What is Position Scarcity, Really?

Last night on the Fantasy Baseball Roundtable radio show (live every Wed. night at 9 PM EST!), the question was posed as to whether position scarcity was greatest in the outfield this year. I was pretty shocked to hear such a suggestion as I figured it was pretty well known that every year catcher is the scarcest. It got me to thinking that this may be an issue of semantics and that many people still aren’t sure exactly what is meant by the phrase position scarcity. So here I am to explain.

As we debated the question, well, not really debated, as I simply told the “yes” answerers they were wrong, it was clear that the wrong term was being used. The argument supporting the notion of position scarcity being greatest in the outfield was that there is a big drop-off between the elite hitters at the position and the bottom dwellers. This is the most common misconception of the idea of position scarcity. Fantasy owners will look at a position, see a couple of top hitters and then a large drop-off, will claim they need to get one of the top guys and then will label that position scarce. This is not position scarcity.

I don’t know if an official term has been invented for this phenomenon, but it is very different from the concept of position scarcity. However, the situation being described does absolutely affect how you draft players in a straight draft. It has no effect in auctions though as you are paying for what a player’s projected stat line is worth, so if there is a drop-off in talent, you will simply pay a lot less for the next guy. Now when I say it affects how one drafts in a straight format, that does not mean the actual values of those players change, but it does change the dynamics and become a tie-breaker when comparing two similarly valued players. When you cannot make a decision, you should look at which position drops off more if you select the player in question and you then go with the guy from that position. Again, this is straight draft 101 and an essential skill to master, but it is not position scarcity.

So what is position scarcity, really? It is actually very simple. Using catcher as an example, we need to draft 24 of them in a standard 12-team mixed league. However, when we run our dollar values on their projected stats, we are almost guaranteed to find that we don’t end up with 24 catchers who are positively valued. In fact, some of the last couple of catchers may be worth $-5 to $-10. We must pay at least $1 for every player, so when a situation occurs where there is not enough positively valued players to fill all the starting slots at the position in question, that position is said to be scarce.

So by answering yes to the original question, one is inferring that the last outfielder drafted is actually worth less than the 24th catcher, using raw dollar values and projected stat lines, unadjusted for position. This may actually be possible in very deep mixed leagues or Only leagues, as the last players drafted at every position in these formats all stink and have very similar projected stat lines. But, we were assuming more common, shallower leagues, and the argument justifying the yes answer didn’t mention this possibility anyway.

So when we do determine that a position is scarce, we have to bump up the values of the hitters at that position to ensure the last drafted player is worth $1. That is why the top catchers get drafted as early as the 2nd or 3rd rounds, even though their raw stats are significantly inferior to other hitters being drafted in those rounds. This is a case where the wisdom of the crowds is correct in their overall valuation of catchers as the ADP of the top catcher is typically in this range. Of course, you will still always hear from those stubborn non-believers who argue that catchers don’t produce enough to justify an early round pick and they would rather draft better stats from a slugging first baseman at the spot instead. Ignore these people, they simply do not understand the concept of position scarcity and are not valuing players properly.




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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.

55 Responses to “What is Position Scarcity, Really?”

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  1. AdamM says:

    Your position on scarcity is based on the assumption that standard 12-team leagues require 24 catchers. The standard 12-team leagues I play in require 12 catchers, therefore I disagree.

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    • I merely used catcher as an example. It doesn’t change the definition of what position scarcity is. Either way, the argument made on the show was about the drop-off between the elite and non-elite at outfield, which isn’t what position scarcity relates to.

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    • Tom B says:

      The you clearly don’t understand how any of these concepts work Adam.

      The number of catchers you need determines the pool for your league. Scarcity is calculated differently for every league based on the starting positions and roster size.

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    • AdamM says:

      Well, duh. Thanks Tom for being both obvious and condescending, it makes it easier to dismiss you.

      My point is, using a very specific, uncommon configuration for a league, as well as $ values for a snake draft are not a very good effective to explain position scarcity. In a draft, you DO NOT have to spend at least $1 for a player, you have to spend a draft pick.

      In a straight draft, position scarcity is all about the number of players at that position that are above replacement level, where replacement level is the kind of player you can find on the waiver wire.

