When discussing fantasy baseball. An often neglected-but-entertaining format is the points league. These exist in both cumulative season-long and weekly head-to-head formats.
While existential debates about scoring categories and their true depiction of player worth are endless, points leagues arguably get closest to the objective of sabermetrics. Points leagues attempt to define a player’s contribution (or detraction) in greater depth. For example, we know a triple is more valuable than a single, and these leagues acknowledge that.
Fundamentals are the same, but there are some unique strategies associated with points leagues. We want to ensure you’re acquainted with these aspects before your draft. On behalf of RotoBaller, here is the fantasy baseball 2019 Points League Primer.Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off. Get access to our exclusive articles, rankings, projections, prospects coverage, 15 in-season lineup tools, daily expert DFS research, powerful Research Station, Lineup Optimizer and much more! Sign Up Now!
How to Win Your Points League
There is a high degree of overlap with standard leagues, but the below table illustrates an overview of this scoring system. We’ll discuss four primary difference that could alter a manager’s strategy on draft day and during the season.
Note scoring weights and categories differ by league. Some leagues overweight wins or underemphasize saves. Others might have additional categories like quality starts or HRs allowed. Since this is a basic outline, we’ll operate under our assumptions, but remember to check the settings of your particular league.
1) Strikeouts and Walks Matter
Hitting-wise, in common leagues, strikeouts are a non-event and hitters only receive indirect credit for a walk if he tallies an RBI or eventually scores. Points leagues instantly gratify hitters for getting on base, the essence of offense. Likewise, since a hitter is wholly responsible for striking out, he is punished.
A key metric in points leagues is BB/K. Out of 140 qualified hitters in 2018, the median BB/K was 0.45. Jose Ramirez was an elite outlier at 1.33, and the poorest was Dee Gordon at 0.11. Even though Aaron Hicks struck out at a 19.1% clip last season, his 15.5% walk rate gave him the 10th-best 0.81 BB/K. Same story with Matt Carpenter. The 23.3% K-rate appears high, but considering his walk tendencies (15.1%), a 0.65 BB/K becomes much more palatable. On the flipside, Javier Baez was a revelation in standard leagues last year. But despite the breakout season, he suffered massive value destruction in points leagues with 167 strikeouts and just 37 walks. Standard league players will accept Baez’s weak on-base abilities as long as he cranks 34 homers again, but the trade-off isn’t as attractive when strikeouts are explicitly taxed.
Earning walks skews a player’s value positively. Carlos Santana, Joey Votto, and Andrew McCutchen were walk-friendly players that saw a spike in their points league value despite relatively disappointing seasons. By targeting a BB/K around 0.5, owners should enjoy a positive benefit from drafting patient hitters.
Since there is a positive relationship between strikeouts and slugging, managers should also analyze the strikeout in exchange for amassing points via power.
2) Slugging is More Important than Average
An important consideration in points leagues is a player’s slugging ability. Instead of treating all hits equally as AVG does, netting points for total bases rewards hitting for power.
Mookie Betts hit 47 doubles and five triples in 2018. These contributions went ignored in standard leagues. Because of his high average and HR production, Betts’ value in points leagues was comparable to his rank in standard ones. Meanwhile, Xander Bogaerts (48 doubles+triples), Freddie Freeman (48) and Anthony Rendon (46) were all more relevant from a total bases standpoint. Even replacement-level guys like Marcus Semien and Yolmer Sanchez received bumps in relevance from their non-HR slugging.
Incorporating walks, slugging and BB/K complements AVG and HR, painting a better picture of a player’s true worth. Since wOBA isn’t a fantasy stat (yet), points leagues get us close to that representation.
3) Pitching Stamina Helps, Losses Hurt
Pitcher durability is a key ingredient to strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. More innings pitched means increased chances to rack up Ks and achieve a steady state in ratios. In points leagues, rate stats are converted into counting stats by penalizing earned runs and walks. Pitchers also receive points for each inning recorded. It’s vital to consider IP alongside standard measurements like K/9, especially when innings limits are concerned
The theme rings true for Jose Berrios and Rick Porcello, whose strikeout prowess and ability to pile on innings offset frustrating ratios. Despite a disappointing 3.74 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and pedestrian K/9 for Dallas Keuchel in 2018, his seventh-best 204 2/3 IP buoyed his value in points leagues. While Kyle Gibson and Reynaldo Lopez won’t dominate fantasy headlines, their durability made them relatively more valuable in points leagues. Even James Shields with his ugly 4.53 ERA held some worth simply due to his 204 2/3 IP.
Losses are also significantly detrimental. In standard leagues, you either win or you don’t. In points leagues, a pitcher’s outcome is critical even while evaluating his individual ability. Players like Tanner Roark and Cole Hamels suffered from losses despite serviceable seasons last year. Getting tagged with losses can negate otherwise strong starts by pitchers and is a much more meaningful swing factor than just wins.
4) Scoring is Category-Agnostic
Fantasy managers are trained to draft a balanced team to address our 5x5 needs. In points leagues, that is irrelevant. A double is worth as much as a steal, and six strikeouts count the same as a home run. Buck the traditional mentality, take stats where you can find them.
Points leagues have the unique characteristic of allowing managers to evaluate players on their overall body of work as opposed to select niche areas. A simple comparison covers doubles and stolen bases. In 2018, there were 8,264 doubles hit and 2,474 steals in the majors. In standard leagues, owners are fighting for share in a stolen base commodity that is getting scarcer. In points leagues, the argument is to just ignore steals and accumulate stats where there is excess supply like doubles and homers. There’s no harm in rostering a squad of sloths.
Points leagues show considerable overlap with standard leagues. It’s still just baseball. But, they better-represent the evolving appreciation of advanced statistics. It creates depth in a player’s profile (i.e. walks, triples, innings pitched) and more closely embodies the real value of that player on the diamond. Customization is another perk of points leagues. Categories and their corresponding weights are discretionary, so it gives leagues more flexibility in determining which stats they value.
In our experience, points leagues are more challenging and require extra strategy, but hopefully, that’s why we all play the game in the first place!