Fantasy Baseball Tumbling Dice: LABR pains

by Lawr Michaels, on March 6, 2012 @ 09:55:49 PDT


Over the weekend I was fortunate enough to participate in the NL League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) auction, hosted by USA Today and our good friend Steve Gardner.

In fact my Mastersball Hotpage column of yesterday reviews not just the team I wound up with, but how I prepared for the auction.

Well, last evening I received a Tweet from @Jordan5L, asking, "Have an NL auction coming up. What 'trendy' players should I call up early to garner heftier prices than their worth?"

Now, I have to say that within the framework of the 140 characters that Twitter allows that is an extremely difficult question to answer. In fact, it might take 1,400 words to realistically give a valid response because there are so many variables involved.

A lot depends upon how many teams are involved, and similarly a lot is contingent on the rules of the league. Is it 5x5 or 4x4? Is it OBP or batting average? Are there hitting and pitching baselines or thresholds?

Cincinnati Reds OF Chris Heisey
Heisey: not cheap, not bad

Even more depends upon the salary structure, and retention. Are there topper rights? What is the salary cap? How large is the freeze list?

Obviously, I could go on, so the answer is not quite so simple.

However, within the subtext of Jordan's tweet, there is a tactic he suggests that I like to employ.

In the overwhelming number of auctions in which I have participated - essentially all over almost 25 years - there are teams and owners who cannot wait to spend money, and spend it on stars.

Which means as a rule, the stars are the guys who get nominated first. Giancarlo Stanton ($33) was the first guy nominated last Sunday night, followed by Bryce Harper ($8), Zack Greinke ($26), Andre Ethier ($24), Roy Halladay ($28), Joey Votto ($40), Stephen Strasburg ($22), Clayton Kershaw ($26), Ryan Braun ($38), Lance Berkman ($21), Matt Kemp ($40), Troy Tulowitzki ($35), and Cliff Lee ($26) in succession to complete the first round.

It is understandable that players would bid aggressively like this, for grabbing a star or two points to the shape of one's team. In other words, out of that bidding and purchasing comes what will hopefully be some clarity and certainty.

It also means over that first lap of the auction, $367 - just a little over 10% of the $3,380 budget for the 13 teams - was spent on 4% of the 312 total players who would be auctioned, and that is a pretty significant and lopsided account.

Which means Jordan is onto something: let your opponents spend and dig a bit of a hole.

Of these players, Ethier is the one I nominated, and I bid nothing on any of them, and had no intention in doing so.

I did get my first acquisition with my second nominee, Houston hurler Wilton Lopez, whom I nominated and bought for $1. And, that was fine with me. Lopez is a good middle reliever, and just fine for a dollar. And, nabbing him then, when everyone else was more inclined to spend on Jonathan Papelbon as a reliever, I lifted the price I could expend to almost a buck a player for the remaining 23 guys on my future roster.

In fact, while I try to be proactive like Jordan suggested in getting my opponents to open their wallets, these early rounds are the perfect time to suggest lesser commodities - like Carlos Ruiz ($9) and Ryan Vogelsong ($7) - my next two nominations whom I bagged while the dollars were still flying on names like David Wright ($30), Michael Bourn ($30) and Hanley Ramirez ($34).

Not that I did not spend during those first handful of rounds, for I got Matt Cain ($21) and John Axford ($19).

The thing is, while it is good to indeed facilitate the spending of others, and while it is good to try and hold some money for the end of the draft, it is also prudent to spend money during the regular flow of the draft so as to not end up with a wad mid-draft that you must overspend on good, but middle of the road players.

As examples, I did overspend on Martin Prado ($24) and Chris Heisey ($15) because I passed on what were arguably better and cheaper options (like Carlos Quentin for $13), but, because I picked up the cheaper guys like Lopez and Ruiz earlier I had the money to spend.

Now, you might suggest it all evens out: that had I overspent on the stars a little earlier, it would have evened out with the cheaper players at the end.

But, the difference is that though I did not spend over $30 on any player, for the most part I got what none of my competitors got: pretty much a 24-man roster with starters at almost every slot, including seven starting pitchers and a pair of closers.

And that means at-bats and innings, and that should put my team in a favorable position in the standings.

So, as important as coaxing the money from the billfold of your fellow owners, similarly timing the spending of your own funds is equally important.

At least it is going into Opening Day.

Hey, now you can get me on Twitter @lawrmichaels!

You can also subscribe now to the Mastersball Platinum Package, and get the edge that has led to three Tout Wars titles, eight NFBC crowns, two Scoresheet Championship teams, a KFFL title, and a Fantasy Pro 911 title over the last three years.

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About Lawr Michaels,

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 as a statistician. Fantasy Baseball

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