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Auction Drafts - Basic Strategy For New Owners


ssmarsh

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Auction Drafts - A Basic Strategy

People participate in fantasy baseball for many reasons, including a love of baseball, the challenge of putting together a winning team and the chance to feel like the general manager of a real club. It's widely acknowledged that you can make or break your season based on your draft, which is why good GM's spend a lot of time researching players, setting up draft boards, participating in mock drafts, etc. A lot of the information available on the web these days is tailored to leagues with straight drafts, but how should you prepare if you're in an auction league where there is no such thing as Average Draft Position?

For those who have never participated in one before, the obvious difference between a straight draft and an auction draft is that in an auction every owner has a chance to land every player nominated, provided they want to pony up the dough to do so. You still need to research your players and do your prep work, but instead of someone simply picking A-Rod #1 overall, you now need to decide how much of your $260 cap you would drop to buy him during the auction. Would you spend $40? $45? More? That's where basic auction draft strategy comes in, and hopefully this article will provide just that...basic auction draft strategy.

Another major difference between straight and auction drafts is how long they take to complete. Straight drafts can usually finish in less than two hours while auctions can last six hours or more. Just like the baseball season, an auction draft is a marathon, not a sprint, so think back to your school days and go into an auction as if you were preparing for a big test. Get a good night's sleep, eat a good breakfast, wear comfortable clothes and most importantly, bring the largest caffeinated beverage you can fit into your car's cup holder.

As with any fantasy league, how you draft depends on your league categories, number of teams, pool of players, etc. For the purpose of this article, we'll be assuming it's a 10 team, AL (or NL) only roto league with the standard 5x5 categories and a $260 cap. All teams consist of 14 hitters and 9 pitchers.

Pre-Draft Step 1: Allocate Your $260 Budget to Pitching / Hitting

The first thing you need to do is decide how you want to split your payroll between hitting and pitching. Since you need to buy 5 more hitters than pitchers, more money is generally spent on the offensive side of the ball. A $160/$100 split is fairly common and can usually provide enough balance between hitting and pitching to field a winning team. Once you decide on a split, keep track of your spending during the draft to try and stick as close to it as you can to make sure you'll have enough money left to fill your roster with the players you've targeted. Overspending on hitting can kill your pitching staff, and vice versa.

Pre-Draft Step 2: Identify the high-end players' prices

Before the auction begins, you should have a fairly good idea how much you want to spend on certain players. My experience has shown that the best players run in the $35 to $40 dollar range with only a handful of fantasy studs breaking the $40 mark. Rather than waste time putting a price on every player, breaking them down into tiers with certain dollar ranges allocated to each tier is a good way to make a quick list to reference during the draft. In AL or NL only leagues, the upper tier players may go for a few dollars more than in mixed leagues, due to their fewer numbers. Be sure to price the tiers accordingly.

In-Draft: Don't blow your budget early

Once the auction begins, it may be tempting to buy a lot of better players in the early goings, so be sure not to spend too much money up front or else you'll lock yourself into more than one or two dollar players as the auction winds down. I've seen many an owner overspend in the first few rounds, only to end up financially locked into buying six or seven $1 scrubs at the end just to fill their roster. Needless to say, those teams didn't have very good seasons.

After each player is purchased, keep track of your finances as well as the finances of the other teams. Knowing how much other teams have to spend is a valuable piece of information, especially if you get into a bidding war over a certain player. Knowing the dollar amount you need to reach before you can outbid another team will help you decide if it's worth pursing the player further or not.

In-draft: Do make sure to spend early on, though - do it wisely

Even though you need to watch your finances, one mistake you don't want to make is being too cheap. Reference your tier list when players are nominated, and don't be afraid to go a few dollars over that price if you feel it necessary, as being too stingy can hurt you in the end. While there's no shame in leaving a dollar or two on the table once your roster is full, there's no excuse for walking away from the table with five or more draft dollars in your pocket. Spending that extra buck or two can be the difference between buying that upper tier player who can push you to a title, or settling for a middle of the road guy at the same position.

In-Draft: Think through your player nominations

When your turn to nominate a player for bid comes up, one way to influence the draft is to nominate players you don't want so other teams will buy them and spend their money, reducing the funds available to outbid you on someone else. However, you do need to be careful, especially later in the draft, not to nominate a player nobody will want or else he can go around the table unbid and you'll end up with someone like Josh Paul for a buck. I've seen it happen, and it's not pretty.

