Ottoneu is a unique fantasy baseball format for a variety of reasons – deep 40 man rosters, year round format, $400 salary cap, linear weights scoring – but as we approach the keeper deadline one of its biggest challenges is trying to assign individual player values upon which decisions to cut/draft/trade are based. I always start by trying to think through what constitutes a replacement level for each position, and we’ll begin this year with a look at starting pitchers. Broadly speaking, the concept of replacement level player would mean that player that you could routinely find on the waiver wire. In a 12 team, ML universe Ottoneu league, that level is significantly higher than in the majors of course because not every 5th starter finds his way onto a fantasy roster.
In our Ottoneu league, we’ve got 12 teams and each year we have 1500 IPs to allocate to pitching, largely as we wish. In 2012, there were 143 starting pitchers who threw 100 innings. Those pitchers averaged 683 points, and just under 4 points per IP. With that as a starting point (since most teams won’t roster 10 SPs that throw 100 innings in 2013), I looked at the average points and P/IP for the top 100, top 60 and then top 25 pitchers. The results:
Points P/IP Top 25 1045.64 4.96 Top 60 907.67 4.57 Top 100 795.58 4.28 Top 143 683.13 3.99
(We will deal with relievers later, and obviously relievers score significantly fewer points, but at a higher points per inning than starters. For reference, there were 176 relievers that threw at least 40 IP, and those relievers averaged 353 points and 5.75/IP.)
The top 25 pitchers averaged over 1000 points, and nearly 5/IP; but given 12 teams attempting to efficiently fill 1500 innings means that merely looking at the top 25 starters would set replacement level too high. The top 60 level would mean that each team got roughly 5 SPs each – potentially more, as teams drop out of the current year’s title race and rebuild for future years. Given the average performance, a team with 5 top 60 pitchers would start with 4500 starting pitcher points.
Also perhaps instructive is to look at the standings for the league – below is a table that shows our league’s final standings, broken down by pitching and hitting points, and total points per inning:
P/IP Pitching Hitting Total Points Lucky Strikes 5.59 8283.94 10787.66 19071.60 Knights 5.32 7938.00 10321.70 18259.70 Shoeless Joes 5.06 7587.34 10434.36 18021.70 WAR Horse 5.44 7812.60 10053.40 17866.00 Chicago Chiefs 5.06 7241.54 9875.76 17117.30 Durham Tobacconists 5.20 7381.04 9626.16 17007.20 MoPain MoGain 4.69 6842.70 9852.10 16694.80 The Syndicate 4.75 7130.08 8840.62 15970.70 Frosted Mini Weeks 4.24 6326.88 8128.32 14455.20 We Got Wood 4.52 4906.54 7919.86 12826.40 The Crying of No. 49 4.27 4949.38 5929.62 10879.00 Enrico Palazzo 4.87 4097.24 5875.36 9972.60
Our league’s champion accumulated 8200 points and averaged nearly 5.6 points per inning, but only 6 teams exceeded 5/IP. It is hard for me to back into the breakdown of his starter innings versus reliever innings (though if someone knows where this data is please let me know), but of the 176 relievers who threw at least 40 IP last year, the average IP tossed was roughly 60. For a team to break down and accumulate 500 relief innings during the course of the Ottoneu season would mean using 8-10 relievers (or 20-25% of your 40 man roster spots). One can accumulate 8000 pitching points by throwing 1000 starter innings at 5/IP, and 500 reliever innings at 6; on the other hand, dropping your starter average down to 4.5 requires a similar rise to 7 for your 500 reliever IPs. (For reference, 42 relievers managed to top 7 points per inning last year).
After this brief diversion – back to the main question. Where is the replacement level at starting pitcher? As we sit 8 days before the keeper deadline, our Ottoneu league shows 76 starting pitchers still kept on rosters (though 4 will fall victim to cut via arbitration vote). Of the 72 remaining, only 11 averaged more than 5 points per inning. For those looking at their staffs, the question needs to be whether or not the 4.5 P/IP pitcher they currently hold is likely to improve significantly in 2013 – if not, perhaps auction dollars are best spent elsewhere as mid 4s SPs are readily available throughout the season. In my mind, the most interesting questions leading up to the keeper deadline, and then the auction, will be how many of the remaining 61 pitchers averaging less than 5/IP will be deemed keeper worthy.