This post is a sequel to this post on maximizing ABs.

In recent posts, I used the results of our 2013 Razzball Commenter Leagues (based on 64 12-team mixed leagues with daily roster changes and unlimited pickups) to show:

So this leaves 41% of Pitching Standings Points that could be attributed to a manager’s in-season moves.

What percentage of a team’s pitching standings points can be attributed to their maximization of IP?

Below is a scatter graph that illustrates how end of season drafted pitcher value explains ~60% (R^2 of 34.2%) of RCL team pitcher standings points.  Note that all ‘actual’ standings points in this analysis are based on how the team compared against all 768 RCL teams (scaled to 12 roto points per category) versus their specific league.

This analysis assumes a 12-team mixed league with a 180 GS cap, no IP cap, and unlimited daily roster moves.

Based on the resulting formula from this analysis (8.55+.285*Pitching Draft Value), I can convert the above graph into one showing ‘projected’ pitching standings points vs. actual based solely on the value of their drafted pitchers.

The red dot is my team.  The yellow dot is Grey’s team.  Based on my model (the trend line), everyone above the line ‘overperformed’ the average team effectiveness of in-season moves and everyone below it ‘underperformed’.  As you can see, there are quite a number of dots far above/below the trend line.

I then ran a regression test with the end of season value of drafted pitchers and total team IP.  With just these two data points, the correlation between actual and projected standings points jumps from 59% to 82.4% (R^2 increase from .342 to .679).  In other words, a team’s innings pitched total is a very good predictor of team success above and beyond how well a team drafted.  (The formula is -62.767+.05883*Total IP+.20188*Team Drafted Pitcher Value)

While an equal number of teams fall above/below this new trendline, the dots appear more tightly packed as the model is smarter.  Grey remains above the trendline but not by as much.  My dot now dips under the trendline.  Both of us were much higher than average for RCL (Rudy=62nd, Grey 156th) though nowhere near as high as we were in ABs (where we were both in the top 20).

Based on this regression analysis, I would now explain a team’s pitching standings points in a 12-team mixed format like RCL as follows:

• ~60% based on how your draft goes (with only an average of 3% estimated by pre-season rankings)
• ~22% based on how you maximize IP
• ~18% based on the quality of one’s in-season moves (and possibly other factors)

Before I move on, just a note.  These results do not mean that the quality of those ‘maximized IP’ is irrelevant.  It means that the quantity of a team’s IP based on average decision-making in an average RCL explains 22% of a team’s success.

Quantifying ‘Pitching Grind Points’

Here is a look at the RCL Expert league ‘projected’ vs ‘actual’ pitching standings points based on just drafted pitching value and the combination of drafted pitcher value + team IP.

 Team Pitch Pts (overall) IP Pitch Draft Value \$ Projected Pitch Pts Based on Draft Projected Pitch Pts Based on Draft + IP IP Grind Points Razzball Rudy Gamble 45.82 1,495.2 127.8 44.9 51.0 +6.1 Team Sayre 39.26 1,438.2 105.7 38.7 43.2 +4.5 Razzball Grey 39.92 1,432 68.1 27.9 35.2 +7.3 Mastersball.com Carey 34.78 1,421.2 51.3 23.2 31.2 +8.0 Team Minnix 34.15 1,418 63.8 26.7 33.5 +6.8 Team Podhorzer 28.64 1,388.1 72.5 29.2 33.5 +4.3 Team Roto 45.94 1,378.2 134.4 46.8 45.4 -1.4 Team Carty 37.43 1,351.2 88.1 33.6 34.5 +0.9 Team Singman 34.8 1,330 100.7 37.2 35.8 -1.4 Team Guilfoyle 26.68 1,283.2 82.4 32.0 29.4 -2.7 Team Davenport 26.64 1,269 112.9 40.7 34.7 -6.0 Team Pianowski 11.88 1,243.1 30.8 17.3 16.6 -0.7

Four points to make on the above:

1) My team had the most IP in the league (I hit the daily double with AB) but only the fourth highest total of ‘pitching grind points’.  Grey is a better example to look at here as, based solely on his disappointing draft (e.g., Niese, Estrada), the model projected only 27.9 pitching points.  But once his 1,432 IP are factored in (100 more than average), the model projects him at 35.2 points which is much closer to his actual 39.9 point finish (he made a trade for David Price that helps explain some of the remaining difference).  The difference between the original 27.9 pitching point projection and the revised 35.2 point projection represents the ‘pitching grind points’ in the right-hand column.

