In the last budget-building essay, we looked at how to craft a budget, using value ranges to create bidding discipline and to generate extra value at the auction. In this essay, we'll move ahead to how you can adjust your budget to make it fit your league and your opponents.
We started out with a 73-27 ($190-$70) split favoring hitting over pitching, to reflect a three-point advantage on the hitting side over a league where the split is the usual 70-30.
Let's assume you're satisfied by the above apportionment of value. Now you start to tweak your budget to suit the particulars of your league.
Start by considering your league's bidding "culture": Does your league follow valuations pretty closely, or overbid on studs and underbid in the end game? Check the past few years of bidding history, think about your experiences with your opponents, and ask questions like "How much do you think Chipper will go for this year?"
If your league is the sort that follows valuations pretty closely, this balanced budget is pretty sound. If, however, you have an overbidders' league, you might want to scale up your top values and scale down at the bottom.
You've bumped your top values by $4 apiece and dropped your bottom six slots by $2 or $3. With a $34 top, you're probably still out of the running for Chipper Jones or Nomar Garciaparra in an overbidders' league. But you will be in the driver's seat for the next immediate tier of stars, while retaining control of the mid-game by holding your values, and, with $13 for those last five spots, you should have your pick of the key players in the end game as well.
If there is rampant overbidding during the auction, you should avoid the temptation to join in. If they are really overbidding by a wide margin, their money will run out long before the talent does, and you will be able to build a very strong roster. Just don't get caught with $240 two-thirds of the way through the draft!
The 90-10 Split for FAAB Leagues
Many leagues are now going to a Free-Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB) for bidding on incoming free agents. Outside of the occasional impact players crossing leagues in trades, experience shows that the vast majority of decent free-agent pickups are set-up pitchers who suddenly blossom in new or expanded roles. In 1999, Jeff Zimmerman was the best example - undrafted in most leagues, he exploded onto the scene. The same was true to a lesser extent with the Angels' Mark Petkovsek, who reeled off a string of wins with excellent numbers.
If you are in a FAAB league, the availability of pitching upgrades presents an opportunity to go with a severely unbalanced 80-20 ($208-$52) split, loading your pitching staff with $1 flyers.
A big bump at the top end gives you a good shot at the elite hitters in your auction, and the top four positions have all been bolstered. Alternatively, you could raise the ranges throughout your lineup, such that you didn't have a hitter valued at under $10.
Tailor your approach to hitters to the approach in your league. If you are in a FAAB keeper league with a few bargains of your own, you could use this approach to really dominate the bidding on hitters. As for pitchers, take a leaf from Ron Shandler's LIMA plan, and draft high-skills middle and set-up guys for $1 apiece, being ready to drop them for the better pitchers available in the FAAB pool. Many players forget about FAAB at the auction; you can take advantage and use it as part of your comprehensive money-management budget plan.
Budgeting for Dump Trades
One final note concerns how to budget in a keeper league that allows "dump trades." If you have limited possibilities this year, you can consider a budget strategy that sets you up for the following year using dump trading to your advantage.
Budget the vast bulk of your available salary targeting two, three, or four prime candidates for dump trades: get two closers, the best available base-stealer(s), and a stud starter, whatever your opponents will need, at any price.
Then fill up your roster with as many hopefuls and prospects as you can - young fourth and fifth outfielders, pinch-runners, set-up guys on teams with closers who are either weak or outbound as free-agents. Seek out players with minimal chance to shine this season but solid skills that could mean payoffs next year and beyond. (Keep your research notes on all such players to assess trade offers as they come in later this season.)
Then, when dump season comes, use your wildly overpaid studs as trade bait to get the best cheap talent off the leaders' rosters (they're bound to have some; that's why they're winning!). Come next year, you could be sitting pretty with a roster full of low-priced talent just waiting to be rounded out with some elite players, and plenty of draft dollars to bid for them. Does it distort the auction? Sure it does. You can make a good case - and many have - that it ruins the whole game. But you have to play by the rules they give you.
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