Draft Day Tips: Deep League Pitcher Values

Draft Day Tips: Deep League Pitcher Values

Every draft day, fantasy leaguers participating in auction leagues purchase various manuals attempting to provide them with “auction values” of the eligible players.  These manuals are extremely important because they provide a guideline for how much players are expected to produce.  My favorite is the guide “Sports Weekly” publishes every February.  However, some owners make the mistake of never deviating from these values for risk of being ridiculed by fellow owners and/or trusting their own intuition over an “expert.”  These owners fail to consider the values are constructed based on a league which is very different than their own.  Therefore, owners who recognize differences between their league and the player values published in manuals have a great advantage. 

The best example of this concept involves how most manuals value starting pitchers.   Many manuals, such as Sports Weekly, attach great market value to the game’s elite pitchers (Lincecum, Halladay, Santana, etc).  Nevertheless, there is a sudden significant drop-off in the value of talented pitchers who are less regarded (EX: Andy Pettite, Scott Baker, etc.).  Players in “deep leagues” (AL Only, NL Only, leagues with more than 18 teams) make a tremendous mistake undervaluing these pitchers.

Deep league owners who follow the manuals too closely are often shocked at the prices paid for B-quality pitching.  They will purchase an elite starter at “book value,” but then find themselves in a difficult situation because they need more starting pitching.   Most often, the owner will make the mistake of purchasing a horrible pitcher at minimum price, believing “at least I didn’t pay $15 for the pitcher with a 4.00 era.”  These owners fail to realize the manuals assume the owner plays in a league where a reasonable starter will be available to replace the struggling pitcher.  In other words, the owner is pretty much stuck with the bad pitcher they bought or an equally damaging starter on the free agent list.

Someone with mathematical skills greater than myself could devise a better formula, but deep league owners are in decent shape following these loose rules: 

Pitcher listed as being worth $5 are actually worth $10. 
Pitchers listed as being worth $10 are actually worth $15. 
Pitchers listed as being worth $15 are actually worth $18. 
Pitchers listed as being worth $20 are actually worth $22. 
Pitchers listed as being worth $25-$35 are priced correctly.
Generally avoid bidding over $35 for a starting pitcher.

This strategy does not guarantee a successful pitching staff because selecting pitchers involves some degree of luck.  Nevertheless, in deep leagues, teams should not be shy about slightly exceeding book value on average starting pitchers because they can give you the points needed to win.