Constructing a Bench in Ottoneu Points Leagues

Benchmarks for building the right kind of position player depth.

Compared to some other formats, Ottoneu has very deep rosters. Rosters carry 40 slots and those slots can be assigned to any player in the Ottoneu system. That includes pitchers, hitters, and even prospects. Ottoneu also adds additional spots for rostered players who are suspended or who are on the 60-day IL. With this much depth to play around with, it can be hard to determine how you should use the space. In my previous article, I looked at how to build a bullpen in Ottoneu points leagues. In this one, I’ll offer some design principles for constructing a bench of position players and offer some architectural strategies for you to consider. In the process, I’ll outline some ways you can benchmark your own approach.

 

Hitting Points

As with most things, bench design is going to be determined by certain goals. In order to establish design goals, it’s important to understand how Ottoneu points leagues value hitting. Unlike with pitching points, both FanGraphs Points (FPTS) and SABR Points (SPTS) use the same point values for position players. Ottoneu points leagues use a system of linear weights to value hitting, and like most other fantasy formats, leave out defense altogether. Here’s a breakdown of the values:

Hitting Values for Ottoneu Points Leagues

AB -1.0
H 5.6
2B 2.9
3B 5.7
HR 9.4
BB 3.0
HBP 3.0
SB 1.9
CS -2.8

 

As you may have expected, these values place a premium on hitters who get on base frequently and who hit for power. Although hits are preferred to walks, a player with a high OBP will reach higher points totals than a player with a high batting average but a low walk rate. Moreover, these point values reward players who take extra bases. A single is worth 4.6 points (H – AB), while a home run is worth over three times that amount at 14 (H – AB + HR).

All of this means that players in Ottoneu points leagues track very closely with their real-life production. The points system is built on Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA), a catch-all hitting statistic that uses a similar set of linear weights. Practically speaking, this means you should be targeting players who project to have high wOBAs; if you prefer, you can also use OPS, which is just a simpler way to arrive at the same place. It also means that adjusted stats (like wRC+ and OPS+) as well as comprehensive stats that include defense (like WAR) don’t track as closely with Ottoneu points as wOBA and OPS. This is because adjusted stats take park effects into account, which means that a hit in one ballpark (like Coors) could be worth less than a hit in another (like Comerica). Another thing worth noting is that Ottoneu points leagues don’t value stolen bases in the way that a classic rotisserie league or even a more traditional points league usually does. Last season, Starling Marte led the league in stolen bases with 47. That number, along with his 5 times being caught, net him 75.3 points in Ottoneu, the equivalent of just over 5 home runs.

Putting all of this together, you should now have a sense of your offensive goals. Don’t worry too much about speed and don’t worry too much about variety. Your aim should be to maximize your team’s rate of production (wOBA) while maxing out playing time. As you approach auctions, you’ll want to use projections, like the ones available at FanGraphs to create your gameplan. Here’s a calculation you can use to approximate points with projected wOBA over a given number plate appearances:

Points = PA*(wOBA*7 -1)

This formula is a simplified representation of the correlation between wOBA and points, which you can use to estimate player value without having to boot up Excel. It’s especially helpful when you want to translate numbers from player projection models into into projected points. This is one of the easiest ways you can create benchmarks for your team, as I’ll show you below.

 

League Formats

While both FPTS and SPTS leagues use the same hitting values, both can be played under two different formats: Head-to-Head (H2H) and season-long. For hitting, the primary difference between formats is that H2H leagues don’t limit games played by position, whereas season-long leagues have a game cap at each position. In season-long leagues with playoffs, each slot is capped at 135 with each of the 5 OF spots receiving its own 135 game cap. In leagues without playoffs, that number is 162. The other major difference is that season-long leagues can have either daily or weekly lineups, while all H2H leagues are daily.

With respect to hitting, league format changes some important aspects of player valuation. Crucially, season-long leagues incentivize managers to maximize PA/G, since games are limited. The same player will accumulate very different stats over the course of a season depending on their real-life lineup position. In order to illustrate this, let’s estimate the points totals for a player with the same wOBA and the same number of games played, but varied by lineup position based on 2021 league splits using our formula from above:

Approximated points over 142 games by lineup position for a .340 wOBA hitter

 

As you can see here, the same player could lose around 170 points over the course of a season simply based on where they hit in their real-life lineup. This means a lot for season-long leagues, because point totals will be determined as much by PA/G as they are by hitter talent. In these leagues especially, tools like the lineup tracker on FanGraph’s Roster Resource are invaluable.

