Monday, February 05, 2007

Early freeze discussions

Yesterday I talked about specific players who might or might not be freezes. In those discussions, I touched upon a number of different factors. Here, I'm going to briefly list them, in no particular order.

Age: Is it a young player capable of growing? A player at or near his peak or is more likely to have a breakout season? An old player who might be in his twilight years? You're not going to throw back a $3 player who will be worth $10 regardless of his age, but you just might throw back a 35-year old who you have at $19 who earned $19. There might be nothing but downside.

Health: Is this a guy who gets 600 AB year in and year out, or is it a player for whom 600 AB is what he calls 2004-2006? For pitchers, does he have any history of elbow or shoulder problems? Is he used judiciously by his manager, or do his pitch counts tend to be high every game?

Opportunity: This is a two-pronged question. First, will he get an opportunity in Spring Training and, second, will he have the chance to keep that job if he's hitting .220 in mid-May? This question depends on the team, but it also often depends on the player/manager relationship. You can avoid young Yankees all you want, but Dan Johnson and Jeff Mathis were yanked last year fairly quickly after slow starts. Keeping Johnson at $10 and Mathis at $5, respectively, were decisions their owners quickly regreted.

Position scarcity: Is the player a strong performer at a weak position? Or is it a strong position but a lot of players are already frozen there?

Potential freeze/dump value: This one doesn't get a lot of play in magazines and web sites that look at this year values only. But never underestimate the idea of keeping a guy because he might be a freeze next year and, therefore, a dumpable commodity in June. I'll talk more about this over the summer, but there are players who you might keep in March who are all potential because if they break out, you have a guy who can trade for two or three strong players come mid-summer. Ty Wigginton at $3 wasn't a big dump commodity last summer; Francisco Liriano at $13 was.

Inflation: This is also something you don't read about in magazines, but something that experienced owners simply nod their heads at. While this applies across all levels of value, the question here pertains mostly to high priced players who also produce high value. Let's assume, for example, that Vlad Guerrero was drafted in your league last year at $43 and you have him listed on your values sheet at $37. It would be foolish to keep him. Except for the fact that your league's inflation typically runs at 30%, meaning that Vlad with inflation will go for $48. You can't keep a whole team of guys who are what I call "inflation freezes", but sometimes you need to keep one, and maybe even two.

Someday, I'd like to come up with some sort of probability model that measures how important each of these factors are, and how accurate they are at determining value and freeze value. For now, it's just useful to know that these are all things you should think about when deciding how your team is going to look on Auction Day.

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