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March 15, 2013

Fantasy Freestyle

4x4 Versus 5x5

by Mike Gianella

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Believe it or not, there are still a few old school, 4x4 Rotisserie-style leagues out there. For those of you who think that 5x5 is an ancient and outmoded format, this might be as shocking as finding out that there are still people in the industrialized world who don’t have indoor plumbing.

Nevertheless, some of these 4x4 leagues do still exist. I’m in one of those leagues, and my colleague Paul Sporer is in a 4x4 league, as well. If you do play 4x4, one of the biggest challenges now is trying to decipher what 5x5 valuations mean to you. If merely taking the auction prices from CBS and LABR and walking into your auction with them is a bad idea in 5x5, it’s a terrible idea in 4x4. By ignoring the differences between 4x4 and 5x5 valuations, you’re putting yourself at an extreme disadvantage.

How do player values change?

HITTERS

On the hitting side, the differences aren’t too significant.

Table 1: Top 10 Hitters 4x4 Greater Than vs. 5x5 2012

AMERICAN LEAGUE

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Player

4x4$

5x5$

Diff

Player

4x4$

5x5$

Diff

Miguel Cabrera

$45

$40

5

Ryan Braun

$52

$45

7

Mike Trout

$51

$47

4

Buster Posey

$34

$29

5

Billy Butler

$33

$28

4

Yadier Molina

$31

$26

5

Edwin Encarnacion

$36

$31

4

Alfonso Soriano

$28

$24

4

Josh Hamilton

$36

$33

4

Chase Headley

$37

$33

4

Alex Rios

$36

$33

3

Andrew McCutchen

$43

$39

4

Prince Fielder

$32

$29

3

Giancarlo Stanton

$31

$27

4

Yoenis Cespedes

$29

$25

3

Ian Desmond

$31

$28

4

B.J. Upton

$29

$26

3

Wilin Rosario

$22

$19

3

Adrian Beltre

$35

$32

3

Carlos Beltran

$31

$24

3

Some have called 5x5 formats the great equalizer. Some of the Monopoly money that we pay the hitters has to go to runs; how that money is distributed isn’t equal. In order to pay for the extra category, the best hitters get cheated, an effect that is more dramatic in the American League. Some non-elites sneak onto the National League list (yes, I’m looking at you Wilin Rosario), but generally speaking, the more categories there are, the more balanced you want your team to be. 5x5 is less conducive to Stars and Scrubs than 4x4.

Table 2: Top 10 Hitters 5x5 Greater Than 4x4 2012

AMERICAN LEAGUE

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Player

4x4$

5x5$

Diff

Player

4x4$

5x5$

Diff

Dustin Ackley

$9

$12

-3

Darwin Barney

$9

$11

-3

Carlos Pena

$5

$7

-2

Zack Cozart

$9

$11

-2

Jemile Weeks

$4

$6

-2

Mark Ellis

$8

$10

-2

J.J. Hardy

$11

$13

-2

David DeJesus

$12

$14

-2

Jamey Carroll

$10

$12

-2

Jose Tabata

$4

$6

-2

Brendan Ryan

$1

$3

-2

Ruben Tejada

$8

$10

-2

Robert Andino

$2

$3

-2

Daniel Descalso

$3

$5

-2

Kevin Youkilis

$10

$11

-1

Dan Uggla

$12

$14

-2

Lou Marson

$1

$2

-1

Paul Janish

-$3

-$1

-2

Michael Young

$14

$16

-1

Bryan Petersen

$0

$2

-2

The “winners” in this exchange are the not-very-good players who manage to pile up a significant amount of at-bats. Poor batting average players matter less in 5x5, especially if your player stays on the field all year long and contributes at least modestly everywhere else.  These types of players still aren’t highly recommended in 5x5, but you can stomach them to a degree.

If there’s a takeaway from Table 2, it’s that one-trick ponies aren’t quite as rewarding. Filling a roster spot with someone like Barney or Carroll is more useful than wasting a spot on a 150-at-bat player that might steal a few bases and do nothing else.

PITCHING

If the hitting valuation differences are vanilla, the pitching differences are a devil’s food cake/tiramisu turducken.

Table 3: Top 10 Pitchers 4x4 Greater Than 5x5 2012

AMERICAN LEAGUE

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Player

4x4$

5x5$

Diff

Player

4x4$

5x5$

Diff

Fernando Rodney

$51

$32

19

Craig Kimbrel

$44

$29

15

Jim Johnson

$42

$23

19

Jason Motte

$38

$23

15

Rafael Soriano

$35

$21

14

Aroldis Chapman

$42

$28

14

Joe Nathan

$32

$21

11

Jonathan Papelbon

$35

$22

13

Chris Perez

$28

$17

11

Joel Hanrahan

$29

$17

12

Jose Valverde

$26

$15

11

J.J. Putz

$25

$15

10

Tom Wilhelmsen

$30

$21

9

Rafael Betancourt

$24

$14

10

Grant Balfour

$29

$20

9

Santiago Casilla

$24

$15

10

Jonathan Broxton

$17

$10

8

Huston Street

$24

$15

9

Casey Janssen

$25

$17

7

Kenley Jansen

$29

$20

9

For hitters, some of the play money has to go to runs; with pitchers, the money gets redistributed to strikeouts. As a result, relievers with excellent ERAs and WHIPs are monsters in 4x4. In 5x5, great relievers are still valuable, but even strikeout kings like Kimbrel and Jansen take a big hit. This is why owners don’t pay big bucks for saves in the expert leagues; they need to save money for strikeouts across the board—as the next chart displays.

