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January 28, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Keeping Scoresheet

by Rob McQuown

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Welcome to the kickoff of BP Scoresheet! The “cuts” deadline for most leagues is coming up soon, and the Scoresheet forums are buzzing with titles including the words “protect” and “keeper” and “draft”. And with only 13 keepers available in most leagues, these are some tough decisions.

But first, what is Scoresheet Baseball, why is it included under “BP Fantasy”, and how can insights into Scoresheet help in other fantasy baseball contexts?

Scoresheet baseball is a simulation baseball game. The company's web site is: http://www.scoresheet.com and the introduction there reads:

Our fantasy baseball leagues play real head-to-head, inning-by-inning baseball, rather than just accumulating 'points'. Your managerial decisions really count

Welcome to Scoresheet Fantasy Baseball, the ultimate fantasy baseball simulation game. Like other fantasy baseball games, you draft players before the baseball season starts, and then your team wins or loses based on how your players do throughout the major league baseball season. But, rather than just adding up stats, Scoresheet Fantasy Baseball leagues play real baseball games — a complete 162 game schedule — going head-to-head against the other teams in your league. Unlike other simulations that use statistics from past seasons, Scoresheet Fantasy Baseball games are played each week of the upcoming major league baseball season, using each player's stats from the current week.

If that sounds new and exciting - but still somewhat cryptic – there's a short introductory video on their site.

Some other mentions of Scoresheet baseball have been made in the past, with fielding ratings and platoon ratings for players included in some fantasy articles (extracted from the graphics in Heater Magazine and the Graphical Player 2011 book). And last season, a 2-part series on draft preparation was run here and here.

One of the biggest draws to Scoresheet baseball is the fact that the leagues are persistent, with some going on for many years with much the same membership. For the first (preseason) draft, each team is allotted 35 “slots”, to be used as follows:

  • Up to 13* players who no longer qualify as “rookies” can be retained (keepers). Retaining these players uses slots 1-13*.

  • As many players who qualify as “rookies” can be retained as desired, with one “slot” being used for each rookie retained, starting with the 35th “slot” and decreasing.

  • “Slots” can be traded. Slots in the top 13* which are traded are considered extra “keepers” for the team receiving them.

  • “Slots” not used for any of the above purposes – keepers, rookie keepers, or trades – can be used to draft players cut by other teams or newly transferred to the league from the other league**.

(*) 13 is for Standard Scoresheet leagues. Many private leagues use alternate numbers of keepers, and some with varied rules. Be sure to fully review keeper rules for any non-Standard league.

(**) Some Scoresheet leagues include players from both the AL and NL, though the majority are segregated, with a limited number (2 is Standard) of “crossover” players allowed among each team's keeper list.

 

If you're new to Scoresheet Baseball (keeper leagues) from a fantasy baseball background, here are some basic tactical and strategic tips:

  • The games are simulated. There is no point system or scoring categories, as in Rotisserie.

  • Keeper league owners tend to look long-term, so the value of “Blue Chip” prospects is huge, as there's no salary to worry about.

  • You can set lefty and righty lineups. This can often make marginal players quite good as a member of a platoon. There are even settings for defensive replacements.

  • The computer Artificial Intelligence manages the teams. One outgrowth of this is that stolen bases aren't just worth less than they are in fantasy baseball, but conventional wisdom among Score sheet experts is that they are significantly less impactful than in real-life, as well. This may come as a (welcome) revelation to fantasy baseball veterans who are sick of over-valuing the speed players.

  • Saves, like steals, are much less important in Scoresheet. A pitcher who puts up good stats (ERA, WHIP, K/9 for example) is a good pitcher in Scoresheet.

  • Defensive range (as determined by the company-provided list) matters. Errors matter. The actual games are played out, play-by-play, so winning real-life players tend to also be winning Scoresheet players, with much more consistency than most fantasy formats. With that in mind, be sure to use Scoresheet defense for Scoresheet valuations, as the ratings will vary from other defensive metrics, usually showing a somewhat lessened variation between the best and worst defenders at a position. When looking at the various ranges on the player list, the conventional wisdom is 5.5 points of OPS [ed - changed - thanks to a reader for catching this typo] for each .01 range rating delta.

It's not perfect, but if you add 1.62 singles (.01 x 162 games) to a 687-PA player, their OPS actually goes up by about 4.9-5.0 points. Obviously, some failed range factor rolls are more costly than a single, so 5.5 isn't a bad starting point.

  • The computer will promote fictional AAA players if a team can't fill a position. This is helpful to rebuilding teams, who would prefer to have more prospects, even if they aren't full-time, and something to be avoided at almost all costs for contenders, as these “AAA” players are awful.

  • Remember that every time a draft pick is traded away, the roster “slot” goes with it. Trading too many roster slots can really undermine a team's farm system, as those extra slots are needed to keep “next gen” talent.

