Punting Categories - A Good Idea?
People ask me all the time, 'Ray, do you believe in punting?' My response, after some sarcastic remark about disliking the use of any kind of kicker in football, is that I do not believe in “punting” in fantasy baseball. What is “punting” and why am I against it?
By the way, how amazing would it be, after that lead in, if I didn't even bother to address “punting?” Sometimes I just get this feisty feeling that comes over me an I feel like rebelling. Maybe that's why my brother's wife calls me sassy. Luckily for you, today isn't one of those days.
What is “Punting?”
"Punting" a category means that you simply give it up (most often people refer to the saves category when they talk about punting). The idea is that a category, let's take saves for example, can be pretty costly to add to a squad on draft day, and there is a lot of turnover at the position each year. Why not just skip worrying about saves and just try to rack up points in the other four pitching categories? People also talk about punting steals on offense, but the fact is you can “punt” any category if you really wanted to. The bottom line is that when you “punt” a category you simply do not worry at all about it, in essence eliminating it from consideration as a category you're going to try score points in.
Is Punting a Viable Strategy?
Let's break the strategy down using a concrete example that everyone can understand.
Let's assume we're talking about a 12 team mixed league.
In general, you need to accrue about 80 percent of the available point total to win a league. Given that there are 10 categories in the standard setup, this means a maximum point total for a 12 team league would be 120 points (10 categories, 12 points for first place finish in each, 11 for a second, 10 for a third etc.). If the league maximum is 120 points, and we're targeting 80 percent of that number as the level we will likely need to achieve in order to win the league, then we will need our hypothetical team to record at least 96 points (obviously there are leagues where you might need 100 or more points to emerge the victor). Therefore, we have nine remaining categories – remember we are “punting” one of them – to earn 95 points (you get one point for finishing in last spot). Ninety-five divided by nine is 10.6, meaning we're going to need to finish no lower than third place across the board in order to get to 96 points, but in reality we're going to have to finish first or second in every other category. Can a team do that? Of course it can, but you also have to realize that by removing a category you've significantly reduced your margin for error. To state it again. We need 96 points in our model. We have only nine categories that we are targeting. Let's say in one of our nine categories our team finishes in 7th spot. That would leave us with six points in that category. With our remaining eight categories we would need 89 points. That's 11.1 points per category meaning we would have to nearly finish in first place in all other eight categories to win the league. Is it possible to win this way? Yes it is. But doesn't it seem inherently risky?
I haven't addressed a major component of this strategy that will have to work in order for you to win a league.
Will you select the right players to build your team around?
Last year if you had Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford and Stephen Strasburg as three of your anchors you would have been feeling pretty good about your team, right? By the end of the season you likely were puking if those were three of your building blocks. Will injury strike? Will players perform to expected levels? Are your expectations/projections for players accurate to begin with? Sometimes you can do everything right with your analysis and the players, for whatever reason, simply don't perform. If you cut out a 10th of your playing field by removing an entire category, you're cutting down the available pool that you are shooting to add points in. If you do that, you had better hope that your players perform up to par, or it could be a very long season.
Can you win a league “punting” a category? You certainly can. However, you had better be damn sure about the players you roster because you greatly increase your risk by completely ignoring an entire category in the fantasy game.
Did you get your copy of the BBGuys 2012 Draft Guide?
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Fri 7-10 PM EDT), Ray also hosts his own show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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