      I realize that’s what $ values can be interpreted to represent, but any active poolie that does play the waiver wire is likely to keep playing the waiver wire if their waiver wire players continue to play at a replacement level … so the $ value isn’t as meaningful.

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  2. st says:

    Mike, curious how much do you think people pay for a scarce position and do they overpay or underpay what the true value should be? Personally, I always get crappy catchers because I think people overpay for the top guys

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    • In my own 12-team mixed auction league requiring 2 catchers, overall they are slightly undervalued. Not every catcher is, but on the whole, the money spent on catchers is less than allocated to the position. This suggests they are being undervalued. However, catchers also usually come with much higher injury risk and less offensive upside. So it is likely these factors are influencing owners into dropping them a bit in value, even if they will admit that they are worth more if they post the stats they are projected for. Of course, these risks should already be factored into our projections, so I don’t necessarily know the answer.

      In straight drafts, and especially when Joe Mauer was king, top catchers would go as early as the 2nd round. This represents an accurate value, so the crowd does have it right. I checked Mock Draft Central’s latest ADP report and the earliest is Carlos Santana at 36 overall. I wouldn’t put much stock into that though because I think the default MDC league format requires only 1 catcher, which completely changes catcher values. Then again, Santana isn’t as good as the top catchers from previous years such as Mauer and Victor Martinez, so he probably doesn’t deserve to be drafted any earlier.

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  3. mattmaison says:

    I usually draft players with the opposite of position scarcity in mind. If you draft a early round C and he gets hurt, you’re getting crap off the waiver wire, so it’s a pretty risky pick. If you take a early round OF and he gets hurt, you’ll get a pretty good player off the waiver wire, so it’s not as risky of a pick. Has worked well for me in football and baseball.

    Regardless, good points above. Lots of info out there if you search for Value Based Drafting. It’s a great strategy, but I’ve just been burned too many times over the years by early round Cs and tight ends getting injured.

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    • Good post. This is a philosophical decision, and in fact, one I typically agree with. What’s funny is how much I champion taking position scarcity into account, but I rarely draft top catchers in straight drafts myself.

      You seem to acknowledge that if they do post those projected stats, they are worth that early pick, but given your risk tolerance, have decided against drafting the top catchers. This is a reasonable stance and does not clash with the concept of position scarcity.

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      • mattmaison says:

        Exactly. Injuries and risk aside, you’re crazy if you don’t value scarcity higher.

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      • MH says:

        I agree with the idea of waiting on catchers, but catchers are also a unique entity among position players. By definition, they are more scarce, since very few non-catchers have catcher eligibility and not every team employs a catcher who will get enough playing time to be viewed as viably positively valued. Additionally, very few catchers get as much playing time as their position player brethren, even assuming they stay healthy for a full season.

        If you contrast this with MI, I do think there is some argument to be made that waiting makes sense due to the difference between high end and replacement level production, but the other arguments don’t apply, and being a more high-risk oriented owner, I often find myself drafting MIs early despite my understanding of the high end vs. replacement level divergence argument above. This is a question of risk tolerance–not absolute scarcity, which speaks more to the point the others at your roundtable were making in trying to argue that the outfield was “scarce”. This phenomenon can actually happen at any position, its a question of value ranges and volumes at different ranges as opposed to actual scarcity.

        Catcher is actually a fascinating example of a very muted set of value ranges this year (though the V-Mart injury hurts the set a bit). As you point out, there is no “Joe Mauer” type, but rather there is a very large group of strong looking options. Carlos Santana, Brian McCann, Mike Napoli, Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, Matt Wieters, Miguel Montero, and Alex Avila all look like a pretty tightly packed group in terms of value. There is a range there, but no significant dropoff. Then there’s a bit of a dropoff, though a relatively small one, and another fairly tightly packed group with guys like JP Arencibia, Wilson Ramos, Russell Martin, Devin Mesoraco, etc. There’s not a whole lot to gain by reaching on a particular player in either group, and the risk is magnified due to the opportunity cost of a high draft pick plus a lower ranked catcher.

        I’m not sure there’s a great example this year of a position traditionally considered “scarce” that is at the other extreme of the value range issue, with small clusters of extreme values on either end of the spectrum, but SS and 2B both offer interesting examples. SS has a few players on the high extreme end (Tulo, Reyes), a ton of mid-range guys (Castro all the way through Jeter), and then a lot of low value, low-volatility guys, known quantities without a whole lot of upside.

