The $45 bargain

by on March 22, 2010 @ 09:00:00 PDT


I'd like to offer you an auction tactic that just might look like luck six months from now. The basic premise is this: Most of the time, the very best players are usually the very best bargains. Think about it: let's say you have a Patton-like algorithm for calculating the value of a player's season. It's the end of 1985, and it turns out Rickey Henderson's 100-plus steals along with his .320-plus BA and 20-plus HRs is worth, hmm...$97, still the all-time record. He went in the draft for $54. His team got a $43 profit, and won the pennant. The most expensive player was also the best bargain. An extreme case? Hardly.

Consider that each year there are 3 to 6 players who wind up putting in years worth $60, $65, even $80. Back in April, in the draft, if they were available, they sold for $40, or $45, maybe even $50. And in October, they had made a $20 to $30 profit for their team. So ask yourself this question: Is it easier for me to identify a $1 guy who will be wind up being worth $30 or a $35 player who will be worth $55? I say the latter, no contest, especially with the sort of analytical tools we have at our disposal at Sure, everyone in your league is going to be hot for these players; the trick, I suggest, is in making sure you get that player as early in the draft as you can.

At any Roti-auction, during bidding on the first few players everyone is nervous, trying to get the feel of the room. The very best players are being nominated. These players are the ones who will have $60 seasons. Seize the moment! Bid high, bid fast, and bid confidently ... chances are you'll pay "full psychological value" instead of "full anticipated value." There's a limit Rotissarians don't want to pass in the draft... usually it starts kicking in around $40. If you are immediately over that limit early in the draft, people shrink from bidding higher because there are "plenty of other players." You, however, have a player you think can give you a $65 season - for $45.

Want proof of this psychological barrier? Virtually without exception, a fantasy player's bidding range is lower than his projected values. You'd think they would track more closely, but no, they don't - and the largest differentials are at the top end of the scale: $50 players for $40, $45 players for $35. Like all of us, Ron Shandler wants to approach the draft carefully, paying less than expected value, trying to maximize roster profitability. The problem is, by the middle of most drafts, there are no bargains, only luck. And "the middle" begins as soon as the table realizes there are no longer prime choices available to everyone - often as soon as the third or fourth player is bid on.

I took Ron's projections and fed them into my dollar value algorithm, and they were pretty much identical to his. I then plotted the trendline of the projected values against the trendline of the suggested buying level, and lo and behold, the better the players, the wider the gap between what Ron suggests the player will likely accomplish and the amount you ought to be willing to pay. The data points in the seven groups along the bottom plot the "profit" each individual player would bring; it's easy to see that within each group of buying level the profit rises from $1 or less to about $7; but in the ranges of $25, $30, $35 players the profits begin at the $5 level and go up into the teens.

So, don't let yourself get psyched out on draft day. Pick out in advance the one or two quality players that you are certain will do well, and bid them up to their full value as soon as you can. It will usually shock the table into silence as owners think, "This is ridiculous... too many good players out there..." Not true. This is the best player out there and now he's yours... for a bargain price. Rotisserie is all about putting your money where your mouth is with every player you buy, so you may as well buy the best. Buy them as soon as you can for more than the others expect, and you have a damn good chance of getting the best bargain at the auction.


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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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