The same cannot be said for H2H leagues. Even though point accumulation over a season operates on the same principles, H2H leagues operate on a weekly match-up system. Over the course of a week, these differences in lineup position don’t amount to very much. For this reason, in H2H leagues you are far better off acquiring quality hitters with regular playing time than you are trying to divine a player’s lineup position for the rest of a season.

 

Roster Distribution and Player Values

Now that we’ve set out the basics behind hitting values and league formats, let’s turn to our primary subject: constructing an offensive bench that will set your team up for success. Your goal should be to maximize points across the board with a view toward game cap in season-long leagues or toward filling out daily lineups in a H2H. In a season-long league with daily moves, you have to be somewhat selective because each game contributes toward your cap. In season-long leagues with weekly moves, games-per-week will be integral to meeting your cap. In H2H, every position should be filled as frequently as possible. Although there are 162 games in an MLB team’s regular season, those games are spread out across 181 calendar days. In H2H, it’s not impossible to collect over 170 games at multiple positions.

As a general rule, you should be sure to roster two players for each of your infield starting positions (C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, and MI) and at least 8 OF. This should allow you to weather missed playing time, capitalize on platoon advantages (discussed below), and fill up your lineup in H2H leagues when some of your starters have the day off. If none of your players have multi-positional eligibility, that’s already 20 players and half of your roster, a fairly typical spread. If, however, some of these players have multiple eligibilities, you have more room to play with. With that flexibility in H2H league, for example, you might consider rostering a third catcher, a position that can be fairly difficult to optimize, or you might choose to give that spot to a pitcher you can stream.

As with most things fantasy, your decisions are largely going to be contextual. For example, if you already roster Salvador Pérez, who played 161 games last year, you are going to be much less concerned about games at catcher than you might be with most starting catchers. A decent place to start is to make sure you are well-versed in your league’s settings. If, say, you are in an H2H league with no weekly games started cap, your priorities at starting pitcher will look different than if you are in a league with a large weekly GS cap. That will, in turn, affect how you allot roster space across the board.

In my recent article on Ottoneu bullpens I briefly outlined the principles of player valuation, citing an article by Chad Young. I won’t rehearse those principles again here. Instead, I’ll refer you to Chad’s excellent series over at RotoGraphs, which offers price ranges for relevant players at each position. You should also familiarize yourself with the Auction Calculator and the average salaries table available in Ottoneu. For my purposes here, I will simply note that player value is built on “Points Above Replacement” or PAR. With PAR, we can project player value by translating projected points (like the ones above) and then subtract the points which we could easily find in any league on the waiver wire at each position. In what follows, I’m going to look at some other aspects of finding position player value which might go unnoticed or which aren’t sufficiently accounted for by a straightforward PAR projection.

 

Injury Risk

The first topic I’d like to cover is the value that can be added to a team by rostering injury prone players with otherwise high levels of production. This topic has been a recurrent theme in Alexander Chase’s writing and it is especially relevant for Ottoneu leagues with daily lineups. In brief, a player that produces at a high level but poses an injury risk is often quite undervalued. That player at a discount might end up being one of the best values you can roster.

In some instances, players simply beat injury expectations because injury risk is notoriously difficult to quantify. Take what Aaron Judge did this past year: Judge, who consistently projects to have one of the highest wOBAs in baseball, remained on the field, posting 148 games and 633 plate appearances. By the end of the year, Judge had amassed 1013 points in Ottoneu, good for 10th best among position players. This production wasn’t necessarily surprising given Judge’s history of elite production, but some Ottoneu markets didn’t expect this level of durability, and so his price was deflated in many Ottoneu leagues (~$30). I personally believe that Judge’s injury history is overblown, but this is an important point: if a player has a history of unrelated injuries, they may have just been unlucky.

