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Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: February 21, 10:22 AM ET
Points league strategy

By AJ Mass
ESPN.com

Fantasy baseball has been around for a long time, longer than Bruce Willis has been battling bad guys in "Die Hard" movies. But unlike the recipe for what is now a cliched explosion-fest, fantasy baseball has evolved and changed as the years have passed.

True, some of the early players of the game have stuck to the original concept of a category-based comparison of teams known as "rotisserie," but there are an increasing number of leagues today that use different methods to determine their ultimate champion.

One of the popular offshoot scoring systems is the points league. Instead of owners being concerned about drafting players who can provide them with a balanced lineup of steals, home runs, batting average, wins, strikeouts and ERA, each player in a points league gives you a single number each week based on his on-field performance.

That makes a huge difference in the relative value of players, and although many of the superstars of the sport are going to remain at the top of draft lists regardless of how you play, there are certain factors that do carry a lot more weight in the points format than they would in evaluating players in more traditional formats.

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 points perspective? You bet there are. So without any further ado, let's take a look at some of these factors in terms of how they relate to evaluating players in points leagues. Yippee-ki-yay!

A Good Day To Swing Hard

The major difference in most points leagues is that a 1-for-4 day can be as good as, 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 most of these leagues, a walk is indeed as good as a hit because a single and a base on balls earn you the same number of points. As a result, a player with a much higher slugging percentage and/or a higher on-base percentage than 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 player's OPS and subtract his batting average to see who jumps out at you. Here are 10 players who had 2012 seasons that made them far more valuable to points leaguers:

Deeper cuts: More players who fit into this area: Jason Kubel, John Jaso, Wilin Rosario, Tyler Colvin and Jonathan Lucroy.

Striking Out With a Vengeance

When it comes to roto value, those players who can contribute in multiple categories get a huge boost. However, in points leagues, it makes no difference where the points come from; a one-category juggernaut can be worth just as much as a player who does a bit of everything.

What makes a huge difference, though, is that players are docked for striking out in most points leagues. You can drive in a pair of runs with a single, but if you fan twice in the same goes, it negates the RBIs. Here are some otherwise solid players who were their own worst enemies in 2012:

Deeper cuts: More players whose values are lessened because of high K totals: Danny Espinosa, Drew Stubbs, Carlos Pena, Kelly Johnson and Everth Cabrera.

Do I Sound Like I'm Ordering a Pizza?

In points leagues, a pitcher winning his start is paramount because each victory nets you five points, to go along with a point for each out you record along the way. For a starting pitcher, we're talking about starting off with a minimum of 20 points in ESPN standard scoring per win. That can cure a lot of ills. But as we know, predicting victories can be 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 some pitchers with a below-.500 winning percentage in 2012 who minimized the collateral damage in points leagues in a way that might not come across in the rotisserie rankings process:

Deeper cuts: More pitchers who fit into this class: J.A. Happ, Trevor Bauer, Felix Doubront, Edinson Volquez and Tim Stauffer.

Nothing Lasts Forever

The difference between a pitcher winning a game or losing it in a points league is a 10-point swing, with five points taken away for a defeat. Because of this, pitchers who won a lot of games in 2012 with the help of plenty of run support could be due for a huge letdown in terms of fantasy value in points leagues.

Here's a list of the "luckiest" pitchers in 2012, as determined by those starters with winning records who simply ended up in the right place at the right time. Their teams gave them a ton of run support (RS/9), and they needed every bit of it, as they allowed hitters to reach base (BR/9) left and right. If they continue to get in trouble on a routine basis in 2013, these pitchers might find that their luck finally has run out.

Deeper cuts: More pitchers due for a decline in points leagues: Phil Hughes, James McDonald, Jarrod Parker, Scott Diamond and Derek Holland.

Of course, all of these examples look 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 to identify a group of players who might well be better or worse in the points league format than perhaps a more traditional 5x5 analysis says they should be, you're bound to increase your chances of finding those hidden gems and sleepers as well as avoiding those flies in the ointment. And in the end, that's the whole point, isn't it, Hans?