        2B is somewhat interesting because its well distributed. There aren’t so much clusters of players, but the players of different values are very well spread throughout the draft. Its not as tightly packed as catcher, and the value range is larger, but its certainly not extreme either, and it is fairly scarce in terms of total volume of depth.

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      • OaktownSteve says:

        MH wrote: “its a question of value ranges and volumes at different ranges as opposed to actual scarcity.” That’s just a long way of saying tiers. What the Outfield Scarcity side of the argument is looking at is tiers. Nothing to do with “scarcity” in any linguistically meaningful way.

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  4. Max says:

    its still not worth it to take a catcher in the third round when theres always guys like soto, or even napoli (before this year) available in the 7th round. since those “elite” catchers don’t have such great numbers to begin with, it stands to reason that there numbers will be closer to the “average” catchers than, say, 1B or 3B.
    take your elite 1b/up the middle player/pitcher or whatever you see fit to take there, and get a catcher with a little less counting stats in the 7-8 round, when you won’t really be missing anyone else you could have taken there

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  5. Ryan says:

    I agree with your official definition, but I think the definition that is used by the masses is:

    The overall talent level for position X appears lower this year than a subjective “normal” talent level that I am used to.

    In other words, the opposite of saying that a position appears strong or deep this year.

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    • That may be true, an issue of semantics. I am not sure that really shifts values between positions though. You still only need to focus on how much better Player X is then a replacement player at that position, and compare those adjusted stats to every other player so you’re comparing apples to apples.

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  6. Sean says:

    I believe catchers are traditionally highly valued in 2-catcher leagues, but these leagues have been declining in popularity for years, and what you see most often these days is 10 or 12 team mixed leagues with a single catcher. I can come up with 12 or 13 catchers that I can “set and forget” and get acceptable performance, so to me it’s not scarce from a functional perspective even if it might be scarce from some other point of view.

    I do think I agree with your general premise; it’s the value of the top performer vs. what you would get off the waiver wire that matters to me. In my opinion, the last couple of years, the big drop-offs were at 3B and especially SS.

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  7. Blue says:

    You’ve got it completely wrong.

    The game is not to maximize a position’s output. It is to maximize the output of the entire team. It is a logical fallacy to claim that function is maximized by maximizing any specific positional output, no matter how scarce. This is particularly true for catchers given how few play for even close to a full season’s worth of games.

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    • Blue says:

      Let me expand a bit–you are forgetting about opportunity cost. The question cannot be answered by simply looking at catchers. You have to ask yourself something like this:

      Is Catcher Rd23 + CatcherRd24 PLUS OFRd8 + OFRd14 >=<

      CatcherRd8 + CatcherRd14 PLUS PositionPlayerRd23 + PositionPlayerRd24

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    • jgrause says:

      I couldn’t agree more with Blue, and it is why I have never really bought into the whole “position scarcity” idea when drafting or trading for players. My goal in managing my team is to maximize the output for my team as a whole, not for any one position. I believe it is often (not always) most efficient to achieve that goal by drafting players who will provide the greatest output, regardless of position, as opposed to those who play a “scarce” or “shallow” position.

      Why would I ever draft a C or MI early, when I can instead draft an additional elite OF or 1B, who, in the end, will produce more/better stats than that C or MI?

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      • Dexter Bobo says:

        Because the C or MI you get later in the draft will be worse than the 1Bs and OFs available.

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      • Tom B says:

        The difference in production between the MI you passed and the one you drafted is more detrimental than the difference between the elite 1B you drafted early.

        That’s why “positional scarcity” actually works, although I would argue that it alone is not enough adjustment… you need to also consider the top-heavy aspect of certain positions.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      Your point is relevant although your conclusion is not always correct. There are many circumstances where a scarcity based selection will result in better team wide statistics.

      I do think that we as fantasy writers tend to over exaggerate the importance of scarcity. And I think I understand why.

      When wandering the real world outside of high level fantasy blogs, scarcity is by far the most misunderstood Fantasy 101 concept. I very frequently toot the scarcity horn and make many of my decisions with that concept in mind. Yet when I look back at how I accomplish my goals, I see that I really leverage other types of information to my advantage.