Table 4: Top 10 Pitchers 4x4 Less Than 5x5 2012

AMERICAN LEAGUE

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Player

4x4$

5x5$

Diff

Player

4x4$

5x5$

Diff

Ricky Romero

-$18

-$5

-13

Tim Lincecum

-$10

$2

-12

Francisco Liriano

-$8

$5

-13

Randy Wolf

-$18

-$8

-11

Ubaldo Jimenez

-$13

$0

-13

Chris Volstad

-$18

-$9

-9

Luke Hochevar

-$9

$3

-12

Bud Norris

-$4

$5

-9

Justin Masterson

-$3

$7

-10

Alex White

-$15

-$7

-8

Jon Lester

-$1

$9

-10

Edinson Volquez

-$1

$7

-8

Jake Arrieta

-$9

$1

-10

Jeremy Guthrie

-$16

-$8

-8

Felix Doubront

$0

$10

-10

Jordan Lyles

-$9

-$1

-7

Ivan Nova

-$2

$8

-9

Erik Bedard

-$6

$1

-7

Nick Blackburn

-$19

-$10

-9

Tommy Hanson

-$1

$6

-7

5x5 is more forgiving of terrible pitching performances than 4x4. Tim Lincecum buried his owners in 4x4 last year; in 5x5, he was a slightly positive earner. You still don’t want most of these pitchers, but if you buy one of them, you’re not necessarily condemned to five months in the cellar bitterly cursing Ricky Romero and waiting for football season to begin. On the more-positive side, pitchers like Masterson and Lester had some value in 5x5 last year. Volquez is the kind of pitcher you want to keep in mind in 5x5 in the endgame. The ERA and WHIP are ugly, but the 174 strikeouts make him a somewhat valuable commodity.

Regardless of what format you play, you have to be familiar with the value proposition. If you’re playing 5x5, remember to focus on at-bats and innings. A balanced team is even more important in 5x5 than it is in 4x4. An offense with seven studs and seven duds is going to have a much tougher time in 5x5, and a three-starting-pitcher strategy isn’t likely to succeed.

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

17 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

greenengineer

Thanks! I've been in the same 4x4 league since 1990. Part of what I like about fantasy baseball is that it is like baseball, but different. That's even more so in 4x4 - it's not about assembling the best baseball team, it's about predicting performance in the 8 categories and winning the game. Lots of weird things happen, and you are forced to notice them.

Mar 15, 2013 05:33 AM
rating: 0
 
Quagmire

Last year I joined a very old AL-only 4 x 4 10 team auction keeper league. I quickly concluded that SP's like Scherezer & Morrow have little value because their high ERA & WHIP tend to offset the positive value of their W's. I went with mostly closers and middle relievers finishing at or near the top in 3 categories and next to last in Wins. Overall, I finished 2nd in my rookie season. Am I only one to think of this? Am I missing something?

My question in this format (no K's) is how much value to increase relievers and closers and how much value to decrease SP's like Darvish, Morrow, Scherzer, Price, etc.?

The $ saved on SP will be used to buy better hitters.

Any thoughts?

Mar 15, 2013 07:15 AM
rating: 0
 
boards

My NL-only league is entering it's 30th year and we still play 4x4. I've found that there is lots of value in middle relievers that have good peripherals. I usually pick up 2 or 3 of these guys (Gregerson, Grilli, etc) and often they turn into second-tier closers. I wouldn't spend more than $2 or $3 on these guys but in 5x5 they are either $1 or undrafted. It also stratifies the starting pitchers as the elites go much higher and there are usually a handful of decent bargains in the endgame.

Mar 15, 2013 07:33 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

You're not missing something. If your league has an innings requirement it's a little bit harder to do this, but in a 4x4 you can easily blow off wins and carry mostly relievers and win or be more competitive in ERA/WHIP.

Here's a hypothetical example in a 12-team AL-only have how you would re-distribute money for closers for 4x4.

4x4 $29, $23, $23, $23, $21, $21, $19, $17, $15, $15, $14, $14, $12

5x5 $21, $18, $17, $16, $15, $14, $13, $12, $11, $10, $8, $8, $8, $7, $5

The re-distribution obviously depends on your original prices, your opinions on the quality of the pitchers available, etc. This is an illustrative example and not based on specific players.

The second part of your question is more complicated. I would advise deducting money less from the aces like Price and more from second-tier pitchers like Morrow and CJ Wilson. The value of ace ERA/WHIPs are still high in 4x4; what you don't want to pay for is decent but not great rate stats that go along with the strikeouts.

