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June 5, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

Keeper League Purgatory

by Jeff Quinton


After taking the last week off, it is good to be back. Today we are talking in-season keeper league strategy (we will get #behavioral next week). More specifically, we will be talking about being in the curious position of being neither a buyer nor a seller—of being in keeper league purgatory. This position does not occur in each league every year. In leagues where half the teams have a shot at a title and the other half clearly do not, every owner is either a buyer or a seller. We have not gathered here today to talk about those leagues because those leagues have no purgatory. No, we are here in this very moment to talk about leagues where first place and, potentially, other top finishes have seemingly been decided, leaving the teams battling for lesser payouts and higher minor league draft picks (or some other similar payout/finish structure) disincentivized to be buyers.

First question of the article: why are these teams disincentivized to be buyers? They are disincentivized because no matter what they buy they are unlikely to meaningfully improve their position. Second question: what do I mean by meaningfully improve their position? Almost a fortnight of Sundays ago I wrote about the fantasy win curve, which denotes the value of an increase in the standings. If the value difference between, let us say, third and seventh is not meaningful, and first and second place are not attainable, then teams likely to finish in the 3-7 range will not be incentivized to sell long term assets for assets that will help them win this year. On top of that, if third-to-seventh-place finishes hold monetary (cash) or long-term (higher picks) value, then these teams will not be incentivize to sell short term assets for long term assets either. Essentially, these teams are incentivized to do nothing; they are in keeper league purgatory.

Standing pat can very well be the correct strategy in order to optimize gains in both the long and short term; however, there are some common negative consequences of standing pat and they are below:

  • Misevaluating your competitive position: assuming that you cannot win and that you cannot fall when either or both is possible (not actually in purgatory).
  • Missing opportunities to improve your team: “staying the course” can make you complacent and lazy; consequently, you miss trades that you did not anticipate.
  • Allowing the top teams to stand pat: if the top teams do not need to trade future production for current production, then the top teams can look toward next season (this, on top of excellent ownership, is how dynasties happen).

If you find yourself in keeper league purgatory, then you need to battle the previously listed follies. An investigation of these follies and a look at how to battle them is below:

Mistake: Misevaluating your competitive position
Corrective Action: Make sure you are actually in purgatory

As per usual, I am going to do a little homo sapiens bashing. Two things: (i) people are bad at forecasting, especially when it comes to themselves, and (ii) people like to view the world in certainties (people do not want to hear there is a 20 percent chance of rain; rather, they want to hear if it will rain or if it will not rain). This means that knowing how the rest of the season will play out, whether that means we will be a buyer, seller or purgatory resident, is going to appeal to our certainty-seeking minds. If you have ever sold or bought too early, then you know the consequences of this behavior. Similarly, if you have ever stood pat only to realize that going for it could have meant flying a flag or not falling out of the money, then you too know the consequences of this behavior.

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Related Content:  Fantasy,  Dynasty Leagues,  Keeper Leagues

6 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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lipitorkid

Great article. I cringe when I see a team just treading water in the middle.

1. If you are out of it trade useful pieces for $FAAB. I've cycled through my entire $FAAB and then traded a player or two for more $FAAB. Then I use my new $FAAB money to acquire prospects to trade to the teams on the bottom and potential closers to trade to the teams on the top. Build pieces and then lump them together for something big.

2. I subscribe to the Texas Hold-em strategy early in the season. If you are in the top 4-5 of your league you want to build as big a lead as possible to eliminate the middle teams from thinking they have a chance. It's like raising $ pre-flop in Poker. You don't want people to luck out and see the flop. You want as little competition as possible for the rest of the season. Go big early and settle who's in and who's out as soon as possible.

Jun 05, 2014 06:27 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jeff Quinton
BP staff

Thanks! Yes moving FAAB is great if your league allows it. Being active on the wire and with faab looking for fringe keepers is also very important in this space.

Jun 05, 2014 13:41 PM
 
jfranco77

Another thing you can do to push the top teams to sell is to trade with the teams below them. If 1-2 appear to be set, maybe give some assets to the 3rd place team and try to shake things loose.

Jun 05, 2014 06:48 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jeff Quinton
BP staff

Definitely. I framed this from the perspective of the teams right below the teams in contention, but that limits the discussion. The advantage of what you've outlined is that you pick up a piece for next year, but the difficult part (I've found) is trying to convince those teams that they have a shot or that it's worthwhile for the longterm.

Jun 05, 2014 13:43 PM
 
jpbaseball

We've changed some rules around to incentivize teams that are out of the money. Our NL-only keeper league has a 2 round minor league draft after the auction completes. The top 4 teams (out of 11) get paid. The minor league draft order goes (based on the previous season's finish order): 5,6,7,8,9,10,11,4,3,2,1 (both rounds are the same order, no snake draft). The gives an incentive to teams (relatively minor, but an incentive nonetheless) to try to incrementally improve as much as possible. Otherwise, late in the season, there is no reason for them to replace DL and inactive players. It's worked well for us.

Jun 05, 2014 09:32 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jeff Quinton
BP staff

Agreed, this is the exact format used in the AL and NL only leagues I play in. It definitely helps, and is the best structure for keeper leagues of any I've played in of any sport, but even in these leagues you'll see some purgatory. For example, some owners might not think that 4th (money back) is much different from 5th or 6th or even 7th depending on what the draft class looks like for next year.

Jun 05, 2014 13:47 PM
 
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