So you've decided to download the Big Board. Now all you need to do is set it up just right and you'll be on your way toward winning your fantasy league in 2018. Follow this step-by-step guide and you'll be ready for draft day in no time. (Mouse-over each picture to see captions!)
Update: Quick GIF tutorial of how those hidden features work!
Update: Description of 'Pre-inflation' - useful for auction leagues!
After opening the Big Board for the first time in Excel, you should see a security notice. Click "Enable Content" to get started.
Click the “Settings” button up top. First, you must select between Z-Scores, SGP, or Points as your valuation system. This determines which sort of calculations the Big Board uses to calculate player values (referred to as BIGz, 5x5z, and Puntz). If you aren't sure which to pick, I am partial to Z-Scores as the default system. It's easy to use and pretty universally applicable. Click OK and the settings window will pop up.
(1) Set up the lineups used in your league. ESPN standard league lineups are loaded by default.
(2) Hitter % controls what percentage of your budget goes to hitters (the rest goes to pitchers). Most rankings sources use something around 67-70%. Shift this up or down if you want to go more or less pitcher heavy. Budget, Teams, and League should be self-explanatory. If you’re in a non-auction draft, leave the Budget box as-is, since that will still be used to scale the BIGz/5x5z/Puntz scores.
(3) These adjustments make tweaks to the default projections. For players projected for less than a full season of playing time, we can add some ‘replacement level production’ since you likely won’t leave your lineup spots empty if players aren’t playing due to injury or platoons. (Choose Yes to enable)
For this playing time adjustment, change the maximum # of bonus plate appearances and bonus innings pitched as desired. You may want to turn this lower if your waiver system makes it hard to pick players up frequently, or if you use weekly lineups.
Each projection system uses wildly different (and frequently inaccurate) methods for deciding on playing time. Changing either of the 'PA source' or 'IP source' boxes will apply the projected playing time from your chosen projection system for hitters and pitchers respectively. I recommend the FanGraphs Depth Charts or Steamer, since these are generally regarded as the best playing time estimators. Select No if you’d rather use the default playing time projections from your chosen projection system.
Next is inflation. For those unfamiliar, enabling this option will account for the actual remaining dollars during your auction draft. If teams are overspending, you’ll be able to get the remaining players cheaper, or vice versa, and the sheet will adjust player values accordingly.
Finally, a feature added in 2016 based on my research of fantasy value aging curves. Check the box to enable the aging factor. Then, enter a number from 2 to 5 years to decide what timeframe of aging you’d like to consider for each player. This will use the aging curves I’ve found to apply a penalty to players as they fall down the aging curve, and also give a slight boost in innings/PAs to young players and TJ surgery returnees for future years. Later, we’ll be able to select what weight to put on each year’s aging factor.
(4) and (5) Select the relevant hitting and pitching categories for your league. The bottom checkboxes allow you to define custom categories. Check the notes at the bottom to see if your custom category is supported, otherwise entering an unsupported category will break things.
(6) Choose the default projection system for all players. Options include Steamer, ZiPS, Pecota, Fans, xStats, 2014, 2015, 2016, MLB411 Composite, Custom, and Combo. Custom will pull projections from the “CustomH” and “CustomP” tabs (pre-loaded with 100 custom projections), and all other players will default to Steamer. Combo will pop up another window that allows you to assign weights to the various projection systems to create a mixed projection.
(7) Choose to display Ranks and ADPs from either ESPN, CBS, or Yahoo.
Click ‘OK’ to start a series of calculations and popups
A window to change the aging weights will popup if you’ve enabled aging factors. Enter any positive number you like and the weights will be applied as a percentage of the sum of these five numbers. In this case, I’ve got a .5-.3-.2-.1-.05 split for the five years.
A window to change the relative weights of each projection system in the 'Combo' will popup if you’ve chosen Combo projections. Enter any positive number you like and the weights will be applied as a percentage of the sum of these numbers. If data doesn't exist for any given player in a certain projection system, that portion of the combo will be filled in with Steamer.
Click ‘Yes’ to get a popup to edit the team names for your league – easy enough! Press ‘No’ to skip. Team names can be manually changed on the Standings tab.
