As much as I enjoy the intensity of my expert league, I also enjoy the more relaxing pace of my home league auctions. They also offer a good opportunity for keeper league analysis that the non-keeper expert leagues do not. This past weekend, I participated in an AL-only home league auction. This league is as old school as you are going to get, with the old 4×4 rules still in effect (no runs or strikeouts).

I won this league last year, so as a result, I had a very limited number of freezes coming in on Saturday.

I decided that I was going to spend all of my money on offense unless a closer fell through at a cheap price. I would only buy one or two additional starting pitchers and try to fill in with injury fliers and quality relief arms. I was hoping to spend about $200 on my offense and try to leverage the moderate keeper value in Castro, Loney, and Plouffe with the additional budget for offense to my advantage.

I keep a round-by-round log in this league, so I can see the order the players were selected in and also who had the last bid on a player. Each “round” goes 12 players since there are 12 teams in the league. Dollar values for players I purchased are listed in bold. Players I had the last bid on are in italics (my bid is $1 lower than the listed bid).

Auction inflation was about 16 percent.

Round 1

1:5 Jose Abreu $28
I heard enough positive expert opinions at Tout Wars on Abreu that made me keep pushing his price up. I really wanted him, but paying close to $30 for a player making his major-league debut was something I didn’t want to do with my first purchase.

1:10 Robinson Cano $39
I needed three middle infielders and my par price on Cano with inflation was $40. I decided that I did not want to push to par this early, so I let Cano go. The owner who purchased him had the most money on the table, so I was glad to get him to spend.

1:11 Chris Davis $37
The money was flowing and with Edwin Encarnacion still available, I was merely price-enforcing on Davis. I would have been fine purchasing Davis at $36; at $37, I was content to let him go.

Money Left/Slots: $193/17

Round 2

2:14 Dustin Pedroia $30
A clear pattern was emerging. I was willing to push players early, but I wasn’t willing to pull the trigger unless I got someone at my price. Part of this stemmed from my strategy to avoid spending on pitching. The league was starting to spend big on pitchers, and I figured I would get some offense at a slight bargain soon.

2:17 Jose Bautista $30
Sure enough, Bautista was the first player who fell into my lap at a price that I liked. I would like Bautista better in an OBP league, but the raw power was too hard to turn down at $30.

Money Left/Slots: $163/16

Round 3

3:26 Ian Kinsler $26
I am higher than most on Kinsler this year, but this is where inflation makes a difference. My guess is that Kinsler’s buyer had a higher inflation number on Kinsler and was willing to pay more as a result. I still needed three middle infielders and was a little worried about having to overpay based on the early results.

3:28 Derek Jeter $7
I didn’t want Jeter at all, but assumed that he was going to go for at least $10, and I wouldn’t be in on him at that price. This was a decent price, and unless Jeter collapses, I’ll be okay.

3:29 Carlos Beltran $25
I barely even remember Beltran coming up for bid; I must have still been flushed with the excitement of buying Jeter. Beltran would have slotted in nicely behind Bautista, but while he seemed fine at $24, I didn’t like him at $26.

Money Left/Slots: $156/15

Round 4

After three rounds of bobbing and weaving, I tried pouncing and getting more aggressive. You might think that after getting Pujols, I chickened out on Encarnacion, but this isn’t the case at all; I simply did not want to go to $37. Johnson was the best shot I had at getting a closer, but there was no discount in this room for a poor start. The player I really wanted in this round was Santana, but his price climbed until the risk didn’t seem worthwhile. At the end of the round, Hamilton fell in at a price that I liked.

Money Left/Slots: $106/13

Round 5

I should have pushed harder on speed, but the Reyes and Bourn injuries made me chicken out on both players. I have a little regret on Santos, particularly as a next year play. De Aza and Fowler both would have been younger, more athletic plays than the outfielders I wound up buying. Cabrera was a nice second middle-infield purchase. I am higher on him than most and am anticipating a mild bounce back.

