FB304: 4X4 League Concepts and Strategy

05/20/2007 5:18 PM - 

FantasyBaseball.com University Series
Contributed By: Bryan P. Douglass

It’s an early day in the month of February, there are a couple of inches of snow on the ground, and you open your email to find a letter from your best friend. “Hey, don’t you think it’s about time you stepped up to the plate and joined the league?” He’s talking about baseball, and he’s right.

If you enjoy fantasy sports, and you enjoy Major League Baseball, you should do yourself a favor and get involved in the world of rotisserie baseball. This is where we, the fine folks at FantasyBaseball.com, can help. The age-old philosophy stating “knowledge is king” is just as applicable in fantasy baseball as it is in any other aspect of life, and Fantasy University is here to provide just that: knowledge.

Let’s turn our textbooks to FG 304, a lesson in the fundamentals of fantasy baseball’s most common scoring system: the 4×4 scoring system. First, we will look at the concepts of the 4×4 scoring system, including the statistical components most commonly used in this system as well as a brief discussion of the values of these statistics and how they are translated into points in your 4×4 fantasy league. After this, we will look at the strategies resulting from this scoring system and how the fantasy owner can convert these numbers into success.

Concepts

The 4×4 scoring system of fantasy baseball is often referred to as the “Traditional” system of the game as it has been the most common system employed by leagues since the game gained prominence amongst baseball fans. It is a composition of the 4 common statistical categories, for both hitters and pitchers, fans often associate with the value of a baseball player. Let’s look at these 4 categories for both hitters and pitchers and review how these statistics are translated into points in your fantasy league.

Hitters:

Composite Batting Average: Often abbreviated “AVG,” a hitter’s batting average is calculated by dividing his total base hits by his total at-bats. One key aspect of AVG worthy of note: walks, hit-by-pitch, and sacrifice hits are not included as official at-bats, and thus the player’s batting average is not affected by these statistics.

Total Home Runs: If you don’t know what a home run is by now, we may need to revisit some earlier lessons of the University. A home run is defined by the MLB as a hit that either clears the outfield wall in the air or a hit that stays within the confines of the field resulting in the batter that hit the ball scoring without the benefit of an error (often referred to as an “inside the park home run”). Home runs are often viewed as the top commodity in fantasy baseball under this system as the number of players capable of producing large numbers of home runs is fairly limited when compared to the number of players capable of producing quality numbers in the other statistical categories.

Total Runs Batted In: Often abbreviated as “RBI,” a run batted in is collected by a batter when that player’s batted ball results in another player crossing the plate and producing a run. MLB rules state the hitter is also rewarded with a RBI when he hits a home run as he has advanced himself around the bases and will result in a run produced as he crosses the plate. It is important to note RBIs are a solid statistical measure of a hitter’s abilities, but it is also a statistical category largely based on the situation of the moment and, thus, is often not considered as valuable as a hit or a home run.

Total Stolen Bases: Any time a base runner is successful in advancing one base without the benefit of a hit, a walk, an error, a putout, a fielder’s choice, a passed ball, a balk, or a wild pitch, that base runner is awarded with a stolen base. MLB rules state stolen bases are rewarded based on the interpretation of the game’s official scorer. This, coupled with the fact so few bases are stolen in the modern game of baseball, results in a lowered perception of the value of stolen bases in many fantasy leagues.

Pitchers:

Total Wins: A starting pitcher is credited with a win if, and only if, he has pitched at least 5 complete innings, leaves the game with this team in the lead, and is his team holds that lead for the remainder of the game. Relief pitchers may also earn a win if his team is able to acquire the lead and maintain that lead for the remainder of the game while said relief pitcher remains in the game. Only one win can be credited per game.

Total Saves: A save is awarded to any pitcher who protects a lead in relief of another pitcher while said relief pitcher completes the game in one of three ways. 1) The relief pitcher enters the game with the lead of no more than 3 runs and completes at least one inning. 2) The relief pitcher enters the game with his team in the lead (regardless of the ball-strike count of the hitter when said pitcher enters the game) with the potential tying run either at bat, on base, or on deck, and maintains this same lead until the completion of the game. 3) The relief pitcher successfully pitches at least 3 innings with maintaining a lead of any size until the game is completed. Only one save can be awarded per game.

Composite Earned Run Average: Often abbreviated “ERA,” earned-run average is a mathematical measure of the efficiency of a pitcher achieved by multiplying the earned runs gained by the opposing team facing said pitcher by the number 9, then dividing this result by the number of innings said pitcher has pitched.

Walks plus Hits per Inning: Often referred to as “Composite Ratio” and abbreviated “WHIP,” the Walks plus Hits per Inning statistic is a ratio used to determine the average number of hits and walks allowed per inning by a pitcher. To calculate this ratio, add the total number of hits allowed by said pitcher to the total number of walks allowed by said pitcher, then divide this number by the total number of innings pitched by said pitcher. This is a statistic aimed at determining how effective a pitcher is at keeping hitters off base.

The Value:

The value of these numbers in fantasy leagues vary, dependent on the scoring structure your league employs to assess the value of your roster.

For example, in leagues using the Head-to-Head competition format, two fantasy teams will face each other for a certain period of time (often 1 week) while their starting roster of fantasy players perform and acquire stats for a cumulative statistic in the particular categories for your fantasy team. At the end of this time period, these fantasy competitors will compare their cumulative totals in each category. The team with the winning total for that category will be assessed “one win.” This process is followed for each category and the team with the most “wins” at the end of the comparison is declared the Head-to-Head winner for that week.

