Manipulating A Season: How To Approach Counting Statistics & Cumulative Statistics In The Draft

by Thomas Callahan

In standard roto scoring there are two kinds of statistics, counting statistics and cumulative statistics. It’s important to have an understanding of how they both work independently, and how they work together.  By gaining an understanding of each you will be able to maximize your draft picks, track your progress in relation to your opponents through the season and accumulate talent after the All-Star break to put yourself in the playoffs come September.

By having a monthly strategy, you will be able to manipulate your season to your advantage. Remember, success in gambling comes not just from calculating odds or identifying talent; it also comes from having a plan of attack so that you can navigate your way through your opponents’ strategy as well.

“If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.’’ S?n Z?; (from the 6th century writing on The Art of War) 

Counting statistics are the ones that add up. These include Ks, Wins, Runs, RBIs, Steals, Saves and Dingers, not to be confused with Zimmers, the former Yankee bench coach who got his ass kicked by Pedro in the 2003 title fight at The Stadium.

Counting statistics, especially steals, saves and strikeouts are vital to your success as a fantasy player. Put simply, you must start to accumulate these statistics at the beginning of the year if you want to end up in the Top 4 of each category at the end of the season. As they are counting, they will be hard to get later as well.

Cumulative stats are the ones where they are averaged out. Cumulative stats include batting average, ERA and WHIP. As cumulative stats fluctuate through out the season, you can intentionally manipulate them at will.

Want an ERA of 0.00? Don’t start any pitchers.

Now let’s compare and contrast the offensive and defensive (pitching) categories so we can build a draft strategy.

“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others don’t.”

On the offensive side of the battle field there are four counting statistical categories (80%). These are runs, home runs, RBIs and steals. On the pitching side, there are three counting statistical categories overall (60%). Of those there are only two statistical categories (Ks and wins) that a starting pitcher is in a position to manipulate (40%).

Starting pitchers are only in a position to manipulate 40% of their counting statistics. Offensive players are in a position to manipulate 80% of their counting stats. For that reason alone, choosing a starting pitcher in the first eight rounds is counterintuitive.  Make a mental note now (need a pen?), loading up on hitters who accumulate counting statistics throughout the entire draft is not a terrible strategy.

Now, my detractors would point out that Roy Halliday has a tremendous effect on all four of the categories that he can manipulate (basically, every pitching category besides saves) and they would be correct. They would also be missing out on drafting Evan Longoria, Robinson Cano, Joey Votto or another solid, four category contributor. I would be pleased to allow them to do so. The reason I’m happy to let them (hell, I’d even buy ‘em a drink) is because from a risk analysis perspective, Top 20 starting pitchers are about as stable as a bachelorette party on acid watching a Disney film.

You need to draft fout category, offensive contributors in the first 8-10 rounds of your draft because:

Drafting a Top 20 starting pitcher will only have a positive impact on 29.6% of your counting statistics (RBIs, HRs, Runs, Steals, Ks, Saves and Ws – 7 categories divided by 100% = 14.8% each category, double that – there’s your 2 category impact). And

  1. Because if you don’t, the other guys will

Your goal in the draft is to accumulate counting statistics.

“A strong, successful man is not the victim of his environment.  He creates favorable conditions.”

Once the All-Star break approaches you’ll be in a position to start trading your counting statistics. It is important that you don’t abandon them completely, but use your healthy place in the standings and the players that got you there to shore up your weak areas for the stretch run.

Saves – trade one of your closers for speed/average and grab a low WHIP set up man off the wire.  (Luke Gregerson or a Tyler Clippard will also help you in the K department).

Ks – trade your two hot, young (cheap internet hit collecting line number 27) starters for infield help. (If you can pry Tulo or Texiera from a sleeping owner you’re laughing)

HRs – I would try to hold them as they represent three category production, but if need be you can spin them off for a Top 5 ace.

And try to do 2-for-1 or 3-for-1 trades. You’re looking to clear roster space while locking in elite production at the same time. The reason this is a safe plan is because there are cumulative statistical help there for the taking on the waiver wire.

Let’s look at team ERA’s last year:

RK

Team

League

W

L

ERA

G

GS

IP

BB

SO

AVG

WHIP

1

Philadelphia Phillies

NL

102

60

3.02

162

162

1477.0

404

1299

.240

1.17

2

San Francisco Giants

NL

86

76

3.20

162

162

1468.0

559

1316

.232

1.24

3

San Diego Padres

NL

71

91

3.42

162

162

1449.1

521

1139

.245

1.27

4

Atlanta Braves

NL

89

73

3.48

162

162

1479.2

521

1332

.240

1.25

5

Los Angeles Dodgers

NL

82

79

3.54

161

161

1432.0

507

1265

.241

1.25

Now, obviously you’re not going to find these teams aces on the wire, but by and large streaming against NL hitters who travel to Dodger Stadium, AT&T Parl or Petco Park over the course of the second half of the season will have a significant effect on your cumulative statistics. Last year I loaded up on Padres at the All-Star break and rode them to the playoffs.

Or, you could go the other way and attack weak offenses. Last year the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros had as much clout as a blind man at an art gallery.