2) The ‘standings points’ are based on the master standings across 64 leagues.  Because the Expert league had a higher average IP (1,370 vs. 1,330), the league’s total ‘pitching grind points’ is greater than zero (in a league with RCL average IP, I’d expect the sum to be at or near zero).

3) While the standings projection model is clearly not perfect, the model including IP (6th column) comes much closer to projecting each team’s actual pitching points  than using the model that just incorporated the drafted value (4th column).  The model does a solid job at predicting the order of the 12 teams with the biggest outlier being the team of Dr. Roto (of Sirius/XM and RotoExperts).

4) The impact of maximizing team IP is greatest for teams with poor drafts and least for teams with great drafts.  It should intuitively make sense that teams with bad drafts have more pitching standings points to gain from grinding it out than a team that drafted well.  So Grey had more ‘pitching grind points’ than me despite the fact that I had 63 more IP than him.

Here is a neat little grid that shows what the model projects as ‘pitching grind points’ based on various draft outcomes and IP totals:

 Team IP Percentile 25th (1,258) 50th (1,340) 75th (1,416) 100th (1,680) Draft Pitcher Value Percentile 25th (\$67) (2.8) 2.0 6.5 22.0 50th (\$84) (4.3) 0.5 5.0 20.5 75th (\$102) (5.8) (1.0) 3.5 19.0 100th (\$180) (12.3) (7.5) (3.0) 12.5

So a team that has an average draft for pitching (50th percentile) could net up to 20.5 ‘grind points’ if they were to hit the 100th percentile in IP but are helping their cause for every IP over the RCL AVG  of 1,340.  For a team with a great draft, however, the only way to avoid losing points is to hit well above the 75th percentile in IP.

It should be noted that the 100th percentile in both IP and draft value are extreme.  Only 5 teams out of 768 reached 1,600 IP and only 56 even reached 1,500.   Only 30 teams managed \$130+ in pitching value with only 10 of those teams reaching RCL average hitter draft value.

The Reduced Effectiveness Of `Pitching Grind Points’ In A Super-Competitive League

All of the above analysis is based on the RCL averages.  The average league in the RCL had 1,332 IP/team.

I re-ran the analysis to simulate a league with an average IP of 1,450 IP/team (note: our most competitive league – the ECFBL – averaged 1,517 IP/team!) and the results were that the draft explained about 51% of a team’s pitching standings points (vs. 59%) and their total IP only boosted the correlation up to 69%.  That leaves a much greater percentage of team success (31% vs. 18%) that goes under the ‘Quality of In-Season Moves’/Other bucket.

As with ABs, grinding out IP in a super-competitive league is a cost of doing business.  Repeating the analogy, while working 100 hour weeks may help you get ahead at your white collar job, they just keep you employed at an Asian sweatshop.

Here is the revised ‘Pitching Grind Points’ grid based on leagues with an average of 1,450 IP:

 Team IP Percentile 25th (1,403) 50th (1,436) 75th (1,487) 100th (1,680) Draft Pitcher Value Percentile 25th (\$67) (2.9) (0.8) 2.4 14.7 50th (\$84) (3.0) (0.9) 2.3 14.6 75th (\$102) (3.0) (0.9) 2.3 14.6 100th (\$180) (3.3) (1.2) 2.0 14.3

Thus, the more this analysis encourages all RCLers to maximize IP, the more grinding out IP becomes table stakes and the advantage becomes neutralized.  But if people in your other leagues do not read Razzball, you are all set.

Impact in Daily Roster Change Leagues With IP Caps or No GS/IP Caps and Weekly Roster Change Leagues

For leagues with IP caps vs. GS caps, the impact of maximizing IP depends on the strictness of the cap.  If it’s above 1,400, I think there are some opportunities to take advantage.  Anything lower and this advantage has been neutralized.