Money Left/Slots: $88/12

Round 6

When the prices are all too high by your lights, at some point you are going to get bargains. I filled out the rest of my outfield and spent a big chunk of my money. The problem I had with this team was that while my HR/RBI were going to be solid, I was way short in stolen bases. Dumping two categories (steals/saves) was not part of the plan. A lesser regret was that by buying Reddick and locking out my DH slot, I missed out on Billy Butler later (he went for $17).

Money Left/Slots: $26/9

Round 7

I thought about going past price for Nova, but a plan is a plan and I did not want to deviate. As a result, I was able to capitalize on a second starting catcher in Navarro. I called Qualls out in an attempt to get a cheap saves flier at $1 or to suck a little money out of the room.

Money Left/Slots: $20/8

Round 8

I needed some starters to make innings. Nolasco was my first attempt at a low-end play.

Round 9

In a keeper league, Holland has future value but also some potential as a chip for owners playing for 2015. The prices for Cosart and Doubront might seem great if you like them; whether or not these are bargains would be contingent on the six remaining pitchers I bought for my staff.

Money Left/Slots: $15/7

Round 10

Three or four owners were waiting on Profar, but one owner had $19 left for his last middle-infield slot and I only had a maximum bid of $9. If I had avoided Holland, all this would have done is pushed Profar to $15 and made him a poorer future play for his eventual buyer.

Round 11

  • None

Round 12

Money Left/Slots: $5/4

With Profar gone, I decided to play the waiting game on Schoop. My maximum bid was $9, and two other owners had $8 left, so when Schoop was called up, I brought him right to $8 to end the bidding quickly. I’m still a Crain believer and think he can save 15 games when he returns.

Round 13+

I didn’t buy saves by design, but I really wanted to take a flyer on Webb. Unfortunately, another owner had more money, and when I said “$2,” he jumped to $3. The upshot of this is that I was able to get Hector Santiago one player later with a $2 shut-out bid. Harrison is a fine DL flier and at one dollar Phil Hughes won’t be around more if Minnesota isn’t a home-field tonic.

The End Result





Jason Castro



Dioner Navarro



Albert Pujols



Jonathan Schoop



Asdrubal Cabrera



Trevor Plouffe



James Loney



Derek Jeter



Jose Bautista



Josh Hamilton



Alfonso Soriano



Nick Markakis



Shane Victorino



Josh Reddick



Max Scherzer



Anibal Sanchez



Derek Holland



Hector Santiago



Jesse Crain



Matt Harrison



Phil Hughes



Alexi Ogando



Brad Peacock



Given that I only spent $59 on pitching, I like the staff a lot. Holland and Harrison make nice additions when they return from the DL, and Santiago is a solid sleeper. Crain should get some saves when he returns, which is helpful because two other teams dumped saves as well.

The offense is where I am somewhat disappointed. There is certainly potential value across the board, but I don’t have enough speed and my batting average is so-so. I already have a trade offer in hand for speed that I’m likely to take to try and improve matters in that department, as I did not intend to give up on steals and saves.

I always try to look back at my process at the end of every auction to try and review how I did. If you don’t have the time or inclination to keep track of your league’s bid history, at least try and go back and look at the players you purchased at the end of the season. The best way to improve your auctions is to study your results, win or lose.

Thank you for reading

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I have read so many articles of your(and value drafters, of which I consider myself a strong member) over the years, there always seems to be a trend with "value" drafted teams...(I did it 3 years in the NFBC NL-only, it got us top 5 only usually..)
namely: old, injured, young, pt concerns, no specialized talent (sb, saves), unknown, 1 hit wonders, etc.

ie: Navarro(unproven), Jeter(old,injured), Pujols(old, injured), Schoop(young, unproven), Cabrera(.700 ops 2013), Bautista(injured, aging), Hamilton(um ya), Soriano(Old), Markakis($15!), Victorino(injured, aging), Reddick(.686 ops, with pt concerns), Scherzer(career year), sanchez(injured), Holland(injured), Santiago(4-9 1.40 WHIP), Crain(injured), Harrison(injured), Hughes(just no.), Ogando(injured/terrible/PT concerns), Peacock(minors/pt concerns)
I know it's an only league, but usually with all this uncertainty you could get a bunch more upside maybe?

