MASTER NOTES: S&S or STR?

The other day on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel, I heard Derek Van Riper talking about the long-running philosophical battle for auction-style fantasy drafts. On one side, there is the Stars and Scrubs (S&S) strategy, and on the other, there’s Spread the Risk (STR).

In the never-ending quest to help you plan your auctions, I decided to see which approach works better. And after a quick study, it turned out that ... there’s not much difference.

Before we get rolling, let’s quickly run through the two strategies. In case you started playing fantasy baseball sometime earlier today, S&S focuses on buying several big-name—and big-dollar—stars, and then filling out the roster with “scrubs,” the table scraps, the $1-$3 players left over at the end of the auction. The idea is that the stars pile up such great stats that they more than offset the more modest production of the scrubs—and carefully chosen scrubs can have highly profitable upside.

In STR, the idea is to avoid stars and scrubs, and focus on filling the entire roster with mid-value players who will get a lot of plate appearances and pile up counting stats. More importantly, the strategy reduces the added risk in S&S of a star player being lost through injury. Losing Mookie Betts from a team built around five or six $25+ stars is much more damaging blow than losing Kendrys Morales from a team of $14 lunchbucket guys.

To test the two strategies, I set up a little experiment. I used an Excel spreadsheet to randomly select hitters for two S&S rosters and two STR rosters, using the BaseballHQ.com prices generated for a 15-team mixed auction by the Custom Draft Guide tool. All the test hitting rosters were set on a strict 70/30 hit-pitch split, which allots exactly $182 to hitters.

My S&S setup was adjusted to get six stars for $165-$170, from players $20 or more in BHQ projected value, and remaining eight hitters for a total of $12-$17. The STR setup limited the available value range to players from $11-$16. In both cases, I intervened in the random process only when a randomly selected player did not have a legal roster spot. Towards the end of each selection process, I tweaked the price ranges to make sure all the remaining money was spent.

S&S roster #1 stars were Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, Jose Altuve, Trea Turner, Starling Marte and Corey Seager. The S&S #2 stars were Paul Goldschmidt, Kris Bryant, Mike Trout, Marte again, Rougned Odor and Francisco Lindor.

The STR hitters were guys like AJ Pollock and Troy Tulowitzki on both teams, as well as your Brandon Belts, Adam Duvall and Adrian Gonzalez.

Now, the results. All four teams were ranked rotisserie style in the five categories, with the top team getting four points and the bottom team one. Category ties split the points, as usual in roto scoring. Max score was 20. STR #2 won this little league, with 14 points, winning Runs and BA, finishing second in SB, third in RBI and last in HR. STR #1 was second overall with 13 points, winning HR and RBI but finishing last in BA and SB. S&S #2 was third, with seconds and thirds across the board but a tie with STR # 1 in HR. And STR #1 lagged the bunch at 10.5 points, winning SB but lagging in power and BA.

This exercise is obviously not entirely representative of how an owner might draft a hitting roster. S&S #1 clearly had way too many bags, and its owner might have passed on Marte at $24 to get a hitter with more power. STR #1 had way too much power and could have skipped, say, Duvall in favor of a BA/SB guy. And so on.

Also, the fact that the exercise was limited to a fairly shallow mixed league affects the dynamic. In a shallow mixed, every price range has many more players and more production profiles—than there would be in a deeper league. The greater availability of capable replacement players lessens the risk of losing a star from an S&S team. And in a deeper league, the STR owner has to accept the added risk that other owners might be using the same approach, and pushing up auction prices for the mid-value guys on whom the plan depends.

On balance, it seems either approach can work. If the valuation system is working properly, at some point we just have to accept that $182 of auction salary will buy $182 worth of scoring, no matter how the money is divvied up and portioned out.

So perhaps the best strategy is still to execute well. Whether you do S&S or STR or some hybrid of the two, the best strategy is to know the player pool, to balance your roster as the auction proceeds, and instead of trying to force a roster model onto the table, let the table guide your roster model.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.