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The Case for Fantasy Baseball Points Leagues
Zac Beck writes why you should consider playing in a fantasy baseball points league.
Rotisserie scoring is the most popular format for fantasy baseball on any platform. It’s not particularly close. You won’t find any other format on the biggest contest sites. Those sites don’t know that dozens of us play in points leagues, exclusively… dozens!
We’re not wrong for doing so, either. There are several legitimate benefits points leagues present that make it an attractive option for your dynasty start-ups. If you’re considering dynasty for the first time or just looking for a way to liven up your experience, consider a points league.
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Points formats as a growth lever for the game
Fantasy football is a much more popular game. I’m not naive enough to think it’s because it’s better, a large part of it is that the sport is more popular as a whole, but it does offer fewer barriers to entry. Fantasy football is less time-intensive, league sizes are typically smaller (10-12 teams), and it’s easy to understand. If a player I roster does something on the gridiron, there’s an intuitive value associated with it.
Rotisserie can be confusing to newcomers. I can sense the eye rolls from managers who have been playing roto for years. Who cares if it’s a more challenging format to understand? Shouldn’t we be interested in giving good managers an advantage and creating a skill gap? Yes, we should. We don’t have to sacrifice approachability to do so.
Points leagues feel more familiar to managers coming over from football. Every action on the diamond represents a point total. Positive actions result in positive contributions to your weekly total, and negatives are penalized. If we want to grow the total player base for our beloved game, points formats are a fantastic lever. Bringing players over from football, getting them invested in points redraft, and eventually experimenting in more high-stakes rotisserie competitions is a viable pipeline.
Points formats Encourage Variety in Profile Viability
Create the league of your dreams. Tinker with scoring settings at your leisure. If I wanted to make home runs worth half a point and steals worth a hundred, I could – and that league would heavily favor players with little-to-no thump and tremendous speed. The point (get it?): Points formats are flexible. You aren’t confined to the traditional turnkey categories and can mold your fantasy league to most accurately reflect the product on the field. Any way you cut it, that’s a good thing.
You can choose what’s valuable and what isn’t – literally. The power to revive castaway player archetypes is in your hands and often results in intriguing league dynamics. Consider leveraging this freedom to create positional parity and reduce the noise from stats that don’t impact the game's outcome on the field.
The downside of added control is obvious – sometimes, you end up in a league where the scoring is out of whack. Pitching tends to dominate the format, but it doesn’t have to be the case. You’ll need a good commissioner with an open mind and participation from league mates as you sort out your settings. When it’s done well, there’s nothing better.
For the super-nerds out there (take this as a compliment), try an Ottoneu league. The scoring is aligned with the wOBA coefficients and is designed specifically to mimic the impact of each play on the team’s win probability.
Points Formats Bring the Sunday night Rush
The regular season in MLB is a marathon. Season-long rotisserie formats embody this perfectly. You can make adjustments that pay off throughout 162 ballgames. Many of your decisions are made with the longer view and your standing in any given category in mind.
But what if it were less of a marathon and more of a couple of dozen sprints? Head-to-head points leagues bring back the intrigue of being down (or up, don’t read into the fact that my mind went straight to facing a deficit) on Sunday night and knowing exactly what you need to happen to take down your opponent for the week.
Sure, this can be replicated in H2H category leagues, but knowing you’re down, say, 15 points and need a solid start from Logan T. Allen and a couple of base hits from Steven Kwan is a totally different experience. It dulls the monotony of a long season and keeps players engaged for the long haul.
You can also implement median scoring, where managers have two weekly matchups: against their opponent and against the league median score. It removes some of the variance and luck of head-to-head matchups. If the second-highest scoring team of the week happens to play the number-one scoring squad, they still notch a 1-1 record for the week.
Points leagues are Easily Projectable
It turns out that when there’s a point value associated with every event on the field, it’s a little easier to prognosticate how a player will perform in your league. Preparation is king in any fantasy baseball format and that rings especially true in points leagues.
Before your start-up draft or season begins, every manager should be running projections through their league’s scoring settings. This is a step that isn’t easily replicable in roto; I have a projection, but how do I know how I stack up relative to other teams? What is the value of an incremental stolen base or home run? What should I be willing to sacrifice to make up ground in other categories? Is there a positional archetype that is inherently undervalued?
Tough questions all around. They aren’t as much of a mystery in points formats. If you export the entire player base from your platform of choice and apply your league’s scoring settings to their projected figures, it’s easy to determine what the marginal cost of an additional stat is. It’s even easier to carve out positional observations by simple pattern recognition and arbitrage that into value. Many points players leverage rotisserie-focused rankings when making team decisions and frequently lose on the margins.
The number of resources available for points leagues is also scanter – most rankings, articles, podcasts, and pundit points-of-view are rotisserie-focused. I’m working to change that every day at the Dynasty Dugout! Still, managers in points formats that go the extra mile with preparation separate themselves from the pack demonstrably.
None of this is to say you shouldn’t try a rotisserie league. They’re popular for a reason. Points leagues just happen to also be viable, and for reasons most don’t think about. They’re excellent for capturing a new player base and keeping them around for the thrill of a head-to-head matchup. They’re malleable enough to create a league entirely unlike any other and perfectly suited for how you enjoy the game of baseball. They can grant viability to players overlooked and undervalued in roto.
The world is your proverbial oyster and you get out of it what you put in. That’s the beauty of points leagues.