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Break the League: Yahoo Points League Ranker

A hot mess...Oh, I'm sorry. Didn't someone just ask how I would describe Yahoo point leagues in three words or less? No? Oh. Well for the record, if anyone ever wants to know how I would describe Yahoo point leagues in three words or less, my official answer is, "a hot mess". The system was already flawed entering 2020, with scoring and roster restrictions that made properly valuing players a confusing, and likely ignored process. But then Yahoo upped the ante in 2020 and said, "Please briefly bear my yeast-fermented beverage that's flavored with malt and hops...Watch this".

If you've been reading along at home, you probably think I'll now say something about trust. Well, no swerve. Point league players (and particularly new ones) need to be able to trust their chosen provider of game and content. To that end, gamemakers should make sure players understand how the game is played and should announce any systemic changes to the game in a loud, clear voice. Instead, Yahoo shook their game up in a boggle box of synergy, trying to fix a problem they didn't understand. In the end, they succeeded only in making things more confusing for users. Three words: hot mess express. That's a freebie, from me to you. Let's go.

This article will present RotoBaller's Yahoo Points League Ranker Tool, which is designed to give Yahoo Points League players a leg up on their competition. To read a general overview of our Points League Ranker tool, and the methodology behind it, check out this intro article we just published. You can read various analysis on fantasy baseball points leagues including undervalued / overvalued players and draft targets / avoids. And you can of course read the rest of this Point League Ranker series as well covering CBS, Fantrax and ESPN platforms.

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Yahoo, Serious?

Everything starts with the scoring system, the backbone of any points league. Consequentially, I've spent a considerable amount of time looking at all of the settings pages that show how each platform plays. And then one day I went to Yahoo and everything was different. Everything was totally new and by no small margin. Jesus, Cletus...Color me confused.

Actually, color me panicked. Had I somehow been going to the wrong page over and over again, basing my calculations on the wrong values? They were just there, I'd seen 'em! But now they weren't! Oh, my god...Do I see dead pages? It was touch-and-go for a minute but luckily before I went full- Haley Joel, I remembered that the internet contained mysterious "cached web pages". If I could figure out how to find them, could I prove I wasn't crazy?

Unfortunately, I barely know how to use the internet. Fortunately, however, I've seen parts of "Swordfish" about a thousand times on cable over the past decade, so I knew exactly what to do. So I chugged eight Red Bulls, bumped the techno up to 11... and googled "finding cached webpages". I don't know if it was because I was seeing the internet like Neo in "The Matrix" or if it was just the dangerous levels of taurine in my bloodstream but I quickly found the old settings page I'd been using before. They'd been changed two days prior, which meant I wasn't crazy! Huzzah!

At the time I wasn't concerned about why they had suddenly changed the settings, only the work I needed to redo in order to reflect the new scoring. The hitter scoring looked heavy at first glance but I reserved judgment because I knew better than to guess at values without running all of the numbers first. Besides, there were decimals! Surely that meant mathematical thought and care had been put into assigning these values, right? But then I ran the numbers...While I cannot speak to the thought and care put into these changes, I'm quite sure math wasn't invited to the party.

Here were the top-25 point scorers in 2019, along with how they would've scored under 2020's new rules:

Gerrit Cole 935 1077 1 88
Justin Verlander 896 1059 2 95
Ronald Acuna Jr. 802 1652 3 2
Cody Bellinger 799 1679 4 1
Shane Bieber 768 856 5 160
Peter Alonso 764 1575 6 5
Stephen Strasburg 763 843 7 169
Rafael Devers 749 1566 8 9
Alex Bregman 745 1651 9 3
Jacob deGrom 742 872 10 151
Freddie Freeman 739 1564 11 10
Lance Lynn 738 775 12 189
Anthony Rendon 736 1570 13 7
Christian Yelich 733 1582 14 4
Jorge Soler 724 1502 15 14
Nolan Arenado 723 1494 16 16
Charlie Morton 722 795 17 185
Mike Trout 721 1568 18 8
Trevor Bauer 721 721 19 214
Patrick Corbin 712 774 20 190
Xander Bogaerts 706 1538 21 12
Juan Soto 694 1529 22 13
Marcus Semien 692 1574 23 6
Bryce Harper 686 1498 24 15
Max Scherzer 685 769 25 192


Yahoo Brings the Juiced Ball to Fantasy

Whoa. Like Dominic Torretto running from the law, Yahoo injected straight NOS into their points system, with 99% mainlined into hitting.

OLD 0.5 0.5 0.5 4.5 2 2 2 0 0
NEW 2.6 5.2 7.8 10.4 1.9 1.9 4.2 2.6 2.6
OLD 1 5 5 2 0 -0.5 0 0 0
NEW 3 4 4 2 0 -2 -0.9 -0.9 -0.9

Yahoo already had a goofy system - with singles, doubles, and triples carrying equal value but home runs being worth 10x more - but this was something else entirely. And thy name was synergy. In an effort to "add more value to batters"  they'd simply swapped in the scoring from their daily fantasy game, just as they had for football and basketball in the previous year. Later, we'll get to whether or not they succeeded in actually adding value but they certainly succeeded in adding points to batters. Gerrit Cole and Bryan Reynolds both would've scored 1077 points in 2019; Shane Bieber and Willson Contreras would've finished with 856 points. If you think that's gonna buff right out, then you're still nothing but a buster, Brian.

