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Base Advances
Fantasy Strategy Ideas from the Guru

What's the Point?
June 2, 1999

Sometimes a picture can help clarify mathematical relationships. Occasionally I like to review a graph which plots Smallworld price vs. productivity. For productivity, I prefer to use Smallworld points per eligible game (SWP/EG), which simply divides the total points for a player by the number of games he was active on a major league roster. This measure puts everyone on a level playing field - pitchers vs. hitters, platoons players vs. regulars, etc.

The chart below shows the scatterplot as of May 31st. I've included the top 100 pitchers (ranked by total points) and the top 200 hitters. The color scheme differs for pitchers vs. hitters.

Smallworld Price vs. Productivity
Price vs. SWP/EG as of 5/31/99

So what's this show?

  • The best pitchers produce significantly more points per eligible game than the best hitters. Duhhhh!

  • For players with equivalent productivity, pitchers tend to be cheaper than hitters. Note the significant number of pitchers which rise above the cluster of hitters.

  • If you plotted a line along the top edge of the hitting point cluster, it would slope upward at roughly the rate of 2 SWP/EG for each additional $1 million. And if you extended this line to the right, it would roughly follow the upper edge of the pitching points. You might think of this line as the "efficient frontier". Players which fall on or above this line tend to be the cheapest per unit of productivity.

  • If we were to try to plot a separate "efficient frontier" line just for pitchers, it would seem to be less well defined, but it would also have a flatter slope.
One question that I've been asked quite a bit is whether it is better to spend proportionately more on pitchers or hitters. Assuming you have limited funds, I think the chart suggests that some of the cheaper pitchers offer tremendous value relative to comparably priced hitters. If you can get several of the pitchers in the upper left, you should still have plenty left over to pay for some decent hitting. And the marginal gain in pitching productivity looks to be pretty expensive. Although the best fitting efficient frontier line for the entire plot indicates a pickup of about 2 SWP/EG per $million, a comparable line for pitchers only would increase at only about one-half that rate.

Of course, this analysis assumes that rosters are static, and ignores strategies such as using trades to pick up extra pitching starts. The best performing teams will need to use a variety of strategies to achieve optimal results. However, it does seem like you ought to find some room on your roster for some cheap pitching.

RotoGuru is produced by Dave Hall (a.k.a. the Guru), an avid fantasy sports player. He is not employed by any of the fantasy sports games discussed within this site, and all opinions expressed are solely his own. Questions or comments are welcome, and should be emailed to Guru<>.

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