In other instances, a player poses very legitimate injury risk. Byron Buxton is a good example. Buxton’s injury history is well known and his average salary has, accordingly, remained relatively low (~$12). In 2021 Buxton played just 61 games, but during those games he produced at an elite rate, posting 484.8 points in just 254 plate appearances. If during his IL stints an Ottoneu manager had filled Buxton’s lineup spot with a $1 outfielder, that manager’s team would have seen roughly 850 cumulative points on the season, worth $20+. One viable option, then, is to roster players like Buxton, Josh Donaldson, Justin Turner, etc. knowing that duo of part-time all-star + replacement player is still providing you significant value over the course of a season.

In the case of injury risk, value is adequately accounted for by PAR (if your playing time projections incorporate missed time), but inadequately accounted for by the market. In order to take advantage of the market, you’ll have to do some planning. Rostering significant injury risk requires that your bench is deep, including players that are ensured everyday playing time at the injury-prone star’s position. Otherwise, you’ll have to save enough salary cap space to participate on the waiver wire. Without real-life starters on your bench or money in your wallet, you’ll struggle to fill out your lineups when a player goes on the IL. This is especially pertinent in H2H leagues where individual matchups can make or break a season.

This first strategy illustrates a crucial point which will be common to every strategy I cover here. If your goal is to maximize wOBA and playing time, the shape of your bench is going to be determined by who your starters are. A bench is built to be a supporting cast, so the way you build out your starting lineup is going to determine how you build out your bench. In this process, creating benchmarks by using tools like PAR and our wOBA-point formula will be crucial. With each player you draft, you’ll need to anticipate the quality and quantity of their production, and make necessary changes to your bench in order to support your starting lineup across the whole season.

 

Platoon Splits

Platooning is a well-known strategy in Ottoneu, particularly in leagues with daily lineups. Platoon advantages can be significant, and so one way you can maximize value is by rostering players with an eye toward platoon advantage. This section outlines a few things you should consider when trying to optimize your platoons.

The first thing to note is the difference between strong side (LHH) and weak side (RHH) platoons. Although left-handed people are more represented in baseball than across the human population, right-handers still pitch the vast majority of innings. This means that an LHH with the advantage against RHP are already more fantasy relevant, since they benefit from the platoon advantage more often.

Let’s take a look at how often those platoon advantages come into play. In 2021, 57% of all innings were pitched by SP. Innings pitched in relief were thrown by RHP around 70% of the time, even against LHH. This suggests that in games started by RHP, we would expect just under 8 innings to be pitched by RHP. That’s 24/27 outs! Of course, in any individual game this won’t often play out exactly, but in the aggregate, starting LHH have regular platoon opportunities.

In order to take advantage of platoon splits, there are a few things you have to keep in mind: the name of the game is coordinating starts where LHH are facing an RH starting pitcher. That can be tricky, since in most instances your roster will be filled up with people from teams across MLB. Sometimes two platoon bats won’t have the advantage on the same night. The best way to set yourself up for success is to build a deep bench with everyday left-handed bats or to roster multiple mid-range starting LHH in positions where you’ve missed out on the best hitters.

We can adjust PAR calculations to account for this approach by looking at points accumulated in games started (i.e. games where a hitter has the platoon advantage). In order to do so, we have to adjust our projected wOBAs to account for these splits. To illustrate this method, let’s look at an example: Jared Walsh. The process is involved, so bear with me (or just skip to the bolded conclusions below).

Jared Walsh is an LHH who has struggled with LHP in his short career. THE BAT projects Walsh to have a .346 wOBA in 141 games and 583 PA (4.13 PA/G). In order to project Walsh’s platoon advantage, we have to take his projected cumulative wOBA and regress his career platoon splits in order to establish wOBA v. LHP and wOBA vs. RHP. Platoon splits are some of the flukiest numbers in baseball, so they have to be regressed accordingly. As outlined by Tom Tango, we have to regress career LHH v. LHP splits against 1000 PA of league average LHH v. LHP. In Walsh’s career, he has posted a .394 wOBA v. RHP (544 PA) and .255 v. LHP (236 PA), for a difference of .139! League-wide, LHH had a .289 v. LHP and .320 v. RHP for a difference of .031.

