An intrepid reader, Dave, sent me a great question and comment about the relative merits of points leagues and rotisserie leagues. He felt, and brief investigation agrees, that points leagues are often left out of the fantasy discussion despite the fact that different players and strategies are recommended for each.
A points league rewards stats with points and then the owner with the most points wins. I’ll quote Dave’s league: “Our points league scoring is pretty standard. We did some tweaks to reward OBP, which basically means that we deduct for ABs, but it’s 1 point for a single, 2 for a double, 1 for a RBI, 1 for a run, 2 for an SB, 1 for a BB, etc. For pitchers, it’s 5 for a W, 5 for a QS, 10 for a S, 1 for a K, 1 for each out, -1 for each walk, hit, or ER, and -5 for a loss.”
Which type of league, points or rotisserie, is preferable is largely up to you and your league. A points league provides two big differences: players’ values change, and a team’s overall ranking depends a lot less on the performance of other teams.
To see how player values change, let’s turn to a simple trade-off scenario. Normally, when economists discuss trade-offs, we use a beer versus pizza example and the end result is that you trade some of your beer for some of your friend’s pizza so that you have some of each and not all of one. If you must know, this is due to something called Diminishing Marginal Utility—the more you have of something, the less you want an additional piece. Eventually, you’ve had so much beer that you’d prefer to have a first slice of pizza than an additional beer. A rotisserie league is like a beer and pizza league because if you lead in, say, RBIs, and are behind in stolen bases, you’re likely to want to trade some of the former to get some of the latter.
In a points league, to abstract for a second, there is no diminishing marginal utility. It is more like Miller Lite vs Coors Lite—you like each one equally and you’ll buy which ever one is cheaper. No matter how much Coors you already have, you’ll keep buying Coors as long as it is cheaper. In a points league, you’re not going to trade RBIs for stolen bases just because you don’t have many stolen bases.
What are the practical effects of this difference? In a points league, a trade of like-for-like, such as one outfielder for another, should only happen because the two owners involved in the trade have different expectations about these outfielders’ future performances. Otherwise, there’s no reason to trade an Adam Dunn for a Carl Crawford.
A points league also gives the commissioner more control over the relative value of different stats. In rotisserie, each chosen stat is equally valued. So, if your points league wanted to discourage the common, all-reliever strategy but still keep saves as a stat, you could just down weight the number of points that saves get. Of course, if you’re not careful, you could end-up over-rewarding a particular stat, thereby encouraging teams to fill up on, say, home run hitters.
Also note that in points leagues, your strategy is more independent of other owners’ strategies. The value of a particular stat to you is independent of how much of that stat you think other owners are going to get (however it is not independent of the availability of that stat on the waiver-wire). So if a lot of teams are drafting or auctioning closers, the remaining closers are not more valuable than they would otherwise be. In a rotisserie league, scarcity of closers can drive up the price of saves.
Lastly, points leagues provide more avenues for catching up to the leading teams in your league. Furthermore, tanking teams no longer hurt your chances of doing so. To catch up, all you need to do is get sufficiently more scoring stats than the leading team (and any other team ahead of you). It doesn’t matter which scoring stat you do that in though.
To summarize, points leagues mean less scope for trades, more control over the value of particular stats, less scope for strategy and more opportunities for late-season comebacks.