My Crazy Mock Auction Draft

Yesterday, Eno Sarris published the results of our epic mock auction draft. Lucky for me, I have no life and I love auctions, so I was happy to draft for as long as it took. Heck, I’m ready for another seven hours of drafting already! I am a veteran of auctions, having participated in leagues that use this style since 2001. All the rules were standard, except we had 14 teams, instead of the 12 I have almost always valued players for. In all my years of experience in auctions though, every single draft has taken unexpected twists and turns. This one was no different. This is my crazy mock auction draft story.

Before I dive into my team, let’s discuss some things about auctions. Player values in 14-team leagues differ a bit from those in 12-team leagues. This is pretty obvious, of course, as there is now an extra $520 in team budgets chasing after an additional 46 players. When moving to the larger format, the elite players actually don’t gain any value at all. Instead, it’s the mid-tier $10-$15 guys that get a boost of a couple of bucks. This boost then makes room for the new 46 players who are all worth a few bucks at most.

The next concept is about those elite players. According to my favorite value calculator, only three players (all hitters) earned $40 last season, with Mike Trout leading them all at $42. After those top three, we see a steep drop-off to the next and fourth most valuable player, who was worth just $34. Surprisingly, there were only four hitters who earned values in the $30 range. On the pitching front, amazingly three closers topped the dollars earned list last year, followed by reliever/starter extraordinaire Kris Medlen. The top starting pitcher was Clayton Kershaw, who earned $31, and the rest of the starters quickly declined from the high and mid-$20’s to the low-$20’s and below.

So that should give you an idea of what players are worth in this format, or at least what they were worth last year. It’s only one year, of course, but generally the dollar value levels are the same, it’s just the names associated with those values that change. With that explained, it’s finally time to discuss what actually happened in our little mock.

To provide some context, I have included what each player earned last season in parentheses after their names. I drafted this handsome squad:

C $13 Mike Napoli C/1B-BOS ($11)
C $11 Jesus Montero DH/C-SEA ($10)
1B $5 Kendrys Morales DH/1B-SEA ($9)
2B $19 Aaron Hill 2B-AZ ($24)
3B $20 Aramis Ramirez 3B-MIL ($25)
SS $17 Ian Desmond SS-WSH ($19)
OF $12 Shane Victorino OF-BOS ($13)
OF $12 Carl Crawford OF-LAD (very negative)
OF $11 Alex Rios OF-CHW ($27)
OF $11 Nelson Cruz OF-TEX ($17)
OF $12 Desmond Jennings OF-TB ($12)
MI $11 Josh Rutledge SS-COL (-$2, partial season)
CI $7 Chris Davis DH/OF/1B-BAL ($17)
Util $10 Hunter Pence OF-SF ($17)
P $9 Jon Lester SP-BOS
P $10 Dan Haren SP-WSH
P $9 Jake Peavy SP-CHW
P $10 Brett Anderson SP-OAK
P $10 Jeff Samardzija SP-CHC
P $7 Matt Garza SP-CHC
P $8 J.J. Putz RP-AZ
P $6 John Axford RP-MIL
P $5 Jason Hammel SP-BAL

I had started typing in the pitcher dollars earned and then stopped midway. I realized the dollar calculator includes a ton of middle relievers and so starters values are much lower as a result. For example, Samardzija “earned” -$5 last season. Yes, according to the calculator, his presence in fantasy lineups actually hurt his owners.

There are two things you may notice initially about my team. First, yes, you added up those winning bid values correctly, I actually left $15 on the table. Oops. Second, yes, the most expensive player on my entire team was a $20 Aramis Ramirez. This was not my plan. So what happened?

Well, as my fellow drafters no doubt remembered as I voiced it several times in the chat room, the beginning of the auction was outrageous. Seven hitters went for at least $40! Another 17 players went for between $30 and $39! That’s a total of 23 players who went for at least $30. Remember, last season only seven hitters and six pitchers, for a total of 13, earned at least $30. And that includes three closers, which is incredibly unlikely to occur again. So we should reasonably expect around 10 players in total to earn at least $30.

As you could tell from looking at my team, I ended up sitting on the sidelines for a heck of a while watching everyone’s budgets shrink. I am actually pretty used to this situation. Typically in the early going of an auction, owners are excited to spend their money and all of the top guys are nominated rather quickly. No one wants to miss out on owning a first rounder, so they just keep bidding, regardless of what the player is actually worth. I understand it, as it’s tough to watch elite hitter after elite hitter get drafted by other teams and you fear that you won’t be able to compete without also owning one.