      For instance, in 2010, I drafted Posey, Santana, Snyder, and Clement in a 2 C league for a combined $8. I ended up with the best catching stats in my league (a trade deadline move for V-Mart after Santana’s injury certainly helped). All along, I considered this to be taking care of a scarce position, but in retrospect, I did it in an atypical way by spending roster spots rather than auction dollars to deal with the scarcity.

      I also think we might be focusing on the wrong position for this discussion. Catcher is the most scarce, but I believe SS and (until recently) 2B provide more illustrative examples of the benefits of adjusting for scarcity. The top end of these positions are among the best in the business, but in MI leagues, the last few names are scraping the negative value barrier.

      Using some players, Tulo and a 18th round OFer could very well be expected to outperform Kemp and a 18th rnd SS (never mind that you’d have to reach for two 2B in the mid-rounds to fill your MI slot). The same argument is more tenuous using Santana and an 18th rnd OFer versus say McCutcheon and an 18th rnd C. McCutcheon can easily outperform Santana plus a negative value player.

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  8. Paco says:

    Great podcast……look forward to future shows. Thanks

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  9. Stocktopus says:

    In my experience, you can analyze the positional drop-offs and scarcities, and work out the game theory all you want – And believe me, I’ve tried – but it all goes out the window come draft day.

    Nevertheless, in theory catchers are 2nd to last on my priority list. And closers are last. (Just in theory, not practice). This is because catchers get the 2nd least playing time and closers get the least. This means that a bad batting average from a catcher is less harmful than a bad batting average from another position player, because a batting average’s effect on your team is weighted by the number of at bats. And a bad ERA and WHIP from a closer will hurt you less than a bad ERA and WHIP from a starter, because closers’ rate stats are weighted much less. Vice versa, good rate stats from a starter are more valuable than good rate stats from a closer, because they’re weighted much more.

    Once again, not saying this is the right strategy for any given season. I’m planning on drafting Napoli early this season, so this strategy is out the window.

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    • Stocktopus says:

      To summarize, maximize the weight of your skilled players’ contributions, and minimize the weight of your mediocre players’ contributions.

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      • I am assuming you don’t calculate dollar values? When you do, all these true factors, such as fewer at-bats for catchers, and fewer innings from closers, are taken into account and reflected in those values. The fewer at-bats is even more of a reason why someone like V-Mart when he was the top catcher, was worth so much. 550 at-bats from him vs 350 from the 24th catcher is an enormous difference.

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      • Blue says:

        No, it isn’t, not when you take into account who you DON’T have because you drafted him.

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      • Stocktopus says:

        I usually tend to shy away from dollar values, and valuations that just give you a total value for the whole season. I don’t know a whole lot about how the dollar value is calculated, so i might be talking out my ass here, but I’d probably prefer something like a dollar value per game. Ryan Braun is a great example for this season. It’s not fair to say that he’ll be worth about 2/3rds of his normal value if he’s suspended, because you’ll be able to fill his spot with someone from your bench for the other third. So I like to look at the value you can get at the specific lineup spot, which would be 2/3rds braun and 1/3 replacement level. Which makes Braun more valuable than his dollar amount, right? … or does dollar amount take that into account?

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      • Excellent observation…and one of the issues with only looking at final season projected values. Braun himself would not be worth more than his dollar value minus 50 games, however his roster spot is worth more, since you’d be filling it with a bench player for those games. It’s an adjustment that can be made in your head, but real difficult to include in a valuation system.

        Then you have guys like Chipper Jones who always miss time, but it’s not necessarily extended DL visits. It’s a game here and there and for weekly transaction leagues, you just have to deal with those missed games. In that case, you wouldn’t need to look at value per game.

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      • Stocktopus says:

        Yeah, that’s interesting… It would be unfair to arbitrarily add 50 games of replacement level value onto his dollar value. Because that’s not value he’s creating. It’s value created by your roster decisions. But, at the same time, (assuming you do make rational roster decisions) the value you’re going to get by drafting Braun is higher than Braun’s value… if that makes any sense.

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      • Jay says:

        But doesn’t Braun’s suspension coming at the beginning of the year decrease his value (as opposed to it happening at the end, where you could drop him)? You have to use up a bench spot for him (can’t DL him) for two months. That surely reduces his value — what you would pay for him in an auction — beyond just (Braun*2/3 + replacement).