For a moment, let's put a pin in the scoring changes and talk about the other pillar holding up a player's value. There are really only two components that control a player's value in a given points system. What categories are scored and how rosters are required to be constructed. The confusing scoring changes may be new but Yahoo has been jerking player values around via their roster sizes since jump street.


The Black Sheep of Rosters

With no middle-infielder or corner-infielder, only three outfielders and two "reliever" slots, Yahoo's default roster settings are certainly unique in comparison to the other platforms. But unique doesn't always mean good.

Default Roster Size: - 1B - 2B - 3B - SS - OF (3) -UT (2) - SP (2) - RP (2) - P (4)

While most will give consideration to how players can score points, not as many consider the roster restrictions of their platform. Head on over here for a more thorough explanation but roster size must be accounted for so replacement levels can be set.  Comparing 12-team leagues in ESPN to Yahoo, the latter only uses three outfielders with no middle infield or corner infield slot but two UT spots. That translates to Yahoo players requiring 24 fewer starting outfielders, 12 fewer corner infielders, 12 fewer middle infielders, and 12 more utility players. That's 36 fewer starters total; 36 players that would be starters in ESPN but sit on benches or the waiver-wire in Yahoo.

And then there's the pitching. Yahoo has two SP slots, two RP slots, and four P slots, unlike ESPN, Fantrax, and NFBC, which have nine generic slots into which any pitcher can be placed. The fly in the ointment is that pitchers don't actually have to pitch in the role that their slot demands, they only have to be eligible in it. Being able to use a starter in an RP slot isn't much of an advantage in roto because you're still not going to get the category (saves) that you're generally looking for your RP slot to get. But you don't hunt categories in points, only total player performance. Which is how this happens...May I present to you, the projected number-one reliever in 2020 according to Nick Mariano's premium rankings, Carlos Carrasco!

In fact, three of the four most-valuable "relievers" are starters, with Carrasco and Josh Hader being joined by Kenta Maeda and Kyle Gibson. Because of course they are! Points scored are points scored, whether they come from saves or innings pitched and starters will pile up more points merely through attrition. Maeda could pitch six average innings in a win and score over double the points of Josh Hader getting a clean save with three strikeouts. It's all well and good to have separate SP and RP starting slots (in fact, I prefer it) but only if players used in SP/RP slots can only get points if they pitch in that role. Because if your system makes Kyle Gibson the fourth-most valuable reliever, your system is, well, not ideally constructed, to put it nicely. Period.

So it wasn't just the scoring system that made player values so topsy-turvy in the previous years, it was also their antiquated roster settings. But let's get back to those mammoth point totals. If you've read my previous introductory articles you're probably wondering why I've only talked about total points scored. But what about points-above-replacement, Nick? Why haven't you talked about the changes in PAR and how players are now valued in the new system? Maybe you're wrong and Yahoo is running the long game, with the changes in scoring changing the PARs in such a way as to make all value more equitable. They're playing 3-D chess, while you stumble through checkers. Maybe Christian Bale has had an identical twin the entire time!


The Prestige

So, what did the changes in scoring do to player's true values? Did Yahoo accomplish their goal of balancing scoring as to make batters more valuable? Umm, yes? Kind of? No? They certainly did at the top of the food chain with the number of pitchers in the top-25 most-valuable players dropping from 13 players to 4. If you want a system where Marcus Semien, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Santana, Yasmani Grandal, and Jorge Soler are all more valuable than #23 Jacob deGrom than this is the system for you! The deeper we go down the list, the weirder (ie: confusing) things become, not just with how the balance of hitters and pitchers stratifies in different sections of the top-300 but also with how wildly many individual players (both hitter and pitchers) had their values change. Highlights include:

Top-100 (38 pitchers under old scoring, 31 under new scoring)

Biggest Risers in Dollar-Value: Yasmani Grandal (#73 to #19), Whit Merrifield (#82 to #38),  Rhys Hoskins (#106 to #47), Anthony Rizzo (#84 to #55), Adam Eaton (#172 to #92)

Biggest Fallers in Dollar-Value: Pitchers. That may seem glib but it was the top tiers of pitchers that took a near across-the-board drop in value, even while many lesser pitchers increased in value. Of the 38 pitchers who were in the top-100 of overall value, all but eight dropped over 20 spots.  And it's not just how many changed, it's who and how. Walker Buehler dropped from #36 to #57 but was also less valuable than Trevor Bauer and only barely better than Aaron Nola, Sonny Gray, and Eduardo Rodriguez.