This is a myth though. It does not matter how you compose your team. The object in an auction, at least to me, is to accumulate the most projected value. Now of course, projected dollar values do not perfectly translate into standings points, but they are darn close. My plan in auction drafts has always been to never pay more than I value a player for — try to get as many players at as significant a discount as possible and be satisfied with however my team ends up. Whether that means getting two top players for several dollars below my values or getting no one above $20, it matters little, as long as the projected team stats are there when the draft ends. This all assumes of course that you spend your entire $260 budget, which I sadly failed to do.

So after this first phase of frenetic bidding, sanity eventually returned and bargains were to be had. Soon, I was winning every couple of players. The middle portion of the draft finally arrived and I was excited that my team actually had some players on it. Since everyone else spent a large portion of their budgets early on, I continued to win players and soon had the second most players on my team after being the last team to draft their first player. This generally continued as we headed into the last phase of the draft.

Unfortunately, by that time, I had only a couple of spots left, but lots of money. It was apparent that it would be impossible to spend my entire budget, so I simply identified the best players left and just bid until I won them fully knowing I had the money to spend whatever it took. Refusing to overpay in the early going meant bargains were fast and furious later on and I spent less than I expected on a bunch of my players. That’s the one downside of my value-based bidding strategy.

So now that I have shared exactly how the draft went and the evolution of my team, I will quickly get into specific players. On the whole, this appears to be a boom or bust team. I drafted many players who disappointed last year at a discount with the hope for a rebound. I also ended up being the winning bidder on several who had big years with the hope of a repeat, or even a slight regression still earning me a profit.

A lot of fantasy owners are understandably afraid of Aaron Hill. He has been extremely inconsistent, but given his history, we know that 2012 was no fluke. However, the specter of 2011 still lingers on our minds, but that just seems to be some random fluke, while 2010 was a BABIP-related disappointment. When I drafted Aramis Ramirez, he was one of the few I thought to be fair value. He simply refuses to experience any age-related decline, though of course that could come suddenly at any time.

I was absolutely shocked I nabbed Alex Rios for $11. Does no one believe in him? He’s been even more inconsistent than Hill, but you can’t just assume some good/bad year trend will keep continuing like it’s something inherent in Rios that he simply cannot follow up a good year with another good one. I never expected to draft Chris Davis as I was pretty sure I liked him less than most others. But yeah, I learned to expect the unexpected in this draft. Hunter Pence is going to be a bargain in this year’s drafts.

Jon Lester and Dan Haren? I’m a glutton for punishment apparently. I owned Lester last year and think he’s in for a major rebound. Yes, his strikeout rate was down a bit, but all his other numbers were normal. I think it was primarily bad luck. Haren? Ehhh, I’m much more worried about him. But at that cost and the move to the National League, I simply had to price enforce, and sure enough, I then heard crickets. I’m a big fan of Brett Anderson (who isn’t?), so hopefully he stays healthy, and I love Jeff Samardzija. My last player was Jason Hammel. At that point, I could have had any pitcher left and went with him. I think he was absolutely for real last season and his injury that cut short his breakout is going to make him a steal in drafts.




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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.


70 Responses to “My Crazy Mock Auction Draft”

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  1. Kris says:

    Mike, value based bidding is the way to go, but leaving $15 on the table is awful. The one thing I learned very quickly in veteran leagues is to never underestimate the power of ego.

    Almost everyone in the draft will rationalize inflating a stars value because they’re certain they’re smart enough to grab a $10 player for a couple bucks late or even on the waiver wire. Sometimes they’re lying to themselves but more often than not, finding a player or a group of players for essentially $1 or a WW-claim that produce a decent value isn’t difficult.

    In an auction draft, it’s about finding surplus value. It’s infinitely easier to get $10 surplus value from a $1 player and a $50 player than it is to get $10 surplus from two $25 players. Even if you’ve overpaid for your $50 player, your $1 player can easily toss up 10-15 bucks in surplus value.

    Because everyone bids for stars at 120%, they’re almost no money left at the end outside of an owner or two and this serves to make even more *good* players into $1 bargains.

    It’s also abundantly clear throughout the season who you’re going to drop to pick up the hot hand when you’ve got 3 or 4 one dollar players. On your team, who exactly hits the chopping block? It’s all value, and you’re going to be unbelievably hesitant to give up on players.

