I personally still prefer old-school rules where there is no reserve list and you can only replace a player if there is a natural opening on your roster due to the player being put on the disabled list, sent down to the minors, released or traded to the other leagues (old-school leagues are almost exclusively American-League- or National-League-only). But that was then. Mostly as a means to make the hobby more attractive to the mainstream, first reserve lists and then the ability to replace anyone on your roster evolved. Claiming players via waiver priority was the original manner to add free agents but eventually, the concept of the free-agent acquisition budget (FAAB) emanated and is used in a lot of leagues.
Solid depth increases flexibility
In short, each team has a free-agent acquisition budget from which to submit blind bids, usually once a week but sometimes more frequently. The high bidder is awarded the player and that amount is subtracted from the budget. Different leagues have different quirks like allowing $0 bids, the trading of FAAB dollars, and awarding bids via the Vickrey system, where the high bid is changed to the second high bid plus one.
Part of the charm of using FAAB instead of a waiver system is everyone has access to all the available players so long as you submit the high bid. That segues into another intriguing aspect of FAAB, and that is determining the amount of your bid to secure the player but yet leave yourself with ample FAAB to support your roster the rest of the season. Adding to the intrigue is in AL- or NL-only formats, the possibility of top players switching leagues adds to the strategy of how much to spend.
With that as a backdrop, the following was posed to the Knights:
In your FAAB leagues, how do you approach early season bidding? Obviously everything is contextual so please feel free to talk about different size leagues.
In mixed leagues, I personally don't worry about overspending if there is a player I feel is a difference maker early. There should always be someone available in a pinch that I can get for a minimum bid.
In single-league formats, if necessary, I don't hesitate to buy players early (as opposed to hoarding for the deadline deals that may or may not manifest.) Similarly to mixed, I prefer to make sure I get the player early even if it means I ended up paying a lot more than the runner-up. I'd rather get better players and be out of the running for the crossover players than get lower level replacements early and still be out of the running for the better players.
How I approach FAAB varies depending on the league I am in, but for the most part, I try to apply the same approach in all leagues to start the year. That would be to identify which players slipped through the draft that can be difference-makers for my teams, and bid aggressively to make sure I roster who I want early on. Determining how much to bid is easier if you are in a league where you know the bidding patterns of those around you, but I am with Todd in that I don't worry about overbidding on a player that I think really helps my team.
For instance, I bid $175 (out of $1000) on Paul Maholm in a 15-team mixed league, because I saw him as easily the best starter on the wire in that particular league. I surmised that I would not be alone, so I had to bid accordingly to ensure I landed him. Is he an ace? No, but I already had my studs and needed more quality innings. What he does provide is a very solid mid-level starting pitcher who won't hurt my ratios and should have actually been selected in the initial draft. He lets me slide less reliable arms that I did draft, Justin Masterson and Bud Norris, into reserve roles, so I can be more selective about when I have to deploy them.
As for single leagues, the one I am in allows bidding every single day, rather than once a week, so here I actually try to read the tea leaves as much as possible and grab emerging players as cheaply as possible to avoid getting into bidding wars whenever possible. Position players are basically all taken in these leagues, so often it's just taking a flyer on a pitcher prior to an expected call-up.
The one place where bidding can be the hardest to gauge early on for many is the NFBC, but the same basic rules apply. If you see a player who is a difference-maker, then don't be shy with your bidding early on, especially in the deeper 15-team leagues. The NFBC is a place where I will often try to speculate a week early on potential breakouts or two-start pitchers if I have the roster space to do so. Better to get a guy for $1 a week before everyone else is looking at him. Worst case you throw that player back for your next $1 speculation, especially since the NFBC uses a $1000 budget as opposed to the more conventional $100.
KFFLers chime in....
About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com
Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.
Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.
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