Fantasy Baseball's Tumbling Dice: A Vote for Vickrey

by Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com on May 27, 2014 @ 10:28:13 PDT

 


I cannot think of two leagues among the seven in which I participate that operate under the same rules.

1B Kyle Blanks, Oakland Athletics
Not shooting FAAB Blanks

In fairness, two of my leagues -- Scoresheet and Strat-O-Matic -- are simulations of sorts, and though head-to-head are not of a setup that evolved from the original Rotisserie rules as envisioned by Daniel Okrent. In FACT, Strat-O-Matic pre-dates rotisserie ball by a healthy chunk of time.

The rest are certainly the spawn of that first league, yet LABR uses batting average while Tout Wars now uses on-base percentage. The XFL allows for a 15-player keeper list and also uses OBP and drafts the main team during a November auction, while the Yahoo! Reunion league initiated this season by roto pioneer John Benson allows daily transactions and a stripped-down squad of just 19.

Shandler Park looks at holds along with saves and quality starts, while none of the other formats care jack about either.

Well, starting a few years back, Tout Wars moved to the Vickrey method of FAAB.

In essence, Vickrey awards a FAAB’ed player to highest bidder, but at a cost of the second highest bid plus one.

In other words, last week I threw a $23 dice roll at Kyle Blanks, with Jeff Erickson coming in second at $15. So, I got Blanks, since I was willing to risk the most, but for just $16 of FAAB, giving me back $7 from my gamble for future-like excursions into the free-agent market.

Now like those who scream “foul” at the thought of deviating from the original 4x4 rules, or the effete, who insist that defense and holds simply must be part of the equation, or even the tough throw-back league, play-it-for-now toughies who think a system like Vickrey is for wimps, are missing out on the point and some fun.

FAAB, just like an auction, is much more about timing and allocating resources and sensing when to move and when to sit back than a straight draft will ever be. And in saying that, I like drafts just fine, but the beauty of the auction is that any owner can truly own any player if he or she is willing to pay.

So in that sense, an auction is not unlike America itself: a capitalistic democracy. That is, if you have the bucks and the space, you can buy the biggest and the baddest commodity on the market and try to cash in, accordingly.

Well, Vickrey offers that same shot to players after the auction, but it also offers another fun aspect of an auction: price enforcement.

Price enforcement is simply making sure that no player is actually obtained at below perceived value.

So, in the case of Kyle Blanks, maybe Jeff was not so keen on owning the newest Athletic, but he suspected someone would outbid the $15 (he was right) he thought Blanks might be worth, and made me pay accordingly.

On the other side, had his bid indeed been the highest, then he could live with Blanks at a value he thought was reasonable.

There is no such subtlety to the more mainstream “highest bid take all at the price” sledgehammer that operates in most leagues that invoke FAAB.

And, the truth is, I kind of like that method, too, just like sometimes I want to watch Family Guy and sometimes I want to watch a Kurosawa or noir film.

But I do suggest if part of why you play fantasy baseball is simply because you love playing games and strategizing, you might well look into trying Vickrey in your league.

Sometimes adding some wrinkles is a good thing.

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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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