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    • Ray says:

      Just replying to say I fully agree, great points all around. I’m in a dynasty league so keeper values skew things a bit, but we routinely see 3-4 $50+ bids and there are about a dozen $40+ players every season. The team that doesn’t buy into this strategy–and mine was one of them for a few years–gets alot of the mid-auction ‘values’ but as you said, finding surplus value on a $20 bid is a lot harder than finding surplus on a $1-3 bid, and the $20 owner doesn’t have the $40+ studs to fall back on.

      This is something I’ve reluctantly admitted the past few seasons and because of shrewd trades and waiver pickups I’ll probably be putting $80+ into two of Kemp/McCutchen ($45+) and AGon/Butler/Bruce ($30+).

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    • Yup, excellent points. And this is all stuff I completely agree with. It’s not like I was happy leaving $15 on the table. You point about who to drop is also a very good one. Sometimes when I leave my local league draft, I wish I had crappier players so I know who I could drop! Basically, my strategy works, I just need to make sure I spend all my money, which is a little more difficult when you don’t want to overpay early on.

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  2. DrBGiantsfan says:

    1. I suspect your fellow managers might have had a different approach had they been playing for keeps instead of mock drafting.

    2. Player values are a dynamic thing and vary depending on the behavior of individual drafts. What happened to you is less likely to happen in a real expert draft than in a mock draft or a draft with a bunch of novices. I found it frustrating in my own draft last year to see guys who spend all their money early nab very good players for $1 late just because the draft had essentially reverted to a snake draft by that time. On the other hand, if you keep an extra $10 saved up for the end game, you can get pretty much any player you want for $2, so that becomes a huge competitive advantage.

    3. When you saw everybody else spending all their money early, you probably should have made the adjustment and jumped in by overpaying a bit in the $25-$35 range.

    Sorry if all of the above is elementary and obvious, but right now I’m deep into scripting scenarios for my own auction draft and it helps to think out loud. Love these mocks because it helps ingrain player values and scenarios leading up to the real thing.

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    • Anton Sirius says:

      Keeping a ‘hammer’ for the auction endgame, so that you can afford to spend more than $1 on your last spots and don’t have to watch good players sail by uncontested, is a crucial part of auction strategy.

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    • All great points and I agree with. One of the ways I have thought about to “beat” the overpaying early on is to try winning a player who is less on an overpay than everyone else. So if all the top guys are going for $5 over value, then try getting a guy only $2 over value. It’s very hard to get myself to do that, but it might be the best strategy.

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  3. Rags says:

    So here’s what I’m trying to understand re auctions: a lot of sites recommend a 180/80 spit for hitters and pitchers. Last player picked has an “optimal hitting pitching split” option that’s almost never 180/80 (under my league parameters it’s closer to 192/68 with current projections).

    Why are neither of these numbers 50%/50% split (since each category is worth the same), or a 14/9 split for the number of hitters/pitchers? Where does the 180/80 number come from?

    Thanks so much for giving us your thinking!

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    • Ben says:

      generally pitchers are more likely to do one of two things: get hurt, or have a sudden jump in skill level.

      This means your expensive pitchers are more risky, and your cheaper pitchers are more replaceable from the waiver wire. Both of these factors work to depress the value of pitchers on draft day.

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      • Rags says:

        Are they 19% more risky? I feel like these numbers should be calculable, right? Instead of just rules of thumb?

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    • Anton Sirius says:

      Mostly it comes from history… the average owner seems to like spending on hitting more than on pitching. You can make something of a case that top hitters are safer investments than elite pitchers as well.

      Certainly if you think it gives you a competitive advantage though, there’s nothing stopping you from changing your own budgetary split to, say, 160/100.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Also not to be underrated: you need at least six position players, and you only need one or two types of pitchers. Also, just in terms of who was drafted here, you had 14 hitters and 9 pitchers, so it was never going to be 50/50.

      AS for the actual number, I hover between 25-30% because I want some flexibility at the draft and I want to see how it’s going.

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      • Rags says:

        So does it have something to do with position scarcity and replacement value of pitchers vs replacement value of hitters?

        After everyone’s drafted, it’s easier to find a 10th pitcher, or a 7th starter than to find an extra SS/2B/MI type? So therefore it’s worth spending more getting the quality hitters than the pitchers?

        That seems right to me, but I feel like there are a lot of assumptions being made. Maybe this is obvious to others and I’m just a little slow on the uptake. But I don’t get the WHY of how the numbers work out the way they do, especially when (in roto, anyway) winning pitching categories are worth exactly the same as winning hitting ones.

