When evaluating players in Ottoneu, I typically find total points to be misleading. They tell a part of the story, but are they the most important factor in determining a player (or team’s) performance? Is R.A. Dickey at 862 points more valuable than James Paxton at 383 points (assuming similar salaries)? I believe Points Per Game (PPG) and Points Per Inning Pitched (PPIP) to be much more indicative of a player’s value. For this study, I have examined all starting pitchers seasons from 1986 (the year Holds were invented) through 2014. I only considered pitchers who made 10 or more starts in a season and have ranked these pitchers by PPIP. Using this data set, my goal was to determine replacement level for starting pitchers in terms of PPIP for Ottoneu linear weights (FGPoints).
A couple questions need to be answered:
1. How many innings do Starting Pitchers “pitch”?
Given the 1,500 IP cap that each team is subject to, it is important to consider how many innings (of these 1,500) that starting pitchers will actually account for. However, these innings will be split between the 10 active pitcher spots on your roster (5 SP spots, and 5 RP spots). I calculated the number of innings each RP spot produces with a little guess work. I feel pretty confident that the average team gets between 60 and 70 innings out of each RP slot every year (the top-60 RP in 2014 averaged 58 IP). I split the difference between the two at 65 IP per spot. This amount can certainly be debated, but the overall impact it will have in the final results is minimal. (Using 60 or 70 IP per RP slot would only result in a .01 increase or decrease in replacement level PPIP). However, with this reasonable guess of how many innings an RP spot produces, we can easily determine the total innings needed from each of the 5 SP spots in a lineup:
The key takeaway: Of the 18,000 total innings available in a 12 team Ottoneu league, roughly 14,100 innings need to be “pitched” from starting pitchers, or just over 78% per season.
2. How many SP are owned in a league to produce 14,100 innings?
Ranking all SP in order by PPIP for a given season, I looked at how many SP it took to pass the 14,100 innings needed for the league. This is better expressed with an example. In 2014 Clayton Kershaw was the number 1 ranked SP by PPIP and pitched 198.33 IP. Jake Arrieta was number 2 and pitched 156.67 IP. Together they pitched 355 innings. I repeated this process (adding in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. ranked SP) until the total innings pitched by the top ranked pitchers passed 14,100 innings. For 2014, it took 86 starting pitchers (min. 10 GS) to pass 14,100 innings, or 7.17 SP per team. Here is the number of SP needed by each team to meet the 1,175 SP team inning estimate, beginning with 2014 as “1YR SP” (“All Time” is 1986-2014):
3. What are some historical PPIP values?
In 2014 86 pitchers were needed to pass the 14,100 innings needed by all starting pitchers. The replacement level for 2014 (1YR) in the above chart is the PPIP associated with the 86th ranked SP by PPIP. In 2014 this pitcher was Ryan Vogelsong with 4.24 PPIP. If you’re thinking, “I wouldn’t start Ryan Vogelsong!” you’re probably right. It makes sense that a team’s 7th SP would be someone who was only started occasionally, and is likely owned for a replacement price of $1-$3. Several other SP who fit this description include: Henderson Alvarez, Roenis Elias, Chris Tillman, and Jon Niese. Keep in mind, the 2014 replacement level should not be used for all valuations going forward. My personal preference is a weighted average of the last three years (~ 4.20), but this should give everyone an idea of historical replacement level. Feel free to choose what you believe to be best.
One note on the chart: Each specific row of the data (2YR, 3YR, 4YR, etc.) is not referring to one specific season. The row labeled “1YR” is specifically considering 2014. However, the “3YR” row is examining all SP seasons with 10 GS from 2012-2014 (with the innings threshold being 14,100 * 3 seasons). Similarly, the “20YR” row is examining all SP seasons from 1995-2014 (with the innings threshold being 14,100 * 20 seasons). I did this because 1 year trends (while interesting) likely do not provide much use to the general reader – I don’t imagine anyone reading this is thinking “I want to use 2010’s replacement level for my valuations.” However, I could easily see replacement level since 2010 being useful (in which case you would look at the 5YR row.) Each “YR” row is simply stating how many years of data are being included.
Combining the last two points:
I am making the assumption that the 7.17 SP owned would be pitched every time they start in order to meet the 1,175 threshold. This does not happen in reality as teams typically own more than the minimum ~7 SP needed. I own more than 7 starting pitchers on each of my squads (around 10 in most cases), but in each case the last 2 or 3 SP considered are typically used as spot starters. While I may prefer some of my spot starters to options available in free agency, comparable options are typically available. Given that streaming SP is difficult in Ottoneu, it makes sense that more SP than the minimum necessary would be owned by the majority of teams. I do not see this as an indictment of the process of determining replacement level, but rather an acknowledgement that several replacement level type SP will be owned by most teams to serve as spot starters and injury depth. This can be seen in the following graph:
Replacement level is shown by the horizontal black line that bisects the graph. 86 SP fall below that line. However, an additional 23 SP fall between 4.24PPIP and 4.20PPIP. In theory, if these 23 SP were owned in a league, 109 SP would owned – or just over ~9 per team. This meshes pretty well with what I have seen in other leagues – each team owns about 7 SP that they value, while they probably feel they could replace their last 2 or 3 SP pretty easily.
Throughout the rest of the offseason, I will be calculating replacement level for other positions. I hope to produce values based on these replacement level values as well. In the mean time these calculations should serve as a barometer to use when evaluating starting pitchers. It does not tell the whole story but it is a very simple way to determine a starting pitcher’s value when discussing trades and planning your 2015 roster. Feel free to use any of the replacement levels above in your own valuations. If you have any questions about the methodology, feel free to comment.