Commentary

Points league strategy: Hitters

Updated: February 17, 2012, 4:48 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

In Part 1 of our points league preview, we discussed some of the stats that can elevate certain pitchers from the scrap heap in rotisserie leagues to being a valued member of a points league team. After all, because points leagues boil each player's performance down to a single number, you're not in the business of worrying about winning several categories.

Calling someone a "one-category player" by way of insult because he only contributes in stolen bases or hits for a high batting average but exhibits no power has no meaning in a points league. Every point, no matter how it is earned, ends up contributing to your fantasy team's success in exactly the same way.

Remember that in the ESPN standard scoring system, hitters get one point for each total base (a single = 1, double = 2, etc.) as well as for each run scored, stolen base, walk and RBI. In addition, a point is subtracted for each strikeout. With that fresh in your mind, here are just a few tips to consider before heading into your points-league fantasy draft to better tailor your personal draft lists to maximize your chances at selecting a championship team:

The Eyes Have It

With a walk being worth one point and a strikeout taking that point right back off the board, those players with a great eye for the strike zone are going to end up with a net positive if their BB/K rate is over 1.00. In 2011, only 10 players with at least 400 at-bats managed to fit that bill, including Jose Bautista, a slugger who got enough free passes to counteract the free swinging he likes to do when taking shots at sending those blasts over the wall.

Here's a list of the top 15 finishers from last season in this crucial points league statistic:

Conversely, those hitters who lack any patience at the plate at all are likely to be a huge anchor on your overall team points. Take a look at the list of the worst offenders from 2011 and consider that if you had drafted just three of these players last year, you'd be spotting your competitors almost 300 points based on BB/K alone:

Speed Can Match Power

In leagues in which you need to worry about contributions in multiple categories, a home run is definitely worth far more than a stolen base. After all, a stolen base helps you only in that single category. A home run helps in each of the other four categories of a 5x5 league. It helps your batting average, drives in a run and gives you a run scored, all with that single swing of the bat.

However, in points leagues, the value of speed is not nearly as far behind the value of the round-tripper. Take a quick look at the following chart comparing some of the most potent sluggers from last season with some of the high steal-low homer players. Value is the sum of total bases from all doubles, triples and home runs added to two points for each stolen base (since a player has to get on base to steal and both a walk and a single are worth one point).

Now, we're not saying that the overall value of these players is equal by any means. Because of RBIs alone, the big boppers are more likely to end up finishing the season with more overall points. However, what we want to demonstrate is that the power/speed gap is not nearly as great in points leagues, and you shouldn't always choose to go with the strong swing over the strong legs.

Repeat after me: "A stolen base is as good as a double."

Just Get There

In points leagues, you get a point for each walk, meaning that the far better measure of a hitter's success is going to be his on-base percentage rather than his batting average.

In a league where a .220 batting average like the one that Carlos Pena or Mark Reynolds might well provide you, those two hitters become pariahs to be taken with a resigned sigh as the draft enters its latter stages. In a points league, however, both were clear top-100 hitters, even with their extreme predilection for the strikeout.

Comparing OBP and BA to see which hitters might be getting the short end of the stick in terms of evaluating their true fantasy value yields the following names as 2011's biggest movers:

Of course, all of these examples are all looking back on the past. When it comes to predicting the future, no single stat tells the whole story or is 100 percent accurate. However, if you use these statistics as a way of identifying a group of players who might well be better in the points league format than perhaps a more traditional 5x5 analysis says they should be, you're bound to increase your chances at finding those hidden gems and super sleepers. And in the end, that's the whole point, isn't it?

AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. His book, "How Fantasy Sports Explains the World" is available for purchase here.You can e-mail him here.