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  10. Blue says:

    Ok, let’s play a little game. Let’s say you drafted Napoli and McCann last year. As a result, you are two position players short so you get Carlos Pena and Ty Wigginton late in the draft. Alternatively, you draft Pence and Victorino early and pick up Lucroy and Saltalamacchia later.

    The second person is better off in average (at least ten points), runs (up by 9), tied in RBI, and has 13 more SB. Only in HR does the catcher-first approach provide more output (30 more).

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    • Stocktopus says:

      That’s an arbitrary grouping of players. You could have said Napoli, McCann, Mike Morse, and Alex Gordon … which is a much better group than the second.

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      • Blue says:

        No, you couldn’t. Morse and Gordon were gone long, long before Pena and Wiggington. I chose players within a few picks of each other in an ADP list.

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      • jimbo says:

        Morse and Gordon were both early season waiver claims in my 12 team league. If they were drafted at all doesn’t matter. Every year someone drops an unproven guy or two, only to watch them flourish on another team. And those guys are more often non catchers…which is why I almost always TRY to leave one or two OF spots until the last rounds. If I catch lightning in a bottle, great. If not, I can look for FAs. Picked up Gordon, Francouer, Swisher and Jennings at various points last season. How many value catchers hit the wire?? Not many.

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      • Jay29 says:

        Jimbo, you make a great point, and it’s also part of my auction strategy, going Stars n Scrubs. The idea is that you load up with elite talent at as many positions as you can on offense, and use a bunch of $1-2 bids on OF, CI, MI, and UTIL spots. If they work out, great. If they don’t, you have very high flexibility and can easily drop a $1 guy for a FA breakout. That’s how I treat ~60% of my pitching staff, too (without paying for studs there). Every year I salivate when I see half the teams in my league spending $5-10 on every lineup spot and falling in love with those players and not adding the key FAs.

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  11. jimbo says:

    My league also has a unique roster setup. You need at least one player at each position–at most two for infield spots, five for outfield. If each infield position required two players and five in the OF…that’d be 15. Yet we only draft 13, and each team gets to pick which two positions they go light on. So it is difficult to know if there will be 12 catchers drafted or 14 or 16. Makes position scarcity very tough to quantify pre-draft.

    To me it has to do with my own list of “studs” vs “players I’d like on my team” vs “players I’d take on my team.” Not every player at a position will be on one of those lists.

    Based on how many players I wind up with in each group, at each position, that tells me where my options are deep and where they are not. Even if a position is top-heavy, if I like my late sleepers then I don’t consider it ‘scarce’ in terms of drafting a roster I like.

    For 2012 I think third base is the scarcest position. And if others feel the same it makes even the good spec picks (Freese, Moustakas) go all the earlier. IF you don’t pick one early and you don’t reach in the mid rounds…well, enjoy Ian Stewart.

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  12. OaktownSteve says:

    “We must pay at least $1 for every player, so when a situation occurs where there is not enough positively valued players to fill all the starting slots at the position in question, that position is said to be scarce.”

    Mike I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your piece. I do, though, disagree with the statement above. There is no difference between a $10 player who returns $7 and a $1 player who returns $-2.

    I think there is a much more common misuse of scarcity that is not addressed here. It is the notion that each position has a set number of players who exceed the average relative to all players regardless of position. The patzer sees that there are few “good” catchers compared to first basemen so it’s important to get a catcher. In the way the patzers are sometimes right, there is a strange logic to this that’s intuitive; namely, everybody knows that between a catcher and a first baseman who have identical stats, you take the catcher first, right? This is to say, in deciding who to draft, we should give some weight to position. But how much? There’s the rub.

    I think scarcity is a misleading and unnecessary concept in roto. I think what actually happens is this. You start with finite resources (draft pick/auction dollars and roster spots). Your job is to successfully allocate those resources in the draft/auction. There are four key factors that necessarily influence the way in which those resources are allocated: current roster at that point in draft, remaining talent pool, roster composition of other teams at that point in draft, and the guiding strategy one has selected in conjuction with a pre-draft plan. That last one is another way of saying, you have to crunch numbers and decide how you are going to accumulate enough category points to win (balanced roster, hitting heavy, pitching heavy, punting categories, etc.). It is counter-productive to aquire players who do not serve the guiding principle, even if you perceive value there.

