Fantasy Baseball Categories: 5x5 vs. 4x4

by Herija C. Green on December 1, 2010 @ 01:00:01 PDT


The most common rotisserie formats in use today are 5x5 and 4x4, where teams compete in 10 or eight categories, respectively. This system can also be used in head-to-head leagues.

Generally, you should seek balance. Players who contribute in four or five categories are most valuable. Some fantasy baseball strategies advocate ignoring or "punting" a category. However, each category is equally weighted. If you focus too much on some areas, you will be lacking in others, which severely limits your shot to win the league. Balance means you can finish near the top of the league in every category - assuming your projections are correct and you have a little luck.

Hitting categories

Runs (5x5)

Players at the top of the batting order flourish here because they get on base for power hitters to drive in. Those from better offensive teams are generally more valuable in this area. If a team has a poor offense, it obviously won't score as many runs, which will negatively affect a player's total. This is one category in which a player's success is largely dependent upon other players in the lineup contributing.

4x4 strategy: The more a player derives his value from runs scored, the more value he loses in this format. Base-stealing specialists take the biggest hit.

Home runs (5x5, 4x4)

While it can be difficult to assemble a group of power hitters who also hit for a high average, home run hitters typically do well in RBIs and runs scored, depending on their spot in the lineup. Keep an eye out for players who play in hitter-friendly ballparks or those hitting in lineups offering good protection, enabling them to see good pitches to hit. Some players develop more pop as they mature physically. Many players enter their prime power years around the age of 27 or 28.

Young players with high flyball rates and doubles power may suggest potential. A steady increase in their rate of home runs per flyball can help you predict a breakout in home runs.

4x4 strategy: Players who are devalued because of their inability to score many runs (often those who don't hit for a high average or draw walks but hit home runs and drive in runs) are bumped up.

RBIs (5x5, 4x4)

The best players to have for this category are power hitters, particularly those hitting third, fourth or fifth. They can drive in the top of the order, which consists of players who are expected to get on base. Players on better offensive teams will have more RBI opportunities and should be more highly valued than players in similar situations on inferior offensive clubs. How a player performs with runners in scoring position is important, but that average can fluctuate greatly from one season to the next.

4x4 strategy: Since runs don't count, those players who excel at driving them in but are often stranded on base now draw even in value.

Stolen Bases (5x5, 4x4)

You're not penalized for unsuccessful attempts in this category. Many teams stick their base stealers at the top-of-the-order or, more so in the AL, at the bottom of the order. When considering a base stealer, keep in mind things such as age, body type and athleticism. Trends in attempts, stolen base percentage and triples may offer indications about a player's prospects, too. Also, what is his manager's philosophy about aggressiveness on the bases? If a player is on a team with a more conservative manager, he might not swipe as many bags as one with a risk-taking manager.

4x4 strategy: The usual complementary value of players with great speed is a non-factor. In general, speedy one-dimensional types are a little less valuable as result.

Batting Average (5x5, 4x4)

The more at-bats an individual player registers, the greater his impact on your team's overall mark. Therefore, an everyday player batting .300 may have more value than a platoon player hitting 30 points higher. Players who consistently put the ball in play are less prone to lengthy slumps. High average hitters atop potent offensive lineups should also contribute heavily in runs. The further down a lineup a player hits, the fewer at-bats he will have over the course of a season. Players who take more walks see fewer at-bats, but they demonstrate patience and, if their strikeout rate is respectable, a good batting eye. That's indicative of a player who can hit for a good average.

4x4 strategy: Seek high average hitters in the run-producing spots in the order (third, fourth and fifth) over leadoff hitters since runs don't count.

Pitching categories

Strikeouts (5x5)

If there is a limit on the number of innings your team can pitch, you'll want to be the team with the most strikeouts per nine innings. For instance, a pitcher who logs 170 strikeouts in 170 innings is more valuable than one with the same number of K's in 220 frames. Middle relievers capable of racking up strikeouts are valuable. In leagues with innings minimums, the rate is less of a concern for the sake of the statistic. However, it's a more valuable factor in evaluating future performance.

