A question every savvy owner eventually asks is, "what is a player worth?" From this most basic of questions, a series of questions follows. Such as "what is player A worth compared to player B?" Or "are saves worth more than wins?" Or "how do I measure hitting values compared to pitching values?"
Before any of the questions are answered, however, a few most basic assumptions must be made before we go forward:
1) Going into your auction, the bid limits of your players must be equal to the amount of money the league has to spend as a whole.
This should be extremely easy to comprehend, yet time and time again I see owners putting prices on individual players and then not bothering to make these prices equal $3120 for a 12-team, $260 per team league. Sadly, I've seen many "expert" prices that also make this grave mistake. If you do nothing else, make sure your bids equal what your league has to spend.
2) In theory, teams should be split $182 for hitting/$78 for pitching in a 4x4 league. In actuality, every league determines what this split is based on what it spends.
Many years ago, Alex Patton came up with the radical (at the time) idea that hitters were worth 70% of a team's budget and pitchers 30%. I'll oversimplify the reason for this and just say that this is because hitters have only one qualitative category and pitchers have two. We all know that a pitcher can giveth with seven innings of 7 hit and 1 ER ball and then taketh away with a 3 IP, 10 H/BB 8 ER nightmare. True, a hitter can put up an 0/5 goose egg, but the impact on your batting average isn't nearly as damning.
However, leagues tend to trend closer to a 67/33, or $175/$85, split. I recommend doing the same, not because I don't believe in the $182/$78 rationale, but because your bids should be in line with your league. If your league tends to spend $2100 on offense on $1020 on pitching, that's how your bids should also shake out. Otherwise, you're artificially inflating hitting values based on the market you're working in and, conversely, deflating pitching values in your market. Adding $84 to your bid limits for hitters might not sound like a lot, but it will change the dynamic of your team quite a bit if you budget for a $182/$78 split per team and your league doesn't go that way.
3) There is a difference between a prediction and a bid limit.
This is one of Alex Patton's gems, so I'll simply paraphrase him on this one. A prediction is what you think a player will earn. A bid is what you think you should pay.
This is another concept that owners also have a difficult time understanding. If I believe that Alex Gordon is going to earn $20 this year, should I pay $20 for him? Almost definitely not. Rookies are risky, and Gordon could struggle and/or get sent to the minors. He's on a team with a poor track record for rookies. My bid limit more reasonably sits at $17 (and would be even lower if I was in a one and done league). If Gordon goes to another owner for $18 and turns a profit, I won't be too upset...that owner either saw more upside in Gordon or less risk.
Keep in mind there are years where your bid limits for a player like Gordon can and should be higher. If you're in a situation where you have next to no freezes, you might spend $20 on Gordon with an eye on next year.
Another common misconception when it comes to this concept is that owners do not understand that the backups should get paid less and the studs should get paid a little more. This idea is important enough that I'm going to leave it for my next post.