Do You Know What It Takes To Win Your League?

Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut.  Do you really know what it takes to win your league?  Or are you just blindly drafting your team?

This may seem a little basic, but if I had to guess, I would say this is a simple exercise most fantasy owners don’t do.  Before the draft, do you know (or at least have an estimate of) what it’s going to take to win the league?  And I’m not talking generically.  I mean, do you know how many rotisserie points you’ll need to accumulate to win it all?  Do you have an idea of the total HRs or Ks you’ll need?

How Can Anyone Know That?

Maybe one can’t “know”.  Each season is unique.  But you can do some research to develop a strong estimate.  And once you have the end goal in mind, you can then use projections and average draft positions (ADPs)/auction dollar values to reverse engineer a winning team.

Instead of blindly drafting a team, you can strategically build a team to win.

It helps if you have a recurring league with some established history and preferably not a lot of manager turnover.  If you play in public leagues on large websites (Yahoo!, ESPN, etc.), you may be able to find estimates as well.

OK.  I Have a Recurring League.  HOW DO I START?

Access you historic league standings and start a spreadsheet to track what it has historically taken to win the league.  You can use my example here.

I track these two things:

  1. Final rotisserie points by year for each team
  2. Final statistics by team for each league roto category (e.g. final BA, HR, W, K)

The following example is for a 12-team league with 23 man rosters, using standard 5×5 rotisserie scoring and players from the AL and NL.

 1.  Final Rotisserie Points by Year for Each Team

This is the first 15 rows on the example spreadsheet.

This historical data is then used to create an average.  This calculation will yield the estimated total points needed to come in 1st place.  There are several ways you can calculate an average in Excel, but I use the following formula:

=AVERAGE(B4, F4, J4, N4, R4, V4, Z4, AD4)

The strength of this formula is that empty cells are excluded from the average calculation.  So the one year this league had only 11 teams does not distort the calculation.

The example spreadsheet has eight years of overall standings data and averages out to the following:

I’ve seen arguments before that you only need to beat the second place team to win.  If second place averages a total of 88.56 points, this argument suggests that it’s going to take 89 points to win the league.  A quick look at the historical data shows that, 89 points would have won the league only five out of the eight years (89 would have beaten the second place team five times).  The first place average of 93.875 would have beaten the second place team  seven out of eight times.  So for purposes of this exercise, I’m going to assume my target for rotisserie points is 93.875 (shoot for the stars, right?).

If my goal is 93.875 and the league has 10 categories (5×5 league), I need to average 9.4 points per category (93.875/10).  Said another way, I need to finish third in about half of the categories (in a 12-team league, a first place finish earns 12 points, second place 11, and third place 10) and fourth in about half of the categories (fourth place earns 9).

That’s it!  You only need to finish in third or fourth to win the league.  That’s where the historical statistic averages come in.


Knowing that I need to finish in third or fourth for a particular category, let’s look at the league’s home run averages for the last eight years:

To earn third place, a team needs to hit 272 home runs (going back to the earlier argument about if you need to actually get to 272.25 or if you just need to beat 258.375, I’m going “shoot for the stars” again).

Using the other statistical averages from the example spreadsheet, I’ll go aggressive and set my goal to come in third place in every category.  Here’s what it’ll take:

Category Stat Needed
BA .278
HR 272
R 1,068
RBI 1,031
SB 170
ERA 3.796
K 1,246
SV 78
W 97
WHIP 1.276

What If I Don’t have a Recurring League or a Lengthy History of Standings Data?

If your league has an unusual scoring system, you may not be able to develop an accurate estimate.  But if you play in a typical rotisserie scoring system, has some data that you can use as a guide.

Please note that the actual data for the average Yahoo! or ESPN league isn’t publicly available.  I have seen it mentioned in specific articles on those sites in the past (sometimes Andy Behrens or Matthew Berry will refer to them), but I can’t even locate those references now.  Razzball uses surveys of its users and a data model to estimate these figures (someone asked them, you can read the exact description here).  It’s not perfect.  But neither is my example.  And it’s at least a very strong starting point.