In-draft (or Post-Draft): Learn your league-mates tendencies, and take advantage

If you've been in the same league for a while, be sure to recognize the draft patterns of the other owners. Do they like players from their hometown team? If so, nominate their favorite player. Do they hold back a few extra draft dollars every year to try and buy the sleeper of the moment? If so, nominate the hot rookie. Do they favor veteran players or rookies? Anything you can do to get other teams to spend money on players you don't want will only help you land the players you covet.

Even though we're not reinventing the wheel here, hopefully one or two of these strategies can give you an edge over the competition as your draft day approaches. If you do your prep work, pay attention and properly caffeinate as the day wears on, chances are you'll walk away from the auction with one of the better teams in your league.

EDIT: OK, the topic's been revised for 2010 - if you found that helpful, and want to expand into more detailed strategy, or if you are in a keeper auction league, then go here to the Advanced Keeper Auction Strategy 101 thread. Hope that helps!

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Auction Drafts - A Basic Strategy

Once the auction begins, it may be tempting to buy a lot of better players in the early goings, so be sure not to spend too much money up front or else you'll lock yourself into more than one or two dollar players as the auction winds down. I've seen many an owner overspend in the first few rounds, only to end up financially locked into buying six or seven $1 scrubs at the end just to fill their roster. Needless to say, those teams didn't have very good seasons.

I would tend to slightly disagree with that . Sure filling out half your team with $1 players could hurt but having a few $1 players is not that bad, especially in mixed 12 leagues. There are enough quality players to fill out a lot of spots. Actually many experts employ a 'Stars and Scrubs' approach whereby they get a handful of $30+ players a handful of $1-3 players (who have good potential i.e. young, coming off bad seasons etc.). There's been quite a bit of success with that method.

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Actually many experts employ a 'Stars and Scrubs' approach whereby they get a handful of $30+ players a handful of $1-3 players (who have good potential i.e. young, coming off bad seasons etc.). There's been quite a bit of success with that method.

True, provided you can pick out the diamonds in the rough. It is easier in mixed leagues to find good value at the end of the draft since the player pool is so large. My piece was centered on AL or NL only leagues where you're really scraping the bottom of the barrel as the draft nears completion.

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I would tend to slightly disagree with that . Sure filling out half your team with $1 players could hurt but having a few $1 players is not that bad, especially in mixed 12 leagues. There are enough quality players to fill out a lot of spots. Actually many experts employ a 'Stars and Scrubs' approach whereby they get a handful of $30+ players a handful of $1-3 players (who have good potential i.e. young, coming off bad seasons etc.). There's been quite a bit of success with that method.

Dogface-

Love how you quantify your level of disagreement as slight. B)

I know you realize it but I'm going to say it anyway: SSMarsh has presented an overview that is accurate. Being the brokest bidder is a disadvantageous position. If your plan is to snag a mixture of Stars and Scrubs you had better know for certain that the services of the "Scrubs" you want aren't going to be purchased by another bidder for $2.

For some reason Brad Evans and I share many of the same Sleepers in Baseball every year (a perusal of his pre-season stuff last year bore out that this remains true even though I am out of the biz now). I overbid to start one auction. Brad didn't. Towards the end of the draft he got nearly every one of my $1, $2 and $3 earmarked players.

There is no way to pull off a Star/Scrubs strategy if you have $7 to spend on 7 players and 7 gamers with more money than you at the table and the same player analysis acumen as you. No way. Unless they are exceedingly "charitable" (read: Losers).

Good stuff, SSM.

Ti

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Great article. I usually will be the guy who sits back and grabs a bunch of middle of the road players at reasonable prices. I'm a big fan of the LIMA plan so usually my pitching goes last with guys who tend to be over looked.

The one thing I do in auctions is find out (by observation) which teams guys tend to favor or certain players they go after year after year. By doing this I can make them pay an inflated price and get them to overspend.

Auction drafts aren't much different from playing poker.

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There is no way to pull off a Star/Scrubs strategy if you have $7 to spend on 7 players and 7 gamers with more money than you at the table and the same player analysis acumen as you. No way.
Exactly. The owner I used as my example bought early and ended up with $6 left and 6 slots open. Aside from the obvious, the worst part about being in that position is that you HAVE to nominate players you have a roster spot for and actually want to own. The problem then becomes that if you nominate anyone halfway decent, you can never get him because everyone can outbid you. All you end up with is the total bottom of the barrel and your season is over before it begins.
Good stuff, SSM.

Thanks...I try.

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Well, to be fair to bloodface, the stars & scrubs strategy can work, but only in a very shallow format (10-team mixed league, for example). Where it will *never* work is in an AL or NL-only format, where the talent pool is pretty thin, or in leagues where *all* the owners are on top of their game, as ssmarsh alluded to.

