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Welcome to the fifth in a series of six articles on retrospective player valuation. I have already covered a vast amount of ground in the last four articles for mono-league hitters and pitchers. Today’s article will take a look at mixed-league hitter valuation; on Thursday I will conclude the series with a look at mixed league pitchers.

For those of you interested in following along at home, you can find all of the AL and NL values here, along with the mixed hitter valuations. Mixed pitcher valuations will be available later this week.

Last year’s inaugural article examined how I established the pricing baselines for mixed league formats. Rather than rehash the entire article, it is easier to ask interested readers to go back and read last year’s piece. For the most part—particularly for the hitters—very little has changed in the valuation methodology. However, it is impossible to move forward without understanding that the valuation is driven using the statistics from the top 168 hitters drafted, not the best 168 hitters at the end of the season.

If you already read the mono league pieces, it probably seems like I’m merely repeating the same information I already provided. However, this makes much more of a difference in mixed formats than it does in AL/NL only, since the pool of replacement level players is vastly superior.

Table 1: NL-Only, AL-Only, and Mixed Hitter Baselines by Player. 2014

Type

AB

R

H

HR

RBI

SB

BA

$

Mixed

473

62

126

15

62

9

.266

$12.5

AL

381

47

98

10

46

6

.256

$12.5

NL

370

46

97

10

44

7

.262

$12.5

Mixed Best 168

501

67

138

15

63

11

.276

$14.8

I ran this exact table last year, but if you’re not familiar with the differences between -only and mixed-league formats, it is worth looking at every year. For example, the five-homer and 16-RBI difference between the mixed league and the AL valuations look boring, but keep in mind this is broken down on a player-by-player basis. Blow this up across all 168 players, and you are looking at a significant difference in terms of stats. 12-team mixed draft rosters had 699 more home runs and 2,346 RBI than their AL-only counterparts did.

It doesn’t take a pricing quant to tell you that this leads to a significant impact on player value. How much of an impact can be seen in Table 2:

Table 2: Mixed-League vs. Only-League Values, Top 10 Hitters 2014

#

Player

Mixed $ Raw

Only $

1

Jose Altuve

$34

$45

2

Michael Brantley

$29

$39

3

Mike Trout

$28

$38

4

Victor Martinez

$27

$36

5

Dee Gordon

$27

$34

6

Andrew McCutchen

$25

$34

7

Carlos Gomez

$25

$34

8

Jose Abreu

$25

$34

9

Giancarlo Stanton

$25

$34

10

Miguel Cabrera

$24

$32

Average

$27

If you played in an only league, Altuve was worth $11 more than he was worth in an only league. At least this is the case based solely on the raw values using a straight SGP method. You can’t simply apply a flat SGP model to mixed league valuations because the replacement level player is superior in mixed and there are more replacement level players to be had. Applying a linear formula to both mixed and only leagues ignores the idea that replacement level players aren’t equal in the two formats. In both only and mixed leagues, you aren’t going to find another Altuve or Trout. On the other hand, while losing Chase Headley to injury in an only league is going to hurt somewhat, in mixed leagues he is interchangeable, particularly because it is extremely likely he isn’t your third baseman but rather your third corner infielder or utility player. In one sense, it is “correct” that Altuve is to Matt Holliday is to Headley in both only and mixed formats. The reality is more complicated. You must adjust your prices in mixed so that the hitters on the bottom aren’t overpaid.

Table 3: Mixed League Values, 159-168 Hitters, Ranked and Drafted

#

Drafted

$

Ranked

$

159

Jedd Gyorko

$3

James Jones

$9

160

Shane Victorino

$3

Pedro Alvarez

$9

161

Allen Craig

$2

George Springer

$9

162

Kendrys Morales

$2

Jordan Schafer

$9

163

Prince Fielder

$2

Brandon Crawford

$9

164

Alfonso Soriano

$2

J.J. Hardy

$9

165

Nick Swisher

$2

Kurt Suzuki

$9

166

Corey Hart

$1

Sam Fuld

$9

167

Jurickson Profar

$0

Scott Van Slyke

$8

168

Will Middlebrooks

-$1

Chase Headley

$8

The hitters on the left side of Table 3 were the worst 10 hitters drafted in a standard 12-team league (using the mixed rankings from NFBC). The column on the right shows the actual results from 2014.

In a raw, pure sense, there cannot be any doubt that Miguel Cabrera earned “only” four times as much as Headley in a 12-team mixed format. In 2014, Cabrera contributed stats that were worth $24 out of the $2,100 that the best 168 mixed league hitters contributed while Headley contributed $8 of stats. And it adds up. Take the combined stats of these 168 hitters, take my SGP formulas, and it is plain as day that they add up to $2,100. As noted above though, the replacement level concept is a significant part of the equation in mixed leagues.

How much? In the NL last season, undrafted hitters in the Top 168 produced $218 worth of statistics. In the AL, it was $349. In mixed leagues, this number was $654.

It isn’t simply the aggregate value that matters. The important factor is that most of the auctioned hitters in mono formats cannot be improved on during the regular season, while in mixed leagues this isn’t the case. If you missed out on J.D. Martinez in your AL-only in late April, chances are excellent you were out of luck and had to sit on a dead spot for quite some time. In mixed, there were several other opportunities to add a quality hitter throughout the season.

As I did in 2013, I adjusted the prices for the best hitters upward. In 2014, I tweaked the formulas to be even more aggressive, pushing the prices of the best hitters even higher to reflect the scarcity at the top of the food chain.

