Rebuild, Retool, or Restock: Prepping for Year 2+ in ottoneu

Over the next three weeks, I am putting together three articles to help both existing and new ottoneu players (including one for those still thinking about ottoneu). Next week we’ll look at how the three scoring systems offered by ottoneu compare, and the week after I’ll offer some guidance for those venturing into their first ottoneu experience. In the midst of all that, expect to see a detailed breakdown of how I create projected auction values for my ottoneu leagues.

But this week, with just nine days until rosters freeze, I am going to focus on those of you in your second or third year in ottoneu, or those of you taking over abandoned teams. In many ways, the next nine days are some of the most important to your season – moves you make now can put you on the path to a title or start a downward spiral.

Last year, I did a two parter on the Roster Organizer tool on ottoneu, and how you can use it to figure out what you should do in the off-season. I am not going to rehash that, except to add a reminder that setting a player to “cut” in the roster organizer will not result in said player actually being cut. You can use that tool to see what your roster/cap situation will be like, but on or before January 31, when rosters freeze, you need to go onto your team page and actually cut the guys you want cut.

Those two article are worth re-reading, but this year I am going to focus on providing answers to the questions I get asked the most often. If your question is not here, you can always ask in the comments, or hit me on Twitter (@chadyoung).

How many players/how much money should I have going into the auction?
Everyone asks this. Either this or, “is it okay if I plan to keep 38 guys [or 9 guys] and will have $30 [or $385] in cap space?” And the answer is always the same – I have seen a HUGE range of how many players get held or cut, and I see no clear correlation between keeping players and winning/losing. What I would caution against here is steering clear of the Endowment Effect, where you overvalue the pieces you have because they are yours. If you finished 10th last year and plan to keep 37 guys, you might want to think long and hard about why your 10th place team is going to be better this year. Maybe you have all prospects and are happy to wait on them to develop. Maybe you had some significant injuries last year. Maybe you made late trades and think your team is better than it was. But if you are keeping a last place team intact, you better have a good reason. On average, I would say teams enter the auction with 25-30 spots filled an d $100-$150 to spend.

Should I keep [Insert Player] at [Insert Price]?
Except in a few cases where it is blindingly obvious (yes, you should keep a $10 Mike Trout, and you should cut your $65 Kelly Johnson), the answer here is almost always that it depends. Due to the way inflation works in these leagues, more often than not, the guy you are considering cutting or keeping will cost at least as much in the auction as he does now. That doesn’t mean you should keep him. If you have a deep OF and you are torn on a $45 Matt Kemp, cut him loose and find a bargain at auction to fill that slot. If, on the other hand, you have only one MI and don’t anticipate many MI being cut, you might want to hold your $10 Howie Kendrick. One way to gauge who will be out there is to follow the trade market. Does every owner have their catcher on the trade block? A few of those will likely get cut. You can also try to trade a guy you are deciding on – if no one is interested, your chances of buying him back, perhaps at a discount, are a bit better. That can also be a sign that most teams are set at that position, which could make finding a deal at auction easier.

Would you make this trade: [insert trade terms]?
Again, this is highly dependent on the situation in most cases. To me, most teams fall into three general categories and how you trade differs for each:

1) Almost there – this is a team with 30+ keepers and a competitive core. You likely only need one to two more pieces to put yourself in a position to compete. In this case, you should be making any trade that a) fills a need without creating another (this is where you trade prospects or trade from depth) or b) fills a need while creating another need that is easier to fill (think there will be no SP in your auction and lots of OF? Then by all means trade your top-tier OF for a top-tier SP). You can also make value deals here – if you have a stacked OF, maybe move an expensive OF for a guy who costs 50% of the salary but will create 70% of the value, especially if you think you will be tight on cap space to fill another need.

2) Rebuilding – You have a bunch of keepers, but they are all prospects or high upside guys who are not sure things. In this case, if you think 2013 is unlikely to be your year anyway, you can take advantage by targeting players who will help you in 2014 and beyond. Not just other prospects, but guys like Brandon Beachy or Corey Luebke, who are coming back from injury. Make sure, however, that you can fill your roster. Don’t keep 30 guys who are all injured or in AAA. Also, don’t get too caught up in the ceiling of players in the low minors. Miguel Sano may be a stud someday, but Nolan Arenado could man 3B for you when you are ready to make your run in 2014.

3) Keeperless – Ok, so you aren’t really devoid of keepers, but you sold out last year to win (and maybe you did) but now you have way too many overpriced guys and not a lot of value. You should be basically looking for value in trades. Don’t worry so much about positional needs (you have a lot, most likely) and focus instead on getting the most value in your deals.