So, those should get you started. Now, the timing of this article was designed to help people with keeper questions. The most help is likely going to be in response to comments left here, so feel free to use that resource. But here are some general guidelines:

  • Conventional wisdom is to only keep more than four rookies if the others are just too good, or if a team is in a deep rebuild. This is one point where I think convention is a bit too conservative, though it's crucial to keep in mind that almost always these players are non-contributors, so you are going to win or lose without them. And those 35 roster spots get used up fast!

  • The Scoresheet forums are a very helpful resource. And even if you don't want to receive emails, the annual mock draft (several expert forum participants hold it) is worth using as reference for keeper decisions. Following it slavishly would be a mistake, as would following any mock fantasy draft, but it's good to get a starting point for values.

  • 12-team NL leagues: 156 players kept; 10-team AL leagues: 130 players kept.

  • If a continuing league has been around for a while (maybe as little as 1-2 years), numerous keeper-level “crossover” players may be retained. For such leagues, the number of in-league players being kept is reduced to as little as: 12-team NL leagues (with 26 crossovers): 130 players kept; 10-team AL leagues (with 20 crossovers): 110 players kept.

  • It's important to keep the above number in mind for your league settings: 156, 130, 130, or 110. Players below this threshold are worth essentially nil as keepers. If your last couple of keepers are below these thresholds, trading a keeper slot (designated within Scoresheet Baseball as a pick in the 1-13 range) for an early draft pick is the way to go!

    This ability to trade keeper slots for draft picks (or good players) is somewhat novel in Scoresheet, and it takes a while to come to terms with the ramifications. But in general, a keeper slot is considered to be worth a typical 15th-round (2nd round of drafting) pick. Clearly, needs may vary. For a rebuilding team, having an extra roster spot and getting two later picks might be the way to go, for instance.

  • Pitching wins in Scoresheet. Bad hitting weeks can only produce an 0-fer. Bad pitching weeks can light up the scoreboard. And ace pitchers fetch top values in trades, much as top pitchers fetch top dollars in real life. For a contending run, at least 6 durable starting pitchers (or equivalent) are recommended, to avoid hemorrhaging runs due to a AAA Pitcher on the mound. With that in mind, some starters are still available in the draft.

    In a league I ended up winning last year, I got Barry Zito with the 9th pick in the 15th round and Mike Leake in the 23rd round and another team got Ian Kennedy in round 17. So, keeping bad starters just because they have innings isn't the answer, either.

  • Even if a reliever is shown highly on the mock draft, they make terrible keepers... there will invariably be much high-value reliever talent available later than you expect. Remember, very few relievers are kept, and only the contending teams are thinking about drafting them (generally).

  • Unless you are certain that your league-mates won't trade, don't worry too much about keeping an intact team with keepers. Other than catchers, most positions have nearly full-time players available for several draft rounds. Ian Desmond and Edgar Renteria were taken in the 17th round of the aforementioned NL league. Juan Uribe, Cristian Guzman, and Ryan Hanigan lasted to the 19th (so there was some value at catcher left, but they do tend to go quickly). You're (usually) better off trading a keeper slot and cutting a 17th-round talent than in keeping him to make sure the position is covered.

  • Look at some past drafts to remind yourself just how much talent is available in the draft. Scoresheet has links to previous seasons from the various leagues (P-NL300, for example).

  • If you're dissatisfied with your keepers, scan the rosters – maybe someone else in the league has too many good keepers, and would trade for something as petty as a draft pick upgrade (DON'T trade away picks outright unless the deal is too good to be true). I traded away two players for very little from that same team last year that I ended up regretting – Chris Young and Carlos Ruiz.

  • The last, and possibly more important, point is that positions are far more important than in fantasy baseball. Playing players out of position in Scoresheet can have a dire defensive impact. This means, for example, that there are only 12 slots for first basemen to play in a 12-team NL league. In the P-NL300 league, the following first baseman are taken (among others):

  1. Adrian Gonzalez
  2. Albert Pujols
  3. Joey Votto
  4. Ike Davis
  5. Aubrey Huff
  6. Ryan Howard
  7. Mark Teixeira
  8. Miguel Cabrera
  9. Prince Fielder
  10. Freddie Freeman
  11. Lance Berkman
  12. Derrek Lee

 

  • … and only 6-8 teams are likely to view themselves as contenders. So, there's always going to be excess talent available at first base. A team with D-Lee or Berkman or Huff (or LaRoche or Loney) is very likely to take whatever offer they can get, if they have a better first baseman or are in a complete rebuild. That's not to say that the great first basemen shouldn't be kept, but be aware that even good major leaguers like Ike Davis are only marginal players in an NL Scoresheet league. It's like positional values in fantasy baseball, but magnified, since only 8 batters are in the lineup at a time, and only 6-8 teams are contending, and there are crossover players as well. When in doubt, don't worry about cutting (not keeping) a borderline player at first base or corner outfield.

In short, have fun. When in doubt, use sound baseball strategies and/or ask for help. We're always happy to answer comments left here. For those wondering what's next, most of the preseason will consist of draft advice, and then during the season, strategy articles including some in-depth Sabermetrically oriented – but Scoresheet specific - analysis, and we're always open to suggested topics, too.

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rob's other articles. You can contact Rob by clicking here

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