For leagues with no GS/IP caps, the impacts would be different than the above because it adds a third potential pitching strategy to the mix (#3 below):

1) Get to 180 GS, use RP to a ‘league average’ extent (net – 1,330 IP)
2) Get to 180 GS, aggressively use Middle Relievers in SP spots on off days to increase total IP (net ~1,450 IP)
3) Aggressively go with starting pitchers to maximize Wins and Ks, rolling the dice on ERA/WHIP (net 1,500+ IP?)

This third strategy is also commonly found in H2H leagues.  I imagine the results here are similar to the competitive league where one HAS to chase innings through all means necessary just to have a fighting chance in Wins/Ks.

For weekly leagues, the 2nd strategy goes away.  It’s really a matter of deciding your SP/RP mix with heavy SP favoring Wins/Ks and heavy RP favoring Saves/ERA/WHIP.  There is no inherent advantage to either strategy but I have found teams that draft hitting-heavy are best served to go with the former (because their ratios are going to be poor anyway).

Conclusions

• Maximizing a team’s IP is the #1 most effective way to improve your fantasy team’s pitching success that is completely in your control in daily roster change leagues.
• The effectiveness of this strategy is positive for all participants in leagues (even the team that drafted the best pitching can still benefit) with the greatest benefit for poorly drafted teams who have the most to gain.  The success of your offense vs. pitching should dictate how much of your bench you reserve for hitting vs. pitching (in last year’s RCL where my pitching was much better than my offense, I was using 2 and sometimes all 3 bench spots for hitters while Grey was doing the reverse)
• In GS cap leagues, maximizing IP requires rotating in middle relievers during SP off-days or – in the more extreme case – using one or more roster spots to stream starters and using RPs in those slots the other days.  In leagues with high to no IP caps, one can use both SP and RP to maximize innings.  The strengths of your team will dictate how best to balance this (e.g., if you are dominating ERA/WHIP and trailing Wins/Ks, up the SP usage.  If you are doing good in those stats, use more RPs)
• In super-competitive leagues, failing to maximize IP will cost you some a couple of standings points on average.  Consider it table stakes.
• If you do not have the time/stomach to maximize team IP and some people in your league do, DO NOT JOIN THAT LEAGUE.  I say that not because you are doing the other guys a disservice – it is simply because you have very little chance of winning even if you nail the draft.  Get in a weekly roster change league.  If it makes you feel better, I am very selective in the daily roster change leagues I join BECAUSE I know the commitment that they require.

Final Conclusion/Thoughts – Factoring in the Maximizing AB Analysis

Both the AB and IP analyses conclude that maximizing AB and IP are crucial tactics for winning 10-12 mixed leagues with daily roster changes (particularly Roto but H2H/Points to an extent as well).

So how should one balance these two tactics as part of their bench (and worst 2-3 starting player) strategy?

Let us first look at what is possible.  If we look at yet another scatter graph comparing RCL team AB and IP totals from 2013, there is a somewhat surprising insight.  While one might think that AB and IP maximization are a zero-sum game since there’s a finite bench, that is not the case.  There is a strong positive correlation (~75%) between a team’s AB and IP totals.  There are a number of teams that appear in the the top right (high in both) and bottom left (low in both).  So while this SEEMS like a tradeoff one needs to make, that is not the reality.  The only obstacle behind maximizing both is your willingness to commit the necessary time.  (Note: The red dot is me, the yellow dot is Grey)

I can tell you that, for me, it was a lot more time maximizing AB vs. IP because I had so many batting lineup spots to fill.  Pitching was easy because I drafted two premium middle relievers (Jansen, K-Rob) so had a solid 5 SP, 6 RP mix for most of the first half.  I traded a closer for a bat in June (I think) to free up an extra bench spot for hitting.