    The term “scarcity” is too narrow to be useful to the truly expert player/drafter, who will tactically evaluate each decision given the current information and using a variety of decision criteria that require that tactical context.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      Your concluding paragraph is correct.

      Scarcity is a Fantasy 101 term. If you’ve taken an intro level statistics course, you may recall that you learned about a variety of statistical tests. Those tests have no real world value because you’re ultimately going to run the relevant tests in Stata where everything is automatic and all you have to do is interpret an output.

      The same concept applies here. To get better at fantasy baseball, you probably should at one point recognize what scarcity is and how to identify it. Then you get to the next level where you’re beyond that, you simply need to interpret a number of output that also includes scarcity.

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    • Jon Williams says:

      “There is no difference between a $10 player who returns $7 and a $1 player who returns $-2.”

      Wrong. There is a nine dollar difference.

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  13. Brad Johnson says:

    A minor point that was not covered explicitly…

    In the 24 catcher league described in the article, every year owners draft a couple C who are guaranteed to have negative production. I’m not talking about upside plays that predictably bomb like Clement or Lucroy (he might not have been negative, I forget), but rather the Kendalls and Lairds and Zauns of the world. Don’t draft these players. It doesn’t matter if you have an open C slot, don’t draft that player. You will find more value digging around the waiver wire than going with a player whose upside and floor reside in the -$2 to -$5 range.

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    • Max says:

      excellent point. I hate to see people owning kendall over a decent player like, say, seth smith. kendall does absolutely nothing, and if your dead set on having a catcher for that roster spot, just ride hot streaks as best as you can till you find someone decent. don’t carry a no upside, no counting stats, bad average catcher just because he’s a catcher

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  14. David says:

    I understand what you are saying, but I’ve got to disagree. Scarcity IS subjective. It’s about a holistic view of your entire roster, not just a single position. You cite the case of catchers, and the same problem often occurs at 2B and SS as well. But it CAN happen at the more offense-heavy positions as well. Since so many C/MI can’t hit a lick, owners often rely on 1B/OF to carry their offense. If there are not enough elite hitters to go around at these positions then they ARE scarce, in a subjective way of speaking. If you end up spending a top-10 rounds pick on a mediocre OF because you desperately need offense and he’s the best guy available … then that means offense was scarce at the OF position. Maybe it’s worth it to overvalue the elite hitters when this is the case, or maybe it’s wiser to spend those mid-round picks on pitchers instead since the late round OFs will get you almost the same production, but it’s a strategic decision born of the scarcity of good OFs in either case.

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    • Jay29 says:

      This is true to an extent, but I don’t really see it as subjective or “holistic”. It’s more about (1) making sure scarcity is applied specifically to your league’s settings and (2) making adjustments on the fly during a draft/auction.

      For point (1), for example, my league is 5×5 with OPS instead of AVG, and we carry 1 catcher, 1 MI, 1 CI, 5 OF, and 2 UTIL in the lineup. This means that each team could be starting up to 4 1Bs (1B, CI, UTIL, UTIL). This lineup orientation, combined with the OPS emphasis, means that first basemen are actually quite a bit more valuable than in most leagues, when compared with other positions.

      As for (2), that is an adjustment that I’ve yet to perfect for my auction spreadsheet, other than an overall dynamic inflation rate. Say I draft an early catcher. After I draft that player, my valuation of all the rest of the catchers has to drop, and all the values of remaining non-catchers has to rise slightly, because a 2nd catcher would be treated as a UTIL (or a UTIL/backup catcher). That puts them almost on the same turf as 1Bs. But I’ve yet to spend the time to actually implement this idea, even though most people have an intuitive understanding of it.

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  15. adohaj says:

    Last year in an ESPN standard 10 team mixed league I drafted as my first 3 picks Votto, Cabrera, Fielder. 3 really good first basemen. In the draft chat a person who drafted Hanley, Utley, and Uggla in the first 4 rounds started lecturing me on positional scarcity. I simply told him that my 1B/3B roster spot and my UTL roster spot will be so far ahead of everyone else that it wont matter what my MI looks like.

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    • Blue says:

      Exactly. People who are hung up on scarcity don’t accurately weigh the opportunity cost of selecting poorer performers early.

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    • jimbo says:

      I assume you had the last laugh??