I imagine that your home league constantly squeezes you with every player you target, so it probably impossible to get good buys!

keep up the great work!

(not that anyone cares but I spent less than $55 in my deep keeper NL-only league(25% pitching inflation) and was able to snag this pitching staff: Arroyo, Bastardo, E.Jackson, Kendrick, Romo(Frozen $6), Ross, Thornburg, Jordan, Gee, Niese, Turner, Wood.)
(also just traded for $22 Papelbon after my $2 Parnell had TJ...)

I think that spending the extra $1 can net you ALOT of value in the mid-lower levels of pitching, especially in Only leagues if you do your homework, as oppose to the big bats where that money will always be a -.

I think your point regarding buying players on the "wrong" side of the age curve when you are having a "value" auction is valid (and I think you could have included Jose Bautista in there as well). However, when the complaint stretches too far and includes everyone regardless of age group, skill set, talent level, etc, then it veers more into an area of "I don't like your players and I think they cost too much money."

This is a valid opinion, but that is all it is. It is also a question of where I see upside versus where you see upside and it's difficult to debate that and "prove" who is right and who is wrong.

It's also worth noting that non-keeper leagues and keeper leagues are different animals. With five freezes and limited values, I was kind of boxed into optimizing categories. I intended to veer away from saves; not buying (enough) stolen bases was an accident, which I'll probably be able to remedy via trade quickly. I get that the $1 pitchers I bought are more likely to fail than succeed, but that's why I spent $1. I disagree with your theory on the lower level of pitching bringing back value; I've studied these data for years and typically the best ROI on pitchers in only leagues is on the extreme ends of the data curve. The pitchers in the middle are dangerous, and commonly lose about $4-5 per pitcher on average.
My point re: lower-level pitching.

The issue is when you are at $1 players, you are Drafting, and you are drafting last. Let's say every owner gets burned for 6 $1 players. But one owner has $12 left, (they saved $6 or whatever). Now the next best 72 players will need to be "drafted", the owner with $12 will get the BEST 6 players available. Keeping $12 is like going into the reserve rounds, with the first 6 overall picks.

Your own values support this. Using the NL LABR auction as an example, and removing catchers (i don't know why ALL of them went for $2...). The highest theoretical profit per player, is at the $2 range, the $1 players are actually lowest profit per player, until you get into the teens. (Note this is not ROI, its $ profit per player)

My point was, don't draft. We had 3 owners this year, that had to draft 10-12 players, and their teams are a wreck. If they had saved even $2 or $3 per slot, they would have gotten +20 or +30 in value.


Disclaimer: I did tweak the data somewhat, and remove some outliers of players that had been sent down/injured, etc. And I removed your ridiculous $8 value on Baez ;)
That would be true if I went to $1 per player early, but by the time I registered Schoop nearly every team was in dollar Derbyshire. The only pitcher I missed out on due to a lack of money is Webb.

And your theory would be correct if 12 robot auctioners used Mike Gianella bid prices. Then having nothing but $1 to spend at the end would be bad, bad, bad. But since 12 owners have 12 different opinions on player values, my $1 pitchers aren't $1 pitchers. They're $2-5 pitchers by my lights. Am I right? I don't know but that's the fun of playing out the season.
You've actually got it backwards. The LATER you get to $1 buys (comparatively), the worse. Everyone else's $1 guys got taken BEFORE yours, which means those players are worse. (unless all the other owners made mistakes, which is not the purpose of this discussion).

That's like saying "I got to pick REALLY late in the draft, that's awesome Right?"

Two points:

Consider an auction to be a draft where you buy your draft slots. (which it is, btw). Let's call it 250 player pool. Using Pecota, the distribution, the LAST player taken is worth exactly $1. The #225 is $2, the #205 is $3. The SOONER you acquire your players, during this stage, the better. I could show it mathematically, but you get the idea.