Top-200 (86 pitchers under old scoring, 84 under new scoring)

Biggest Risers: Mike Soroka (#126 to #102), Victor Robles (#154 to #104), Amed Rosario (#158 to #115), Chris Paddack (#160 to #127), Andrew Benintendi (#226 to #149), Alex Gordon (#200 to #159), Joey Votto (#267 to #182), David Fletcher (#263 to #193)

Biggest Fallers: Max Fried (#75 to #108), Rougned Odor (#93 to #132), Joc Pederson (#120 to #145), Edwin Encarnacion (#111 to #156), Franmil Reyes (#131 to #160), Miguel Sano (#129 to #189)

Top 300 (126 pitchers under old scoring, 146 under new scoring)

Biggest Risers: Lorenzo Cain (#261 to #206), Zach Davies (#248 to #211), Emilio Pagan (#258 to #212), Adam Frazier (#265 to #214), Brett Anderson (#245 to #216), Frankie Montas (#307 to #241), Zach Plesac (#342 to #272)

Biggest Fallers: Eloy Jimenez (#155 to #210), Giovanny Urshela (#174 to #216), Hunter Renfroe #189 to #251), Yordan Alvarez (#206 to #251), Adalberto Mondesi (#216 to #270), Jurickson Profar (#216 to #266)

Confused about how exactly values have changed and how it should affect your play going forward? You should be.


Who Cares? It's Just Defaults

Just as with ESPN, CBS, and Fantrax, default settings can be changed, so what's the big deal? This is a game philosophy I find particularly irksome. Yes, default settings can be changed. No, most casual players won't and new points players certainly won't. In our world, default settings equal trust, especially in regards to things that a user may be new to or may not understand enough to change. With our technology-driven society, how often are people recommended to use default settings unless they know what they're doing enough to change them? Are users (both new and old) really going to go in and start fiddling around with the point settings? No, I don't think they will. Most of these new players only want to play a game and will assume that the system set up by the platform is the one that works the best.

In order to grow the game, users should be able to walk into a game that is easy for them to pick up and understand. But on Yahoo, they walk into a system whose confusing values will almost necessarily turn them from new players into ex-players.


Solving the Yahoo Points Puzzle

Good luck? But in all seriousness, you can grouse all you want about Kyle Gibson, "elite reliever", but the system is what the system is. And given that we're dealing with a company that would apparently need to rewrite the fabric of time in order to make Shohei Ohtani into one player, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for any changes that make the game a more enjoyable fantasy experience. The system is what the system is and we can only try to break the league that we're in. With that in mind, let's talk about how I'd attack a Yahoo draft.

Pocket Aces Are a Go

Depending on the draft, I'm often more inclined to zag against the traditional strategy of loading up on top pitching in points leagues. I've been even more so inclined this season as pitcher values seem overinflated across all formats. But the scoring changes in Yahoo have made elite pitching the scarcest of resources and I'd be trying to hoard early.

According to ATC projections, the top-three pitchers are Cole ($39.9), deGrom ($35.6), and Scherzer ($32.9). After that, we have Buehler and Bieber at around $27 before tumbling down to #15 Blake Snell sitting at $20. Regardless of my slot, my queue goes Trout (at an overwhelming $49.9), Cole, and deGrom. Done-zo. If they're all gone then I'll have decisions to make. But regardless of who I get first, I'll be taking someone out of Scherzer, Buehler, or Flaherty with my second pick.

Pile Up Hitting

And then pile up some more. Don't be fooled by how many points are scored by batters now because the ones that are actually valuable start drying up fast. I may take starters with my first two (and possibly three) picks but then I'm slamming hitting until after pick-100. I'll let my opponents take Noah Syndergaard (70 ADP, $18.5 value) while I scoop Matt Olson (71 ADP, $22.7 value). They can have Jose Berrios (80 ADP, $18.5 value), I'll take Marcus Semien (81 ADP, $21.7 value).

Monopolize "Elite Relievers" and "Average Starters"

Carlos Carrasco, Julio Urias, and Kenta Maeda are going to be RP monsters. Go get 'em. Even besides those RP cheat-codes, values abound after the first 100 picks. Why would I want Chris Paddack (49 ADP, $16.8 value) when I could have Zack Wheeler (112 ADP, $16.6 value)? Or Tyler Glasnow (73 ADP, $12.9 value) over Max Fried (136 ADP, $15 value)? Zac Gallen (135 ADP, #12.25 value) or Jon Gray (271 ADP, $12.24 value)? These deals go on, and on, and on. If only you knew where to look.


The Points Pipeline Keeps Flowing

That wraps up this edition of Break the League but we've upped the ante on points coverage here at RotoBaller and now have dedicated tools and focused analysis to help you bring home the gold in 2020. Read about our platform-specific Points League Rankers here. If you're in a Yahoo Points league, these rankers, which set behind our premium wall, are essential draft tools for you.

Our premium tools include customized rankings for each platform and utilize the exclusive projections of RotoBaller's Nick Mariano (2018's most accurate MLB ranker), to calculate projected points, points-above-replacement, and per-PA rates of scoring In the coming weeks, we'll have more and more analysis articles with the specificity you need to identify the best and worst players on your particular platforms. Stay with us, ye long-neglected points players. We come bearing gifts.

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