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      Obviously if you can pull this strategy off you’re in the better position. I love gathering up large quantities of top talents at certain positions, especially if I can squeeze them into a lineup while I try to exact a large gain in trade.

      This is simply another means to an end though. Your opponent is trying to carefully orchestrate a well balanced lineup (he did a very poor job as the Utley injury was known quite early in drafting season, people just closed their eyes and said he’ll be back when there was no evidence that he would…and Uggla is Uggla).

      You painted in broader strokes. You’re saying I’m going to bludgeon you on the front end, and I’ll use some flawed burners to cover my weaknesses if it suits my purposes. It’s not a strategy that is often possible though.

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    • Vinny says:

      yes but 10 mixed leagues are almost All star leagues or beginner fantasy leagues and not really subject to in depth analysis, positional scarcity or any strategy, you could just drfat off an top 200 list and hope for healthy seasons and if not 2/3 of the league is on the waiver wire anyway and draft mistake are easily covered up.

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  16. Choo says:

    This would have been a good time to introduce the audience to z-scores with a few examples – catcher value w/o z-scores vs catcher value w/, MI depth vs OF depth, etc. Whether it’s a snake draft or auction makes no difference.

    As for how to value players that miss time, player $ w/ replacement $ added is the most accurate. Weighing that against $/PA (or G or AB) is personal taste, but those are the two primary values to be taken into account during an auction or draft.

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  17. rotofan says:

    (1) Your definitional argument is entirely circular. Others are wrong because they don’t ascribe to your definition of position scarcity.

    (2) There are many ways to define position scarcity but the acid test for each definition is the utility for a fantasy baseball player. (Your seeming claim to have the only proper definition is simply a circular argument)

    (3) Your definition is not terribly useful as you would only consider positions whose bottom-selections produce negative value.

    (4) A more useful definition of position scarcity is one that always considers the RELATIVE SCARCITY of positions. If the 12th 1B is expected to produces more value than the 36th OF, then that should be considered when drafting even if the 36th OF produces a positive value.

    (5) Position scarcity, at least the more useful definition, has an affect on auctions. In my league, an exceptionally deep 12-team A.L-only league with 17-man reserves in addition to 23-man active rosters, there is scarcity for ever position (and different relative scarcity), and when the final quality players at a position get nominated, there is always some bidding wars that push prices well beyond projected value.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      To point #5, that’s a scenario that’s outside the scope of this article. It’s possible to create a specific league scenario that conforms to practically any point you could ever want to make.

      I don’t understand the rest of the argument. You correctly cite relative scarcity as a more proper term to describe what Mike wasn’t sure how to describe. Relative scarcity is good language to describe the difference between tiers. I don’t see why positional scarcity wouldn’t mean what Mike says. The term clearly intends to describe the scarcity of players at a given position. Again, you need the word relative in there to change its meaning.

      As to usefulness, a negative floor is not a binding requirement. For instance in the 12 team league Mike describes, I won’t roster a player who I know won’t perform at a $5 or better level. If I don’t have a full roster of $5+ players, the open roster slots get cycled based on match ups.

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      • rotofan says:

        (1) To point #5 on auction leagues, my comment was certainly within the scope of the article as Mike made a blanket statement about auctions and what I called relative positional scarcity: “It has no effect in auctions though as you are paying for what a player’s projected stat line is worth, so if there is a drop-off in talent, you will simply pay a lot less for the next guy.” His claim is false. Whenever there is a steep drop between tiers of talent at a position, some people will bid up the last or few remaining player in a tier. It is a regular feature of auction leagues, expert leagues included, one that was noted by some of my former colleagues at Hardballtime who participated in expert auction leagues.

        (2) I agree you don’t seem to follow my argument even though I don’t think I could have laid it out with greater clarity. You write that a negative floor isn’t a binding requirement for the definition to be useful as if I suggested that was case. Quite the contrary. I wrote that Mike’s insistence on a negative floor made his definition less useful and that my definition doesn’t include such a floor.

        (3) My concept of positional scarcity is, be its nature, relative across positions. You draft a catcher early as opposed to another position because of the scarcity of the former. I only added the term because Mike seems confused about that essential point.

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      • Jay29 says:

        I think I agree with both Mike and rotofan, somehow.

