Taking control of your draft

by BaseballHQ.com on February 17, 2010 @ 00:00:00 PDT


Most Rotisserie owners have a pretty good idea of their needs and have already targeted the players they believe will make them competitive. Whatever plan you've chosen, whether it's a contrarian approach such as a Sweeney Plan or the LIMA Plan, or a more classic 60/40 offense-pitching scenario, finding ways to actually get the players you want, and to keep the other GMs from building a better team is the true Draft Day challenge.

All you need on Draft Day

At every draft, you'll see GMs with everything from computers filled with too much software and data to those who've come "prepared" with nothing more than Baseball Weekly's fantasy pullout. You'll need more than the lazy GMs, but being overburdened is just as fatal. A few charts are necessary if you're going to control what the other owners do while you fill your roster with the players you want.

First, you'll need a chart rank-ordering the players by position, category and the maximum value you'll go. Tracking the increasing position scarcity throughout the draft will indicate where you have to attack whenever it's your turn to put up a player.

The second chart tracks the total dollars spent by each GM (including your own). This will allow you to know which GMs have to spend more of their budgets. As each player is drafted, note the final bid, how much above or below your projection it is, and who gets him. If any GM consistently puts up players he ends up signing, push him hard whenever it's his turn to put a player into the auction.

The third chart is the roster for every GM. This is often posted during the draft, but it's necessary for you to know what positions the other teams need to fill before you'll be able to get the players of your choice.

Bidding for the other GMs

Should the free agent pool at any position or category be good sized, you'll be able to study the bidding process without grabbing a player in the first (or second, or ...) round. Chart how the league values the big guys by putting up a few early. Keep the bidding alive, but drop out early - unless of course it looks like the final bid is a steal, then step back in. This will allow you determine if players are generally going above or below value. Additionally, as the GMs who covet the studs spend their money early, your chances of grabbing the one you want increase.

As a general rule, you should never put up a player you really want. It's okay to occasionally put up players you'll accept at a bargain price, but the more savvy GMs will quickly discern what you're after if you're too obvious. This is the time to act uncertain in your bidding. Remember, the successful GMs are always imitated by the owners trying to find a way to break into the money. The less they learn about your strategy and goals, the less likely they'll be able to push you.

Filling the other rosters

So how do you control who the other GMs' drafts and how much they spend? With the third chart, you'll know the other owners' narrowing position needs. With the second chart, you can determine each GM's bidding style, and the types of players and categories they value. Now, you're ready to fill their rosters for them. For example, if one of your primary concerns is getting some steals from a middle infield position, it's necessary that your opponents going for steals and the middle infield not be able to bid against you when one of the players you want finally comes up. So whenever middle infielders with average skills are put into bid - including every chance you get to offer a player - encourage the bidding. Push the bidders to several dollars below your maximum value and below what you believe your league and the targeted GMs will bid.

Be aggressive, putting up your bids with little hesitation. Psychologically, it will appear to the others that you value this player, which, in turn, encourages the belief among your opponents that he is more valuable than his skills would indicate. This is especially effective if you've earned the reputation as a savvy bidder and consistent winner in your league. Then, "reluctantly" drop out of the bidding. Dropping out at the right moment in any particular auction helps convince others that this player is valuable to you. Consequently, one or more GMs will keep bidding, sometimes several dollars more than value. Each time you do this, the result is less competition for that category and position and more dollars for you.

Passing when it's your turn to put up a player is allowed in some leagues. It's vital, however, that you force the other GMs to fill their rosters. Never pass up an opportunity to fill other owners' rosters with players you believe will not help them!

Obtaining players below value

When a player you have targeted comes up, and the pool at that position or category has gotten dangerously thin, you'll need to bid in such a way that you back the other GMs down. Push the bidding aggressively until you bid $3 - $5 under the maximum value you set prior to the draft. If the next bidder is shaky about one more dollar, a quick bid from you in response may shut him out so you end up with the player at a few dollars under value. By bidding on the odd dollar below value, the opposing bidders will end up spending at maximum value.

If you have the budget to spend the maximum on a player or two, this is the time to suddenly throw in a $2 jump to your maximum value. If you've been bidding in $1 increments, as you should do consistently, the $2 jump will accomplish one of two objectives. It will either cause the other owners to drop out of the bidding, or it will insure that any sandbaggers waiting to see what top dollar fetches will over-bid - at least by your valuation system.

Controlling the mid-game depression

Research shows that almost all auction drafts experience a lull during the middle third of the draft process, allowing several players go below value. Your second chart, tracking bids versus your predetermined values, will show you when that lull occurs. That's the time to put up a player you believe will be a sleeper in your league. Bid hesitantly, as if you, too, are trying to save your money for the end game, and your chances of getting him below value increase.

When you're ready for the lull to end - that is, when you want the other GMs to spend more readily again - put up a recognized stud and push the bidding to near maximum value. There will always be more than one GM who'll want to bid on the best players, so by pushing the bidding aggressively toward maximum value, and then dropping out, the several remaining GMs in that auction will have to fight at and above actual value.

The End Game

If you've bid properly, the competition for positions and categories you need will have been minimized, and you'll have those extra dollars to control the final third of your draft. Here, it's particularly important to put up names that fill the final openings on other rosters, especially for those positions where more than one sleeper remains. Once everybody else has filled their DH, UT, or catcher slots, for example, you've got your pick of $1 sleepers.

Controlling your draft requires as much attention to the other rosters as yours. Any GM who is too focused on his needs alone, and most of them are, is fair game to have his roster filled by you with players you don't want.

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