Fantasy Baseball: Tumbling Dice

by Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com on March 8, 2011 @ 09:34:46 PDT

 


$trategy

An interesting thing occurred during Saturday night's League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) expert auction. In fact it was something I never would have imagined would happen in a league with ostensibly experienced players. However, on his behalf, the owner, Bloomberg's Tom Trudeau, at 24, is a lot younger than the rest of the crowd, and this was his first competition at that level.

The Saturday draft was a 12-team, American League only, standard format auction, and again, in fairness to Tom, if you have never played with a fast-paced auctioneer, as Don Drooker was that night, or against high powered players, it can be unnerving.

I certainly remember well my first Tout Wars auction in 2000, and how nervous I was. I also remember that after a few years of playing at that level, and in that environment, my local league was no longer a challenge.

That is largely due to being used to that pace, for a LABR or Tout single league auction lasts around three hours, while my local league would start at 9 in the morning, and last till 5 in the afternoon. There were timeouts for food and having a beer, and just guys waiting to look up Scott Olsen when the Florida pitcher was nominated, but when no one playing had heard of him.

New York Yankees SP A.J. Burnett
A prime example: buying Burnett

Additionally, if your main drafting experience is rooted in online play, and that is how you select your team, the nuance - or complete lack thereof - of bidding changes everything. And, I have to assume a lot of Tom's experience is indeed rooted in that type of Internet play.

In such leagues, it is not uncommon for players nominated to not follow a traditional incremental path of bids. For example, if Kevin Youkilis is the player nominated, the opening bid could well be $23, but this is not so much to save time. Rather, it is to separate the chaff.

I remember a few years back, when Pedro Martinez was the best player in the universe, John Hunt, the former columnist of USA Today, and founder of LABR, shocked the league by nominating Pedro at a price of $50.

His league mates were stunned. They were also silent. And Pedro was John's.

Now, it is important to remember that $50 is a major chunk (19.2%) of the entire budget of a team, so such a monetary commitment is a serious one.

But, it is a tactic, and it works, and apparently poor Tom had never seen it.

More interestingly, somewhere around the third round, Tom, who was sitting next to me, looked at me and asked, "How come you guys jump bids?"

"Jump bids?" I asked.

"Yes, how come you guys are bidding $9 to $11 to $14 instead of $9 to $10 dollars to $11 and so on?"

I was taken aback, not so much by the question, but until then, it never occurred to me that all players in all leagues did not bid that way.

I explained to Tom it was a serious and effective tactic.

"Say," I said, "I want A.J. Burnett, and I think I can get him for $10. A.J. is nominated, and the bidding goes to $7. Now, I can bid $8, but, if I bid $9, suddenly everyone at the table has to think whether he or she wants to invest $3 more on A.J., or if they should let it pass."

Because bidding up a dollar or two is usually automatic, but, with a deep league, and a salary cap, suddenly those three extra bucks become an issue.

So, by jumping, to use Tom's vernacular, the bid by two bucks, I force my opponents to have to really think about what they want to do and how much they really want Burnett. And, if it works, I land a guy I want for a buck less than I projected.

One other thing about using that approach is to lie low during the bidding, and wait till the talk and prices for the player slows. In fact it is another fine idea to not bid at all until the auctioneer is finalizing the cost with a "Going, going, gone."

The main objective of the draft, or in this case auction, is to exit with a good and competitive team. So, budgeting is important.

But, so is disrupting the flow of the draft, and disarming your opponents, for once they are caught off guard, the advantage is yours.

I have a strong suspicion that Tom will return to LABR in 2012 older, wiser, and more dangerous as a result of this year's lessons.

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About Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com

Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.

Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.

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