So let’s assume that you cannot devote the necessary time to get in that right quadrant.  Here are three potential scenarios if one can only commit a finite amount of time to AB/IP maximization (assuming one drafted an average hitting and pitching team):

 Strategy Estimated Impact on Standings 75th percentile on AB/IP 4.9 hit points + 5.0 pitch points = 9.9 standings points 95th percentile on AB, 50th in IP 9.1 hit points + 0.5 pitch points = 9.6 standings points 50th percentile in AB, 95th in IP 1.4 hit points + 11.5 pitch points = 12.9 standings points

Based on the model, there is a slight advantage towards investing heaving in maximizing IP than AB.  I would say that the advantages are so slight that I would base my decisions on which of hitting vs pitching has more standings points to gain.

So my bench recommendation is as follows:  1 spot reserved exclusively for RP and 2 ‘swing’ spots.  On days where several teams are off, you use those two spots for hitters.  If all of your hitters are active, you can use both for relief pitchers.  I would draft an RP in one of those two swing spots because you never know with closer situations.  Someone like Cody Allen or Victor Black could pay huge dividends between draft day and April 10th.  I would avoid clogging the 2nd swing spot with a prospect (e.g., George Springer, Javier Baez, etc.) as it is doubtful any rookies will play until June.

In practice, there are more complexities.  If you have a ‘hot’ bat that you want to keep in your lineup and rotate out guys who are facing a tough pitcher, you can use a ‘swing’ spot for benching a hitter.  If you have a hitter dinged up for several days, use the spot.  If your league is very competitive in claiming streaming starters, you may need to use one of these spots to stash someone a couple days prior to the start.  Consider this just a general framework.

If you have more than 3 bench spots, you probably want to stock up on hitters and SP since the FA pool will have shrunk for both.  That also gives you more freedom to stash a prospect.

42 Responses (Jump straight to the comment form)

1. Baseball says:

In a 6×6 league (HLD is extra pitching cat) where there is no IP minimum, could a strategy work where you punt K and W in the draft and solely draft RP in an attempt to finish Top 1-3 in SV, HLD, ERA, WHIP, hopefully build a nice lead/cushion in those categories and then come July or August trade a closer or two (but still keep one or two) for a good starter or two and then use those SP plus the Stream-o-Nator as well and attempt to at least get back in the middle for K and W over the last 2 months?

• @Baseball: It could work but I think assuming this strategy will be great in ERA/WHIP is risky. Yes, if you draft Kimbrel and Jansen, I can see it. But it is tough to figure out exactly which relievers each year will do well in ERA/WHIP. So this could just as easily in my eyes be a SV/HLD #1, ERA/WHIP middle of pack, W/K bottom. That would get you an average amount of pitching points which, even when coupled with above average offense, rarely wins championships.

Net-net, I would just go for a well-rounded staff (that’s what she said!)

• Baseball says:

@Rudy Gamble: Yeah, it’s definitely risky compared to a balanced approach. I am in a position where we keep three players and my three are all Top 10 hitters according to Grey’s rankings, but I also traded some early draft picks for this season for my late season push last year.

So, since my offense is strong to start and because it’s unlikely I’ll get any top pitcher since not keeping one and won’t have early picks to grab one, this could be a way to build a cheaper pitching strategy … agreed you’d want at least one of Kimbrel/Jansen/Chapman if not two (or one plus one of Holland/Uehara/Rosenthal/Nathan).

Excellent article, BTW

• Andrew A says:

@Baseball:

you’re overestimating the value of a closer in a 6×6 league. Only the elite ones will net anything substantial, and those are the ones you will want to keep for your ratios. This is not a comment on the underlying strategy, I’m just telling you not to expect to make reliever trades midseason.

By the way, streaming starters will inflate your ratios and won’t make a dent into your W and K deficit. You’d have to stick to all RP all year

2. A Hill O' Beans says:

I’m still finishing this read Rudy, it’s excellent once again.

While I remember though, I noticed a few spots where you referenced AB instead of IP. I think you’ve fixed most now, but one that’s left is in the first “Conclusions” point:

“Maximizing a team’s ABs is the #1 most effective way to improve your fantasy team’s pitching success

Somehow I doubt that’s the case, lol.

• A Hill O' Beans says:

@A Hill O’ Beans:
“On days where several teams are off, you use those two spots for hitters. If all of your hitters are active, you can use both for relief pitchers.”

