March 10, 2015
Expert League Auction Recap
LABR American League
2015 marks the 22nd year of the League of Alternative Baseball Reality. Commonly known as LABR for short, this is the longest-running and best-known of fantasy expert league in the game. Bret Sayre and I had the privilege of participating in the mixed-league draft last month. This past weekend in Arizona, it was the AL and NL-only leagues’ turn. Today, I will take a look at the American League results. On Wednesday, I will look at the NL-only results.
If you want to see how the entire auction shook out, the results can be found here. My analysis is focused on auction trends that will hopefully help you in your own auctions this year. While it is fun to ooooh and aaaah over certain individual picks, it is far more useful to see if there are any significant shifts in expert spending. In my experience, what happens in LABR does have an influence in home league auction(s).
Below are the trends that I believe could have an impact on your auctions.
The hitters rallied (a little bit)
Based on early draft results (both mocks and LABR mixed), I thought that this trend would continue and pitchers would cost even more this year. It turns out that my supposition was a little off.
Table 1: Hitting/Pitching Dollar Allocation 2013-2015
After a year when LABR pushed the pitching pie close to 32 percent, the experts on Saturday night backed off a little bit. Overall, they spent $18 more on pitching in 2014 than they did this year.
Much of this could be explained away by Yu Darvish’s sudden absence. Hours before the auction, it was announced that Darvish had a sprained UCL and was a possibility for Tommy John surgery. His price dropped from $26 in CBS all the way down to one dollar in LABR.
Table 2: 10 Most Expensive Pitchers, CBS and LABR, 2015
Top 10 CBS Total Cost: $262
To be certain, there are some fairly significant price differences between the two leagues. However, removing Darvish’s $26 price tag from the LABR top 10 accounts for $26 of the $30 difference.
As far as the other CBS/LABR price differences go, I see some old prejudices between the two expert circuits and some new ones as well. CBS isn’t afraid to pay top dollar for closers, while LABR is. Holland and Betances were the only closers who cost $18 or more in LABR; five closers cracked the $18 barrier in CBS and three cost $20 or more. With the exception of Felix, CBS is a little more open with its purse strings when it comes to top arms. Interestingly enough, LABR was a little more liberal when it came to some young upside arms in Carlos Carrasco and Marcus Stroman; in the past, CBS was the more liberal league when it came to up-and-coming arms.
Across 10 player groups, the price differences between the two leagues don’t look radical.
Table 3: CBS and LABR Pitcher Spending by Tier
CBS preferred to spend its money at the top while LABR waited and waited and spent a little more at the bottom. A $19 difference on a group of 10 pitchers isn’t particularly radical, but a $59 difference on 40 pitchers (players 11-50) most definitely is. CBS owners had a strong preference for spending big on their second best and perhaps even third best pitchers. LABR owners preferred to hang back and have a few dollars left at the end to express their preferences in the end game. CBS spent three dollars or less on 39 pitchers; LABR had 31 pitchers like this. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but those $59 dollars are significant since there was no Darvish type in the non-top-10-tier who lost significant value between CBS and LABR.
There were some LABR-watchers who thought that the prices on the most expensive hitters were far more aggressive than they were last year. While the prices may indeed be too high (more on this a little later) the reality is that this year mirrored 2014.
Table 5: 13 Most Expensive AL LABR Hitters 2015
While the unbridled excitement of watching a multicolored spreadsheet being updated in real time may have fooled many of us into thinking that “this year was different”, the reality is that LABR behaved the same way it did last year. The “LABR 2014 Comp” column shows what the Top 13 hitters cost in 2014 while the “2014 Comp” column shows that the actual top 13 hitters in 2014 earned $4 more than what LABR paid the 13 most expensive hitters in 2015
The dour grumpy grump in this portrait is me.
If the 13 best players earned $431 in 2014, why am I only willing to spend $397 on this group of players? Isn’t LABR right? Don’t you hate it when writers lazily revert to the “start writing sentences in the form of a question format”?
LABR is correct that the 13 best hitters are likely to earn $430 or so. But there is almost absolutely no way that they will correctly guess the 13 best hitters.
Table 6: 10 Most Expensive AL-Only Hitters with Prior Year’s Earnings
I run this chart ever year in my retrospective valuation pieces, and it perhaps the most instructive piece of data I can give to you, assuming you play in an auction format. Every year, the market pays at least $34 for the ten most expensive hitters, and every year as a group these hitters earn no more than $26. In the last five years, the 10 most expensive hitters have returned approximately 71 cents on the dollar. Yes, a few hitters earn a small profit and a few more only lose a couple of dollars, but this is a failure-oriented group.
Even my modest prediction compared to the expert market is likely to result in failure. My Top 10 projected hitters carry $321 in bid limits. I am more reluctant than CBS ($345) or LABR ($337) to spend on the most expensive hitters, but it is still highly likely that my bid limits will result in an overall loss.
Just like in 2014, there are plenty of potential bargains in LABR at the bottom of the heap:
These are some of the hitters who cost at least five dollars less than my current bid limit. It is possible I might adjust my bid limits down in the next update as a result (there is no reason for me to have a $13 bid limit on Gose if I can easily get him for $8), but many of these players are every day hitters who will conservatively earn $8-10 if they can hang onto their jobs.
Just like I did last year, I will conclude by looking at the purchases I liked in LABR AL. I don’t believe in tiered pricing, but for those of you who do, this is a good guideline for players in every price bracket over five dollars.
Adam Jones $30, Dave Adler, Baseball HQ
Jose Reyes $24, Ray Flowers, Sirius XM
Ian Kinsler $21, Perry Van Hook, Mastersball
Alex Gordon $18, Chris Liss, Rotowire
Lorenzo Cain $15, Steve Gardner, USA Today
Coco Crisp $11, Chris Liss, Rotowire
Michael Saunders $9, Larry Schechter, Winning Fantasy Baseball
James Loney $8, Mastersball, Perry Van Hook
Corey Kluber $25, Larry Schechter, Winning Fantasy Baseball
David Robertson $17, Steve Gardner, USA Today
Zach Britton $14, Perry Van Hook, Mastersball
Dallas Keuchel $9, Colton and the Wolfman, Rick Wolf/Glenn Colton
Danny Duffy $7, Perry Van Hook, Mastersball
C.J. Wilson $6, Larry Schechter, Winning Fantasy Baseball