, so I ended up with a couple more hitters than I would have liked and not enough SP/RP. The only 2 decent SP available are Brett Cecil and Travis Wood…Who would you drop and who would you pick up?

    C- Iannetta
    1B- Hosmer
    2B- Kinsler
    3B- Michael Young
    SS- Bonifacio
    OFx3- CarGo, Jennings, Chris Young
    UTILx2- Bourjos, Vernon Wells
    BN- Quentin, Ian Desmond, Valencia, Cozart

    SP- Gallardo, Gio, Morrow, Chacin, Filthy Sanchez, Peacock
    RP- Putz, Guerra, Abreu

    • @Project_badass, I’d drop Desmond and Valencia for SPs. Pick both those guys up.

  18. vinko says:

    Carpenter seeking second opinion on “neck problem,” according to St. Louis Dispatch…

    • @vinko, Must’ve gotten whiplash driving with Tony LaRussa.

  19. mets fan says:

    Rudy, I am in a 12 team h2h keeper league. My keeper on offense is Morse and I have the 10 pick. Who would you target with my first 2 picks?

    • @mets fan, I don’t know who’s available. Just look at the 12 team point shares and take the highest ranked hitter.

  20. RealMcCoy says:

    I was booed by Grey on my first attempt team, so I took his advise and here is attempted #2. I was picked 12th in a standard Yahoo 5×5 / H2H

    1. Longoria (3B)
    2. Upton (OF)
    3. Hamilton (OF)
    4. Bruce (OF)
    5. M. Young (1B, 2B, 3B)
    6. Gallarado (SP)
    7. Wieters (C)
    8. Bumgarner (SP)
    9. Butler (1B)
    10. Gonzalez (SP)
    11. Valverde (RP)
    12. Bonifacio (SS, 3B, OF)
    13. Sanchez (SP)
    14. Streets (RP)
    15. Lind (1B)
    16. Roberts (2B)
    17. Minor (SP)
    18. Venters (RP)

    My Bench

    19. Worley (SP)
    20. Boesch (OF)
    21. Clippard (RP)
    22. J. Sanchez (SP)
    23. Fart-olo Colon (SP)


    • RealMcCoy says:

      @RealMcCoy, I was picking 12th. Not picked to come in 12th. Sorry for any confusion there.

    • @RealMcCoy, looks pretty good. nice taking 8 SP. butler is a solid fallback on 1B (better than overpaying). i like you didn’t overinvest in speed or saves. so overall i like it…

  21. Tony says:

    anyone- is there a site out there that can generate your draft order prior to the draft? or can espn do that if you just set it to do it? not really sure but guys in my league would like it prior to RIGHT before we draft….. thanks for any help.

  22. Rabbit says:

    That rotosynthesis post you linked to got me thinking…zig when everyone else is zagging is a nice meta-strategy (i.e., a strategy on how to apply your strategies), but applying it to particular strategies and situations takes a lot more thought. So on the strategy of the optimal pitcher-hitter valuation split, if you were bidding against 11 other owners who all used the same 180-80 split, you should be able to build the best pitching staff by valuing pitchers slightly more (i.e., paying that extra $1 for the top SPs), while retaining enough hitting dollars to remain compettiive in going after top batters. (I’m putting aside the complication that owners’ player valuations vary for reasons other than pitcher-hitter split.) The problem is you’re bidding against 11 individuals with different strategies, not a monolithic group, so if you go into an auction with values set by, say, a 160/100 split, and there is one other owner who also uses a similar pitcher-friendly split, you guys may end up bidding each other up on pitchers, leaving you both in bad shape when it comes to bidding on hitters against guys who don’t spend nearly as much on pitchers. (If you could collude with that other owner so that each of you didn’t bid on the others’ pitchers, you could both get great staffs by spending only $1 more per pitcher than the other 10 batter-centric owners, but that of course would violate the Sherman Antitrust Act.)

    So given that the dominant approach seems to be a 180-80 split, it seems to me the optimal course would be to use a slightly lower 170-90 split (or even a 175-85 split). That should guarantee that you get a really good staff because you’ll bid higher than the other owners who use the 180-80 split (which should be most of them), but you will not get caught up in destructive bidding wars with the other one or two owners who use a 160-100 or 165-95 split (if indeed you have any such owners in your league).

    Rudy (and others), I’d be curious to get your take on the application of the “zig-zag” meta-strategy on other particular strategies. For example (and this is a point I have made in previous years in Comments on this site), the “Don’t Pay for Saves” strategy seems to have been originally thought of a a zig when others are zagging spproach: the other owners pay top dollar for closers, you hold off and buy cheap closers late and get them off the waiver wire. The problem is, this strategy has become so widespread that the zig has become the zag: I’d say at least half my main auction league uses this strategy, which means: (1) the “cheap” closer bargains at the auction are not so cheap anymore because you have more guys bidding on them, and (2) it’s really competitive to try to pick up a closer off the waiver wire. I’d argue that the Don’t Pay for saves strategy has become so widespread that the correct application of the zig-zag metastrategy here is to pay (judiciusly) for closers in the upper tiers (say, the top half of all closers), because (1) you can actually get some decent values in the top half, because fewer owners are bidding on them, and (2) you don’t have to use your free agent auction dollars (or use your top waiver wire spots) on waiver wire closers who may or may not pan out.

    Anyway, great stuff, Rudy, even if I didn’t quite fully understand what you did with the numbers in there.

    • @Rabbit, Very good points on finding the optimal course. It is difficult because you don’t know the draft room dynamics. The extra variable is that some 180/80 drafters invest heavily in stars where others might focus on building depth through a number of solid hitters. I think the #1 thing you can do is make sure that your $ estimates are proportional and that you generally stick to them. That way, if you feel the market is overpaying, it means there have to be bargains at some point. It’s okay to spend a little bit more on some players but, taken to the extreme, will lead to a suboptimal team.

  23. GilGaucho says:

    @Rudy, great stuff. This really helps me plan my keepers for my auction this year. One quick keeper question, we can keep 6 and i’m going to keep Halladay $26, King Felix $30, D. Price for $13, Cano for $22 and The Jesus for $5. Final keeper comes down to Storen $6, Kimbrel $6 or Asdrubel $7. My thought is to keep Kimbrel for $6 and limit myself to $2 per for remaining pitchers. Any thoughts would be much appreciated. Thanks for your time and keep up the great work.

    • @GilGaucho, Thanks. Not sure on your league parameters but i don’t like that price on felix. i’d keep kimbrel and asdrubal dropping felix.

  24. flesh castinets says:

    Hey Rudy, Thanks for the insight as always…just a quick question regarding a league i’m in. Its a ten team roto 5×5. The twist on this league is that you are allowed 5 free add/drops thats it. DL and Minor league demotions don’t count. but after your 5 moves are used your done and can’t change your roster without injury or a trade. So SAGNOF sort of hits a snag. Any general advice you’d have at the auction that would differ from a league that doesn’t limit add/drops/

    Thanks I appreciate it

    • I’d be warier of injury-prone players or playing time-challenged players (inc. IP-limited pitchers).

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