Click ‘Yes’ to update the categories used in the calculation of player values. This will also update which categories are displayed in the sheet, and update the formatting of many columns. Click No to continue without changing categories.
Click ‘Yes’ to set up a punting strategy (Click ‘No’ to skip it – this will set Puntz scores equal to BIGz scores). The resulting popup is fairly self-explanatory, use the drop down to pick a category to punt, then click ‘Punt!’, selecting ‘Done’ when you’re finished punting categories. The sheet will generate a regular BigZ score in addition to a PuntZ score for each player.
Click ‘Yes’ to start calculating the replacement level for each position based on your league settings. Click ‘No’ to skip it if you’ve already run the calculation before.
Now, you can freely adjust replacement levels as you see fit. For example, if your league undervalues/punts relievers (as many leagues do) you may wish to increase the number of SPs and decrease the number of RPs. Press ‘Update’ to see the new replacement levels displayed on the chart, press ‘Finish’ to accept the values and continue. The replacement levels used during the previous Settings calculations are displayed at the bottom.
Hit/Pitch Split and Playing Time Bonuses
Click ‘Yes’ to update the hit/pitch split. Again, involves some math so it takes some time.
Click ‘Yes’ to update the playing time adjustments. More math happens! Probably the longest calculation.
Whew. All done. Your board is ready! Let’s look at what’s on it.
Big Board, part 1
Best remaining – highest value undrafted player left on the board
Biggest position drop – largest difference between the best and second best players remaining at any given position
Best ESPN/CBS/Yahoo (next 20) – going by the remaining 20 highest ranked players (ESPN CBS or Yahoo), finds which player is the highest valued on your board. Automatically increases in range (beyond ‘next 20’) later in the draft.
Next Watched – finds the next highest valued player remaining on your watch list
Hit/Pitch Split – displays your chosen h/p split
PT Correction – displays your settings for playing time corrections for both hitters (H) and pitchers (P)
Team – H/P split of your currently drafted team
Taken – H/P split of all players taken
(2) Player drafting tool. Change the selected player either by manually typing in the Player box, or click on the desired player in the Name list below. Use the dropdown in the Team box to select the desired team, or type the team's name. Click 'Draft!' to put currently selected player on the selected team.
(3) Name, Pos., and Age are all static, but each of the BIGz, Rank, and Pos. Rank have extra hidden features. Click on the “BIGz” header to get a dropdown selector to pick from BIGz, 5x5z, and PUNTz. BIGz is the Big Board player value tailored for your league, 5x5z is the value of players in your league if standard 5×5 categories were being used, and PUNTz is the modified version of BIGz we set up with certain categories punted. These values are displayed in units of $ (but don’t worry about that if you’re in a snake draft league). You’ll also notice the BIGAA, 5x5AA, and PUNTAA settings, which allow you to display the player values without replacement-level adjustments, ie, their unadjusted ‘Above Average’ values. Update: Quick GIF tutorial of how those hidden features work!
To compare different values side-by-side, you can use the dropdown in the “Rank” column to change it to BIGz, 5x5z, or PUNTz (or the AA versions of each).
To take these comparisons to an additional level of scrutiny, you can use the dropdown in the “Pos. Rank” column to change it to any one of “BIGz – ADP”, “BIGz – ESPN”, or “BIGz – Rank”. For ‘BIGz – ADP’, the values in the ADP column are converted into $ values and subtracted from the BIGz score (or whatever is currently in the D column). For ‘BIGz – ESPN’, it’s the same deal, but using the rankings from the ESPN (or Yahoo, or CBS) column. Finally, for “BIGz – Rank”, this subtracts the values in column 5 from column 4, which is useful if you’ve changed your Rank column to one of the other scoring systems like 5x5z or Puntz.
(4) Each row in the “Team” column has a dropdown selector to pick which team a player has been drafted to
(5) Ranks/ADPs from your chosen site. Use dropdowns in the headers to change to the desired site/ADP source.
$ – Use this column to enter the price paid for each player during the draft. Common misconception, this is NOT the projected $ values column…
D – Use this column to mark ‘y’ for players you drafted and ‘n’ for players you didn’t. The sheet will automatically do that if you’ve used the Team column to mark players. Players marked this way will be highlighted or crossed out appropriately. Bonus: Highlight a player’s name and press “Ctrl”+”n” to mark him as drafted.
