Paying for consistency

by on March 15, 2010 @ 07:00:00 PDT


One of the central tenets behind any auction draft is to acquire players whose statistical output will be greater than their auction price. Many fantasy leaguers mistakenly believe that this tenet should hold true for all players in all salary ranges, but is that really the case? We can all agree that there are very few $40 seasons produced.

The prevailing mentality then becomes one of hesitation as the bid price of players nears $40. Potential profits are seen dwindling as the players bid price approaches his 'break even' price. So is it worth $38 or $40 to buy a player who may produce $30-40?

As noted above, the likelihood of a high percentage return on investment from a $30-plus player is low. For every dollar his salary rises, a return becomes exponentially harder to achieve. Even if a $30 player produces $36, that's only a 20 percent return. If a $5 player produces $11 (with the same $6 increase) then the return is 120 percent. These calculations are simple but often misleading. $6 is $6 and is still a measure of statistical output whether it be through the addition of 15 HR by a $30 player or 15 HR by a $5 player. Both will help equally as much in the standings.

The underlying point here is that one should not get caught up in return on investment percentages or consider $30-plus players as low return options. In any given season there may be thirty $5 players who return $10 or more, but attempting to pinpoint and roster all of them is fruitless. Those players are the ones that turn contending teams into Champions but they are not the ones that assure you of a contending team from the outset. One must attempt to purchase a foundation of solidly consistent statistics and then fill out the roster with the speculative plays for big returns. This solid foundation can be built by purchasing the consistent $30-plus players and one should not be afraid to roster them. We call this "Paying for Consistency."

So what defines consistency and how can one determine which $30-plus players to pay for? Do all $30-plus players carry the same risk/reward payoff? There are three main factors you should examine when determining which high priced players should anchor your team.

Batters vs. Pitchers

The final 2001 projections listed 16 pitchers who were projected to earn more than $30. 12 of those were of the closer ilk. Only 3 of those 16 actually produced more than $30 and seven actually produced less than $20. Starters projected to earn more than $30 are few and far between and the volatility that accompanies closers is reason enough to shy away from them. Some form of LIMA Plan, purchasing high skills pitchers in the lower to middle tier seems a wiser use of your draft dollars.

In contrast, there were 17 batters projected to earn $30 in 2001. 11 of them earned $30 or more and only 3 fell below $20. These numbers suggest it is much safer to build your team around $30 batters than $30 pitchers.

Injury History/Playing Time

Predicting injuries is a fool's game but we can discern which players seem to be more durable and reliable by the number of games they have played the last few seasons. The stars that take the field in 150-plus games every year are the ones you want to target. This consistent playing time assures them of the maximal opportunity to produce their numbers. By limiting our list to $30-plus players who had played in 150 or more games in the previous two seasons we would have eliminated 4 of the 6 batters who did not achieve the $30 mark in 2001. (Exceptions can be made for players in the high 140s when circumstances warrant.)

Consistent Production

To be considered "consistent" a batter must have a proven track record of producing at the $30 level. We'd like to see at least 2 consecutive years of $30-plus production in the seasons immediately preceding the current one. This might eliminate some batters who had been in the $20-30 range and had a breakout season (or fell just short one year) so examining 'past performance' should be more of a judgment call than an absolute determining factor.

Note: A certain level of consistency can also be found in the $25-30 range so do not neglect that tier when building your foundation.

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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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