Mar 15, 2013 08:00 AM
 
bigbart

Off topic a bit: last year our league (small: 10 teams) went from a 6x6 (5x5 plus OPS and Appearances) to a 4x4 using the Roto500 scoring categories, OBP, HR, Runs Produced, SB on offense and ERA, K, Wins, and Net Relief on the pitching side. I will acknowledge it was just 1 year, but the change was an overwhelming success. As of the ASB we had a guy in 1st (who eventually coughed it up) and teams 2-9 were packed within a few points at any one time. It made for a very compelling stretch run, buy/sell decisions were harder, more owners had to make the finish in the money or rebuild decisions, etc. Less is sometimes more.

And on topic with no analysis: yes- valuation changes incredibly.

Mar 15, 2013 07:53 AM
rating: 0
 
jsdspud

My league is 4x4 NL only. Most auction values out there are for 5x5 leagues. With the PFM tool, I can customize the settings to my league and get more accurate values.

Agree with Mike's theory that 4x4 lends better to the Stars & Scrubs method of roster building. I watched a guy be consistently good in my league for 6 straight years because of Stars & Scrubs. I adopted the strategy last year and tied for 1st.

Mar 15, 2013 09:55 AM
rating: 0
 
spundin

Mike, any advice on a 6x6 mixed-league format? How does that change strategy your for the draft? How does that change auctions values? Our hitting categories are batting average, OBP, runs, RBIs,HRs,SBs, and pitching categories are ERA,whip,Innings pitched, saves,Ks and wins.

Mar 15, 2013 10:40 AM
rating: 0
 
spundin

How does that change your strategy I mean.

Mar 15, 2013 11:12 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

How many teams are in your league? I have touched upon some mixed league theory in my Monday bid limit pieces? In a shallower league, pay even more for the superstars than you do in the deep leagues because while you can replace your 4th or 5th outfielder rather easily, there is only one Ryan Braun and he isn't easily replaceable.

The more categories you add, the more a balanced roster becomes important. My points above about specialization apply even more. One dimensional players like Rajai Davis lose even more value...not that you'd want one of those guys in a mixed league anyway.

Adding OBP has a slight impact on hitter values overall since it's a qualitative category. Adding innings takes even more away from the relievers and makes starters even more valuable. You still want good starters, but this makes your league more like a H2H format where 200 OK innings matter more than 120 strong innings. Guys like Medlen in 2012 have a little less value in this format.

Here's a general piece I did at my previous blog a few years ago if you want more detail: http://rotothinktank.blogspot.com/2008/02/heaven-help-me-figuring-out-6x6.html

Mar 15, 2013 11:18 AM
 
spundin

Thanks Mike. I appreciate it.

Yea it's a 12 team keeper league, with 40 player rosters. You can keep players up to 4 years.

Thanks for that blog post. Going to read it right now.

Mar 15, 2013 13:14 PM
rating: 0
 
mmtaylor

Mike,
Any thoughts on how values may change when in a league where changing rosters is difficult once the season begins?
I'm in a 4x4 NL league where there is no bench, very little trading, and you cannot get rid of a player unless he goes on the DL, or is sent down to AAA. Even if your player does go on the DL, then you have to wait in line at the end of the week to get his replacement (depending on where you sit in the standings.
I have found that having bad 4th, 5th or 6th starters can hurt you pretty badly. You have to sit there and bear it as they stink up your whip and era.
Any advice?

Mar 15, 2013 13:16 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

I haven't played in an old school league like that in quite some time. But from what I remember, you're correct that you definitely don't want to gamble on marginal starting pitchers. You're better off with a middle reliever, especially in 4x4. Taking players who are out of options that might just wind up sitting on the bench or buried is a bad idea as well. If you're going to speculate on playing time, rookies that can sent down if they crash and burn are better than players that are just going to go to the bench.

Mar 15, 2013 17:21 PM
 
Keith Cromer

As a person who plays in both 4x4 and 5x5 leagues, this was a great piece to illustrate the variance in pitching values between the two formats. Thanks for continuing to put out great articles, Mike.

Mar 15, 2013 15:58 PM
rating: 0
 
swarmee

Can we get a list of players most likely to be traded this season: being in an only league when you lose your guy and gain the guys coming back is another aspect of my league. Which high and low dollar NL guys do you think will be traded? That's actually where some of those "out of options" guys and "final year of contract" guys become differently valued.

Mar 15, 2013 18:47 PM
rating: 0
 
anderson721

A bit more than 20 years ago, a guy in my league snagged one real good SP, 2 closers, ...and 6 1$ middle relievers. He spent his money wisely on offense and ran away with the league. Of course, since then there has been a minimum innings rule.

Mar 15, 2013 19:15 PM
rating: 0
 
brucegilsen
(999)

My NL only 4x4 12 team league (25/280 until this year, now 24/270) is entering year 25 with no plans to change. Still works for us.

Mar 18, 2013 19:43 PM
rating: 0
 
swarmee

Yeah, I'm in an NL-only 4x4 ($260/23 and 17 reserves Rotisserie Ultra) that has been around since 1992. We normally start with 35-40% inflation.

Mar 19, 2013 04:51 AM
rating: 0
 
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