This is an excellent strategy I’ve found. In a competitive league you really need to be using every roster spot to the fullest every day. This generally means no bench bats just sitting there on days when your starter bats are all playing, and as many of your P slots being used by pitchers that are starting that day, or relievers that could be pitching that day.

It is a lot of work to keep up sometimes though.

Another great post Rudy. The RCL leagues really do reveal a lot when you look deep enough into the statistics. Thanks.

• @A Hill O’ Beans: Thanks. Fixed that typo. And, yeah, it can be a lot of work but I feel like if you’re going to play in a daily roster change league, best to go all out :)

3. simply fred says:

Rudy, this really helps shape how to run a team for RCL. Thank you!

Had arrived at the same destination re: how to handle the bench…nice to have the validation!!

• simply fred says:

@Rudy Gamble: More strategy help…

Would you fill a UT slot with a 3B to ‘have a backup to a weak position’, or…
fill with a 1B, which would likely be more stable…? (I am leaning to have the UT as solid as possible and let the 3B sink/swim…)

• I’d consider UT a player you are likely not going to be keeping for long. I’d just get a hitter with upside and give him a short leash.

• simply fred says:

@Rudy Gamble: UT…unleashed!

4. The Fuzz says:

Awesome work…..been maximizing IP with relievers for years without any concrete proof that it had much of an effect. Good to know it definitely does, and the other article definitely will push me to try to do the same for hitting as well!

5. The Dude says:

I realize this is all based on RCL (ESPN) standard leagues, but since I mainly play at Yahoo with their IP cap and Games Played cap (for hitters) system, it seems that it nullifies the bulk of your strategies.

Like you said, in such a league, reaching your innings cap is a cost of business, if you don’t you’re just hindering yourself (with some very mild exceptions for tight ERA/WHIP battles down the stretch). This makes me think that the quality you get from your SP (and RP) is more much more important than the quantity of IP, so investing more in SP seems like a good strategy.

Same thing with Games Played for hitters. The only position that becomes difficult to max out is catcher and I’m not sure how much better a team does with 100% Catcher games played vs the avg team (typically around 80% games played), but I wouldn’t expect the difference to be all that much (probably not enough to justify carrying two catchers, or streaming them all the time).

Does this analysis make sense?

• jal179 says:

@The Dude:

Bang on in regards to the Yahoo caps.

If no likey, join head to head.

• If the IP cap is reached by nearly all teams, there is no real advantage. Maxing RP innings as part of that is generally better than a ton of SP since it should perform better in everything vs wins. But it all comes down to quality.

For hitters, it depend on the game caps. But assuming they are near 162 then it is likely the only opportunity is with catchers. Best may to max it out is to stream catchers throughout the year playing matchups and occasionally sticking with the hot hand.

• costaricanchata says:

@The Dude:

i play in yahoo 14-teamers
and your analysis is pretty spot on .

as an aside ,
i waiver wired castro (c) after the ASB
and found that , as a bench hitter ,
he helped me with my games played for catcher
and was also useful at util .
(don’t tell Grey) .

• The Dude says:

@costaricanchata: Seriously, don’t tell Grey, but I’ve done this in the past too. I’m just never sure how much it pays off because of those 0-4 days that seem so common when I try to stream a catcher.

Another trick which I wonder how much statistical significance it has is to overload your IP on the day you exceed your max. Basically, on the day you go over your IP limit all of your innings that day count even if you go over the IP max. For instance, if your cap is 1400 IP, and you are at 1393, you can throw out a starter in every slot of your lineup which might result in 53 IP on the day and a total of 1446 IP for the season. ALL of those innings count, allowing you to eek out a couple of extra K’s and W’s, but there’s obviously risk with your ERA/WHIP.

The same can be done for hitters, but it’s not nearly as effective. Essentially it’s only useful at the OF position. The OF games played max is 162 x the number of OF slots, so if you have 3 your max is 486. When you get to 485 you can start 3 OF the next day and end up with 488 total. This isn’t likely to win your league for you, but in certain circumstances I can see it helping.