What should I be doing for the next week?
Figure out who on your team is definitely getting cut, will be of no interest to trade partners, and cut them loose. Then use the roster organizer to figure out what your lineup would look like if you kept everyone else. Once you have done that, you should see where you have opportunities to make additional cuts or trades. In one league, I had Pablo Sandoval, Mike Moustakas, and Will Middlebrooks. When I set my lineup and realized I could only use two of them anyway (one at Util), I began shopping Panda, and used him to get a a 1B I desperately needed and a closer to help strengthen my pen. If you see guys on your bench who you think can start, you should be trading either that player or the starter, or thinking about cutting one of them to save salary for the auction.




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17 Responses to “Rebuild, Retool, or Restock: Prepping for Year 2+ in ottoneu”

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  1. LuckyStrikes says:

    “due to the way inflation works…” Can you elaborate? We’re now in year three and really debating if/why we might see more inflation than last year. At least 11 of 12 teams expect to enter the draft with the expectation of competing this year.

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    • Nelson Santovenia says:

      I second this question. How does inflation work if the budgets are still fixed at 400. If keepers all go up 2$(or more) and you say many guys we drop will go for more in the auction, where does all this new money come from? Economically, I just dont get it

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      • PillsburyFlowboy says:

        the inflation tends to come from position scarcity. in a new league, everyone starts from square one and the prices more or less fall in line with market value. in any following years, most teams usually have 20 or so keepers, so you can essentially subtract 240ish players from the draft pool. therefore prices go up as there may only be 2 or 3 elite players available per position.

        in my ottoneu league, for example, both braun and cabrera were cut last year, i suspect because they were both rather expensive (~$45). when auction time rolled around, however, and they were the only two elite players available, the bidding went well over $60.

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      • jfree says:

        Here’s how inflation works.

        Think of the auction as 4000 leaguewide dollars chasing 4000 dollars of player value. The only players who are kept are those who are perceived to have more value than they cost. Repeat this same thought process for every owner in the league. And the result is that, overall, less value (the non-keepers) is put back into the player pool than is released to the budget pool. So in year 2, 4000 leaguewide dollars is chasing 3500 dollars of player value. Technically, it’s “the same amount of money chasing fewer goods” — but practically that’s the same thing as “more money chasing the same goods”.

        The only way keeper leagues don’t create inflation is if the league rules force keepers to be kept at (roughly) market price. Think of it as one year player contracts – but team has option to renew.

        And just like in real life, the only beneficiaries of inflation are the first buyers (the guy who gets to keep Mike Trout working as a slave at last year’s price) – or those who really understand the inflation impact. Everyone else loses – and then drops out of the league because they can’t recover – and new owners aren’t interested in some Sisyphean rebuild – so the league dies and even the beneficiaries lose.

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      • byron says:

        You make me sad, jfree.

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      • Young Ether says:

        fantastic answer jfree, i enjoyed ottoneu the inaugural year and even placed 2nd while retaining cheap prospects that have likely matured into profitable keepers — but bailed anyhow due to the wonky user interface and suspicion others would bail. How has Niv and team handled attrition in leagues?

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      • Chad Young says:

        For Young Ether and JFree-

        Attrition has been handled by allowing users to take over abandoned teams. And in general, it has not been a problem. I am sure some leagues have disbanded, but in general people have stuck around. And finding replacements has, as far as I can tell, been relatively easy.

        Second, my experience has been that rebuild efforts are, if not easy, very feasible. We’ve only had one repeat champ in 8 years of the original league, and last year was won by a team that had been brutal a couple years earlier. The early favorite for this year is a team that hasn’t cracked the top ten the last two years, but used that time to build a hell of a team. One of the beauties of ottoneu is that you can rebuild effectively. Dropping out after one year, you have really missed out on what ottoneu is all about.

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      • byron says:

        In seriousness, I’ve had to replace (I think) 4 of the original 12 owners in my league, with one of the replacements having to be replaced this winter, and with three more VERY inactive teams I’m frantically emailing, hoping for a response. Getting replacements has not been hard with the abandoned team feature, and arbitration (allocation ftw) and trading salary cap space make rebuilding easier, faster, and MORE FUN than I imagine it would be in more traditional keeper leagues.

        (We’ve had attrition largely because we were 12 strangers who just signed up as quickly as possible, I’m trying to restock the league with replacements who actually know people in the league to hopefully repair that.)

