By the time this article is up, there will be very few drafts and auctions remaining for the 2014 season. With the successes and failures of this draft and auction season still fresh in our minds, right now is the best time to analyze what went right and what went wrong. It is definitely better than doing so 11 months from now, when we are more likely to be misled by results (positive and negative) as opposed to focusing on process. So let’s dig in.

I have typed a lot of words about draft and auction preparation and strategy this offseason. I am far from being alone on the internet as someone who has done so. Preparation and strategy are great, but they can be made irrelevant if the strategy is not executed on draft or auction day. “Executing strategy” is a nice thing to talk about, but it is something that is not easily done. More importantly, executing your strategy is not always the best way to maximize your auction yield. Wait what? I have been preaching strategy and process all off season and now I say it is not to follow them? What kind on monster am I? I am not saying that strategy is unimportant, but I am saying that depending on the situation, a tweak or change to your strategy mid-auction or mid-draft can maximize your yield.

Your strategy will be based on your analysis and assumptions. Your leaguemates’ strategies will be based on their analysis and assumptions. When you throw all of that into a room or virtual room on auction day, some of those assumptions will be wrong (note that this does not mean that these are bad assumptions; this could be good process and bad results). Regardless of good, bad, right, or wrong, when your assumptions do not hold, it is important to adjust. This is not something that I thought of while pondering auctions late one night; rather, this happened to me in an auction last Saturday. I had a strategy going in, I adjusted early to my team’s advantage, and I failed to adjust toward the end of the auction to my team’s disadvantage. If you partake in auctions, you can certainly learn from my experience.

League background: 11 team, NL-only, 5×5, 15-keeper-max league with high inflation.

Early Auction (The Good): In being able to adjust my strategy, I was able to grab value that my initial strategy would not have captured.

The top players in this auction were the top bats: Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Braun, Joey Votto, Troy Tulowitzki, and Justin Upton. I think most would have Upton on the bottom of that tier or in a separate tier, but he was definitely ahead of the next tier of available players, headlined by Mark Trumbo, Matt Kemp, and Aramis Ramirez. Given the high inflation, my calculation had the top tier of hitters going at $45, $43, $40, $38, $38, and $36, as listed above. So what happened? Let us look at the first two players thrown out:



Winning Bid


Andrew McCutchen



Carlos Gonzalez


Right off the bat, we see $7 of inflation-adjusted value captured based on my valuations. Neither of these players went to me. My plan was actually to avoid this tier altogether, as I was already going into the auction with a lot of bats and was very light on pitching. As soon as this happened, it became apparent that a lot of the other owners had the same assumption and plan as me: The top guys are going to be going for ridiculous prices, so I will sit back and grab the mid-tier guys because that is where the value will be. The result of us all having the same strategy was that the top guys were going to be the bargains and the mid-tier guys were going to be expensive. By being flexible with my strategy, I was able to detour and optimize this part of my auction. Next name up:



Winning Bid


Troy Tulowitzki


This one went to me. Following suit were Ryan Braun at $37, Joey Votto at $35, and Justin Upton at $35. Consequently, Mark Trumbo went for $32, Matt Kemp went for $28, and Aramis Ramirez went for $24. As you can see, the values came early, and then it got expensive quickly. Troy Tulowitzki could easily play 25 games for me all season, but the risk is certainly worth the potential reward at that price. Given my $6 savings, I was able to throw a little extra money at my next three selections and grab Cole Hamels ($21), Homer Bailey ($24), and Chris Owings ($11).

Late Auction (The Bad): By not adjusting my auction strategy, I left $7 auction dollars and their value on the table.

Part of this was me being overly happy with my first four selections, and part was me being too tied to my valuations, but more than anything, this was me being too position focused. I was looking for the perfect $7-$8 pitcher that never came. As a result, I missed improving my team elsewhere. Instead of going to $8 on Cody Asche or $9 on Cameron Maybin, I kept waiting to grab a pitcher. To make matters worse, I refused to overpay on that pitcher; thus, I ended up with some speculative bottom-barrel pitching, a $2 Eric Chavez, and $7 of unused money. By refusing to deviate from my plan, I cost my team production.

To make sure I do not make the same mistake again, I am going be following the below process in my auctions next year, especially step four.

1. Know your strategy and your assumptions

2. Always be evaluating your assumptions as the auction progresses

3. Adjust your strategy as needed if your assumptions do not hold

4. Just because you made one adjustment does not mean you will not need to make another

As either my physical therapist or a recent fortune cookie advised me: Stay on your toes.

Thank you for reading

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Wow. My experience was very similar. The league is an old-school 11-team NL-only 4x4, $260 budget. I went into the draft with one of the best keeper lists, but skewed toward the mid-tier players. I needed some top hitters. The first player out was Braun; I had him priced at $49 and got him at $47, which ended up being a slight overpay, as most of the top available hitters went for $3-$6 below my pricing. A few players later, I got CarGo at $47 (had him priced at $52). Later I got AGonz at $31 (had him priced at $37). So I adjusted well at the beginning and got several top hitters at good prices.

