Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Baseball Experiments: What is a Points League?

Last week I ate goat intestine. I also ate a generous cut of African warthog. It was just an experiment; trying something new.

In that same spirit of trying something new, I encourage you to give a look at fantasy baseball points leagues. While many fantasy owners have branched out beyond roto scoring, there are many who haven’t and a points league might be a good way for you to stretch your legs a bit.

What is a points league?

Simply, players in points leagues get points for homers, saves, etc. and these add to your team’s running total. The team with the most total points wins. This is different from roto leagues where you have categories for positive outcomes like homers and RBI.

But to understand points leagues on a deeper level, it’s important to grasp a sense of the saber concept of linear weights.

Linear what?

Over thousands and thousands of real life baseball games we know how many runs on average are scored in various states. Is there a runner on second and the batter hits a home run? That’s obviously two runs. Are the bases loaded with no outs? Chances are good that you are looking at a ton of runs scored! Two outs and the bases are empty? It’s a good time to go get some nachos.

With decades worth of play-by-play data baseball fans can actually look at any hitting situation and find out the average run expectancy in that situation. This is a BIG deal as it allows us to measure the relative importance of dozens of hitting outcomes like walks and singles.

 I still don’t get it.

Let’s use some real numbers and players to illustrate the concept.

Mike Trout leads off the inning with a single. We know from tracking thousands of baseball games that when a batter leads off the inning with a single that a run scores about half the time, or .5. But since .5 isn’t an even number, we’ll multiply it by 10 and move that decimal to the right to make it a 5. So Mike Trout will get 5 points for that single in points league.

Mike Trout steals second, putting him on 2nd and bringing his chance of scoring up considerably. So the points league will give him 3 points for that steals.

There is maybe a batter or two that strikes out. Since you only get 27 outs total, every one is precious. A points league is -1 for every out made.

It doesn’t matter though because Josh Hamilton or Albert Pujols smacks a homer, scoring himself and Trout! Over thousands of baseball games we know that a homer scores 1.4 runs on average. Again, we’re going to turn that fraction into the whole number of 14. The batter gets 5 for the single and 9 for the homer, bringing it to 14 (to represent the 1.4 runs).

OK, I have the basics.

Different points leagues might approach it a little differently, but you get the basics of scoring. Even better you get the concept of linear weights, which is what the scoring is based on.

We’re just starting a Crackerjack Points League this season via ESPN. Here is the way we are handling the points:

Batting
Hits (H) 5
Doubles (2B) 3
Triples (3B) 5
Walks (BB) 3
Home Runs (HR) 9
Stolen Bases (SB) 3
Out (Out) -1

Pitching
Innings Pitched (IP) 6
Saves (SV) 5
Holds (HD) 4
Strikeouts (K) 2
Hits Allowed (H) -3
Walks Issued (BB) -2
Home Runs Allowed (HR) -12

Points Leagues can get a little pushback because stats that are on the back of a baseball card aren’t always used. Some fantasy baseball players can balk at not using Runs, RBI, or AVG because they grew up with it.

But critics of the RBI highlight the fact that it’s situational anyway. Why not measure the actual situation involved? Look at it this way: I go 0-for-3 with 3 RBI groundouts. You go 3-for-3 with 3 base empty triples. Who hit better?

Old schoolers vs. new schoolers can argue that for decades, but linear weights is a step in trying to measure the true outcomes more effectively. Is it perfect? Of course not. But it’s certainly worth a look.

Give points leagues a try.

I mentioned that we’re starting a Crackerjack Points League. All the Crackerjack writers are playing, but we’re holding a few slots open for readers.

We’re intentionally keeping it low-key and casual as we want it to be a positive experience. But many of the owners are fantasy baseball experts, meaning it’s an excellent chance to learn and grow. When will you get another chance to play against great competition, but in a casual environment?

Give it a shot. It’s an experiment; try something new. First come, first serve. Contact me for an invitation, leave your email in the comments, or interact via Twitter.

Tags: Mike Trout Points League

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