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March 22, 1999

Rotisserie Turns

Ten - or Eight - Angry Men

by Keith Law

Recently, a reader sent the following to me:

Keith -- I enjoy your articles, and thought that I would ask you a question that I have never seen answered in all of the mags, books and websites: How does valuation change if you have 11 or 10 (or less) teams instead of the standard 12? I can see that it brings prices down (more players to buy from), but I would be interested to hear your thoughts on strategic implicatons.

Steve Chippendale

Steve brings up two key but distinct points about adjusting your plans for drafting in a small league: pricing and strategy. Neither changes in exactly the way that many people assume.


Steve points out that prices on the whole should drop. Demand for players decreases while the supply of players remains constant (assuming the league is still using the full NL or full AL); that will decrease the average price of each player.

However, that average price decline is misleading: the average drops because 40-80 players who would be bought in 12-team auctions will remain free agents in 8- or 10-team auctions. The average price for a purchased player remains the same, $11.30.

In fact, some players aren't likely to see their values drop at all. For example, closers and top base-stealers will likely remain at or near their 12-team values, because the total pool of saves and stolen bases purchased will not change; even 8-team leagues will buy every available closer, likely closer, and basestealing threat they can.

Whose values will drop? Fringe players will drop off the charts entirely, although category considerations and position requirements may mean that the 46 players dropped in a shift from 12 to 10 teams aren't necessarily the 46 "least valuable" players in the 12-team scenario. In addition, "generic" players who aren't key in the stolen base or saves categories will see roughly 10% declines in their prices, although those can obviously be highly variable.


Given the inherent unpredictability of auction prices, it's more important to focus on a good strategy if you're dealing with a small roto league. Some points to keep in mind:

  1. Whereas one closer or one speedster is sufficient to keep you out of last in those categories in most 12-team leagues, a gain of 2 points or more is less assured in smaller leagues. With 8 teams and 16 closers to go around, one closer might still only garner you one point. Bottom line: Get two, or punt the category and spend your money loading up elsewhere.

  2. Delay starting pitching purchases. Increased dilution of the player pool means that the drift from good to dangerous within the pool of available starting pitchers, particularly in the AL, becomes less significant for roto owners. You'll likely find it much easier to build a competitive rotation with $15-and-under pitchers than 12-team league owners do.

  3. Your competitors may not have a handle on the pricing differences. If they're just using print magazine values, they may wind up overpricing players early--leaving huge bargains by the midpoint of the draft. If you notice overvaluation early in your draft, just sit back and wait for everyone else to blow all their money, and snap up the bargains.

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