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      • It’s for some of the reasons already mentioned and for whatever reason, owners have just adapted the 70/30 split (or close to it). So when you value players, you want to do so based on how you expect the rest of the league to split their money. I don’t think anyone has ever pinpointed exactly why this split, but there are definitely contributing factors that come close.

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    • Dan says:

      Lots of years ago, before I had ever heard of WAR, I ran the numbers for our auction draft based purely on something like “standard deviations above the mean” on 5×5 category performance for all players expected to be picked in my league. For that exercise at least, it turned out that there was quite a bit more variance among the hitters… to the extent that the expected price balance actually broke something like 175/85, all else being equal.

      Your mileage may vary. (Also may have something to do with it being tough to have a “five category” pitcher, but I like the variance thing better.)

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    • JEH says:

      If you were acquiring a team with no bench and no transactions then the proper split would be 50% pitching / 50% hitting.

      More of your pitching stats (assuming your league’s rules are somewhat close to normal) during the season will come from your bench or free agent acquisitions so you will want to spend less on those players during the auction.

      There are other reasons (projection uncertainty, injury risk, other owners bidding tendencies, etc.) but those are relatively minor compared to playing time.

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  4. Anton Sirius says:

    “My plan in auction drafts has always been to never pay more than I value a player for — try to get as many players at as significant a discount as possible and be satisfied with however my team ends up.”

    That’s fine for keeper leagues, but in one-year leagues the ONLY real value to getting bargains is that it allows you to overpay for stars with higher floors to stabilize your roster.

    Or, as the first commenter said, “leaving $15 on the table is awful.” That’s the difference between Victorino and a Granderson or Adam Jones, or between Hill and Pedroia.

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    • harpago17 says:

      “That’s fine for keeper leagues, but in one-year leagues the ONLY real value to getting bargains is that it allows you to overpay for stars with higher floors to stabilize your roster.”

      I disagree. If you are able to get bargains AND spend all of your auction dollars, then your expected team value will be higher than average by definition, and likely at the top of the league.

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      • Yes, this is correct. There is no reason to ever overpay for a player.

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      • Anton Sirius says:

        And that would mean you’re playing in a sucker league.

        In a league against competent or better owners, it’s going to be basically impossible to acquire nothing but bargains and spend all your money.

        We’ve got the entire auction results – can you comb through everyone’s rosters and come up with $260 worth of below-value players? I couldn’t.

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      • I completely disagree. Doesn’t everyone have a different opinion of players? Someone I think is a bargain, no one else might. In fact, that’s likely the case if I was the one to be the highest bidder. Of course it’s possible to find $260 worth of value by just selecting guys I valued more than what was paid. It’s simple math. If there are enough players going over value, then there has to be the same dollars in total discounts for everyone else.

        Unless everyone bid exactly what a player was worth and had my projected values in hand, then every auction is going to have players you think came at a discount and were overpaid for.

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  5. Ben says:

    I started playing a 15-team auction league with the same roster size, but 10 keepers + 10 MiLB keepers. Very interesting to see how the values change as a result of a large amount of keepers, as last year I watched, shell-shocked as multiple guys went for $50-$65. I suppose I should have seen it coming when Miggy and Kemp got KEPT at $56 apiece.

    But I was dutiful and kept to my bid values, all ready for the middle portion of the draft where I would get great value, like nabbing $25 Rickie Weeks, $20 Carlos Pena, and a $35 Brett Gardner (its an OBP league).

    The lesson? Spend for your stars.

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    • Cookierojas16 says:

      Quotation marks around “great value”, I surmise…

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      • Ben says:

        Indeed, “value” was meant to be sarcastic (at least in retrospect anyway.)

        Thankfully I’d been planning to tank this year anyway, as it was my first in that league, my first auction, and my first year of fantasy baseball in 3 years. It worked out okay as I have a good set of keepers and an excellent farm system, but I never did get to ship Weeks, Pena, or Gardner :(

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    • Anton Sirius says:

      That’s a product of inflation though… “value” in keeper leagues takes on a very different meaning once you account for all the players that are off the table.

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  6. Mays says:

    Mike,

    Glad you have had good experiences with the Last Player Picked Price Guide. A couple of notes regarding pitcher value issues you mention:

    First, if your league allows a “P” slot, you almost always get more accurate values if you allocate those slots as either “SP” or “RP”. For this league, using 6 SP and 3 RP for 2012 stats should eliminate unrealistic middle reliever values — I get Jake McGee around $6 and a few more below him. That smells right to me.

