Mar 5, 2011

"Punting a Roto Category" | Fantasy Baseball Strategy Analysis




Trying to maintain a well-balanced roto team in order to win your league isn't always possible.  And with everyone trying to be balanced and compete in every category, one school of thought is to simply punt a category and hope to dominate in all of the others as a result.  Is this a viable strategy or is it best to try to stay balanced at all costs?


What Happens When You Punt


We'll use a 12-team 5x5 roto league for this particular analysis.  While 120 points would be your best possible finish, 90 points generally seems to be a good number to shoot for in order to put yourself into possible championship contention.  If your team were perfectly balanced then 9 points in all 10 categories would be the goal.  By punting a category, you're basically accepting 1 point in a category and have to make up those missing points in the others.  If 45 points is the goal between five pitching or batting categories, you're going to have to get at least 2nd place in the other five categories to make up for a punt:

Cat #1
Cat #2
Cat #3
Cat #4
Punt Cat
Total
12
12
12
12
1
49
11
11
11
11
1
45
10
10
10
10
1
41
Ideally, a first place finish in a few categories would be the result of punting a category.  But, is it even possible to punt one category and finish at the top of four others as a result?


Correlation Between Categories



The above chart shows the correlation of 2010 final roto values between each of the categories.  A value closer to 1 or -1 means a more perfect match.  So, as you can see, HR's are linked closely with RBI's because of their high correlation value (.885) and WHIP and ERA are also like peas in a pod.  The strong link between K's and W's may seem odd at first but, of course, starting pitchers rack up more total strikeouts over a season than a reliever who doesn't get wins.

For batting, the stat with the weakest link to the other categories is stolen bases as it only has any sort of correlation with one stat (runs).  It's the most sensible category to punt for batting.  The trouble is that batting average isn't strongly linked with other stats either.  You have three closely linked stats in HR, RBI and R then you have two odd ducklings in AVG and SB.  If you punt SB, you could have a situation where you dominate in HR, RBI and R but finish middle of the road in AVG since it's not correlated with those categories.  It's a tricky gamble that definitely takes some luck in order to accomplish.

For pitching, saves is the category that isn't linked with the others.  Whether you can punt it or not depends on your league type though.  If you're in a league that requires you to start a couple relievers anyway then you're not going to be able to load up on SP's to get you the quantity of K's or Wins you need to dominate all four categories.  If you're in a league where you can pick any type of pitchers you want, it could make sense to forgo saves in hopes of racking up K's and Wins.  However, once again, there isn't a strong link between any four categories here.  ERA and WHIP go together and K's and Wins go together but the four of them are not one big happy family.


Conclusion


You can certainly try to a punt a category and somehow survive but it shouldn't be a draft tactic.  It should only be a fallback option if you experience some injuries or unexpected roster changes.  Also, keep in mind that punting a pitching category is much tougher than batting.  There's at least a strong link between three batting categories while pitching doesn't have that luxury.  So, if you're forced into punting, make sure it's in batting average or stolen bases (and definitely not HR's or even a category like WHIP).  Some categories are too tightly linked to other categories and will burn you multiple ways if you don't give it the attention it needs.  When all is said and done, punt as a last resort and do it wisely if you must.

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