I was using the aggregate of your projections, to show my point, regardless of which values you use, having $2 per player, allows you to choose 5 players between ranks 150-200. If you wait, and are stuck in dollar days with everyone else, every pick you make is at best 11 picks worse than the last one (because every other has had a chance to pick the bones as well). The players you get will be closer to #210,220,230,240,250.

Yes, other owners will make mistakes/valuation differences, but your goal should Always be to have a Maximum value strategy, and this is Enhanced by having $2 left for every slot.

The easiest way for me to prove this is this: List every player that was taken in your home league at $1 or $2. Put the 5 best on your team, and assign them $2 salaries. Is this more profitable than the 5 you ended up with? If so, QED.
The 6 $1-2 pitchers I purchased were worth $23 by my bid limits and cost $6. The 6 best $1-2 pitchers purchased by others cost $9 and were worth $13. Leaving extra money for bargains works better in reauction leagues. In keeper leagues it is sometimes a bad plan; and indeed would have in fact been a bad plan last Saturday.
Sorry, 6 pitchers/$7, not 6/$6. My point stands though. In this auction, leaving extra cash for those slots would have cost me value.
Well played, you obviously know your league pretty well. You saved yourself $6.

Although you prove my point, accidently. According to your numbers, you got $+17 in value. When the alternative best case was $+8. But since you had no buying power, if the Other owners had said $2 on your players, there was almost no other value left for you to take. There's no way you could have predicted (or enforced) that you nabbed the 5 most valuable players remaining, when you have to wait 11 players longer to pick again.

So, the "schooling"(poker term) present in your auction saved you. If I had been in the auction, and agreed with yor values, I would have taken all those players and earned $23 on $12 in salary. You would have taken then next 6 best, I'll say for $7, and earned $13 (according to your numbers). I win in this case too.

So, the only way in theory, where 6 x $1 is superior, is when you can COUNT on the other 11 owners, not ever picking your guys. Which means you didn't get bargains, you got 6 players no one else wanted.
Something else you've missing is that nearly everyone was in the $1-2 range at this point. No one had $12/6. Can't steal from me if you can't outbid me.

(This wasn't an accident either. I was tracking this carefully. I'm sure some owners did want my end game bargains but were out of money)
What do you mean they can't steal from you, they can SAY THE NAME FIRST, that's my entire point.
Your exercise asked me to include $2 players.

I was referring to: "Can't steal from me if you can't outbid me."

Of course they can, you only get to name one player at a time, if someone else names your next best value before you name another player, he's stolen from you, and worse, for a great value!
If you read the article carefully, you would have noted that I had more than $1 to bid until player #150 (Hector Santiago). It wasn't a round-by-round, dollar situation until near the very end....with nine players left to go. By this time, the players that could have been "stolen" from me were $2 pitchers. I happened to get both but - again - the marginal value of saving money earlier to gain two dollars in end game value most certainly would not have been worth it even if I failed to get these pitchers.
Hi Mike. Thanks for all of your work this year. The auction values and Fantasy Freestyle articles were incredibly helpful for my draft.

I like your pitching, in particular, for what you spent, and your team definitely has a lot of batting upside. That being said, I agree with Matthew W that it's littered with old, injured/injury-prone guys.

Other than Castro and Schoop, who's not cheap at 8, there's no young talent that's likely to break out. That's not a pre-requisite for winning, obviously, and if the creaky folks stay healthy, you could well repeat, but given 16% inflation, I'm guessing there are a number of rebuilders who have significantly stronger lineups coming out of the draft.

Good luck!
The young talent is mostly kept in leagues like this. I can't think of a young player I missed out on simply because they're almost always locked up in farm systems.
So where does the extra money to outbid me on these six players come from? Do you get a magical $266 to spend?

No. Every dollar you keep in reserve for the end game is money you decide not to spend earlier. Prior to my end game, I spent $188 on $217 of (inflated) value. If I decide to opt out of earlier bargains so I can have more money for the end, it has to be in a situation where I'll get more bargains at the end by holding back.

