Monday, February 19, 2007

Determining Scarcity in a Freeze League

Scarcity is a concept that is frequently discussed in Roto. The term is used in two separate ways:

1) Statistical scarcity pertains to the relative lack of a certain statistic, usually saves or steals. In theory, there are only 14 or 16 players in one-league Roto who are going to 
consistently get saves all season, so saves are scarce. Steals is a different story, as any player can steal a base. However, in this era of inflated offense, there are typically only a limited number of players who will steal a significant number of bases. Drafting Chone Figgins won't win you the category, of course, but his 52 steals last year would have put you in a strong position in the category.

2) Positional scarcity refers to weak positions on the diamond and the fact that there is a significant drop-off after the first handful of players at the position. Catcher is the obvious example in both leagues. In some seasons, middle infield is weaker than corner infield or outfield, though this isn't true every year (an erroneous piece of conventional wisdom that I
debunked in a previous post).

In this post, I'm going to talk about positional scarcity, and how freezes alter the positional hierarchy rather rapidly.

Scotts and I
continued the discussion about Seth McClung over at alexpatton.com. I mentioned that I own McClung at $15 in my league; Scotts (who has McClung at $5 in his league) wanted to know if I am considering keeping McClung at that price.

The answer is probably not. But I'm toying with the idea.

I know with a fair amount of certainty which closers are going to be available in my auction, barring any job changes or injuries during spring training.

* - signifies contract year; player salary could go up.

WILL BE FROZEN - Ray ($10*), Pineiro ($10), Ryan ($15), Jenks ($10*), Jones ($12), Dotel ($1), Street ($1*), Putz ($1)

WILL BE THROWN BACK - Rivera ($45), McClung ($15),

FREE AGENTS (N.L. imports or Roto contract expired) - Borowski, Nathan, K-Rod, Gagne

I'm not sure how much Borowski or Gagne will go for. I could see Gagne slipping as low as $15, but I could also see him going in the low $20s, especially if an owner with an eye on next year is willing to gamble that he'll get a top closer relatively cheap. Borowski reminds me of Todd Jones last year. Everyone will piss and moan that he stinks and that one of Cleveland's 8,629 middle relievers in camp is going to take the job from him any day now. Meanwhile, he'll probably hold on to the job all year. He should also go in the low $20s, but could slip into the high teens.

That leaves McClung. If I toss him back (and I probably will), he might go for as little as $12. He also might go for more. My guess is that he will.

Last year, there were only four closers available. Mariano was the only stud closer available, and he went for a whopping $45.

That left three unsettled situations in Boston, Detroit and Tampa Bay.

Keith Foulke and Jon Papelbon both went for $12. In retrospect, Papelbon should have went for much more, given Francona's loathing of Foulke. But I could see why owners (including me) were hesitant to bid more on a guy who might only have the job for a couple of weeks. Oops.

Chad Orvella was actually frozen by an owner at $12, even though Dan Miceli had been named the closer. I don't think anyone trusted Miceli to hold the job for more than 5 minutes. Nevertheless, he went for $13 to the guy who froze Orvella. (This is a post for another day...why you shouldn't bother cornering an unsettled bullpen).

Todd Jones was the closer in Detroit, but no one trusted him or believed in him, at least at my auction. I grabbed him for $12, while another owner scooped up Fernando Rodney for $11 and yet another owner got Zumaya for $5.

I rehash last year not to bore you to (virtual) tears, but to discuss where the bottom of the bar is for closers. In my league, it seems to be about $12 even for a shot at an unsettled closer.

And that's why McClung might be worth $15. He'll probably go cheaper. But he might not.

Assume for a second that Mariano, Nathan and K-Rod all go early in the high $30s. Then Borowski goes for $21 and Gagne for $19.

McClung is suddenly the only closer on the table.

Assume for a moment that no owners dump saves. Also assume that no closers are traded this offseason. One owner currently has the weak duo of Dotel/Pineiro. No one else is freezing two closers.

McClung, added to a solid closer, could be the difference between winning the category and finishing with 8 points. For every owner in the room.

How much is that worth?

Positional scarcity happens in freeze league with closers almost every year. Middle relievers who get the job are typically at low prices and are worth their weight in gold. They also make it so that the auction typically sees no more than 4-6 closers available year in and year out.

Always keep your league's potential freezes in mind when putting your freeze list together. You might not keep someone marginal like Seth McClung. But, if you feel like he'll hold the job all year and that will win you the category, you just might keep him.

1 comment:

Timothy said...

Great site, Mike. I've got you bookmarked.