Table 4: Top 10 Mixed-League Hitters 2014

#

Player

$ Adj

$ Raw

AL/NL

1

Jose Altuve

$47

$34

$45

2

Michael Brantley

$40

$29

$39

3

Mike Trout

$40

$28

$38

4

Victor Martinez

$38

$27

$36

5

Jose Abreu

$36

$25

$34

6

Carlos Gomez

$35

$25

$34

7

Giancarlo Stanton

$35

$25

$34

8

Andrew McCutchen

$34

$27

$34

9

Dee Gordon

$33

$27

$34

10

Jose Bautista

$33

$23

$32

Comprehending how a hitter can earn more money in mixed than he can in AL- or NL-only is a struggle for pricing neophytes. But this is the power of the replacement-level concept. Pricing models that are more aggressive than mine when it comes to the replacement level concept push the top players even higher in mixed. There is nothing wrong with doing this and—in an auction format—this hews closer to the way the model “should” work. Because there is only one Mike Trout and because Chase Headley is a dime a dozen, it makes sense to spend $1 on Headley, not $8.

Eight dollars isn’t quite right; the “new” 168th-best player, Oswaldo Arcia, earned $5 after the prices are adjusted for the replacement level concept. Another question pricing neophytes often ask is: if Arcia was the 168th-best hitter in 2014, shouldn’t he have earned $1? Or zero? In a retrospective auction, wouldn’t Arcia cost a dollar?

The valuation formulas are a reflection of what players earned, not what you should pay for them. This is true with mono pricing as well; in 2014, the 168th-best hitter earned $4 in the AL and $3 in the NL. As is the case in the mono leagues, when preparing for your auction, you have to take your money and redistribute. In a 12-team Rotisserie-style league, the 168th-best hitter has to cost $1, but typically 12-24 hitters cost $1 at auction.

In theory, this is where the hitters at the top—particularly in a mixed league—should get paid even more than I “pay” them with my adjusted earnings formula. If you believe that Trout is as steady an investment as there is, paying him $40 even though he only earned $28 in 2014 makes some sense. You are taking a loss on Trout, but if he does what he has done on the field over the course of the last three seasons, you will get better stats out of Trout than you will out of any player in the free agent pool.

Why stop there? If you believe that you are not going to find another Trout, why not pay $50 for him? In fact, why not pay more?

There are two answers to this question.

First, there is enough uncertainty—even with the best hitters—that if you miss you are going to damage your team.

Table 5: 10 Highest-Drafted Hitters, NFBC, 2014

#

Player

$

Rank

1

Mike Trout

$40

3

2

Miguel Cabrera

$33

11

3

Paul Goldschmidt

$22

48

4

Andrew McCutchen

$34

8

5

Carlos Gonzalez

$1

225

6

Chris Davis

$5

164

7

Ryan Braun

$19

63

8

Adam Jones

$27

18

9

Bryce Harper

$4

176

10

Robinson Cano

$27

20

If the rate of return on the most expensive hitters in AL or NL only seemed bad, the return on these 10 hitters in mixed was even worse. Trout and McCutchen were the only two hitters who were drafted in the top 10 who also returned top-10 money, but what really jumps off of the page is that Davis, Harper, and Gonzalez were as bad as they were. The only leagues have their flops, but on the whole the return isn’t nearly as bad as it is in the mixed leagues.

The more important reason not to overpay is because the market typically doesn’t require that you do so.

Table 6: 10 Most-Expensive Mixed Hitters, Tout Wars 2014

#

Player

Sal

$

1

Miguel Cabrera

$47

$33

2

Mike Trout

$46

$40

3

Andrew McCutchen

$41

$34

4

Paul Goldschmidt

$39

$22

5

Joey Votto

$38

-$2

6

Ryan Braun

$38

$19

7

Edwin Encarnacion

$36

$25

8

Carlos Gonzalez

$36

$1

9

Bryce Harper

$35

$4

10

Prince Fielder

$34

-$6

The carnage was even worse for the Tout Wars experts than it was for the NFDC drafters. However, what we are interested at looking at here isn’t how well Tout Wars fared but rather where the price points landed for the top hitters. While the primary goal of any pricing model is to reflect what the player pool actually earned, it must also have a degree of practical application in an auction environment. My top 10 adjusted mixed earnings come fairly close to what the most expensive hitters were actually paid without the benefit of hindsight. We know after the fact that what we paid won’t match what the hitters earned, which is one reason to be conservative. But another reason to hang back is that we know we don’t need to spend $60 on Trout when $48 will do quite nicely if we want him badly enough. If your league is different, then by all means make the appropriate adjustment to your pricing. However, there isn’t a great strategic advantage to buying five or six of the 10 most expensive hitters, sitting back, and waiting for your auction to end. In a draft, balance will come based on typical draft dynamics. In an auction, if you get stuck in the end game you will hamper your flexibility.

The response to this precept often is “you can win with free agent talent, since there is more of it.” This is theoretically true. In reality, the lack of hindsight at the auction applies to your free agent pickups during the season as well. In theory, you might be able to grab all of the best free agents and replenish your team. In reality, only one person was able to get Dee Gordon or Charlie Blackmon. This isn’t DFS where everyone can own a piece of Gordon or Blackmon. Just because there is more free talent, that doesn’t mean that you can simply go into your auction without a establishing a proper valuation baseline.