I still had enough money to price-enforce other players, but never got "stuck" with anyone I didn't want; I'd back off at $4-$6 short of my prices for them. The savings at the top was eaten up by overpays at the middle: Trumbo $33 (priced at $26), Howard $21 ($16), Walker $21 ($14), Rollins $19 ($12), Ethier $13 ($8), Lake $19!!! ($3).

Unfortunately, late in the draft I was so proud of myself for my early performance that I left $10 on the table. All the best available pitchers went for right at par, although I got Cishek at $19 ($26) and Hawkins at $11 ($20). I "stuck" another owner with Gallardo at $10, forcing him to get his last ten players at $1, but I had him priced at $13 and he was the last double-digit pitcher on the board. After that, I got a lot of relative bargains toward teh bottom (Burnett $4, Haren $4, Garza $2), but my pitching lacks any top starters.

The lesson: I need to allocate just a little bit more of my money to pitching. I went 68/32; my league is traditionally at 66/34, which I thought was too pitching-heavy. This year it was 64/36.
That is very similar. Just make sure that not everyone else is making the same adjustments the for the following season, and if they do, adjust again.
Good points. Well written, too. Concise and clear. Thanks!
Thank you!
I went into the draft with only $65 of $280 budget committed for keepers. Everyone was $2 for me except Wainwright $7, Ellsbury $20, and Belt $4. Already had Gyorko, Adams, Arenado, Rasmus and Dominic Brown for $2 and pitchers Holland, Archer, Cashner, Gray, Salazar, Eovaldi, Kluber all for $2 as well. I went super heavy hitting and was able to net via draft, Posey, Miguel Montero, Braun, Tulo, Sandavol, Arasmis, Bautista and Nelson Cruz. The rest of my guys I drafted were all $2 minus Tim Hudson and Marco Estrada (which was: Ackley, Bourjos, Jroll, Loney, and pitchers: Milone, Leake, Richards, Jordan & Hellickson. Barring injury I really don't see how I lose this with my offense as stacked as it is. I have the most starting pitchers in the league by 2 at least and tons of closers on the ww already. The stupidest part is the guys in this league were drafting guys in AA who "might" get called up this year over guys with jobs already as starters!! I was able to pick up last year during the year Gray, Salazar, Carlos Martinez and Yordano Ventura and turned the last two into trade chips. Thank you for donation!
Thanks for the article. I thought that perhaps our league was the last 11-team, NL-only, 15-keeper league with high inflation in existence. What's more we have a very deep farm system which allows you to keep prospects coming into the league at very low salaries for 2-3 years. So it was great to see bid limits that looked more like mine for a change. Maybe we could see your whole list next year?
I play in an NL4x4 $260 23active/17reserve (no waiver) that is now in its 23rd year.
Thank you. This is my first season in the league, I'm sure I will be sharing more next off season.
Great article. I am also am in an 11-team, NL-only, 5x5-keeper-max league that will be drafting in the near future. Inflation in our league is typically 25-30%. In my experience, the top players typically go at their "true value plus inflation" (or less) most of the time. When top players go for value plus inflation, then the initial inflation rate carries to the remaining players. You will not get a price break on middle and lower tier players like you often do in redraft leagues. The inflation rate only goes down when bidders pay in excess of value plus inflation, and this doesn't always happen.

It is very important to know this and plan for it. If you look at the non-keeper expert league prices (like LABR and Tout wars), the middle and lower tier players usually go at a discount because the bidders had to pay a premium to get their top tier players. The excess money spent on top tier creates "deflated" prices for next tiers. But in a keeper leagues, these next tier players will go for "inflated" prices unless there is overspending on the top tier players. As draft goes along, it is often advantageous to grab any $7-8 player that comes along rather than wait for one that best suits your needs.

While it is easy for me to say this, I am usually one of the guys who leaves money on the table.
Thanks. Craig did a good job talking about this on one of the last TINO podcasts, where those of us who tend to be value focused tend to leave money on the table (me included). You almost have to push yourself to spend those last dollars.
In other words, I have to force myself to pay $8 for the guy who is only worth $5, to stop my team from ending up with a $2 guy who is worth $2 and a handful of left over draft dollars.
Pretty sure you're confusing the Ramirez brothers. It's likely Hanley who went for $24, not Aramis.
Good article. This year I did twice the prep for my 5X5 NL only league and actually profiled each team. The profiles included position scarcity, what owners like to spend and draft ("I don't pay for pitching", " I don't draft rookies", etc), and the projected order of call outs (Its somewhat predictable in our league).

The prep helped, but a few things went differently in the past. Veterans went a bit cheaper. Younger players were a little more of a premium. Pitching was more of a premium overall.

I wonder if there is a strategy to plan for these variances? I'm talking above and beyond on-the-spot adjustments.
Thanks and that's a really good question. We're never going to be able to forecast with 100% accuracy, but below are the steps I take.
-if possible, know your leaguemates' tendencies and history. Who did they get burned by, what has worked for them, what has been their strategy the last auctions
-follow the expert league auctions (LABR and TOUT), as these should give some indication as to the trends we are seeing.
-most importantly, go in with your assumptions and strategy, but have backup plans for your most crucial assumptions. This way you can pivot quickly and you will also be on the lookout for this.

No matter how well we prepare though, each auction will follow its own path and we will need to be able to adjust to have the best auction possible.