As another example, in Rotisserie leagues, every team in the league will accumulate statistics over the course of the season. Once the season is completed, each team is ranked in each particular statistical category. So, in a 10-team league, the team with the best batting Composite Batting Average will be ranked as the #1 team for that statistical category, and thus will be awarded 10 points. The team with the second-best Composite Batting Average will be ranked as the #2 team for that category, and thus will be awarded 9 points. This process continues until each team is ranked in each category and then awarded their points, with the person totaling the most points at season’s end being declared the winner of the league.
With all of this in mind, the statistical categories as well as the league’s scoring structure, a fantasy owner can begin to formulate a strategy for building their roster and maintaining their starting lineups throughout the season in an effort to achieve the maximum point production possible, resulting in a successful season.

Let’s turn our attention to the strategies that may result from the 4×4 scoring system and discuss how to use this information to your advantage.

Strategies

In a perfect world, a fantasy owner could target the top performers for each statistical category and assemble the perfect fantasy team with ease. Of course, none of us live in such a world (which is why fantasy sports exist to begin with), so an owner if forced to deal with the situation he/she is dealt. It is not an easy task to assemble a group of players capable of producing premium numbers, but the goal should be to do just that: gathering a roster of players that will give you scoring potential in various fashions in an effort to maximize the system. The key to achieving this goal is knowledge of the scoring structure and realizing how your players will perform in that structure.

Head-to-Head Leagues:

As we discussed above, most Head-to-Head leagues involve a season broken down into individual match-ups over shorter periods of time. The length of the MLB season is broken into small increments in which you will compete head-to-head with another fantasy team in direct competition (thus the name). In this type of league, it is important to utilize the short-term potential of your players. This requires a great deal of attention to details such as schedules, match-ups, injuries, trends, and other sources of information. It also requires knowledge of your options for point production throughout the season.

In this scoring structure, the statistics are as simple as it gets in fantasy sports. Players perform better against lesser opponents. With this in mind, it is important to have a diverse collection of players capable of taking advantage of their situations. A short-term scoring reward dictates a short-term approach to choosing your players. Look at the match-ups for the week, the trends that often occur when your players face certain situations or teams, the news of injuries or lineup modifications, and use the resulting discrepancies to determine your starting rotation. A fantasy owner can utilize players whose short-term potential is greater than the sum of the season.

In short, if you play in a Head-to-Head league, the need for long-term performers is not as great. It is typical to assume, in a 4×4 league, players with a penchant for large home run totals or sizable batting averages would be the most valuable. However, fantasy owners can benefit from players that specialize in certain statistical categories or in certain situations. In the 4×4 system, players historically hitting for high averages against certain opponents can prove to be more valuable than the stud player that hits for a respectable average throughout the course of the season, allowing owners to target a diverse group of players capable of producing big numbers during short periods of time rather than stressing the need for big names we expect to produce solid numbers over the long haul. There is less emphasis on the consistent performer, allowing owners a multitude of options during the course of the season.

Rotisserie Leagues:

In Rotisserie Leagues, fantasy players are rewarded for long-term performance. While it is still important to gather a group of players capable of producing various statistics, you are less likely to find success with players considered “streaky” or “situational.” In a 4×4 system, a Rotisserie structure dictates a strong need for historical home run hitters, contenders for batting titles, and pitchers gaining large save numbers and win totals over the course of a season.

Unlike Head-to-Head leagues, the Rotisserie structure stresses the importance of consistency. In a 4×4 system, a fantasy owner would be wise to select players capable of putting forth various statistics. For instance, a player capable of finishing the season with a .280 batting average, 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, and 2 stolen bases would be considered more valuable than the player completing a season with a .310 batting average, 5 home runs, and 75 RBIs with 12 stolen bases. While both players put forth desirable statistics, the overall performance of the power hitter and the resulting discrepancy in the home run and RBI totals will often outweigh those differences in the batting average and stolen bases. The emphasis is on the overall player rather than the specialist. This is not to say the specialist does not have a place in these types of leagues, but the priorities are shifted to the overall consistency of the statistics as a whole.

One more note of worth in Rotisserie Leagues is the potential conflict that may arise from the form of the statistics. In the 4×4 format, there are three important components expressed in the form of an averaged number: ERA, AVG, and WHIP. When a scoring structure uses a computation resulting in a number that is averaged over a long period of time, it is much more likely to see two or more teams end with a matching result in these categories. For instance, two teams going head-to-head for a week are less likely to finish with a matching BA than if those same teams were to face off for the entire season. This problem is easily solved with preparation. It is important in Rotisserie Leagues of this nature for these averaged numbers to be calculated to a larger number of decimal places to determine a true winner. For example, the conclusion of the season may end with 3 teams compiling a matching AVG of .300. However, if this number was computed to 6 decimal places rather than 3, those teams are likely to conclude the season with non-matching numbers, such as .300146 versus .300028 versus .300599, resulting in a clear winner.

Conclusion:

The 4×4 scoring system of fantasy baseball is an excellent method of enjoying the world of fantasy baseball for either the casual fan, the fantasy “rookie,” or for those seeking ease in computations. It is a small number of statistical categories, the numbers involved are easily obtained, and almost every category (WHIP may be the exception) is easily recognized by the typical baseball fan. This system allows for a simpler formation of a strategy in forming a team and is as basic as the fantasy baseball experience can get. If you are looking to ease your way into the fantasy world, if you are seeking a simple form of the fantasy baseball experience, or if you are simply hoping to enjoy the fantasy experience in the traditional sense, the 4×4 system is for you.

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