        Yes, position scarcity is best decided upon starting from the replacement player level and working back up to the top players. But, in an extreme example, if there were one sure-fire 100-30-100-30-.300 player at catcher with the rest of the players around 60-15-75-5-.260, is the catcher position scarce or not? I think you have to treat the elite player as a player whose position is scarce (i.e. he is well above replacment level) but the 2nd player, with mediocre stats, is not worth much as he is not far above replacement level at his position.

        So I think the word “relative” does have to come into play. You can’t with a broad stroke call one position more scarce than another and say nothing more, even if the replacement players differ, because you have to consider each player’s fantasy VORP on a case-by-case basis.

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  18. Frank says:

    Hey everyone, I’m from the future! Being so, I don’t want to insult anyone because they didn’t have access to futuristic levels of understanding and thought, I just want to clarify the issue of positional scarcity should you be a person lucky enough to have found this comment. This article writer has his own definition of what “positional scarcity” means, he makes a rather odd argument for the definitiveness of his own definition since it depends on his own auction draft projections, meaning the word could not exist without him or at least his organization, but honestly who gives a ****!?!

    Allow me to quickly explain how positional scarcity works in fantasy baseball for you, so you can win your league and attract all the ladies. It all has to do with relative value, which is to say: the value of the numbers put up by the best starting player at a given position is dependent on the value of numbers put up by the worst starting player at that same position. This is easier to figure out in fantasy football where it’s all points based, but fantasy baseball can still be quantified, I suggest using the ESPN Player Rater.

    To provide a little context, some loose math has shown that every Player Rater point a player gets in my 16 team head-to-head dynasty league is worth around .85 wins. So looking at the Player Rater for 1B: the best starter is 19.5 points and the worst starter (16th best 1B) is 7.5 points. That means the best 1B has a relative value of 12 points, and that 1B has a position difference of 12 points, obviously.

    Looking at catchers I see the best C has 8.5 points and the worst starting C has 2.5 points. Therefore the best catcher has a relative value of 6 points.

    So what does this mean? Well it means if I don’t spend the money or high draft pick on the best first baseman, and instead wait to get the 16th best first baseman, I’m losing 12 points on the Player Rater (10.2 wins approximately). On the other hand if I wait on the catcher I lose 6 points on the Player Rater (5.1 wins).

    In this case, I can clearly see that in my dynasty league, 1B has greater relative value and therefore a greater amount of wins to lose. Whereas catchers, despite traditionally being called a scarce position, actually has less relative value and if I spend less on a catcher I have less to lose. This isn’t meant to be instructive to your league, use ESPN’s Player Rater or another valid statistic that accurately quantifies the value of a fantasy baseball player using your league’s scoring rules and see for yourself.

    I’m sure some fancy mathematician using his high IQ could theorize as to how much value should be placed on a position with a greater spread of a value, but all I can tell you is that you should be aware of positional value in general, even if you don’t get it down to an exact dollar amount. I mean if somebody paid a premium on the best catcher in my 16 team league, he would be an idiot because it has the smallest value spread out of any fielding position!

    Now I might as well clean up and explain where the writer above went wrong. He doesn’t use ESPN’s Player Rater, he uses his own dollar value projections, which is fine(!), so long as it’s accurately portraying the value of a fantasy baseball player. It’s just that it’s a little confusing and confuses him, because we’re all stupid humans sometimes that happens, and he got confused by the use of negative dollar values. You can’t pay negative dollars in an auction draft, and it got all wobbly, and therefore positional scarcity. That’s wrong, you must use quantifiable numbers here, if best SS is worth $10 and the worst starting SS is worth -$4 then they have a difference of $14. There’s no magic line, just because your statistic goes into the negative range doesn’t mean anything, whether a player contributes wins or costs me wins, it’s simple arithmetic.

    The other thing he did wrong was that he went beyond starting rosters and instead decided that since everyone should have a backup catcher he’d use them too. Actually that’s not strictly wrong, it’s just totally pointless. He’s arguing that if the worst backup catcher in the league truly sucks you should pay a premium for the best starting catcher in the league. That’s pretty silly, isn’t it? Of course if I follow his example in my 16 team dynasty league I actually get pretty similar results, the spread on 1B is still about double that of C. But since he was already confused by the idea of a magic line, this just compounded his error. So don’t bother worrying about non-starters if you want your best possible draft day values.

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