Grand Theft Roto: Consistency
In a rotisserie league, if you drafted Marian Hossa and you plan on keeping him, you don't give a rat's behind about when he gets his 100 points. As far as you're concerned, the end result justifies whatever happens all season. In an absurd example, Hossa could have a 100-point game in the final game of the season and the end result would be the same as if he had an 82-game scoring streak to finish the year with 100 points. Would you care? Well, probably after 81 games when Hossa still hadn't scored, but that is neither here nor there. My point is simply that streaks among the top-50 players don't have as big an impact on roto leagues, unless you are carefully plotting when you cash in a red-hot Vincent Lecavalier for a slumping Joe Thornton, hoping for a greater output from the other later in the season.
But that is another column (that I plan to write soon to make it up to you roto players for writing this head-to-head column).
In head-to-head leagues, using the absurd Hossa example, you wouldn't be sniffing the playoffs to benefit from Hossa's 100-point final game of the season because you would have lost every previous week when he did nothing. In H2H, consistency is king. You need to have a chance to win every week. Let's dig a little deeper.
I studied how many games each season a top player puts up a big zero in the box score. I took the number of games where a player had no points and compared that to his games played in the past three seasons (focusing on the last two, post-lockout). My hypothesis is that the higher the percentage of games played without a point, the lower the value for H2H players who are looking for a consistent output week to week. Take that one further, and by having a lower percentage of games played without a point, a player has more value because he is less likely to have one week with zero points and have a counterbalancing week where he has 12 points.
I did not go as far as analyzing streaks and weekly output (though I am intrigued enough by my findings to consider it), so the picture I am about to paint is that of players who have a positive or negative deviation to the percentage of games in which they do nothing for your scoring.
Two more things: First, I won't be presenting this as a simple table with the numbers, because there are variables to discuss for each player. Second, I only looked at players who have a reasonable chance of scoring a point per game. This study doesn't really apply when you look at guys who don't have enough points at the end of the season to score each game. We're only talking about your big-name, big-star, day-to-day contributors.
For the past two seasons (post-lockout), the average percentage of games for the players in our study group to put up a goose egg is about 35 percent. So, in 29 games each season, even your top players will score no points. The range went from a high of 46 percent to a low of 22 percent. Let's talk about some of the players who hit either extreme.
Marian Hossa, RW, Thrashers: I used Hossa as an example in the intro for a reason. Considering the number of points he gets every season, he has an uncanny knack for having off games. Last season, Hossa scored 100 points, but did all that damage in 45 games. Since he played all 82, that means he didn't score in 37 (45 percent) of his games. For the past two seasons, that number is 39 percent of Hossa's games in which he had no points. Head-to-head owners should be looking for a trading partner willing to take Hossa. He will win you some weeks single-handedly, but as a first-round draft choice it's tough to swallow him not showing up on the score sheet for almost half his games.
Jonathan Cheechoo, RW, Sharks: Cheechoo has not scored in 40 percent of his games played in the past two seasons. His owners know all too well that that comes from coach Ron Wilson tinkering with his lines too often, and separating Cheechoo from Joe Thornton. Since that continues to be a problem this season, Cheechoo does not appear to be any more appealing to fantasy owners who need consistency. By the way, his percentage of "zero games" was worse last season than it was in 2005-06, when he played for a month prior to the Sharks acquiring Thornton.
Milan Hejduk, RW, Avalanche: Hejduk also has a bad habit of condensing his points. To have 0.83 points per game for the past two seasons, yet not to score in 43 percent of his games played, Hejduk is losing some weeks for head-to-head players. Include the pre-lockout season for Hejduk and it doesn't get much better: 0.86 points per game and 41 percent of games with no points.
Scott Gomez, C, Rangers: We are certainly seeing evidence of Gomez's inconsistency this season. He didn't score in 42 percent of his games played with the Devils in the past two seasons. In fact, he topped a point per game in 2005-06 and didn't score in 43 percent of his games. Those are the kinds of numbers that can kill a head-to-head owner weak in the assist category. Let someone else enjoy his highs and suffer his lows.
Alexander Frolov, LW, Kings: Frolov has the worst numbers for a player who put up a strong amount of points in the past two seasons. He scored 0.83 points per game, yet was absent from the score sheet in 46 percent of his games played during 2005-06 and 2006-07. He scored all 71 of his points last season in 46 games, while playing 36 games without the payoff.
Brad Richards, C, Lightning: Richards has the most impressive numbers for consistency, and should be a sought-after commodity in H2H leagues. Richards has averaged below a point per game for the past two seasons, yet has not found his name on the score sheet in only 31 percent of those contests (to boot, he played in every single game). To put that into perspective, Richards is actually the only player below the 35 percent average I stated who has scored at less than a point-per-game pace. He is the ultimate in consistency.
Jason Spezza, C. and Dany Heatley, RW/LW, Senators: In case you were wondering who takes the crown in this contest, it's the linemates from Ottawa. They both have found the score sheet in all but 22 percent of their games played in the past two seasons (the next closest are Thornton and Alex Ovechkin at 25 percent). Heatley is the more consistent, having played in all 164 games, compared to Spezza not playing more than 68 games in both seasons combined. It definitely makes an argument for Heatley being the No. 1 overall pick in head-to-head leagues though (Sidney Crosby doesn't score in only 26 percent of his games). If Spezza could ever stay healthy, he'd be right up there with Heatley too.
Vincent Lecavalier had the best single season in the study, only missing the score sheet in 18 percent of his games last season. Like his Senators teammates, Daniel Alfredsson is money in the bank if you count on him playing exactly 77 games and giving you no points in only 28 percent of those games. That's what he has done in each of the previous three seasons. Heatley still has the best record if you go back three seasons (25 percent of games played with no points), but Joe Sakic has the best among players who actually played all three of those seasons in full (28 percent of games with zero points). After Hossa and Cheechoo, Olli Jokinen has the highest percentage of nonscoring games among players averaging more than a point per game in the past two seasons (37 percent of his games with no points).
I'm taking advantage of the new ESPN Fan Profiles to make a concerted effort at answering all the mailbag questions I get, but I failed to include a very relevant piece of information last week in my column introducing the plan how to find me on ESPN Fan Profiles. Follow this link to my page or search for my username: alla_rino. Ask me a question and I will get around to answering it in a timely fashion on the blog section of my Fan Profile.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.