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March 7, 2014

Fantasy Auction Values

Second Edition

by Mike Gianella

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Last week, I unveiled my Rotisserie-style, 5x5 bid limits for AL-only, NL-only, and mixed leagues (all 12 teams) for 2014 at Baseball Prospectus. I also presented some very rudimentary guidelines for how to use these bids. While these guidelines are helpful, there are always some frequently asked questions that come up every year that I would be remiss if I didn’t address.

Why use bid limits at all?
There are a few schools of thought that make a strong case against using bid limits. Earlier this week at KFFL, Lawr Michaels of Mastersball wrote a terrific piece arguing against using bid limits at all. A few years ago, Chris Liss of Rotowire wrote an equally terrific piece arguing against both bid limits and projections. This is the part of the program where you might expect me to vigorously pound my chest and passionately argue against Michaels and Liss and conclusively prove that they are idiots.

Thing is, Michaels and Liss are the complete opposite of idiots, which is entirely the point. Michaels and Liss have been playing in highly competitive expert leagues for over two decades, and have been experts for even longer than that. When you have this level of knowledge and experience at your disposal, go ahead and do it the way Liss and Michaels do it. This isn’t tongue-in-cheek or meant as a barb toward Michaels and Liss; rather, it is intended as a compliment of the highest order. If walking into a room with no prices or rankings works for you and you can succeed with this method, congratulations. You are an expert on a par with Michaels and Liss and one of the best fantasy baseball players in the world. If, however, you’re not quite this good yet, you might want to consider using some sort of hierarchy to rank players.

This isn’t to say that all experts don’t use some sort of bid methodology or projections. In his recently released book Winning Fantasy Baseball, Larry Schechter outlines a draft preparation construct that uses bid prices, and other experts do the same. While I theoretically could conduct a fantasy auction without bid limits, like Schechter, I find that having them at my fingertips helps me a great deal during my auctions.

Do you simply bid your bid amounts at auction?
Actually, my goal is to spend less than my suggested bid limits as often as I possibly can. The bid limits for every format in this article add up $3,120. If you buy all 23 of your players for a par price, you will buy a $260 team and you will finish sixth or seventh in a 12-team league. Your goal is to try to cram as much value as you possibly can onto your roster.

But you’re trying to build a team based on the best statistics, not the best bid limits, right?
Of course! This is one of the biggest objections that I hear year in and year out about my methodology, and it drives me bonkers!

The bids are constructed taking each player’s potential statistical contributions into account. I’m not randomly assigning bid prices to players based on how many Phillies I want to own or who shares my birthday or who the best guys in the clubhouse are. Every bid limit is mostly a representation of what I think a player’s statistical worth will be, with a little hedging built in for issues like playing time, position scarcity, rookie uncertainty, etc.

If I have done my job right you will be able to use my bids and put together a team of players who are mostly $1-2 under my recommended bid limits. Chances are good that you will have a contending team and in a non-expert league there’s a good chance that your contending team will turn into a winner.

I followed your bid limits to the letter and I wound up buying a power-heavy team with no speed and no saves. Clearly, your bids don’t work in the “real” world of auctions.
The bid limits are designed with a general auction framework in mind. If you are in a longstanding keeper league where closers go for $25-30 and it is impossible to trade for a closer during the season, adjust your bids up on the closers available in your auction. Just make sure to move money away from other players so that your total pool of dollars to spend equals $3120.

Sometimes you will have an auction where the league’s usual spending trends go right out the window and you have to adjust on the fly. This year’s LABR auctions provided two useful examples of how even if you have a solid list of bids at your disposal you still might need to adjust on the fly in order to maximize the value on your roster.

LABR AL saw fair but expensive prices early. Using my recommended bids, you could have rostered plenty of value throughout the auction but would have had a difficult time spending your full $260. In a scenario like this, I would recommend paying a par bid price for a top hitter or top pitcher instead of simply waiting for bargains and running the risk of leaving $25-30 unspent. If you see most of the $30-plus hitters going for prices $3-5 over your bid limit, jump in on a hitter who goes within one dollar of your bid limit in either direction. This will maximize your ability to capitalize on bargains later.

LABR NL saw a significant number of bargains early. In reading the multiple recaps of LABR, some experts bemoaned the difficulties they had trying to adjust and how they “had” to overspend in the middle of the auction. I suspect this happened because some experts use a “tiered” pricing approach, where if one player is purchased for $30 or more another player cannot be purchased over that price, even if the price is spectacular.

If being rigid in your thinking and refusing to spend early is a bad idea, the same theory applies in the opposite direction. There is absolutely nothing wrong with adding multiple $30-plus players to your team if the prices are right. As long as you don’t go too far and push yourself into dollar derby too early, you will succeed if you maximize your potential for bargains in an auction where the majority of owners are being too cautious.

The bid limits I provide are recommendations for your auctions, not gospel truth. You should adjust prior to your auction if your league is idiosyncratic and you should also adjust if events during your auction force you to adapt. I am confident that the framework I am presenting is strong, but I am not naïve enough to believe that this framework is one-size-fits all for every auction or provides a hedge for every imaginable contingency. In the end, how well these bids work in your auction will depend primarily upon you.

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

Related Content:  Fantasy,  Auction Values,  Auction

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