FB305: 5X5 League Concepts and Strategy

05/20/2007 5:31 PM - 

FantasyBaseball.com University Series
Contributed By: Bryan Douglass

In our previous Fantasy University lesson, FB304: 4×4 League Concepts & Strategy, we looked at the bones of the traditional fantasy baseball scoring system. Lesson FB305 brings us one rung up the fantasy ladder. The systems and strategies are similar, but the 5×5 scoring system brings a new element into the mix.

Let’s take a look at the concepts of the 5×5 league.

Concepts

For those of you that have read FB304, some of this will be repetition. The new scoring element for both hitters and pitchers will be added to the end of these lists. If you have read the 4×4 concepts, feel free to skip to the last category of each list (Total Runs and Total Strikeouts).

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.

Total Runs: Often abbreviated as “R,” runs are defined as the number of times the player has crossed the plate. Much like the RBI category, this statistic is largely influenced by the situation as well as several other factors not directly attributable to the particular player.

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.

Total Strikeouts: A pitcher is credited with a strikeout any time he pitches a ball that is either called a strike by the umpire or is swung at and missed by the batter that results in the third strike of the at-bat. A strikeout is also awarded in the instance of a two-strike foul bunt attempt, and also in the case of a passed ball or wild pitch on the third strike.

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 during that time period 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.

You may ask, “How does the addition of this statistical category change the typical strategies of the game?” This is an excellent question, so let’s take a look.

Strategies

We delved into the different strategies brought to the table by the different scoring structures of a league in Lesson FB304. Feel free to revisit this lesson to delve into the particulars of these strategies as well as a look at how they tie into this type of scoring system.

For this lesson, we will turn our discussion towards a look at the effects of the added statistical categories: Total Runs for hitters and Total Strikeouts for pitchers.

Let’s start with the most apparent change resulting from the addition of these statistics. The effect on pitchers is fairly obvious. The value of a pitcher with a low ERA is obvious, but now, in the 5×5 system, the pitcher who reaches a low ERA by gaining large strikeout numbers is clearly more valuable than the pitcher with a similar ERA that is consider to be a groundball pitcher. For instance, in the 4×4 system, Randy Johnson and Jamie Moyer have comparable values as they both historically pitch for low ERAs and significant win totals. However, in the 5×5 system, Johnson is clearly more valuable than Moyer, as Johnson historically gains a large number of strikeouts, while Moyer is less apt to see sizeable strikeout production. If you play in a 5×5 league, make sure to raise your desires for pitchers with better “power” numbers. It only makes sense to target those players capable of bringing you greater rewards by taking advantage of the additional strikeout statistic.

The additional value for the hitter in this system is much tougher to gauge. The new category of Total Runs is a category largely dependent on the performance of players other than the one collecting the run. Often, this player must be brought across the plate by the actions of another. However, one way to take advantage of the statistic is through home runs. A home run hitter enjoys as much production as one can achieve in one at-bat in the 5×5 system. If a player hits a home run, he is credited in three different fantasy categories: home runs, RBIs, and runs. Therefore, when playing in the 5×5 scoring system, the value of the home run hitter should be increased in an attempt to take advantage of the diverse production. Also worthy of note, the consummate base stealer may see a rise in value as well. Base stealers often put themselves in position to score runs more often than those players lacking the speed necessary to do so. Also, speedy base runners are much more likely to reach home plate on base hits. They will take advantage of their gifts to gain runs, and your fantasy squad could benefit from this knowledge.

In conclusion, if you play in a 5×5 league, you would be wise to consider power pitchers, power hitters, and base stealers more often than consistent singles hitter or the groundball pitcher.

Conclusion

The 5×5 scoring system of fantasy baseball provides the novice owner or the typical 4×4 player with a new view of the fantasy baseball world. The strategies of the system are different, yet the stats remain easy to find and track. Often, the 4×4 system of scoring is referred to as the “historical” method of tracking the league’s participants. The 5×5 system can make things more interesting and can provide the consummate 4×4 player with a fresh new way to enjoy the game. It is still a simple means of scoring your league and is easily understood by the casual fan, yet the subtle differences make all the difference in the experience.

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