    Secondly, one problem with the LPP Price Guide is that it doesn’t update position eligibility inseason. So Samardzija only gets counted as RP when he really should get a good bump as an SP. Same for Medlen, Lynn, etc.

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    • Rags says:

      Mays,

      I LOVE LPP! Can I direct you towards the question I posted above, about hitter/pitcher splits in budgeting? Your site seems to have an opinion on the matter since it has the option to calculate “ideal” splits. How do you determine what that split is? Or is that part of the secret sauce that goes into make your site?

      Anyway, thank you for giving us such a useful tool!

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    • Thanks Mays, I appreciate you jumping in! Great tips, I had no idea about setting that pitcher split. I always made SP and RP 0 and made P 9. And seriously glad the site is back. I love talking about the value of players and your calculator is the only freely available one that accurately takes position and stat scarcity into account, so I could point readers to it.

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    • Mike D says:

      Mays – I have two issues I want to discuss with you in regards to LPP where I think you need to look at your calculations. If you read this, please contact me at mdecav at yahoo. Thanks.

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  7. KJ says:

    I like Chris Davis a lot for $7.

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  8. DrBGiantsfan says:

    One more point that may be obvious: A $35 value that you pay $40 for still gives you more production than a $14 value who you paid $1 for. In a game where total production is the bottom line, you need at least 1 or 2 $35 values on your team even if you have to overpay. The question is what is your limit for overpayment.

    I like to set a minimum and maximum value for the top 20 or so players. The minimum is how much I can’t let let another owner pay and the maximum is the limit that I am willing to go to get that player.

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    • I disagree. Again, this is assuming you spend your entire $260 budget. It does not matter if you have any $35 players on your team. You are correct total production is the bottom line, so if your values are correct, then two $20 players should be roughly equal in total production to a $39 player and $1 player. As a result, you simply want to get as many at a discount as possible to maximize the value of your team.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        You make two assumptions there: 1. You spend your entire budget. I the case of this mock draft, you waited too long to spend and left money on the table. 2. Your values are correct. Your reference values are last year’s production, yet when you look at the actual players drafted, it is apparent that one reason why their price might have been low is a perception of risk.

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      • Werthless says:

        3rd assumption is the biggest assumption… the distribution of returns at each dollar level. Someone mentioned in comments the ease with which one can find a $1 player to provide $10 in value. In a league with no transactions, you can spread your money evenly. But in a league with unlimited transactions, it’s ideal to have a number of interchangable $1 guys that can be dropped/added in pursuit of $10 value.

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      • Yes, completely agree, but it’s two different arguments. It also doesn’t justify overspending on any player.

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  9. Jake says:

    Why are you calling it an “auction draft”? If it’s an auction, it’s not a draft.

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  10. GVeers says:

    Fun stuff, Mike.

    I gotta say I disagree with the approach you took here. I apply a bit of a curve to my dollar projections so that top talent is weighted a little more than the raw numbers would suggest. I believe this is justified because top talent wins championships, and I believe the stars n’ scrubs approach is so well-known for that reason. I also think you need a fair selection of $1 players so you have more room to work the waiver wire.

    With that said, I usually target three phases in the auction:

    1) melting cash phase – I never want to leave dollars on the table, so in the early stage I try to identify top talent that doesn’t seem like an outrageous overpay and bite the bullet once or twice. After this stage you should have something of an anchor for your squad, but still have a cash advantage over those who go nuts for superstars. Melting off cash early really helps identify the guys you need to get later on, and how to best spend the rest of your budget.

    2) mid-round values – after the studs are gone there is generally more value to be had, and that’s where most of my money is usually spent. Since I’m usually a lot more active in this stage there is also a lot more room for triumph as well as regret, but that’s the name of the game. :) The key here is to continue to melt cash, but by the end I usually want to be in the top half of cash in reserve.

    3) true value picks – in our auctions there’s always a mega-bargain, sometimes several, in the last stage and you want to make sure you’ve got the cash to take advantage. There’s always a couple guys I really want here, that I’ve been targeting the entire auction, and you really don’t want to lose them over a buck or two.

    I do believe a melting cash phase is essential because most champions (in our league anyway) tend to have a stud or two, along with the surprise guys that put them over the top. Also, spending all your money is the first rule of an auction IMO. By waiting for bargains I think you put yourself in more of a position to waste money.

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    • What makes you say that top talent wins championships? I’m of the belief that it doesn’t matter where your production comes from, whether it’s two $20 players or one $39 player and a $1 player. Both pairs should produce about the same, given that your dollar values are calculated correctly.

