Fantasy Baseball Round Table: Researching and preparing FAAB, pickups

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on April 23, 2014 @ 12:04:32 PDT

 

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How do you go about researching and setting your FAAB bids each week? Do you have a system? How much do you rely on the league's scoring service for your information and how much do you use outside sources for information? What outside sources do you use?

Brian Walton

In Tout Wars, there are two factors that weigh heavily. The Vickrey system lowers any winning bid to $1 more than the second-place offer. In addition, $0 bids are accepted. Both allow one to stretch FAAB to the max.

For a player that you really want, you can bid aggressively, and for lesser stop-gaps, $0 fillers can often be had. For example, there are always set up men and middle relievers virtually there for free. Productive hitters, on the other hand, are scarcer.

OF Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates
You never know who's available

My key decision criteria on an amount to bid are need and anticipated time in the job. Various news sources are helpful to try to gauge what may be ahead, but are far from infallible. In setting my bid values, it is all about balancing need with anticipated demand from the rest of the league.

If I have a roster opening that I want to fill, I will bid a dollar or two more than I might otherwise. The currency of single-population leagues is at-bats and innings-pitched. The challenge is to find replacements that contribute counting stats but do not trash ratios.

For example, this past week, I needed to replace Travis Ishikawa at corner infield. Only one applicable free agent had more than three at-bats last week. Therefore, I went $2 on Justin Turner and had to pay $1. That is not going to be a difference-maker for the season, but enough of those kinds of transactions can help over time. It is almost surely going to be better than a week of zeroes at least, I hope so.

In many cases, time in the job is trickier to gauge. I spent $3 on the Cardinals' Tyler Lyons this week. Though I am assured of getting only two or three starts from the lefty before Joe Kelly may return, the interim matchups are favorable.

As much as we would all like this year's Jose Fernandez to arrive on our rosters, it takes many small steps like these (hopefully) to put together a winning season.

Tim Heaney

When researching for my six leagues that carry a FAAB process, I have KFFL's Hot off the Wire open (cheap plug). Because a ton of news happens over the weekend, I always give a thorough read of each WW list (sorting by % owned as well as stat-period rankings for an informational balance) and every Friday night line up preliminary waiver targets, with a spreadsheet for all my leagues.

If I'm not on duty when news breaks Saturday, I do a late-night sweep of any big events. I do the same after each wave of Sunday contests so I can get my final read on players I may have interest in. Thanks to the recency bias, Sunday happenings always seem to influence a player's market value, either through good or bad performances, so I also try to play the over- and undervaluation game in what I guess owners will do in terms of looking to add a player.

Other methods include:

  • Keeping watch lists of players on each waiver wire, including potential farm call-ups, as well as a makeshift log of who has been dropped and which FAs made it through the run without finding a team. This makes things easier in weekly pickup games so you can identify some desired adds sooner -- it doesn't hurt to check whether Gregory Polanco types are still available in your league.
  • Comparing and contrasting a few probable pitcher sources, including MLB.com and the respective services of the league host sites. Some update more quickly than others, so Google News can rectify any discrepancies. 
  • Tracking updated FAAB totals for each league heading into Sunday, and calculate how much I can theoretically spend per week. Of course, each situation is unique and dictates how closely I should stick to a set weekly allotment. Dire situations call for deviation from the norm, after all.
  • Checking for any schedule advantages (two-start pitchers, someone whose team is playing seven games, if someone is facing all RHP, etc.)
  • Exploring any trade opportunities that could facilitate FAAB strategies.

Who says we fantasy analysts don't have lives?

Todd Zola

I'll forgo the usual Lord Zola's wrap-up and instead dovetail on the sage words of my colleagues Mssrs. Walton and Heaney.

It confounds me a bit how much some rely upon the web site used to score one's league for free-agent information. All I want to know from the commissioner service is who's available -- that's it. Others judge sites by the stats it provides and how easy (or difficult) it is to navigate. I honestly don't care. Just tell me who I can bid on and I'll take it from there.

I'll admit, I like it when I can filter hitters and pitchers by at bats and innings pitched over the previous week to see the candidates getting more playing time, but that's all I want to glean from the commissioner service.

The reason for this is I don't believe in riding streaks. Let's face it; if you want stats on the site you're looking for who's hot and who's not. The only stat I care about is playing time since playing time equates to opportunity.

I'll make a list of available players and do my research elsewhere. I'm with Tim in that I also check out the latest news (yes, one of my sources is Hot off the Wire). Sometimes players get elevated playing time for a week but are headed back to the pine the following week.

Along those lines, perhaps the best means of uncovering hidden gems is to identify players that are not captured via the playing time filter since their increase has just begun. Scanning the MLB transactions for recently recalled players as well as reading the most recent news should pinpoint some latent under-the-radar options others will overlook.

My colleagues have covered how to go about setting bids. I'll finish with how I go about selecting the players for which I want to bid. There are two chief factors: opportunity and long-term potential.

Which of the two serving as the driving force is league dependent. More often than not, in single (AL/NL-only) formats, I'm looking at short-term opportunity since as Brian reminds us, at-bats are currency. Again, I don't care if the player is 0-for-18 or 8-for-17 with 2 HR the past week. The player is what he is based on history, not the previous week. That said, Tim brings up a good point that others may bid more for the seemingly hot player, so I may need to adjust accordingly.

In mixed leagues, I'm thinking more about long-term benefits thus may look to stash a player not currently producing but likely to make a difference later. As far as filling a current need in mixed leagues, as I suggested last week, sometimes I feel I'm too conservative and go for the option with less potential but a longer track record of MLB success. But it's still the tactic I prefer.

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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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