4x4 strategy: Assuming comparable results in ERA and WHIP, pitchers who are on better teams but strike out fewer hitters can become more valuable than talented K artists on worse teams. Keep in mind: Ppitchers with a high strikeout-to-walk ratio have skills that indicate future success.

Wins (5x5, 4x4)

Starters present the best chance at earning wins. That's assuming you draft pitchers on good teams because they'll have more opportunities. A starter on the Seattle Mariners with a 4.00 ERA isn't as valuable as one with a comparable mark for the New York Yankees.

Relievers can still be vital contributors in this area. Those with high K/9 who pitch for teams with poor or middling offenses or rotations with average starters or hurlers who can't go deep into games offer great upside; they can chip in a few wins, chip away at your ERA and WHIP and provide some K's - in fewer innings.

4x4 strategy: The removal of strikeouts changes the dynamic. It significantly devalues hard throwers and allows cagey veterans who just know how to win to move up the rankings. There's less need to acquire players with overpowering stuff, allowing you to concentrate on those who are in position to earn wins (as well as help in ERA and WHIP). Pitchers who strike out a high rate of hitters have potential, though. Generally, hurlers who aren't K masters but win consistently and produce solid ratios are adept at some other skill. They coax a lot of groundballs, for instance.

Saves (5x5, 4x4)

Closers are typically the only players who receive save opportunities with any regularity. In mixed leagues, most projected closers will be taken in a draft, so it's important to select a couple. When is always a big debate. Many closers have good peripheral numbers, but remember that they'll have less impact because they pitch fewer innings than starters. Focus on the teams that generate save opportunities; they aren't necessarily the ones that win the most games.

Be active during the regular season; closing roles change hands frequently, and valuable contributors in this category can be picked up via waivers throughout the year. Some pitchers without closing jobs are good gambles because they have demonstrated certain skills and just need a chance. Teams with poor or injury-prone closers or unsettled closer situations define opportunities. Saves are a stat worth speculating on.

4x4 strategy: There's not much difference here. Most upper-echelon stoppers are pretty dominant. However, there could be a shuffling of any tier when K's are less of a factor and reliability - however much there is - is more of one.

ERA (5x5, 4x4)

If there is a maximum number of innings your team can accumulate during the season, don't feel obligated to keep your low-end starters active every time they take the hill. Consider things like his career ERA against an opponent, home or road splits and ballpark factor.

Obviously a player's track record and home ballpark are important. Pitchers who are lined up to make 18 starts at PETCO Park are in a better position to keep their ERA down than someone taking the bump every fifth day at Coors Field.

Keep a watchful eye for pitchers with a low ERA but a high WHIP or rate of walks per nine, an unusually low hit rate against and an abnormally high strand rate. They may have worked out of trouble a lot and could be shakier options. Pitchers who post a solid strand rate on a consistent basis can be trusted more so than pitchers who worked out of plenty of jams but don't display the skills to continue that trend.

4x4 strategy: Strikeouts should be used to help gauge a pitcher's ability to keep his ERA down, especially when measured against his rate of walks issued. After all, if a batter isn't putting the ball in play, he's not driving in runs.

WHIP (5x5, 4x4)

A pitcher can have a good ERA and a bad WHIP, or vice versa. One who will excel in this category typically has good control or doesn't pitch to contact to an extreme degree. While starters have the biggest effect in this area because of the number of innings they pitch, dominant middle relievers can be very helpful here.

4x4 strategy: The pool of middle relievers to be considered should dwindle a tad. Most owners want non-closing relievers to contribute strikeouts in addition to solid ratios and the occasional win. Otherwise, they still have value.

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About Herija C. Green

A graduate of the prestigious Top Gun school, Green's ego writes checks his body can't cash. When he's not overdrawing his ego's bank account, Green enjoys games of beach volleyball, riding his Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle, and buzzing the tower (whether the pattern is full or not). He resides in the Danger Zone and yes, Ice... Man, he is dangerous. He also writes.

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