Pricing rules of thumb

by on March 18, 2010 @ 00:00:00 PDT


Of all statistics, the one that draws most of our attention in March is R$, a player's projected Rotisserie dollar value. At Baseball HQ, these values are calculated based on traditional rules, assuming a universe of 12 teams (in an AL-only league) or 14 teams (in an NL-only league), each of which contains 23 players with a $260 salary limit.

But if your league has fewer than the standard number of teams, these prices cannot be used without some adjustments. You will have a smaller player pool, and concentrate on the best players in the pool. There will also be significantly less money available to buy these players. What is the result?

Let's consider the example of an eight-team NL-only league. This league will spend $2080 on 184 players. These top 184 players represent 57% of the players in a 14-team player pool but contain about 90% of the total value. The prices for the best 184 players in last year's final NL draft guide total $3055. That's a deflation rate of 47%.

So can we just cut prices by 47%? Of course it's not that easy. It's clear that the worst player in the pool has to be worth $1. Count off the top 184 players and you'll find that none of them (with the important exceptions of catchers and shortstops) are priced below $10. Deflating $10 by 47% gives you $7. Not enough. So you'll need to deflate the worst players in the pool by more than 47% to get them down to $1. But if you take dollars out, you'll have to put them back in the pool somewhere to get to $2080.

So who's going to get those dollars? The answer is the players at the extreme upper end of the pool. This seems odd; you already resist a price of $38 for Todd Helton, and you sure don't want to pay $42 for him, do you? Actually, yes; he's a bargain at $42. In a 14-team league, your "average" hitter might hit .275 with 13 HR and 50 RBI and 9 steals; in 2000, he was Mark Kotsay, Ron Gant, Henry Rodriguez, Geoff Jenkins, and he was priced around $10. In an 8-team league, this same hitter is at the bottom of the pool, and he's priced at $1. You only have 23 roster spots, and everyone is going to get good numbers out of each spot (no one is carrying a pitcher with 8 wins and a 5.20 ERA).

If you want to separate yourself from your competitors, you have to get exceptional stats from at least a couple of roster slots. Vladimir Guerrero isn't just four times as good as Mark Kotsay; he's six or seven times as good. Suppose that in a 14-team league, two teams spend $60 on outfielders. One buys Guerrero at $43 and fills out with four $4 outfielders. The other buys five $12 outfielders. The second team far outperforms the first team. In an 8-team league, though, the first team might spend $55 to get Guerrero and $1 apiece on four Kotsays. The second team buys the same five outfielders as its 14-team counterpart, but none of them are much of an improvement over the Kotsays. Thus Guerrero's price in an 8-team league rises to $58.

Here's another way to put it. Imagine that you are in a keeper league and you have frozen Kotsay, Gant, Rodriguez, and Jenkins for $1 apiece. You have enough value locked up in those four to allow you to pursue Guerrero at the auction beyond his retail price of $43. Playing in an 8-team league has the same effect; these $10 players have been "frozen" at $1 so that you have more to spend at the top.

So how does this affect real prices? We'll skip the math here, but the break point for hitters in an 8-team league is $30. Prices below $30 should go down, while prices above $30 ought to go up. Here are the rules of thumb:

Original Price
Eight-team Price
Below $10
$1 or less
Subtract $9
Subtract $5
$30 and up
Add $1 for every dollar over $30

($20-29 is actually a sliding range, from $8 to $1, but $5 is easiest for on-the-fly calculations.)

Here are some samples, still using the 2000 draft guide:

Orig. Price
Eight-team price

While most sub-$10 players are likely undraftable, Widger and Stinnett are there as a reminder that you'll need to make sure that you include the top 16 catchers and top 24 middle infielders in your draft grid.

Changes to pitchers' prices are very different. The value of starters increases relative to the value of closers. There are about 600 saves in the player pool, so each team can expect to hold around 75. And the value of closers' typically excellent ERA and ratio numbers is diminished because there are so many quality innings among the starters. In essence, closer values drop by about half. Any non-closing reliever should be priced at $1. The excess value shifts to starters. The break point for starters is $15; above that point, prices should rise. Here are the rules of thumb for starters:

Original Price
Eight-team Price
Below $10
Subtract $6
Subtract $3
Add $3
Add $5
$25 and up
Add $10

In a 10-team league, you're dealing with the top 230 players. Their original prices total $3290, and there's $2600 available to spend on them. That's a deflation rate of 27%. But again, the best way to address it is to raise prices at the top, lower prices at the bottom, and hold the middle relatively stable. In a 10-team league, here are the rules of thumb:


Original Price
10-team Price
Below $5
Subtract $5
No change
Add $1
$35 and up
Add $1 for every dollar over $35

 Non-closer pitchers

Original Price
10-team Price
Below $5
Subtract $3
No change
$20 and up
Add $1 for every dollar over $20

Closers: Multiply R$ by two-thirds (0.67).

In a 12-team league, there's $3391 in the pool with $3120 to spend. That's a deflation rate of 9%. If you're in a 12-team league, don't worry about recalculating R$; just don't spend more than $2 for any player under $5, and be prepared to spend an extra dollar or two at the top of the list. Obviously, if you're playing in a 10-team AL-only league, follow the 12-team NL rules, and an 8-team AL league is like a 10-team NL league.

If you're following these guidelines while your competitors are using unadjusted values, you'll land superstars and pick up plenty of bargains while your fellow owners spend too much money in the middle of the heap.

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Ron Shandler began publishing statistical reports for baseball analysts and fantasy leaguers in 1986. Since then, his enterprise has grown into one of the largest information providers in the industry, producing quality products continuously and over a longer period than any other fantasy baseball company.

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