Reverse Engineering a Team

Now that you have the ending statistics for your team, use projections and available draft/auction averages to construct a team that can reach those stat levels.  Participate in mock drafts or mock auctions, then run the projected stats from your team to see how things shake out.  You don’t need to shoot for an all around team that finishes in third place for each category.  For every category that you win, you can finish in fifth in another.


This is can be a powerful strategic exercise.  Let me know if you have any critiques or similar practices that you’ve found to be successful.  Please let me know if I’m making any logical flaws in my analysis.

Thanks for reading!  Make smart choices.

8 Responses

  1. logicliker
    logicliker at |

    Great post.

    Quick question: What if you were in 8 different yahoo leagues in 2013 with identical format/set up?

    Could you just use the averages from your 8 leagues in 2013?

  2. Tanner Bell
    Tanner Bell at |

    Yeah, I think that makes sense. It might even be more accurate than using the last eight years, because the environment has changed over time. Simply using more data points from one year is sound.

  3. Jason
    Jason at |

    My league uses OPS and QS instead of AVG and W. We use Yahoo and it has deleted our league history. How can I determine, at minimum, an average SGP multiplier to use for these stat categories?

    1. Tanner Bell
      Tanner Bell at |

      Hi Jason. I don’t have information on that myself. But if you still have the same Yahoo ID you used when playing in the league in the past, I bet you can still get to those standings. This is a good topic for a post. I may write up a better description with screenshots soon.

      If you have a current Yahoo team using the same ID you have used in the past, go to your team page in the new league (the “My Team” link on the main baseball toolbar for your league). Once on your page, your team name is displayed on the top. Right below that in a smaller font is your user Yahoo “Fantasy Sports ID”. If you click on that Fantasy Sports ID you will be presented with a history of every sport you’ve played at Yahoo. They do delete the history of NCAA Tournament Challenges and games like that. But it appears like I can still get to league standings for baseball back to when I started on Yahoo in 2001. Roto leagues have a link for “Full Standings” where it shows your typical rotisserie standings.

      Hopefully you can get this information from there… And if you do have it, would you mind sharing it?!?!? I’m always looking for category information like OPS and QS.

  4. CitgoSign1985
    CitgoSign1985 at |

    Thank you for the article. My league tends to fluctuate between 14 and 15 teams each year, so if I go back and get the averages for the last 8 years, wouldn’t that be inaccurate based on the number of teams? A year with 15 teams is going to yield higher point totals than the year with 14 teams.

    1. Tanner
      Tanner at |

      Citgo, I would suggest reading this article:

      I believe it shows that the number of teams in a league isn’t really a big deal if you convert the factors to the same relative scale (that process is discussed in the article). You may want to do the conversions for your last several years, differing league sizes, and see if they come out pretty close like that research suggests.

      1. CitgoSign1985
        CitgoSign1985 at |

        Hey Tanner, I’ll be totally honest by saying math is not my strong suit. Should I just go back longer than 8 years and find only the years where there were 15 teams and base it off of that? As Captain Kirk would say to Spock upon uttering technobabble re:that article you posted:”In English Mr. Spock?” Is there a simple equation I have to calculate on the years with only 14 teams? Thank you!!!

        1. Tanner
          Tanner at |

          Hey, no worries. I do think the equation to calculate the information with only 14 teams is pretty straight forward. To calculate the offensive categories, take each SGP denominator you have and divide it by the RBI denominator.

          For any pitching category, take it and divide it by the strikeouts denominator.

          For example, you might have a R denominator of 19, HR of 8, RBI of 19.5, and SB of 7.5.

          Dividing each of these by the RBI amount (19.5), you get 0.97 for R, 0.41 for HR, 1.00 for RBI, and 0.38 for SB.

          If you do that same process for your 15 team years and your 14 team years, things should look very similar after that conversion.

          Or if that’s too intimidating, I wouldn’t sweat it too much. Just throw the 14 and 15 team seasons in the same basket and average them out. I think you’ll still find a very good set of values you can use.

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