I'd go one step further - money controls the back end of the draft, but so does the # spots - as a fallback, sometimes having extra pitching spots unfilled can help you get the bargains since teams are forced to call out their last SP slot with a guy, and not always one they wanted to get. At the same time, as already mentioned, you wait too long, you can't get value for the guys you fill your entire roster with.

I won once in my AL-only league with a budget of $220 spent, but to be honest, that was due to me controlling the last 2 hours of the draft, and no one calling out the guys I wanted - the perfect storm, but which rarely happens in a good league. I got arrogant the next year, spent about $235, and finished 2nd last. In the past 5 years, it's been demonstrated time & again that while you can leave a little $ at the table ($10 or less) assuming you were the one in control of the back end of the draft, if you left more than $10, you probably waited way too long to fill your lineup.

I do think we should acknowledge that the depth of each league will determine when the so-called bargain shopping approach is more important (i.e. holding back a ton of cash early for mid-late bargains later on), and where it pays to get your stars early - the shallower the league, the more likely a stars & scrubs approach might succeed. Also, as mentioned position scarcity is another key feature to auction drafting, which is why identifying tiers of value is so crucial, and shouldn't be underscored - the bidding for the last valuable position player often surpasses the bidding for the 2nd or 3rd last value pick at scarce positions; you don't want to be in a bidding war for the *last* available good player you need to fill a slot.

Good stuff all around.

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Well, to be fair to bloodface, the stars & scrubs strategy can work, but only in a very shallow format (10-team mixed league, for example). Where it will *never* work is in an AL or NL-only format, where the talent pool is pretty thin, or in leagues where *all* the owners are on top of their game, as ssmarsh alluded to.

Hey RB-

How's it?

It was Dogface, not Bloodface. No word on what Killface or Murderface think but they probably don't play Fantasy Sports.

My response to Dogface was predicated upon the source material:

As with any fantasy league, how you draft depends on your league categories, number of teams, pool of players, etc. For the purpose of this article, we'll be assuming it's a 10 team, AL (or NL) only roto league with the standard 5x5 categories and a $260 cap. All teams consist of 14 hitters and 9 pitchers.

SSMarsh used Single Universe and it was my reference.

I agree that it could work with a 10 Team Mixed Auction.

Happy New Years, All!

Ti

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Hey RB-

How's it?

It was Dogface, not Bloodface. No word on what Killface or Murderface think but they probably don't play Fantasy Sports.

My response to Dogface was predicated upon the source material:

SSMarsh used Single Universe and it was my reference.

I agree that it could work with a 10 Team Mixed Auction.

Happy New Years, All!

Ti

I stand corrected on both counts, LOL. Suffice to say Killface is probably in agreement.

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Great read, but I have one question. In your article it states that its for 10 team AL/NL leagues and I was just wondering say, how would the values of players change in a 8/12 team mixed league? Would you bump player value down in a shallower (8 team) league and bump value up in a deeper (12 team) league?

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Great read, but I have one question. In your article it states that its for 10 team AL/NL leagues and I was just wondering say, how would the values of players change in a 8/12 team mixed league? Would you bump player value down in a shallower (8 team) league and bump value up in a deeper (12 team) league?

The short answer is yes - the full answer is provided in the next thread on Auction Strategy - Keeper Auction League Strategy 101 - in the section on calculating draft inflation. If you don't have keepers, you only need to do step 1 & 2 there (you don't need to do step 3) - that's the basics of making a proper assessment of values players have in leagues of different sizes. It's way more effective of assessing value in your league than taking someone else's list. Plus, if you have keepers, doing step 3 there will then give you a better idea of what's likely to happen in your draft, given that keepers' salaries and the players left changes the nature of your auction draft vs. others. But, even if it's a straight keeper auction draft, doing step 1 & 2 will help you get a more accurate read on values of players - because higher salaried players will be affected with more $ changes than lower salary players (read the section, it will become clearer if it isn't now).

Hope that helps,

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I was in a big money 20 team keeper auction draft and I miss it.

I loved proposing a player that I had no intention of acquiring by bringing his name up early and watching the league drive up his price.

It was also fun staying in on the bidding for a few extra bucks to drive the price up and hoping that you do not end up getting stuck with that player.

I dont think a straight draft can be intense but an auction can be.

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I am going to do an auction draft for the first time this year, and I have one major question--how are the dollar values arrived at? They seem awfully arbitrary. Is there any sort of mathematical backing for them?

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I am going to do an auction draft for the first time this year, and I have one major question--how are the dollar values arrived at? They seem awfully arbitrary. Is there any sort of mathematical backing for them?