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      • Mike D says:

        Except that a team with two $20 players can’t easily go on the free agent market and get a productive player post-auction, whereas the $1 player is easily replaceable by someone who can be markedly better.

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      • This is true, and probably why I’d prefer the $39/$1 combo. However, that doesn’t mean I should be overpaying for the $39 player, because that just cancels out any profit that $1 slot ends up earning later in the season.

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      • GVeers says:

        It’s not based on any hard evidence, just a belief, so I probably won’t convince you here. But my own observations of our champions, who tend to have at least a couple established stars, combined with how stars n’ scrubs is so broadly accepted, makes me believe it is – more or less – the way to go.

        The team you ended up with – who do you waive for the guys that start out hot and might be legit? You need a few more $1 players (give or take) because not all your guys are going to pan out and some guys on the wire will surprise. So take the 15 bucks or so from converting $6 players into $1 players, and the other 15 bucks you left on the table, and I say convert that into a stud or maybe two. I think strategically you’d be better positioned with such a squad. Wouldn’t you rather have Miggy Cabrera locking down your hot corner over Aramis, and take the hit on the back end? Which frees you to pursue a couple more of the guys that might be good? I think the numbers don’t necessarily bear it out because it is really a tactical advantage more than anything.

        And again, you can’t leave more than a couple bucks on the table. Rule #1. And overpaying (preferably only slightly) for a stud puts you in a much better position to avoid such a critical mistake. $15 is the equivalent of several overpays.

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    • GVeers says:

      The other reason I believe stars and scrubs works is because there are usually ~$10 players that can be had for a buck or two, again in my experience. It’s not about value so much as the way the economy of a draft usually plays out. Rather than assuming you’re going to need to spend $10 at the end of the auction for all those guys, you can assume you’re not going to spend that much. So why not spend the surplus on relatively low beta guys (stars or superstars) where the lower variance arguably makes up for the overpay in expected value?

      Perhaps in an efficient market (say a bunch of Mike Podhorzers) this would not hold true. But I do not find most of our auctions to be that efficient.

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      • This is true, though I usually don’t come into drafts expecting owners to draft irrationally. You have to assume $40 players will go for $40, $30 for $30 and $10 players for $10.

        Ahh, your last sentence hit the nail on the head. In any auction, there has to be a point where some of the top-middle tier is going under value. It’s just simple math. So although it requires serious patience, under valued players WILL appear and that’s when you have to pounce. I’ve learned my lesson and in my local league this is what typically occurs. And yes, I spend all my money now. Or at least have been doing so.

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      • GVeers says:

        What about the stock market analogy that higher variance should lead to higher returns? If top talent truly is lower variance (I have to think it is to some degree) then perhaps paying greater than expected value is not so irrational.

        We tend to focus on expected value, but stock theory figures in variance just as much. Maybe this is the new frontier of player valuation…I have to believe RL teams are already all over that stuff…

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      • GVeers says:

        One more thought…I know you are anti-pitcher and like to wait as long as possible. What do your expected value calculations say about pitchers relative to their salaries? The higher beta drives their price below expected value, right?

        I would theorize that there is something similar at work with elite talent. Top talent is worth more than your projections indicate for the same reason pitchers are worth less.

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      • Well this delved into some serious philosophical stuff quickly! I love any stock market analogies. However, I know Baseball HQ/Forecaster has looked at the supposed safety of top tier players and always conclude that there is no such thing as a safe player. I’m not sure anything exhaustive was done, but they always remind us how many of the pre-season top 20 or something actually end up in the top 20 in value at the end of the year. Hint: it’s low.

        So what you’re arguing is people are willing to pay a premium for reliability. And that makes sense. But I think it’s a false safety net.

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      • In my local league auctions, pitchers always go for the values on my sheets. In this auction, there were more guys going for the top quarter of salaries, which is higher than normal. It sounds like you expected pitchers to go for less than my values, but that has never been the case. I use a 68%/32% split for my values, which is basically what my league pays. Sometimes it’s 69/31, but close enough.

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      • GVeers says:

        I don’t know Baseball HQ/Forecaster from Adam, but forgive me for waiting to see the Fangraphs study before concluding anything definitive. :)

        For one, even a high incidence of guys dropping out of top 20 value isn’t necessarily convincing. Fantasy baseball is a sport of randomness. You would need to look at all draft positions and determine whether the attrition rate is higher, lower, or the same with top talent relative to everyone else. In other words, at the very minimum you need a baseline.

