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April 9, 2013
Like most of my readers, I devour every scrap of expert-league auction data I can get my hands on before the season starts. However, while useful, expert auctions are almost always start-over. While this gives a decent baseline for raw values, it isn’t very instructive as to what might happen when you start dealing with keepers, reserve lists, and other twists on the rules that cater more to carryover leagues.
Below is a brief recap of what I did in my two longstanding keeper auctions this past weekend. While nearly all of us are done drafting or auctioning, looking back at what we did right as well as what we did wrong can be very instructive.
American League: 4x4, 12-team only
This is an old school, 4x4 league entering its 27th year of existence (it is my 18th season in the league). I contended for two years in a row, which left me with almost nothing to keep, so I decided to do a no-power strategy, which often goes by the name of The Sweeney Plan. I always advise against dumping categories unless your freezes are weak, but my freezes were extremely weak.
And that’s it!
I chose this non-conventional strategy because there was a lot of pitching and speed in the auction and I thought I could buy a strong staff and three stolen base kings at fairly reasonable prices. My plan was to spend $111 on hitting and $149 on pitching. I did something I always advise against doing: slotting money for certain positions or players. Table 1 shows how I planned to spend my money slot by slot and what actually happened.
The league’s estimated inflation rate was about 30 percent.
Table 1: AL Home League Results
Total Spent = $260. Offense $113, Pitching $147
I came close to achieving my desired money split; however, not much else went according to plan.
Yu Darvish was the first pitcher off the board, and he went for $36. Then Justin Verlander went for $43. Both prices were on a par with expected value and inflation. Then, Max Scherzer came out, and I bought him for $30. This was also on par with inflation. So far, so good. If the day continued like this, then I’d be able to buy my pitchers at the prices I wanted and everything would go according to plan.
Unfortunately, teams that didn’t have aces yet started chasing aces. Felix Hernandez ($39), Jered Weaver ($38), and David Price ($43) all sailed past my target prices. Jon Lester went for $28, but this was before the Price buy and I decided to wait. This proved to be a mistake. I pushed CC Sabathia—diminished velocity and all—to $35. But someone went to $36 and I chickened out.
In the end, Dickey, Johnson, and Sanchez rounded out the top of my staff. Sanchez went for more than I would have hoped, but starting pitcher prices were even sillier later. Clay Buchholz ($20), and Alex Cobb ($18) were two significant overpays that put the Sanchez price in perspective.
I was fine with Nathan at $30. He was the next-to-last big closer on the board, and at that point I had shifted my strategy on the $25 closer because it was clear the aces weren’t coming my way.
Because the aces didn’t fall to me, I pushed on my speed guys and grabbed Ellsbury and Bourn. Gardner was fine, but I would have been better off with Coco Crisp, who went for $22. This is a minor quibble, though; I got the speed I needed and then some.
The problem with blowing past my limits on those hitters, though, is that my goal of getting some solid, cheap hitting in the end game didn’t materialize. Pena and Loney are mild bargains, but by themselves they’re not enough. A-Rod is a cute little trade chip for later, but Mark Teixiera went for $5 toward the end and would have filled this purpose even more efficiently. There weren’t a lot of bargains at the end, but I would rather have had Justin Smoak at $6 than Pena or Loney at $2.
The larger problem with my strategy is that I probably should have abandoned it when Evan Longoria was sitting at $31 early in the auction, or only $3 above my inflation price. I had already pushed Scherzer past where I would have pushed him without this plan, but he wasn’t so expensive that I would have crippled myself had I simply shifted gears. I would have probably purchased a “Stars and Scrubs” team given how conservative the bidding was across the board, but given some of the end game bargains (like Guthrie at $2), maybe I could have pulled this off.
My team can fulfill the no-power strategy in every category except batting average. I can probably finish in the top three or four but will have a hard time winning. Drat.
National League: 5x5, 12-team only
This is a newer league, in its fourth year of existence. Player “contracts” have a three-year life cycle so the fourth year of the league saw a high number of free agents and a lower inflation rate. Inflation was estimated at a more “manageable” 22 percent.
My freeze list in the NL was better than in the AL, but still nothing special:
I didn’t have a clear strategy in mind for the NL. Just like I did in Tout Wars, I was conservative on pitching prices and shied away from going overboard for a potential ace. I was hoping to put most of my money into hitting. What happened surprised everyone, including me:
Table 2: NL Home League Results
Total Spent = $260. Offense $113, Pitching $147
Including Luebke—whom I froze—I bought eight injured players and Carlos Ruiz, who will serve a 25-game suspension to start the 2013 campaign.
Here are the estimated return dates for these players
My entire season hinges on most of these players coming back at or close to their projected timetables. I can probably afford to have one of these players linger on the DL, and maybe two. Any more than that and my team is in for a world of hurt.
So, why not just go and buy healthy players? Why the high-risk profile for a team that presumably has eight profitable freezes?
Table 3: My NL Team: Inflation Projection Versus Auction “Performance”
Frozen: Lists the players available and the value I’m expecting from them.
Available: Lists the money left to spend and the anticipated value assuming all players are purchased at full inflation
Projected: The total projected value of my team assuming a full inflation spend.
Actual: The projected value of my team based on how I spent my money.
It’s easy to argue with how the team stacks up against the competition, but it’s hard to argue against the value proposition. The bargain potential of some of the players on my roster combined with the boring, middle-of-the-road value at most positions improved my team considerably. I’m not sure it’s going to be enough, but I’m close to where I want to be entering the season.
Feel free to share your home league experiences in the comments section or with me on Twitter. I love hearing about people’s home league auctions and never get enough of it. Talking about your results and examining your auction roster under a microscope might bore your spouse, neighbors, co-workers, and your poor mother, but it’s the only way your auction performance is going to get better.