W – Use this column to build your watch list. Enter a ‘w’ for any player you’d like to track.
Big Board, part 2
(1) Keeps track of number of players drafted at each position and displays predicted # of starters at each position.
(2) The top row represents your team’s projected performance in each category. The middle row is the projected average performance of all rostered players and is used as the ‘midpoint’ in the blue-to-red color scales for each category. The bottom row is the projected performance of players drafted to all other teams. The far left shows the total player value for your team (broken into hitters/pitchers), an ideally split $260 team, and average player value for all other drafted teams.
(3) – Each players projected stats show up in these columns. For leagues with more than 10×10 categories, the 11th+ will not be displayed, but will still count toward the calculated scores.
(4) – The Notes column displays a few things. First, if a player has a custom projection, this will be noted as (Custom). If a player has multiposition eligibility, that will be displayed next. Finally, any notes you've included in the "Notes" sheet are included here. To the right of the Notes column, you'll find a link to each player's FanGraphs profile page.
(5) – Current round and pick, based on number of players marked as drafted. Also shows total # of players drafted.
(6) – Use this button to import your settings from a previous Big Board. This is very useful if you've upgraded to a newer version!
You may have also noticed that each column on the left has a filter button on it. This gives you some neat capabilities like quickly sorting by position, or displaying only players from a certain team or position.
Next, let’s step through the remaining tabs, which have all sorts of good stuff in them...
Search & Roster
(1) and (2) – Choose to search by either Name or Position in the 1st box, and then enter your search in the 2nd. The remaining undrafted players that match your search will display in the rows below.
(3) – Every undrafted player you’ve marked with a ‘w’ back on the Big Board page will display here. Both of these lists are automatically sorted by player value.
4) – Your roster displays here (works the same as on the Teams page).
(5) – The number of players you’ve drafted, broken down into hitters/pitchers.
(6) – A visualized distribution of player values at each position. Each green bar is a player. The black bars show the average value of above-replacement value players at each position, with a half standard deviation above and below. Use this to visually find tiers and get a sense for which positions are more/less valuable on average. As players are drafted, their bars are removed.
(7) – Enter which pick you have in a snake draft and the box below will show which picks you have and the approximate dollar value of each pick.
(1) – The best remaining players at each position are listed here, left to right.
(2) – The value for each player is listed in the columns left of the players’ names.
(3) – The difference in value between the best and next best remaining player at each position is listed in the columns right of the players’ names. Use this to look for big drops in player value coming up in the draft!
(4), (6) and (7) – Same as above, but now listed for each stat. Use this to quickly find which players can help you in the categories you’re lacking. Note that rate stats will be shown as weighted-by-playing-time (indicated by an ‘n’).
(5) – Use the dropdown selector in this box if you’re looking for a specific position.
Just about what you’d expect of a standings page. The average age, projected player value, $ spent, $ remaining, projections for each category, and ROTO score are all displayed here. AVG and STDEV of each are displayed for stat-heads. Team budgets can be modified, enter a number for each team's total budget in the 'Modified Budget' column to change them, otherwise leave blank. You can edit the team names on this page as well.
Each team’s roster is displayed here, scrolling left to right. Click the button to switch from expanded view to compact view, or vice versa.
(1) through (3) – Team name, number of players drafted, and projected total player value of starters
(4) and (5) – Starters and reserve players, as determined by player value.
(6) – The compact roster display easily shows which teams have drafted players at which positions. This is great for identifying whether your rivals are about to draft a certain position before you!
(7) – Projected total player value of each team
(8) – Each square will be colored in as teams fill those positions in the draft. White squares represent empty positions. Grayed-out squares are lineup spots not used by your league.
(9) – A copy of the display on top of the Big Board shows # of players drafted at each position.
Yikes. Here be dragons. I’d say this is for advanced users only. The projections used for all players are housed here.
(1) – The categories relevant to your league are displayed here.
(2) – The BIGz, 5x5z, and PUNTz scores for each player.
