Fantasy Baseball's Tumbling Dice: Going with the Flow

by Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com on March 4, 2014 @ 09:36:43 PDT

 


I get asked all the time, "What is your plan for the auction?" or, "How much are you going to spend on a guy like Clayton Kershaw?"

My answer to that question is always the same: "I don't know."

Now, it isn't that I don't prepare.

I always try to know the list of available players as thoroughly as I can, and I also try to be clear both how many runs or strikeouts or points will make my team competitive. Furthermore, I will do a breakdown by position, and attach a dollar value I think will be appropriate to that relative production.

Then, I think of players who meet the profile of the statistic and dollar combinations that seem appropriate. As an example, I might think Oakland first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss will give me a .263-22-71 line with 70 runs and three steals, and that that contribution should be worth $19 in an American League-only format.

Colorado Rockies OF Carlos Gonzalez
Car-Go tops, not top dollar?

While my notion of the numbers that Moss might provide might be dead on, as well as how I baseline the total numbers, as in 180 homers or 88 wins over the season for my squad, going in, I really have no way of knowing how much Moss will actually cost.

That is because there are other owners I am competing against with their own notion of Moss' worth that might be different than mine, so the reality is I don't really know what I am going to do till those first few names are thrown out and some kind of baseline of worth has been established.

A case in point is this past weekend's League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) auctions, which were held Saturday for the American League, and Sunday for the Senior Circuit.

In the American League, Angels outfielder Mike Trout was the highest priced player, as was Carlos Gonzalez in the National League. That makes sense because they are the best players at their spot in their respective leagues. Gonzalez cost Lenny Melnick $36, while Trout forced Greg Ambrosius and Shawn Childs to hand out $45 of their budget for the rights to his services.

And therein is my point. Since there are an equal number of players, spots to fill, and dollars available in each league, the cost of the most expensive player should be close, not so much because their production will be the same, but because their value relative to the rest of the available player pool is the same.

You can even argue that because of the presence of the DH, more hitters abound in the American League, thus the cost of hitting per player should be a little lower in the AL as opposed to the NL, but obviously that was not the case Saturday night.

In fact, if we look at first basemen Miguel Cabrera, the second most expensive American League player generated a $42 price tag while Miggy's NL counterpart, Andrew McCutchen, cost $35, a $7 variance.

In contrast, let's look at the end game of the draft and a pair of backstops, J.P. Arencibia and Hector Sanchez.

Sanchez, San Francisco's back-up to Buster Posey, cost $5 on Sunday, while Arenciabia, now with the Rangers, cost just $2.

What is odd here is that Arencibia surely will exceed 350 at-bats, and though his average is shaky, the catcher is a solid double-digit home run gambit, while Sanchez is likely to get maybe 200 at-bats, barring an injury to Posey, and though his average may be higher, it would be a miracle for Sanchez to hit more than five big flies.

And, that is why I don't necessarily know who I will get, or want, let alone how much I will pay for any particular ballplayer.

Because I have no clue which way dollars and values and perceptions will go.

And, while it is true that once those baselines are set, things flow from them, but again, until the money starts flying and there is a clear path what those costs will be, until the first players are nominated and purchased, no one knows what that path will be.

The antidote to this is to know that player pool and, as much as you can, to know the tendencies of your opponents.

But, the real key is to be flexible to the flow of the draft, thinking a few players ahead, while at the same time being decisive when you need to make a move.

So, the next time someone asks you what your plan is, just smile and say "Be flexible."

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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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