I can't COUNT on the other 11 owners always not taking "my" guys. But I CAN count on getting some of my guys and generally speaking getting enough value at the end. I'm never going to buy 6 players I perceive to be worth $6 because there is always variability in the endgame.

To your point about players not being bargains because no one else wants them, this isn't relevant to whether or not I think they've bargains. They're still bargains by my valuation, which is all that matters.

(Incidentally, the other flaw in what you've positing is that in retrospective earnings the $1 buys frequently outperform the $2-3 buys. The variability at the bottom of the player pool is vast; the "control" that we are exhibiting at the auction to get "better" players is an illusion. The $1 player you think is worth $2 frequently outearns the $2 player you think is worth $5. The control in this segment of the auction - even when it does work - is more often than not the illusion of control.

I overpaid for $2 for Schoop. Saving money for endgame bargains can result in more over pays earlier and runs the risk of canceling out your $2 bargains
You can't argue both sides. Either we are using your valuations, or we aren't.

You can't say "They're still bargains by my valuation"
AND: "Retrospective earnings the $1 buys frequently outperform the $2-3 buys."

Pick one method of evaluation, you can't talk out of both sides of your mouth.

If you choose point #1: then I've shown that saving $2 per player is a safer, more profitable strategy. Unless you can count on no other owner a) over bidding, b) DRAFTING your top 6 remaining players first, since you are stuck waiting 11 turns to try your luck again.

I understand you're dug in on this position now, but you're completely ignoring the logic and the math behind it, it's a very Liss-like approach, and something I thought you were above.
I responded to this point at multiple points in this thread.

Our points are not mutually exclusive. You are correct that in a universe where 12 owners are Mike Gianella clones that dollar derby is a losing game, and the owner with $2 to spend per player will swoop in and get the best bargains. The reality is that the probability that every owner IS using my prices is close to absolute zero. This also fails to take into account that due to positions getting filled it isn't always possible for an owner to outbid me on a better bargain even if he agrees it is a better bargain.

You also sidestepped my question about where the extra money comes from to have $2 per player in the endgame. The marginal value derived by having extra money in the endgame is at best nullified by ignoring bargain opportunities early but at worst a losing value proposition. Typically there is less variability at the front end of the auction. I might get a $4-5 player for $1 in the endgame
Hit post by mistake

...but I'm very unlikely to get a $30 player for $27. If I dismiss an opportunity to get a +2 bargain to save money for the endgame, it is highly likely I am doing so to accrue profit that I will derive anyway simply due to standard variance that appears in every endgame environment.
I agree that getting 5-6 players in the end game is critical in achieving value. In fact, it's the primary argument against 23 * $12 roster construction, that you miss out on $3-5 bargains at the bottom of the roster.

But this reinforces my point.

The ROI of players purchased >$10 is what, 0.75? Lower? Not spending $6, is closer to $4 in value "lost".

So moving that money the 5-6 bottom slots is advantageous, because it Ensures the you get the $4-6 players that fell through the cracks.

Your premise that all $1 are the same is erroneous. The First $1 player taken is more valuable than the Last $1. It's a Draft at this point, nothing else. And getting the firs 5 picks is worth $5.

Here's a comparison: imagine in TOUT, that your salary had to be spent on the first 18 roster spots. The last 5 Active roster spots are drafted. (ignore the reserve round for this exercise, doesn't exist). You (just you) have the choice, of saving $5, and picking all FIVE players of the reserve round, immediately. Which means your picks are 65 players earlier than someone elses last pick. Is That worth $5? To give you an idea, the MINIMUM these players could be worth is $4 per player. The answer should be a resounding Yes. You're spending $5, to earn $20 minimum. Otherwise your expected value from reserve round is around $8-11.

That is the direct comparison to saving $2 per slot, instead of $1.
My premise was never that all $1 players are the same.
To specifically address your question:

"extra money comes from to have $2 per player in the endgame"

The money comes from the section of the auction, that has the worst expected ROI (the top). And moves it to the highest expected ROI (the end).

Your own work on rotothink confirms this. I haven't looked for the link, but I'm sure it's easy to provide.