        Cool discussion – thanks for humoring me.

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  11. Mike D says:

    Here is a classic problem with auction drafts where owners rely too much on their own calculated values. If an owner notices overbidding of top players, the owner needs to then take a a draft approach to an auction in the first few “rounds”.

    This means that if you are in a 14 team league, you know who are the Top 14 hitters price-wise and you begin to see how the Top 14 guys are being overbid. You MUST take a top 14 guy, but try to be the owner with the lowest “overbid”.

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    • I guess we’ll just agree to disagree. I don’t see any reason why you MUST get a top 14 hitter. It’s just not necessary. However, I do like the idea of being the lowest overbid and it’s something I mentioned in an earlier response to a comment.

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      • Mike D says:

        It might have been my comment as I’ve mentioned this once before. One of the problems you run into by not taking this approach is that you’re putting yourself in a position where you are not spending money, and you paint yourself in a corner by bidding on multiple third round-type guys because, simply, you’re now forced to.

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  12. ML says:

    Beating in a dead point already, but it could be argued that this was akin to forfeiting the first 3 rounds of a “snake draft”. At least 2 for sure.

    That being said, this is an issue i frequently run into – letting everyone spend their money and I end up throwing my muscle in the midrounds, but for mid level talent. I need to work this part better, because it frequently leads to either money left on the table, or not enough rosters to capitalize on cheap $1 flyers i wanted to take

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  13. Ben says:

    One thing to remember when valuing 2x$20 vs. $39+$1 is injury. If you’re correctly valuing everyone involved, you have a sligthly smaller chance of getting hosed by injury if you diversify into two equally productive players.

    That said, you’re playing for first, so maybe the higher risk/reward scenario ($39+ >$1 value from the WW)is better?

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    • Yeah, it depends on the league. In a shallower league, I’d def prefer the $39/$1 pair since an injury won’t hurt as much given your free agent options. In a deep or Only league, the $20 pair I’d prefer since you’re completely screwed by injury.

      That said, I still don’t think that is justification for overspending on that $39 player. In the auction, the $40 value guys were pretty fairly valued, but it was the $30 value guys that were also bid into the high $30 or low $40 range, and that was a mistake in my eyes. There is a much bigger dropoff between the top couple of players and the rest of the first rounders than the dollar values would have you believe.

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  14. Kris says:

    Mike, I’m going to chyme in again quickly. I’m not against your strategy, it’s just something you have to be able to adjust. If bidding starts normally, I watch the bids and sort of get a feel for the market values and owners tendencies. See where owners peace out on the first 5 or 6 premium hitters and mark it down.

    In most leagues, you’ll notice the star premium for each owner pretty quickly. The thing is, if everyone’s blowing their money early and often, all the top players are going to be overvalued and everyone but you and a couple other players are going to be left fishing for value with a crap-tonne of cash that even if you’re drafting well, you’ll never use. It’s just knowing exactly when to jump in and start over valuing second tier players by not quite as much.

    Otherwise, the middle and end of the draft will roll around and you’ll have your choice of the guys, because you’ll have the money, but everyone’s so well versed in baseball that they’ll be able to fill in a roster spot or bench spot with a pretty good $1 player.

    In a perfect world, we’d all draft for value AND use all of our cash, but honestly doing those two things together is the hardest effing thing in the world.

    Honestly, you’ve done one of the better jobs *drafting for value* than almost anyone I’ve seen.

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    • Truly appreciate your comments. I have gotten much, much better at playing the “drafting for value”, while spending all my money game, but it was a lot tougher this time around since I didn’t have my own calculated dollar values (I was using values from another site for reference) and it was a larger format than my local league. It’s definitely tough balancing the two, but regardless of the difficulty, mastering it gives you the greatest chance to leave the auction with the best team.

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  15. Birdman6824 says:

    Mays – will you be updating LPP for player movement ?

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  16. Jonathan Sher says:

    @Mike
    While I generally like and employ the approach you use for auctions and think you generally used it to good effect in this auction, I challenge your notion that “There is no reason to ever overpay for a player.”

    The goal of each season is to get the most production across the various categories and that is not the same thing as the most surplus value. To use your current auction as an example, if another owner fully spent his budget he would exceed you in production even if he produces $14 less in surplus value because you left $15 on the table.

    Consider the owner who decided to only buy $1 players. Assume he is brilliant in his selection and produces massive surplus value. He’d still come up short because his production would trail others.

