Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bennett & Bodin on Baseball III: Preparing for the Auction or Draft

[Editor's Note: This is the third article in the seven-part pre-season series, Bennett and Bodin on Baseball. The authors, Cameron Bennett and Larry Bodin, have both competed with distinction in the League of Alternative Baseball Reality ("LABR"). Dr. Bodin worked with the Director of Baseball Operations of the San Diego Padres baseball organization on a research project in 1997.]

Welcome back to Bennett & Bodin on Baseball. Today we will discuss how to prepare for your league's auction or draft:

Three Critical Analyses:

As the day of the draft or auction approaches, the owner of a fantasy team must carry out the following three critical analyses:

The owner must understand the depth charts of the Major League Baseball teams and know the position eligibility of the players.

The owner must decide upon the ranking of the players (if the fantasy teams are determined by a draft) or the price that the owner is willing to pay for the players (if the fantasy teams are determined by an auction).

The owner must decide upon the strategy that he should employ in selecting his team. Without a reasonable strategy, the owner’s team will probably not win his league.

Finding Data Sources:

The depth charts of the Major League Baseball teams and the position eligibility of the players are easy to find at various Internet sources and fantasy baseball magazines. The owner should know the hitters who are eligible at multiple positions. Productive multiple position hitters are extremely valuable because these hitters can be moved between positions and make it easier for an owner to fill out his team. A second advantage of hitters who are eligible at multiple positions are that they help to reduce the damage that an injury can do to a fantasy team.

There are many sources available for finding the ranking or the player projections and, possibly, the auction prices of the players. Some sources allow the owner to put in the categories the owner uses in his league and these sources compute the dollar values of the players. Some sources are free and other sources charge a fee for their information. The data from some of the sources are formatted to be Excel compatible. These sources are quite valuable because they allow the owner to do his own analyses in Excel.

The owner may want to introduce his own metrics into the analysis. As such, the owner can spend considerable effort carrying out their analysis or just accept the projections, rankings and auction prices of the source that the owner is using.

We are not going to go into describing processes for determining the $ value for each player in fantasy baseball. However, the following book, “How to Value Players for Rotisserie Baseball” by Art McGee (from Shandler Enterprises) is devoted to this question and related questions. It is a very interesting book, especially for the statistical junky. Bodin has just begun to read this book and believes it could be of use to the fantasy baseball owner. However, we are not able to go into further detail on McGee’s approach at this time.

Auction Price Values:

The auction prices assigned to the players are only good at the beginning of the auction. Once players are selected or players are kept, the auction prices of the players may be either too high or too low. The rankings of the players that have not been selected at a position, however, are probably still valid as the auction or draft proceeds.

Marginal Value of a Player:

A suggestion that may be useful to the owner who participates in a keeper league under an auction format is the notion of the Marginal Value of a Player. The Marginal Value of a Player is defined to be the following:

Marginal Value of a Player = Projected auction price of a player – Actual contract price of the player

For example, suppose that Carlos Pena’s projected price is $20 and his actual contract price is $12. Then, Pena’s marginal value is 20-12 = $8. The marginal value says that Pena is projected to be worth $20 and will only cost the owner $12. Thus, the owner that saves Pena at $12 has an additional $8 to spend on other players in the auction

Using Marginal Value to Assist in Deciding Who to Keep:

Unless an owner has an ulterior motive, the owner only want to save players whose marginal value is positive or high priced players who are approximately on value (generally high priced players are thrown out early in the auction and sell for a price that is greater than their projected auction price). For example, an owner may want to save AROD if AROD has a contract price around $38 or less.

Assume that the total marginal value of the players to be saved by the owner in a keeper league) is $30. Then, the owner conceptually has an extra $30 to spend on other players in the auction. If the owner saved players whose projected value was $100, these players had a total contract price of $70, and the total budget for the team is $260, then the owner has an additional $190 = $260 - $70 to spend on the remaining players in the auction. Thus, if he spent all $190 on the remaining players and each of the remaining players went exactly on its projected value, then the value of his team would be $290 rather than $260 – a great start to the season.

Once the owner has decided upon whom he wishes to save, the owner may want to get a set of projections with a budget of $290 to get the value of the players not saved. In other words, the projected value of the players is inflated a little to account for the $30 marginal value that the owner has due to their saved players.

In a non-keeper league, we do not have to worry about the above at the beginning of the auction. Every owner has $260 to spend where $260 is a traditional salary cap allocation to each team and no team has saved any players.

Let The Auction Begin:

In the next three articles, we want to discuss strategies that an owner could use in selecting a team. Some of these strategies have worked for some owners and others strategies have not been successful. The first of these 3 articles discusses the extended SMART strategy of Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf. Colton and Wolf have won at least 2 AL LABR leagues in the past 7 years and are excellent fantasy baseball players. The SMART strategy is a very reasonable base strategy and a strategy that an owner should consider as giving excellent guidelines for forming his team. The next article describes strategies used by the various participants in the LLRG. The third article describes other strategies that owners have attempted and is more of a potpourri of strategies.

After these three articles, a fourth article that describes what might happen during an auction based on our experience and analysis is given. At the end of this article, the reader should have a reasonable number of tools that prepares them for the auction or draft.

Drs. Bennett and Bodin encourage comments and questions and will attempt to answer these comments and questions both personally and in future columns. Bodin can be reached at and Bennett can be reached at

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Anonymous said...


Robert said...

Great post guys. Good to see our judges are also playing fantasy baseball and I'm glad I don't have to compete against you guys.