ColemanDefends Roto

By John Coleman, statistical expert at the Shrink

July5, 2001

As you have likely guessed, Rotisserie is my game. An ardentreader of Bill James since 1982, I became equally devoted to Rotisserie in1984. I've kept the stats, organized leagues, done work for a Roto website, andpromoted the game for years. With all due modesty, I am nominally accepted asan "expert", having participated in Ron Shandler's Tout Wars since1998 and the LABR league since 1999.

Now, I'm not claiming to be accomplished or evenparticularly knowledgeable when it comes to the game its own self, but I'mcertainly a man who'll take up this gauntlet.

I'll take it point-by-point, in the hallowed tradition of flamedemails.

I'll not argue with the fact that you dislike the game. BillJames disliked the game, and although he provided a deep understanding ofsimulation games such as Strat-O-Matic, he was never much help when it came toRoto. (I understand he was a terrible Roto player!) James is still one of myfavorite authors, and his ability to take a new look at an old subject stillamazes me. I'll read nearly any article he's ever written with the sameresponse: "Wow! Why didn't I ever see that? This sure changesthings!" Let me assure you that I still love you and all of BP just asmuch.


The real meat here is your statement: "it's also amissed opportunity, and an amazingly effective obstacle to promoting greaterunderstanding of real baseball among a subset of fans who have a very highlevel of interest in the game."


And I'd like to reply: You have shown no proof that this hasoccurred, and I think you've ignored the amazing influx of outstanding analysisthat the Roto industry has caused.

I think you are dead-ass wrong in making the assumption thatRoto has reinforced reliance on inadequate statistical analysis. I've beenbreathing heavy about OBP since my very first game of Strat (1977), so trust mewhen I say I understand its importance. The same goes for ERA, Wins, RBI's,etc.

Here's the thing: In order to play this game well, you mustcompletely understand Avg, HR, RBI, SB, W SV, ERA, RAT. And there's an awfullot of depth to projecting those stats. Not that it's rocket science, butbelieve me, you need to understand what a player's climbing strikeout frequencycan mean. You profit from noticing a trend in doubles, you need to get excitedby Bobby Abreu's minor league triple totals. Bottom line: to play Roto, youneed to avail yourself of every tool and theory you encounter.


You prefer simulations because they "don't do what Rotodoes, which is allow 'gamblingesque' results that depend on the ongoing dramaof the current MLB season."


I'm not sure why you eschew this drama, but you have aright, I suppose. All I can tell you is this: Baseball has become terriblyexciting for me since Roto. I find nearly the same interest when viewing thePadres as I do when watching my own Cleveland Indians.

Am I wrong in viewing your statement as a puritanicaldisdain for other people's happiness?


"Roto is popular in large part due to its simplicityand familiarity."


I've heard that said an awful lot about baseball in general.Apparent simplicity often belies a complexity, which can provide endlessfascination.


"I think those are the same two reasons why I hateit."


Similarly, I've heard that said about baseball as well. Youmust be aware that an enormous portion of the Earth's populace considersbaseball to be quite an inferior pastime. (Not to sound xenophobic oranything...) If you think my Roto team bores you, try taking a German to anIndian's game. Talk about disdain!


"Roto attracts the serious baseball fan, (as opposed tothe disturbed, borderline obsessive/compulsive baseball fan that reads thingslike Baseball Prospectus) and then immediately reinforces a bunch of canards inthe minds of people who probably have a genuine interest in learning more aboutthe game of baseball."


I'd say exactly the opposite is true.

There's no better education on themeaningfulness of statistics than sweating through a pitcher's duel watchingyour man lose 2-1, while your competitor collects credit for another win on thestrength of Jay Witasick's .2 IP 2 ER vulture job.


Nobody, I mean nobody who plays Roto seriously thinksthat wins is a way to determine pitcher effectiveness.
But it's widely known that the opposite is true: Pitcher effectiveness willgenerally determine win totals. In order to generate those win totals, a greatamount of patience, foresight and understanding of the true nature of baseballis required.

And Most Importantly: Roto provides a tremendous desire toattain that understanding.


That's my main bone of contention: Roto provides an amazingincentive to Understand. I have to believe that you do not realize this.


I believe that your dislike is not the same as that of PeterGammons, whose predictions prove consistently useless, and has adopted ananti-rotisserie stance as a means to discredit the very readers who he hasdisappointed.


I'll wrap up this rambler now. I don't wish to annoy orinsult you, despite the fervor with which I disagree. I don't want you to fileme under the "clueless, but outraged" label, either. No matter youropinion, I've been a consistent buyer and reader of yours, and will continue tobe.


Rotisserie reaches out and wins fans. Baseball fans.



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