Auction timing

by on March 16, 2010 @ 00:00:00 PDT


Savvy Rotisserie players know that it helps to enter your league auction with a plan in mind. Part of that plan involves not just targeting players and assessing their values, but managing the auction itself - sensing the values that will appear. Players in smaller leagues - ones with a lower ratio of fantasy clubs to real clubs - may find that certain patterns appear in those auctions with some consistency. Being well-prepared and able to spot these patterns can give the savvy owner in a small league an important advantage.

There are any number of general approaches to "timing" issues in a Rotisserie auction. One widely held school of thought on auction management is that the competition will be too "loose" with its bidding during the early phases, when all teams have money to spend. Believers tend to focus on the "second wave" of talent, hoping to grab a few bargains while the big spenders are busily counting how many roster spots they need to fill with their few dozen remaining dollars. The goal is to get a series of $20 players for $12, and the like. This can certainly be the foundation of a high-quality draft strategy, as many leagues are won with solid but unspectacular players.'s Ron Shandler espouses a theory something like this... As part of this soup-to-nuts recipe for success, he offers several bits of advice on auction timing. His advice nuggets, all sound as part of "The Plan," are as follows:

  • During the first half hour, bid aggressively, but don't spend a dime.
  • Do not spend more than $30 on any one player.
  • At the halfway point, start spending liberally.
  • Try to budget so that you do not finish with more than one or two $1 players.

Following those rules in many standard leagues, you may find yourself well on your way toward building a nicely balanced team with your risks wisely spread and a roster full of contributing players. Sounds good.

Following these rules in many small leagues, you may find yourself well on your way toward many overpriced players and money in hand at auction's end. Doesn't sound so good.

Why the difference between standard and small leagues? Adjustments. The ability to adjust your understanding of player values for the specifics of your league - particularly a small league - does not come intuitively, and the necessary adjustments are not simple and linear in nature. If your league's membership has trouble adjusting to the proper player values for the league's size and structure, it may yield auction values at exactly the opposite times that are the "value periods" in standard leagues.

The first step toward properly managing your auction timing is a comprehensive list of player values. Using the resources pioneered by Art McGee or the links from the Baseball HQ site, you can generate a list of player values based on your league's actual size and roster depths. Make sure that you have adjusted for "draft inflation" if your league maintains keepers. But certainly enter your draft with a clear sense of what you believe players to be worth in your league's auction, and be sure that your auction values add up to the correct total number of dollars available (it's remarkable how often this is overlooked). As the auction progresses, follow another cardinal rule of auction management: keep track of winning bids alongside your projected values. This way, you will have a clear sense where the over- and under-payments are occurring.

There are two general rules about small leagues, and adjusted player valuations for them. The first is that the top level players are worth generally the same amount in small leagues as in standard leagues. Use your set of players values as your guide, but expect that the top players will be bid to a familiar $35-40 range, or thereabouts. At this point, especially early in the draft, keep en eye on the top players in your draft. If your player values are higher than the stopping point for your competition, consider making an early and heavy investment in top-grade players. Recall one of the main downsides of superstar players in standard leagues is that their cost drives you to settle for part-timers and question marks with your fill-in players late in the draft. As the size of your league gets smaller, the quality of your $1 players will improve, and therefore the downside burden of drafting and paying for superstars in diminished. Don't be afraid to pull the trigger.

The second general rule about small league player valuation is that the distortion in player values (the difference between a player's value in a standard league versus a small league) gets greater as the player value decreases. the top tier players have roughly the same value, but players worth $8-15 in standard leagues are of only very modest value in small leagues - a sizable adjustment. This is where your competition's lack of complete adjustment for league-scaled player values can cause some serious mid-auction panic.

In the middle of the auction, managers who have been gauging player prices by standard valuations (unadjusted for league size) will find themselves delighted to grab for $6-8 a player listed in a magazine as being worth $10-12. The savvy manager whose player values are league-adjusted knows that player to have only marginal value - in fact he will have only modestly better projections than the players who remain unclaimed at the end of the auction.

This leads to the final observation about small league auctions: they inherently have much less risk among their low-end players, so values are likely to be abundant among the "dollar days" of the auction. The more trouble the league has in adjusting bids for league size, the more value is likely to appear at the auction's end. Quite often, the caliber of players who are acquired for $1 or who go unclaimed will be largely indistinguishable from those players whose names were called while money was still flying, and who went for $5-10.

In a small league, keep a close eye on the owners' ability to adjust from the mass-produced information and valuations that are developed based on assumptions that aren't true in your league. If your owners have predictable troubles adjusting, you may find that the best values in the league's auction occur very early (among the top-tier star player) and very late (among the $1 players available at the end of the draft).

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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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