As you travel along the "Strip" in Las Vegas on any evening, you'll see a dramatic combination of music, water and light from the spectacular fountains at the Bellagio. Hopefully, the logical part of your brain doesn't ruin the moment and remind you that you have helped to pay for the attraction.
If you gamble at all, the lesson has already been learned that Lady Luck only visits, she never stays - winning on a given weekend is possible but winning every weekend is not. The gambler who really pays for the fountains, however, is the one who has Lady Luck on his arm and still loses. How is that possible? At this stage of my life, I have seen many people who win 55% of the hands, spins or rolls in a given timeframe still lose money. They accomplish this unenviable feat with a lack of money management. As far back as the 1950's, legendary gambler John Scarne wrote about progressive betting and the like, but instead of taking one evening to learn the basics, many "Sin City" visitors continue to play without a plan.
So, if you play auction-style Rotisserie Baseball, do you have a money management plan or do you pay for the fountains? Numerous fantasy baseball writers smarter than me have put together articles and columns on this subject, but maybe an actual example will assist you in developing a plan for 2013. Last week in Phoenix, some of the best fantasy baseball players in the country gathered for the 11th annual Xperts Fantasy League (XFL) Draft. In an attempt to defend my 2012 Championship, a money management plan was essential and I'm sharing it with you today while it is fresh in the memory bank. (Author's note - if you currently play against me in a league, you must stop reading now)
The XFL is a 5x5 15-team keeper league (with OBP instead of BA) that has an auction budget of $260 for 23 players. There is a significantly high inflation factor because many of the players on the keeper lists have salaries much lower than their projected value. My team (Donald's Dux) kept 13 players with a combined salary of $170, leaving $90 for the 10 players to be drafted. There were many difficult decisions on which players to keep and which to throw back, but looking at the draft results, those on the "bubble" were close to perceived value...
* Cliff Lee would have been $26, he went for $27
* Ben Zobrist would have been $30, he went for $30
* B.J. Upton would have been $28, he went for $32
* Yovani Gallardo would have been $19, he went for $21
Would I have drafted any of them at the right price? Possibly, but with only $9 per player to spend, it wasn't a focus of the plan.
Using a hitting-pitching split of 70/30, the money management budget was $47 for six hitters and $43 for four pitchers, and if there had been a roster in front of me (we're not allowed to bring any research to the table), it would have looked like this...
C - $10
C - $10
1B – Anthony Rizzo $8
3B - Miguel Cabrera $50
1/3 – Mark Trumbo $7
2B – Ian Kinsler $22
SS - $10
2/S - $10
OF – Josh Hamilton $19
OF – Andrew McCutchen $13
OF – Carlos Gomez $10
OF – Josh Willingham $10
OF - $5
U - $2
P – Chris Capuano $6
P – Shelby Miller $4
P – Hiroki Kuroda $8
P – Matt Harvey $4
P – Joel Hanrahan $13
P - $14
P - $14
P - $13
P - $ 2
The priorities were:
1) Get two catchers for $20 - one solid choice and an end-game one who wouldn't hurt the team's stats. In an OBP league, you don't want a 400-AB catcher with a .290 OBP.
2) A SS and 2/S for $20, hopefully at least one with SB potential.
3) One closer and two starting pitchers for about $40. Those seven players would cost $80, leaving $10 for the last three spots in the end game.
We all know how quickly any strategy can get blown up, so let's look at how the Dux did on their plan. You should be aware that four teams had over $160 to spend, so patience had to be part of the equation. In fact, our squad didn't roster a single player during the first two rounds.
The first hitter taken was Miguel Montero (ARI) for $17. He's coming off a season of a .391 OBP, 15 HR and 88 RBI and has the security of a long-term deal with the D'Backs. In last year's draft, he went for $24, so I was pleased to get him at this number. Other catchers in the top tier were Victor Martinez for $20 (who missed all of 2012 with injury), Mike Napoli for $15 (half of last year's price), $15 for Alex Avila and $13 for Brian McCann (who will start 2013 on the DL).
The first pitcher taken was John Axford (MIL) for $10. In this league, solid closers go for $10-$15 and in my opinion, Axford is underrated due to some bumps in the road during 2012. His 4.67 ERA masks the fact that he had 93 K's in 69 innings, so the skills are still there.
The pool of starting pitchers was very thin in the draft, so after Lee went for $27, Zack Greinke for $30, Roy Halladay for $20 and Mat Latos for $20, the Dux targeted the mid-range group and bought Anibal Sanchez (DET) for $12. While I normally shy away from AL starters, Sanchez is a free agent and re-signing with Detroit or a National League team would make him a decent value. It may seem like he's been around forever, but he'll turn 29 just prior to the 2013 season.
Other than Jose Reyes amd Jimmy Rollins (who were out of my budget guidelines), the best available SS with SB potential were Erick Aybar and Alexei Ramirez. However, when Aybar went off the board at $19, the strategy had to be altered. Rather than waiting for Ramirez, the Dux grabbed Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE) for $18 as his overall value in this format is solid. Another player who went for $24 a year ago, he's a two-time All-Star going into his age- 27 season.
The next starting pitcher was Ryan Vogelsong (SF) for $8. Two consecutive strong seasons, a good team and a favorable ballpark makes him a reasonable value.
At this point, the Dux were down to $25 for our last five players, but had not fulfilled the goal of adding SB's. So, that category became the priority rather than any particular position. This area of a draft can be a mine-field because it isn't quite the end game (a few teams still have dollars available) and you can't be sure if players will be bargains or if two teams will drive up the price. Getting Cameron Maybin (SD) for $8 seemed like a good buy, especially when Norichika Aoki went for $15 a few minutes later. Maybin will be the Padres CF for the foreseeable future, has 66 SB's over the last two seasons and will be 26 years old on Opening Day 2013.
In the end game, the Dux added Stephen Drew at 2/S for $6, Mike Fiers as another starting pitcher at $6, Michael Brantley in the Utility spot for $2 and John Jaso (and his .394 OBP) as the 2nd catcher for $1. $258 spent and $2 left for some big-league chewing gum.
Did we execute the plan? In the big picture, yes. While the split ended up being closer to 72/28, it's in the ballpark. We got a top-tier catcher, two everyday shortstops, three starting pitchers and a closer. Also, Maybin and Brantley are better players than I expected in the end game. Of course, many things can happen between now and opening day, but the Dux have three of the first 16 picks in our March supplemental snake draft that can be used to fill holes and/or roster prospects.
Let's go to Vegas, Baby!!!