Projections for auction salaries from 1 league to another can be *extremely* arbitrary and inaccurate, for many reasons:

1. The auction values assume a league setup (10 team, 12 team, 16 team, 20 team) AL-only, NL-only that is different

2. The auction values assume a standard 5x5 setup - in 4x4, or other cats, it's obviously going to change values.

3. Standard auction projection systems don't factor in emotional factors such as hometown issues (how much will Lince & Panda go for in a SF-based league? Scarrrrrry.)

4. Standard auction projetion systems don't factor in value systems leagues might have - one that loves youth might devalue guys like Johnny Damon, and overvalue guys like Carlos Gonzalez. Others value bats way more over arms, or vice-versa. No standard system will get it perfect.

Finally, the worst problem - a lot of projection systems don't actually add up to the total $ value your league is supposed to have. If you have the 10-team, $260 salary league, there's supposed to be $2600 of production, $2600 of salary, and 230 players (or 250 if you use 25-man rosters). Some projection systems don't even get that number right - or if your league is different in its' salary makeup, # teams, #players, it throws off the totals completely.

So, while it's useful to use a projection from standard sources. RW Draft Guide offers a customized system that will tailor the projections to your league settings - # teams, # players, salary breakdown <how much for pitching/hitting>, and even the positions - but it's paid content, of course. If you want to do it for free, Rototimes has a 2009 player rater that can do the same - and then you have to do a little work to adjust it to what you think is a reasonable 2010 production for the players.

Then, once you do all of that, you should factor in for draft inflation if you have keepers. If you don't have keepers, but the total $ doesn't equal your league's total salary, then the draft inflation calculation process can help narrow the gap - the exact steps are detailed in the Advanced Keeper Auction League Strategy 101 thread, which is supposed to expand on the basics here.

So bottom line - values can be arbitrary. You should adjust for league size/scoring/position/total salary changes, but that can all be done. Make sure to integrate the effect of draft inflation if there are keepers, too. If you do all of the above, then it's likely you'll come up with a better set of projected salaries for your *own* league than a standard set generated elsewhere (the extra tools that Rototimes & RW Draft Guide offer are excellent, the difference between Rototimes is free but only looks back, while RW Draft Guide, while well worth the $ IMO <remember, as a Forum Mod, I'm not in any way affiliated with the Main site, so take it FWIW B) >, is still paid content - but it gives 2010 projections you can use as a template. But regardless of what you choose to do - make sure to modify it to your league's settings, values, and of course, draft inflation if there are keepers.

Hope that helps,

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I appreciate the information, RRF, and understand that any set of dollar values need to be adjusted based on your league settings, but I don't think you've answered my fundamental question, which is how those dollar values are arrived at in the first place.

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I appreciate the information, RRF, and understand that any set of dollar values need to be adjusted based on your league settings, but I don't think you've answered my fundamental question, which is how those dollar values are arrived at in the first place.

If you look at the Rototimes player rater, they assume a $2600 value of production (or actually, they set whatever total value you want) - and then they weigh the production of each player's cat versus total output in a league based on the parameters (1 C vs. 2C values V-Mart less, etc.). Then then total the $ gained based on their production.

The issue is that the assumptions made are still somewhat arbitrary, but they are based on relative contribution to teams.

Hope that helps,

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I am going to do an auction draft for the first time this year, and I have one major question--how are the dollar values arrived at? They seem awfully arbitrary. Is there any sort of mathematical backing for them?

I think they're mostly arbitrary and league specific. Every year I check the AL only "expert" auction drafts and their dollar values are usually pretty out of whack with my AL only league.

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All the sites have a preset auction value for each player? Where does this number come from? Is it an average of what that player is drafted for? Will the values across different sites (Yahoo vs. ESPN) be different for the same league format?

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All the sites have a preset auction value for each player? Where does this number come from? Is it an average of what that player is drafted for? Will the values across different sites (Yahoo vs. ESPN) be different for the same league format?

The popular host sites for fantasy roll their own valuations based on a 5 x 5 roto league. I assume these all reflect a mixture of past seasons' stats, 2010 projections, and gut feeling on behalf of the people doing the rating. There are various value calculators (including the one in Rotoworld's Draft Guide) which let you change settings to match custom league settings; of course, these are also based on subjective ratings at the core.

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League depth also plays a huge part. If you're in a 12 team Yahoo league with 21 man rosters then only the top 252 players will be drafted, so anyone outside of that shouldn't be worth anything more than $1. However, if you play in a 20 team league with 25 man rosters, then that's 500 players who'll need to cost at least $1, and so the 253rd ranked player is worth a lot more

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