Using the league observed average, we regress Walsh’s splits toward the mean by 56% or 1000/(1000 + 780):

.031*.56 + .139*.44= .078

In other words, our projections should have Walsh’s splits sitting at .078 points. Since Walsh has faced LHP 30.3% of the time, we then regress our projected wOBA of .346 accordingly:

.346 = .303*(x) + .697*(x+.078)

Solving for x, we project that Walsh will have a .292 wOBA against LHP and .370 against RHP. Putting all of this together, we can project Walsh’s points in games started by SP handedness.

3.6*(.370*7 – 1) + .9(.292*7 – 1)  = 6.7 P/G

and

2.9*(.292*7 – 1) + 1.2*(.370*7 – 1) = 4.93 P/G

Following THE BAT’s 141 game projection, we are left with 693 points in GS v. RHP and 183 points in GS v. LHP (876 total). Putting this into practice, we can follow the same logic we used for injury-prone players above. Coupled with a $1-5 backup LHH, the two bats could potentially post 900-1100 points, depending on schedule alignment and the quality of the backup. Just like we saw with injury-prone players, our bench is going to be determined by how we create our starting lineup. In this case, you could chose to let Walsh play daily, or you could roster a player who plays Walsh’s position, puts up better numbers than Walsh v. LHP, and who plays everyday, in order to maximize PAR. If you chose to go the latter route, I suggest prioritizing LHH on your bench. This will give you a greater chance of having the platoon advantage when your starter doesn’t. This kind of analysis allows us to articulate another strategic principle: quality mid-range LHH, when properly deployed, can offer significant value to your team, as can switch-hitters with strong-side platoon advantages like Yoán Moncada and Ian Happ.

 

Prospects, Ceilings, and Floors

The final major consideration you will have to make is how you want to balance present and future production. Again, the answer is going to be entirely contextual. If you are in a position to compete, you will want to minimize space given to prospects. As a rule, I suggest competing as soon as possible. A lot can change in one offseason after a round of cuts and the outcomes for low-level, high-ceiling prospects vary widely. For this reason, I suggest limiting MiLB prospects to 1 or 2 slots on your 40-man if you plan to compete. These players can be used as trade pieces mid-season, when your roster needs tweaking.

One approach to younger talent is to realize that the platoon advantages outlined above apply to novice MLB hitters as well. Although the 2021 season taught us that even the best prospects can struggle significantly upon entering the league, a good amount of that struggle can be mitigated by carefully taking advantage of platoon splits. A great example of this is Akil Baddoo, who posted a .357 wOBA against RHP. Managers who platooned Baddoo with another bat could have seen high level production. Even Jared Kelenic, the paradigm of struggling top prospect, posted a .300 wOBA v. RHH, only slightly below the .314 total league-average. So long as you aren’t relying on unproven talent to give you the bulk of your points, platooning rookies (especially LHH rookies) will allow you to wait for a breakout without breaking up your points totals.

The same can be said with respect to unproven, high-ceiling talent generally. This is a great way to approach waiver wire acquisitions, since taking a flier poses very little risk if you’ve given yourself the space on your bench. While it is necessary to establish a high floor in order to compete, using your bench to roster upside is one way to maximize your team’s long-term point potential and could even win you the league if one of your bench players begins to break out. As before, the way you construct your starting lineup will determine how you construct your bench and which prospects and high-ceiling players you chose to target. If you chose wisely, you can take advantage of platoons and injury risk, while still rostering a significant amount of upside. Here, too, you’ll want to keep PAR in mind: roster players whose floor is sufficient for meeting your goals but whose ceiling is much higher.

 

Benchmarks

In this article, I’ve outlined a few principles to help you take advantage of the system in Ottoneu points leagues. In daily moves leagues, you should be prioritizing LHH, both within your lineup and on your bench. In all leagues, you shouldn’t be afraid to roster discounted, injury-prone stars. Moreover, the bench is a safer place to roster players with high upside who are still working things out at the major league level. At the end of the day, fantasy baseball is about having fun and the depth of Ottoneu rosters allows you to try a lot of different strategies. The crucial thing you should take away from this piece is that even the more creative approach can be carefully supported with the right set of benchmarks – like projected wOBA, PA/G, $ values, and PAR. With some effort, you can construct a bench in Ottoneu points leagues that will set you up for success.

Grant Washburn

Grant Washburn is a late antique religious historian, a Yankees fan, and an Ottoneu player. When he's not poring over ancient manuscripts, he's poring over batted ball data.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Account / Login