Relief Pitchers and Ottoneu

The keeper deadline in the Bull Durham Ottoneu Fantasy League is approaching (Jan 31st), and as a result the owners in our league are poring over their rosters, evaluating players and typically dumping those players into one of three categories (Keep, Cut and Trade).  Of course, the analysis necessarily incorporates past production, current salary and expected future production.  In the past 2 months, our league has seen an astounding  56 trades, with another 8 pending.  Some owners have also decided to eschew waiting until the witching hour on the 31st of January and have started cutting players – already released include Josh Hamilton, CC Sabathia and Adrian Gonzalez), and there are a number of large contracts (Albert Pujols at $53, Evan Longoria at $52, Matt Moore at $41 to name just a few) that may hit the chopping block.

At this time of year, most owners are thrilled with the construction of their rosters, whether they’re gunning for a 2013 title or rebuilding, and I am no exception.  The one way in which my team differs significantly from every other owner in the league is bullpen construction – every other team has a bullpen, but amongst the 17 pitchers I carry, 9 are major league starters (led by Stephen Strasburg an, Yu Darvish and Brett Anderson) and 8 are minor league starters.

Looking through the rest of the league, the other 11 teams currently hold 57 relief pitchers (an average of 5.18 per team), at an average price of $5.70 per RP.

At the major league level, Fangraphs readers would mostly likely point to variance and sample size as a reason major league teams are investing less and less in big money relievers, preferring in many (but not every) case to build their bullpens on the cheap.  I have been wondering about how this translates to Otto, and did some brief historical research on the question.

Methodology:  I pulled the fantasy scoring data from the 2010-2012 seasons for relievers, and then applied a filter to remove any pitchers that had started more than 5 games (occasionally starters are coded as RPs in the data, likely merely a lag in updating their position as starters are moved to the bullpen – that 5 could be lowered to zero without affecting the results).   Here is the list of the top 10 relievers in each year:

2010

2011

2012

Carlos Marmol Craig Kimbrel Aroldis Chapman
Brian Wilson Jonny Venters Fernando Rodney
Heath Bell Tyler Clippard Craig Kimbrel
Billy Wagner John Axford Grant Balfour
Luke Gregerson Sean Marshall Tom Wilhelmsen
Rafael Soriano Drew Storen Jason Motte
Joakim Soria Joel Hanrahan Jim Johnson
Matt Belisle Mike Adams Ryan Cook
Hong-Chih Kuo Jose Valverde Kenley Jansen
Jonny Venters David Robertson Tyler Clippard

What jumps out at me?  Well, primarily that of the 30 names, only 3 appear more than once (Jonny Venters in 2010-2011, and Tyler Clippard and Craig Kimbrel in 2011-2012).  That’s it.  Only 3 players managed to make the list more than once, and nobody made it three years in a row.

Otto Impact:  It would be foolish to say that RPs play no role in securing a fantasy baseball championship, and the rules in Ottoneu are no different.  However, as a year round, dynasty format, I think that the Ottoneu structure (deep 40 man rosters, salary cap and penalties for cutting players during the season) dictates looking for ways to make your $400 salary cap stretch.  Given the wild year to year variation in RP performance due to injuries, ineffectiveness, random gopher ball problems and the like), I don’t see the value in having an average of $30 per team invested in relievers that likely won’t be on the fireman leaderboard in 2013.  I may be proven horribly wrong, but at this point I don’t see why I am at any disadvantage at building a league championship winning bullpen.

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About Bill Porter

Bill is an aspiring sportswriter (attorney by day) born in Washington DC, raised in New York, and currently living in San Francisco with his wife Kirsten and two spazzy labs, Fletch and Bear. Follow me on Twitter at @wfporter1972
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4 Responses to Relief Pitchers and Ottoneu

  1. Nice look at the absolute top end, Bill. I may extend this through the next 20 or 30 guys before I get comfortable declaring fungibility, though. I’m in my first Ottoneu offseason in a pair of leagues, and don’t know if the other owners will cut enough worth bidding on. And whether scarcity will make the bidding for what is available too rich.

    • Bill Porter says:

      There is definitely more work to be done — and ultimately, I think the question isn’t whether elite RPs have value, they clearly have huge value, it’s just tough to say with any certainty who they are going to be. Just taking a quick look at 2012, there were 9 that scored at least 600 points, 12 that scored in the 500s and 38 that scored in the 400s, so if your $6 guy can get up into that upper echelon you’ve done something special. In our league there are a ton of relievers being held, and being held at somewhat large $$ amounts, it will be interesting to see who is cut between now and Jan 31st

  2. Pingback: More on @Ottoneu RPs | Sports By the Numbers

  3. Pingback: @Ottoneu League 52: 2013 Season Values | Sports By the Numbers

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