Todd Zola ran a Roundtable I participated in over at KFFL this week, about Tout Wars move to on base percentage instead of batting average as a category in the Mixed league this year. The support of the merry knights was fairly strong, which surprised me. We decided to ease into OBP in mixed only because we’d disrupted the AL and NL leagues last year introducing the Swingman.
Now, Derek Carty has laid out an argument against using OBP, at his blog.
I agree with him 110 percent that the object of the fantasy game is not to mimic the real game. The fantasy game is derivative of a real world game, but it has it’s own very distinct rules and strategies and calls on totally different skills to play. For me this is a major point of the thing. When I was young I played baseball on the diamond. If I wanted to keep playing that game I’d play it, or a computer version of it. To my mind the genius of the fantasy game was the establishment of eight categories that collect data about the skills and roles of players, allowing one to create a great or crappy team based on one’s ability to collect the categories efficiently. I begrudge the move to ten cats, we don’t really need more than that, and I have no desire to play with more (though many people do).
As Derek points out, these basic categories are not the ones that best represent a player’s skills. What I want to point out is that these trad cats collect players with a variety of talents into a team that can compete against other teams, ensuring that diversity and scarcity are valued. But that doesn’t mean these cats can’t be improved, and I think the obvious improvement we’ve been waiting for has been adopting OBP instead of BA. There are two reasons for this:
1) Taking a walk is a fundamental skill, and the only ways the original roto categories valued walks was in runs scored (guys on base more score more) and stolen base opportunities. So, walks weren’t nothing, but they weren’t much either. OBP gives real value to hitters whose game involves getting on base more, at the expense of less-talented hitters who don’t take walks.
2) When fantasy leagues use BA as a category, a player who takes a walk can help his major league team and hurt his minor league team. Every BB in standard roto is a miss, a lost chance to get a hit or (usually) drive in a run or hit a home run. In standard fantasy, if you draft a team of guys who walk a lot you’ll lose the at-bats race, and often (though not necessarily) lag in the counting categories. Shouldn’t fantasy value the better hitter more if it can?
I think OBP is an obvious improvement over BA, and maybe the knights of the roundtable did too because many of them have played in the XFL, which adopted OBP 11 seasons ago. The differences aren’t huge, but suddenly the .255 hitter with a .380 OBP becomes the stud he is in real life and it feels right. That’s the way it should be.