Here are the bottom five offensive teams’ home splits:

RK

Team

League

G

AB

R

H

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

26 Pittsburgh Pirates NL 81 2627 287 648 49 270 219 558 39 .247 .305 .366 .671
27 San Francisco Giants NL 81 2663 236 638 42 224 215 549 37 .240 .300 .350 .650
28 Tampa Bay Rays AL 81 2632 310 621 81 294 286 559 63 .236 .317 .389 .705
29 Seattle Mariners AL 84 2703 265 599 57 258 245 706 58 .222 .289 .333 .623
30 San Diego Padres NL 81 2613 255 578 46 242 261 669 74 .221 .296 .334 .630

Here are the bottom five road splits:

RK

Team

League

G

AB

R

H

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

26 Colorado Rockies NL 81 2788 296 675 69 282 251 649 56 .242 .309 .373 .683
27 Arizona Diamondbacks NL 81 2749 331 658 79 318 262 654 68 .239 .308 .383 .692
28 Oakland Athletics AL 81 2822 310 675 64 295 237 597 72 .239 .302 .364 .666
29 Washington Nationals NL 81 2822 313 660 71 296 242 716 62 .234 .301 .364 .665
30 Atlanta Braves NL 81 2804 316 647 83 298 232 637 38 .231 .292 .368 .660

The important concept to exploit is that you can attack cumulative categories dirt cheaply throughout the season. You just need to plan, observe, and put yourself in a position to not let your counting stat categories suffer.

As you see, a winning strategy comprises of more than just identifying talented players. You must have a knowledge of the different types of statistics and an understanding of how and where to find them. Furthermore, it is to your advantage to have a draft strategy that accounts for the long season and the perils and opportunities that this length provides.

Counting statistics and cumulative statistics hold hands throughout the fantasy season. But by courting them individually, you will be able to assess and adjust your teams’ progress, as you parry and thrust your way to the fantasy playoffs and the money that waits at the end of the rainbow.

I hope you find this advice beneficial to your mind, roster and wallet.

Happy gambling folks.

11 comments

  1. Charlie says:

    Nice article. Which is why most teams spend more money on hitters rather than pitchers.

  2. Marky Mark says:

    There’s really nothing that Sun Tzu can’t be applied to…

  3. Matthew Flynn says:

    What about in a no-trading league, would you still not draft a pitcher in the first 8-10 rounds?

    • Matt says:

      Why are you in a no trading league? That’s like fantasy baseball special Olympics…

      Even in this format you can find plenty of pitching off the wire.. Maybe grab yourself one ace earlier on, watch the wire and then find a new league.

        • Matthew Flynn says:

          So because I am in a no-trade league, I can’t get FANTASY BASEBALL ADVICE??? I know my league is not ideal but nonetheless it still is a league that needs to be strategized for and prepared for.

          • Matt says:

            A little senstive?? Is this not advice “Even in this format you can find plenty of pitching off the wire.. Maybe grab yourself one ace earlier on, watch the wire and then find a new league.”?

            Calm down, Matthew. The world is not against you. Don’t be so sensitive.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I am not against picking a pitcher in the first 8-10 rounds in any format, personally, as long as you make smart decisions. In your format where you can’t trade from excess I think it is important to get a staff anchor.

  4. vegas2012 says:

    What about in a 6 x 6 league(k’s, saves, holds, era, whip, wins, rbi, runs, steals, walks, slg% and avg) what categories would you recommend me to focus on at auction? and after all start break?

    • Thomas Callahan says:

      Excellent question.

      No points for home runs? Wow – thats the central component in the 2 counting power categories.

      Adjusting for the negative ratings curve for power hitters, and the holds categories reductioon of a starting pitchers value, I would concentrate on speedy leadoff hitters you can sprinkle around your offense. Reyes gains value and Tulo loses value, for example. Pedroia gains value over Fielder. Bourne is definately someone I’d target.

      Also remember, the counting stats have been reduced from 4 of 5 scoring categories, to 4 of 6 – in both the pitching and hitting categories. This devalues counting ststistics in general and increases the importance of cumulate stats, so you must adjust accoringly.

      I’d target high obp guys with speed, and NL pitchers (as long as they’re cheap) of all types – in that order. Specific players will be determined by the nature of your auction, but I’d keep that concept in mind.

      As for after the break, be ready to flip relievers, because that’s about the time of the year that things start getting iffy. If you have stockpiled speed you should be in pretty good shape.

      Good luck man.

  5. Thomas Callahan says:

    Charlie – Agree sir. Astute observation.
    Marky – How bout making fudge brownies?
    Flynnster – Depending on the scoring format. If H2H I would still ignore starters completely. Especially if it was 6×6 scoring. No trading, H2H would be the perfect time to employ this strategy. In roto, like Proffs said, I might get a solid NL anchor. Excellent question sir. (and man, don’t take any shiz from anyone. Every league setting has it’s own set of challenges. navigating the format is just as important as grabbing a decent 3rd baseman.)
    Max – Wouldn’t be my kinda league either, but it would be a challenge.
    proffs – How are ya Obi Wan!

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