It may sound cliché, but sometimes cliché is sound advice. Over the weekend, the auction for my local Boston keeper league was held and I am tucking away a couple of tidbits that I hope will be beneficial next spring when we get together. I am not going to present the following and suggest it is globally true. In fact, something to keep in mind when you review your drafts and auctions is not to assume the same thing will happen next time, so be careful about planning a stringent strategy around something you hope occurs again. There is a fine line between tucking away some hopefully helpful hints and assuming too much. The take home lesson is going to be to take a few minutes and think about your drafts in an effort to elucidate some potential tips to utilize next draft or auction.
By means of a bit of background, the league I am going to discuss in an American League only, 5x5 rotisserie scoring, keeper format with a minor league reserve squad. As with most keeper leagues, there is some inflation at the auction and trading away some of your future to boost the present is integral to winning. The small catch with this league is we have an amendment to the constitution that adjusts the roster size and salary cap if we have fewer than 12 teams. I joined the league last season and we played the season with 11 teams and maintained that number this season. The roster adjustment is to add an extra utility spot and a 10th pitcher. This adds 22 players to the pool, which basically makes the pool penetration the same as if there were 12 teams with 23 man rosters. The salary adjustment was for everyone to start the auction with $283 and not the usual $260. The idea here is $253 added to the overall available money balances the $260 that would have been associated with the 12th team. The end result of these adjustments is to keep the salaries of the players consistent with what they would be if we expanded to 12 teams, so the keeper dynamic would not be affected.
I came into the proceedings with a keeper list that included Miguel Cabreraat $46, Jacoby Ellsbury at $33, Nick Markakis at $25, Dustin Pedroia at $22 and Max Scherzer at $19. I had ample high priced players and planned on buying a second decent starting pitcher and a closer.
The first tidbit I noted was a phenomenon known to exist, and that is a geographical bias with respect to prices. Maybe I did not notice it last spring, or maybe these players were not available in the auction, but it did not take me long to notice there was a definite Boston tilt in the room. To wit, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez were both bought for $38 while Kevin Youkilis was purchased for $40 with Adrian Gonzalez leading the pack at $44. The difference may not seem to be that great, but in a neutral setting, Teixeira and Gonzalez would normally go for about the same price while Rodriguez would sell for a few bucks more than Youkilis.
I learned several years ago that while it is fun to joke about, a player’s performance is not impacted by his presence on my roster, so I have grown immune to the name on the front of my player’s uniforms, only caring about the stats produced by the name on the back. As such, even though I had not planned on buying another high priced stick, I had to take advantage of the table’s bias and purchased Alex Rodriguez. In retrospect, had I known of this league trait, I would thrown back Cabrera and saved a few bucks targeting Teixeira. I knew by purchasing A-Rod I would be handcuffing my ability to spend on the pitching I needed, but I decided that since trading is allowed, I would still look to get the starter and closer, but if I could not, I would channel old partner Jason Grey and continue to fortify the hitting, cobble together a pitching staff and then trade bats for arms to make a run if necessary.
This segues nicely into the second observation, which was even though top players, as usual, went for high prices, the inflation never seemed to abate and the prices of players I expected to drop never did – particularly the starting pitchers and closers. I will not bore you with the list of names and prices, but suffice it to say that almost every hurler went for greater than full value, even considering the conventional means of calculating inflation. Had I not invested in Rodriguez, I would have not hesitated to pay the going rate. But, I made the decision that the value would be with hitting towards the end and decided to make sure I had a full time player at each hitting spot so I would have ammunition to trade for pitching.
Here comes the interesting part. On my ride home, I was trying to figure out why the prices of the pitchers never fell. I was perplexed that even though a ton of money was spent at the beginning, effectively wiping out the inflation from the keepers, players continued to sell at full value much longer than usual. Then it struck me. I completely overlooked a very key point. Maybe you have figured it out by now. If not, I will give you a hint; it revolves around the roster and budget adjustments we made for the reduction to 11 teams. Do you know what my big mistake was yet?
With 11 teams, we added two extra roster spots and $23 per team. This kept the average player to be about the same $11.30 in each setup. But the additional 22 players were obviously well below average. Many owners simply slotted $1 for the two extra roster spots, allowing them to distribute the remaining $21 to the rest of their roster. This is what subsidized the high prices for longer than I anticipated. I completely failed to recognize this was happening during the auction. If I had noticed it, while I still would have likely purchased A-Rod, I may have not been as reticent to overpay for a closer or quality starter instead of hoping to take advantage of the expected deflated economy, which never came.
So my “note to self” for this league going forward is not to rely on being able to go bargain hunting and still get quality players like is often the case even in keeper leagues. In fact, the best play may be to get my top players early as the trend was similar to what happens in the industry leagues like LABR and Tout Wars where sometimes the bargains are the first few players.
In summary, the point of this discussion is not to suggest what happened in my league will happen in your league. The point is to spend some time going over your leagues in an effort to pinpoint something that may help you prepare better or execute your plan better next season. And, after you think of it, write it down and put it in a place where you will remember it, unless of course you write for a web site and can archive the notes in a weekly column.