    Now consider a more realistic scenario, playing in a keeper league in which each owner keeps a considerable number of keepers. That creates a considerable inflationary effect since al of that surplus value is available to bid on a thinner pool of available players. Now consider that one or two owners may have a considerably better keeper list — I’ve been in such a position often. Those one or two owners have so much surplus value in their keepers they can afford to get some top players to fill some of their remaining spot. If they chose instead to follow your advice on maximizing value, they will preserve dollars but far more than they need as the auction winds down. They end up either leaving money on the table — and the lost production that comes with that — or they dramatically overspend on mediocre players after the top talent is gone. The risk to such an owner is not that they will run out of money but rather that they will run out of available talent to spend it on.

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    • Thanks for the well written comment! I guess I assumed that it was inferred “…assuming you spend all your money” should have been added to the end of that overpay quote. Obviously, if you don’t spend all your money, or wouldn’t without overpaying, you screwed up. In the early going though, it’s wrong to justify overpaying for stars to ensure you spend all your money.

      Keeper leagues are a completely different animal. You need to have your own set of inflated values and paying those amounts are not considering overpaying, because those are now the new worth of each player.

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      • Jonathan Sher says:

        Thanks for your reply Mike. While I understood your inference before I wrote my comment, I meant to suggest that there is a link between dogmatic about only spending money on undervalued players and ending up with more money than talent during the end of an auction — the latter is a risk of the former. That risk can be mitigated by one or two slight overpays during the early and mid-parts of the draft.

        As for keeper leagues, when I speak of overpaying, I meant beyond the inflationary factor. If the inflation factor in one of my keeper leagues is 20%, I might pay a 25% or even 30% premium if I have a dominant keeper list.

        All of this is league-dependent, of course. In m main league owners are prone to bidding wars as talent at a position dwindles, so if you need production at a certain position, it is often the safer route to do a slight overbid before that position is depleted than it is to wait.

        One other consideration: The more effective you are at securing undervalued players, the greater the risk you face of having more cash than talent during the end game, and that usually leads to bigger overpays late or leaving cash on the table. If this auction is any indication than you are quite effective at securing undervalued talent — I see far more hits than misses. Rios at $11 is remarkable. I obtained him last year in a keeper league with about 30% inflation at $17 but that was coming off an awful year. Going from Guillen to Ventura was a blessing for Rios and the mechanics of his new swing were so fundamentally sound. While there will be some age and performance-related regression I expect him to earn $20.

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      • Jonathan Sher says:

        I should add for context that the $17 I spent on Rios was in an A.L. league with 12 owners.

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      • Grease says:

        Value drafting while spending all your money without overpaying at all for star players is very impractical and rarely occurs in real auctions in my experience. The theory makes sense but it never plays out that way.

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      • Well, not to toot my own horn, but this is what I do every year in my local league auction. I actually ended up drafting Ryan Braun last year for below my value (and won the league), though I usually don’t end up with any $40 or high $30 players on my team. This is obviously not an expert league, but it is for medium stakes.

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  17. Dennis Geisleman says:

    It appears to make sense to overpay on one first round stud (hitter) and to get an anchor/starter. Value bid thereafter, still buying two or three $1 types with upside. It is easy to replace these picks if they do not produce.

    I appreciate your auction analysis. Part of the fun of Roto is getting a few guys you like, as well as a balanced, competitive team.

    Dennis G.

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  18. EDUB says:

    “Well, not to toot my own horn, but this is what I do every year in my local league auction. I actually ended up drafting Ryan Braun last year for below my value (and won the league), though I usually don’t end up with any $40 or high $30 players on my team. This is obviously not an expert league, but it is for medium stakes.”

    But if you dont end up with any $40 players, and get bargains on most of your guys, how is it that you spend your whole budget? At some point the middle talent disappears so are you overpaying for the lower talent players since you have extra dollars from your bargains?
    Also, was Braun going under value having anytihng to do with his looming suspension questions marks? Thanks

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    • I spend all my budget because like I’ve said many times, you don’t need any top guys to spend it all! It can be done, I do it all the time. If $30 guys are overvalued, then maybe $20 guys are discounted. So then my team has a large group of $20 players. You only need to average $11 per player with a 23 man roster and $260 budget. So all those discounted $20 or high teen players easily gets me there.

      Our auction was in mid-March, well after we knew the deal with Braun. It’s possible he was a little cheaper since people were suspicious about whether he was off PEDs and it might hurt his performance. Or, I just valued him higher than others. I don’t know.

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