One of the most important things to have at an auction draft are values approximating how much to bid. Situations might arise where you bid without knowing much about a player, and having dollar values keeps that strategy from turning into a complete disaster. But when using values, it is extremely important to adjust them based upon the setup of your particular league.
The following uses my league—the twenty-year old “World League of Rotisserie Baseball” (yup, I’ve had the same fantasy baseball team since I was 8, which probably falls somewhere between impressive and embarrassing)—as an example for how a league’s setup can create auction values different from the books. The WLRB is a 23-team keeper league where players are auctioned for prices at which they can be renewed for three years. Teams are also allowed four “farm players” who—upon being called up—can be added to the roster for three seasons at $4. In addition to the standard categories, walks and innings pitched are counted.
Historically, one of my favorite places to get dollar values has been the LABR. The LABR is a fantasy league run by baseball writers who publish their annual draft results in Sports Weekly. While the LABR results are helpful, every year, our results differ from the LABR in two respects: (1) top-notch players cost more in my league; and (2) a huge premium is always paid for mediocre starting pitchers.
Why were the prices different? It took me awhile to realize how much a league’s setup can affect pricing.
Originally, I attributed the price difference in top-notch players to “non-expert” owners overbidding on players. But I was wrong. In reality, the higher prices are because the LABR is a non-keeper league, meaning every player is auctioned off at “actual value.” It makes a huge difference playing in a keeper league where players are often renewed at discount prices. For example, Even Longoria would go for $32 in the LABR. In our league, Longoria is renewed for $4 as a 3rd year “farm pick.” The discount renewal means, in our league, $28 in extra draft money is available to spend on other players. Much of this extra money is spent on top notch players because: (1) great players are worth a premium; and (2) people enjoy getting into bidding wars for the game’s best players.
Most of our league’s remaining “surplus money” goes into mediocre starting pitchers. The standard explanation for the inflated prices is our league counting innings pitched, but the number of teams also inflates the value of mediocre starters. For example, while many books value Andy Pettite at $4, he would cost $12 in my league. The $4 value, however, assumes a league where 30-40% of the starting pitchers are free agents, meaning Pettite can be replaced with a similar pitcher if he struggles. But in our league, where the only free agent starters are Kip Wells and Sidney Ponson, spending extra money on Pettite makes sense.
The point of the story is to show the importance of always considering how your league differs from the values in the draft guide. Also, I would avoid the online computer programs claiming to create values customized to your particular league. Some would disagree, but to me, the “customized” values never seem to be accurate. You are much better off taking good values (i.e., CBS and Sports Weekly) and adjusting using common sense. You should also watch the progression of the draft and adjust your bids accordingly.