• costaricanchata says:

@The Dude:

for sure , i load up on SP’s for that last day .
but , ” ALL of those innings count, allowing you to eek out a couple of extra K’s and W’s, but there’s obviously risk with your ERA/WHIP.” , your concern here doesn’t bother me so much as my teams all have solid SP’s (like kershaw or darvish , or both) … again don’t tell Grey … but i don’t think he plays in keeper’s much .
at that point in the season , the risk to ERA and WHIP is minimal ,
but find i can gain a couple of category points in K’s … or protect my lead .
to do so , i start the week before (maybe 5 days) and jettison my non-keeper hitters and pick up as many waiver wire starters as i can … before anyone else does … that are schedule to start on that day .
of course , if you’re cutting it close , you have to keep an eye on your RP’s to make sure they don’t surpass your IP limit .

6. s.sonics says:

@Rudy Is there calculations from the RCL’s that show which players were on the championship teams? For example Cano was on 55% of the title teams and Braun and Cargo were on 2% of the winning teams? I am trying to determine if Cargo is the Ewing of fantasy baseball. Never be part of a title team.

7. Beastman says:

Thanks for the in-depth analysis Rudy. Definitely looking to maximize IPs in my leagues.

More than anything else I read, your math-heavy posts make me feel like an idiot while simultaneously making me feel smarter.

• That’s what I aim for. Once you think you are as smart or smarter than me, I lose my prestige!

8. Cougs says:

Any insight in a league that caps transactions (adds, not drops)for the entire year at 30?

• In that format, maxing AB/IP still important but u clearly can’t churn FA like many do (including me) in RCL.

Some tips:
1) On draft day, think solid bats and deep arms. SP and closers most inportant but also premium middle relievers like Cody Allen, Rex Brothers, and Tyler Clippard are worth drafting in later rounds over scrubby 5th/6th OF types.

2) Try to draft a 1B/OF for CI or UTIL. Provides more flexibility if injuries strike.

3) Be warier of early round picks with injury reps. If you do draft one, back them up!

9. pasha says:

love the statistical insight here, rudy. are you an spss or sas guy? wanted to do stuff like this myself but oh, to find the time and place the effort. thanks for these data.

• Thanks. Nope, I use Excel and SQL. The Excel Data Analysis add-on is really useful.

10. Blue says:

And this is why a forecast model that does not primarily revolve around predicting playing time is utterly useless. Quantity has a quality all its own.

• yes, that’s why i focus specifically on playing time estimates as part of my pre-season work and partner with steamer to handle the projections part.

11. Seano says:

Doing a review of the past 4 seasons of my 12 team AL only standard Roto 5×5; the maximizing ABs stands up well but the IP not so much. I’m thinking the lack of depth in a single league format increases the value of quality over quantity.

• @Seano: Yes, i think a lot of experts + experienced single-league players will tell you that coming out of the draft with the most ABs is a huge priority. grey and i both shy away from massive overpays on ‘stars’ to avoid having to put a bunch of Bernie’s (as in Weekend at not Williams) in the starting lineup.

For IP, it does vary but I do prioritize building a deep pitching staff at the draft. The quality of free agent SPs can be dreadful.

12. jake says:

Thanks Rudy for another awesome post.

I think maximizing innings seems as simple as streaming starters and having a solid bullpen of 4 or 5 rp.

Im having more trouble at maximizing at bats. I play in leagues with deeper (5-6) benches. Which would you say would be the most effective at maximizing abs? (Actually a follow up post with data behind these strategies may be of interest)
1.carrying 2 catchers to cover last minute scratches
2. Targeting and perhaps paying for guys like zobrist or carpenter with multi position eligibility
3.planning ahead for those off days without a full slate
4. Just having a couple extra of/1b to make sure the highest return spots are full

Thanks!

• @jake: Thanks. I wouldn’t pay extra for multi-position guys but I’d use it as a tiebreaker between two similar guys or as a reason to pick earlier vs. later in a position (e.g., i like Swisher in the 14th round and LaRoche in the 16th round…take Swisher because he’s 1B/OF). Since I like punting catcher, i think targeting two catchers likely to play 100+ games is a solid idea. If someone like Yadier or Wieters come at a discount, could be worth it.

13. Switters says: