Yes, to some, it is.
I decided to let the debate among my peers about the use of on-base percentage over batting average in mixed league Tout Wars age a bit before I commented further.
The initial discussion among Lord Zola’s Knights was fairly tame and generally consistent in support of the idea as a better reflection of player value. When it was opened up to the entire Tout Wars participants, approaching 50 in total, there was some loud dissention, however.
While some good points were made in favor of caution, others seemed resistant to change simply because it is change. Further, the role of leagues like Tout was questioned. Should we as industry leaders mimic the format used by the majority of our readers or be willing to try new ideas?
Some even expressed worry that the projections they provide to their customers would be less relevant because they are based on batting average today – as if they could not be enhanced to also include OBP in the future.
My counter-argument was that the first stat projectors/magazine publishers who include OBP-based values alongside BA-based ones should have a competitive advantage in selling their products.
I have to wonder if these same objections to change were raised back when the industry moved from predominantly using 4x4 to today’s more common 5x5 scoring? I honestly don’t remember, but I would bet they were.
One line of thinking suggests that OBP gives too much weight to sluggers. The logic goes that since they walk more often, these power hitters already receive extra advantage in the runs and RBI categories for every home run. I understand the thought process but no one presented any quantification of how concerning this might actually be. I can always better assess fear of the unknown with actual data.
Others threw out strawman arguments such as suggesting that since BA-OBP was on the table, then all scoring categories should be re-evaluated. Specifically steals and saves, which some believe are fundamentally out of balance in terms of relative scoring importance, were suggested. Those are interesting points to discuss another day, but irrelevant to the OBP versus BA decision under evaluation.
A number of the (ahem!) grayer-haired members of Tout were less vocal in the back-and-forth. Perhaps that is because a number of us participate in a keeper league called the XFL, or Xperts Fantasy League. Over a decade ago, the XFL decided to experiment using OBP instead of BA and has never looked back. This method of play proved to be no big deal in terms of change and the members have liked it enough to keep it with no debate.
One thing we all agreed on (I think) as members of Tout Wars is the need to explain to readers why this shift to OBP is being made. You can tell by the slant of my writing on which side of this debate I reside. Yet I would respect you if you disagree – as long as you can back up your position with logic – and preferably with data.
In these columns, I always try to explain how you might apply the stories I tell about my world to help you in yours. Even if your league is not yet ready to try OBP, I recommend you keep an eye on mixed league Tout Wars in 2013.
My longer term message is simple - do not be afraid to change - yet be open to consider all points of view. Just remember that the loudest voices in the room are not necessarily delivering the most relevant viewpoint.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.