I have previously written about relievers in Ottoneu fantasy leagues here. Over the past few days, discussion has raged on our league’s message board, particularly in reference to the (surprising to some) decision that I’ve made with my team. As we have now passed the keeper deadline, 33 of my 40 roster spots are occupied at a price of $312 (out of $400 permitted under the salary cap) – but I don’t own a single reliever. Some of the owners in the league seem to assume that I will be acquiring 5 RPs in the auction, which I have hinted is unlikely to happen. Why? As the other owners point out, relievers typically average more points per inning than SP, and one owner goes to far as to say the goal is to allocate as many IPs as possible (out of your permitted 1500 IP during the course of the Ottoneu season) to RPs.
To shed some light on my approach, I went back to the 2012 auction. In our league, there were 35 relief pitchers acquired in the auction – the following table presents a short breakdown on their 2012 performances and prices:
All RP > $5 RP $5 or Less Total 35 13 22 Average 357.09 389.92 337.68 Avg Cost $ 4.94 $ 8.62 $ 2.77
(For those of you that would like to see the full list, it should be shared here). The 35 pitchers auctioned produced an average of 357 points over the course of the season, and the average price was just under $5. Predictably, the list contains some big winners (Jim Johnson, Joel Peralta) and some flameouts (Brian Wilson, Mariano Rivera). The price breakdown of $5 is somewhat arbitrary, but the basic point is that one would expect, if RP was reasonably predictable, that spending more for “sure things” would prove out to be valuable – there is little in this data that makes me thing owners that spent more at auction were better off than owners that didn’t.
The other reference point in my mind is the performance of RP in general over the course of our league (i.e., not looking merely at those that were auctioned – as some would undoubtedly argue the “best” RPs are kept). Here is the list of all RP scoring (I’ve manually tried to remove some of the pitchers who started for a significant portion of the season but for some reason get filtered as RPs on Fangraphs). The following table breaks down the tiers of RP performers and their average points:
Top 25 577.52 Top 50 518.88 Top 100 448.27
Of those top 25 scorers, 9 of the pitchers had been kept from 2011, 9 were auctioned during the draft, and 7 were added via free agency during the regular season. Again looking back to our list of auctioned RPs, we find that 8 of the 35 scored at least 500 points (which would put them within the top 50, or in other words decent starting RPs. The other 27, of course, averaged 290 points – ranging from the good (Sergio Romo) to the non-existent (Joakim Soria).
So, to recap what we know:
(1) RPs score higher on a per inning basis than starters
(2) RPs can be valuable contributors to your allocation of 1500 IPs during your Otto championship pursuit
(3) As we discussed in a previous post, there is little year over year continuity for top RP performers
(4) Top RPs are equally as likely to have been kept, auctioned or added via free agency
(5) Spending more on RPs during the auction has little correlation with increased performance
Given all of this, would you spend money on RPs in the auction? Personally I see better ways to allocate my scarce auction dollars.