The easiest way to win in fantasy baseball is simply to have the best players on your team. However, figuring out exactly who the best players to own are is the trick. Certainly, one tool that we here at ESPN offer to assist you in all of your fantasy evaluation needs is the Player Rater, which does a fine job of ranking hitters and pitchers alike in terms of their value in traditional 5X5 rotisserie formats.
But not everyone plays the game that way. Points leagues, where each player's performance for the day is boiled down to a single number, are gaining in popularity. This format is neither better nor worse than the traditional way of playing fantasy baseball, just different.
As such, the Player Rater doesn't necessarily tell the whole story when evaluating which players are best to own in points leagues, Different players may be topping the charts, while some rotisserie-style studs may not be as valuable in points leagues.
So for those of you playing in points leagues, we've heard your cries for help and we're here to lend you a hand. Are there some unexpected players who stand out from the crowd when looked at from the perspective of this different format? You bet there are.
Pointing Up: Hitters
The major difference in points leagues is that a 1-for-4 day can be as good, if not better than a 4-for-4 day, depending on what kind of hit that "1" is. Standard points leagues use total bases rather than batting average, so a home run is worth as many points as four singles.
Additionally, in these leagues, a walk is indeed as good as a hit, since both a single and a base on balls earns you the same amount of points. Because of all of this, a player with a much higher slugging percentage and/or a high on-base percentage as compared to their batting average, is going to be worth far more in points leagues than in other formats.
To locate a few of these undervalued players quickly, you can simply take a players OPS and subtract his batting average to see who jumps out at you. Here are five players outside of the top 50 on the Player Rater who are far more valuable to points leaguers.
Pointing Down: Hitters
When it comes to fantasy value, those players who can contribute in multiple categories get a huge boost. However, in points leagues, where the points come form makes no difference and a one-category juggernaut can be worth just as much as a player who does a little bit of everything.
What makes the hugest difference, though, is the fact that players are docked a point for striking out. You can drive in a pair of runs with a single, but fan twice and it's like those RBIs never took place. Here are the players in the Player Rater Top 50 who have been their own worst enemies so far this season:
Pointing Up: Pitchers
In points leagues, winning is paramount because each victory nets you 10 points. That can cure a lot of ills. But as we know, predicting victories is like chasing your own tail. A better way to pick your pitchers is to look for those arms who can take the bull by the horns and still offer up enough strikeouts to counteract any other failings for the day.
If each strikeout Is worth one point, and each earned run costs you two, then a K/9 rate of 8.00 washes away an ERA of 4.00 as if it never happened. Here are five pitchers, with a winning percentage of .500 or worse on the season so far, who are minimizing the damage in points leagues in a way that isn't reflected by the ESPN Player Rater.
Pointing Down: Pitchers
The difference between winning and losing in a points league is a 15-point swing, with five points taken away for a defeat. Because of this, pitchers who are winning due to insane amounts of help from their offenses are due for a huge letdown in terms of fantasy value in points leagues.
Here's a list of the "luckiest" pitchers thus far in 2011, as determined by those starters with winning records who have seemingly done it with smoke and mirrors. Their teams have given them, on average, a ton of run support (RS/9) and they needed every bit of it, as they've been allowing hitters to reach base (BR/9) left and right.
AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. His book, "How Fantasy Sports Explains the World" will be released in August. You can e-mail him here.