(3) – Projected plate appearances for each player according to your selected Playing Time source.
(4) – Each row contains a dropdown selector which allows you to change individual players to other projection systems. (If you want to make a custom projection, select custom, and create a line for that player over on the “CustomH” tab)
(5) – Displays the automatically calculated replacement levels for each position. Shown visually at (8).
(6) – Displays the average value of above-replacement players at each position.
(7) – Displays the per-plate appearance bonus applied to players projected for less than a full season of playing time (as described in the initial settings page).
ProjectedP, Part 1
(1) through (6) – About the same as before.
(7) – The per-inning bonus applied to players projected for less than a full season of playing time. The bonus applied for starters maxes out at the value defined in the initial settings (60 IP by default), while the bonus for relievers is ~1/3rd of that (20 IP by default). Press that fancy GO button to re-calculate your per-IP and per-PA bonuses.
(8) – The hit/pitch split conversion factors are all housed here. Press that fancy GO button to re-calculate them.
ProjectedP, Part 2
On the right side, you’ll notice all the settings for your league are housed here. This is the low-tech place to check on your settings, and also update some of the settings if you wish (though it's generally best to do so through the Settings dialogues).
CustomH and customP
This is my favorite part of the sheet because it’s where I get to disagree with the projection systems. There’s already a large number of custom projections entered into both of these with the stats that have been altered from the default Steamer projection highlighted in green (upgrade) or red (downgrade). If you wish to edit any of these, it’s as easy as typing in a different number for the given player/stat. When the sheet is set to use “Custom” projections it will look here to see if you’ve made one for a player, and otherwise use Steamer (or whatever projection you’ve chosen in the ProjectedH/ProjectedP tabs).
To add a new player, just type the player name into a blank row at the bottom of the table. The steamer projections should load in by default as a baseline for you to start from. When you’ve entered new players, press the ‘Set Custom Projections’ button at the top to sort things out and set the entered players to use the new ‘Custom’ projection.
You can also use these tabs to load in other projection systems! Simply copy/paste into this sheet (make sure everything goes in the right columns) and the Big Board will do the rest.
The Board comes pre-loaded with many player notes, including injury history from 2016. Any notes entered here will show up in the 'Notes' column of the Big Board.
The positions tab holds the names of every player along with their position eligibility (in ESPN, CBS, and Yahoo), their age, and their league. By default players are listed at their most valuable position of eligibility. Players whose eligibility in Yahoo is different from ESPN are generally highlighted, as well as guys with SP/RP elig. or 1B/OF elig. since the more valuable position of those pairs can be league dependent. Also added this year is multi-position elig. (shown in the Notes column on the main board) and LF/CF/RF eligibility. Be careful not to delete anything important in this page or you’ll break everything!
The trades tab can be used to evaluate trades between any two teams in the league. Use the dropdowns to select Team A and Team B, and each team's roster will be displayed. This includes player names, values, rankings in the host site of choice, and the difference in value between the Big Board's player value and the host site's. In the top section, each Name box is a dropdown to select players from Team A or Team B's roster. You can choose to evaluate trades by either the Big Board's values or the host site's values. You may also choose to assign a value to 'empty spots' - this is useful to quantify the difference in value when doing a 2 player for 1, or 3 player for 2 trade.
Lastly, there are three more buttons we never clicked on the BigBoard tab. The Add Player dialog does just what you’d think.
(1) Drop down menu to select the player you’d like to add. You can also type in names manually.
(2) Boxes to select player’s position, set which league (AL or NL) they’re in, and their age.
(3) List of players projected for significant playing time by steamer who aren’t currently listed. Click a name in this list to auto-fill it into the top box.Press ‘Add’ to add the selected player to the appropriate places in the Big Board.Note that adding players can sometimes break things. If you’ve added a player that doesn’t have a steamer projection, you’ll likely need to go find that player and enter a different projection (possibly a custom projection) for them.
The Update Data dialog will automatically grab updated Ranks/ADPs from Yahoo, CBS, and ESPN, along with NFBC and FP Ranks.
Finally – the Sort button. I’m not even going to put a picture here because all it does is sort your Big Board by player value!
You’ve made it to the end. Good job. Now go win.