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    • Chad Young says:

      The primary reason, from an economic standpoint is that in year two or later, both supply and demand decrease, but supply decreases at a greater rate. Simple example that I like to use:

      Imagine: a situation with 10 players of exactly equal value and $100 to be spent on them – their market value is $10 each. Now imagine that 5 of those 10 players are already owned for $5 each – that means there are 5 players of exactly equal value left and $75 to be spent on them – so they are now worth $15 each.

      Obviously this is an oversimplification, but the same thing is happening in ottoneu leagues. If 240 players (20 per team) are kept at an average price of $10 each, those 240 are going to be the best values. We can assume that for the $2400 spent, more than $2400 in value has been kept. As a result, the ratio of $/production has changed, such that there are more dollars available to spend per unit of production to be purchased.

      Does that make sense?

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      • Nelson Santovenia says:

        Thanks, seems to make sense. The one thing I still dont get though is that it seems like inflation should level off in year 2, since leagues in year 3,4,5 etc are still keeping roughly the same amount of players as leagues in year 2. So maybe inflation in the auction levels off, but then I see in the original league players being kept in the high 60′s or more. So instead of 5 players at 5$ in your example you have maybe 4 at 5$ and 1 at 20$. That would almost push inflation down. Ouch, my brain hurts

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      • Chad Young says:

        Inflation doesn’t level off immediately. Assume that every player goes for market value. Then every player should be about 50-50 to outperform and be deemed a keeper. So after year 1, each team keeps 20 guys and sings 20 new ones. Of the new ones, 10 become keepers. Of the 20 that were kept, maybe 15 stay keepers. Now you have 25 keepers per team, which means more inflation.

        I think we are going to see a drop in general inflation this year in the original league in part because we are all keeping so many players. Kershaw is being kept at $65. Miggy at $58. Braun at $62 (we think). It will be interesting to see what this does to second-tier players who will be the “stars” of the auction. But the inflation doesn’t stop after year 2.

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    • philosofool says:

      Here’s how inflation works:
      Each team has $400 to spend on players who generate points for their owner. There’s such a thing as replacement level, which is the guy you could have for $1 and who is projected to be the worst guy worth paying $1 for (any worse, and you shouldn’t pay at all, or you should demand that other owners pay you to roster him, which you’re not really allowed to do.)

      Okay, now subtract the number of points a replacement level guy makes from each player’s projected points. This is the number of points above replacement level that the each player will make.

      Now, add up all the points from guys who are above replacement level. This is the total number of points that you expect will be distributed this year. Divide that by $4,800 (the total budget for the league.) This is the number of points one dollar is worth.

      Now, when someone owns a guy for less than his value based on this calculation, you get inflation. That’s because his owner is paying a little less than he should for the points he’s going to get. Effectively, this owner can spend a little more for points available among free agents.

      Let’s go back to some cost calculating: once everyone has been cut and you know who’s owned and who isn’t, you can calculate the number of points available among free agents and the amount of money everyone has left to spend. Suppose everyone has $100 to spend at the auction, remaining free agent points/$1,200 is the number of points $1 buys you. Since most owners have kept players who should outproduce their cost, most owners have slightly more to spend per point and the cost of a point goes up.

      I hope that makes sense.

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      • oPlaiD says:

        I’m fairly worried about this in my league since last year we had owner show up late for the auction and basically much things up, ending with a team that only cost around $300 for his full roster of players, and many of them younger prospect types.

        That means there’s even more value being kept on most rosters so the guys thrown back should have even more inflated rosters, which makes it harder for me to throw back guys like Napoli@26, Utley@22, Uggla@22, Hanley@44 even though I have Starlin and Salvador Perez cheap, since them and my other options may end up much more expensive.

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      • Chad Young says:

        oPlaid, this is where off-season trades really make a difference. If there are no bites on those guys, then you end up tossing them back if you have better values and enjoy the benefits of entering the auction with tons of cap space. But I bet if you lower your price a enough and focus on moving those expensive pieces for guys who are maybe lesser talents but better dollar-for-dollar values, you could do quite well for yourself.

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  2. jkadoch says:

    If anybody is interested we have 5 teams open on a 5×5 ottoneu league with $100 buy in: http://ottoneu.fangraphs.com/326/home

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  3. Chocoman says:

    When is the auction scheduled?

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    • Chad Young says:

      Each league schedules their own auction for sometime after the roster deadline (Jan 31) and before the start of the season. League commissioners can set the date on the commissioner tools page, accessible off the league homepage.

      If you don’t have a date set, reach out to your commish and tell them to get on that!

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