I'll conclude my review of valuation with the most basic of concepts, yet one that I see owner after owner ignore. Your bids should equal the total amount of money there is available to spend in your league.
This means that if you play in a 12-team American League where each team has $260, then you should budget $3120. If you're in a 13-team National League at $260 per team, it should be $3380. It's that simple.
Yet sometimes out of sheer curiosity I'll pick up a magazine or peek at an expert's predictions courtesy of a friend and see that this isn't the case. In the past, I've seen a certain expert be off by as much as $400 for an entire league. You can imagine how badly such an error would throw off your auction.
After Alex Patton comes out with his first batch of predictions, I'll take the existing bids and shave them down so that they equal $3120. There are two quick and dirty ways I can do this. I can either:
1) take my bids from last year, sort them in descending order, and then plug them into this year's predictions. So if I had my top A.L. pitcher last year at $41 and Alex' top pitcher this year is Johan Santana, I'll pencil in $41 next to Santana. I'll do this for every player.
2) take Patton's bids and shave them down until they equal $3120. Patton will eventually do this by mid-March, but I like to do it earlier...it gives me a better feel for my team as quickly as possible. As an example, the bid total on A.L. pitchers is currently $1129. I want them to be $1020. I'll multiply each current bid value by .9035 (1020/1129) so that I can get down to $1020.
Now the fun begins.
I'll sort the players in Patton's software by bid descending and look at each bid. This is my reality check. I'm not going to agree with all 276 of Alex's top bids and neither should you. This is where you should adjust based on your own preferences but also based on your league's proclivities. As I've said before, adjust but don't go crazy. Add a couple of bucks to Carl Crawford if you really want him, but don't put a $50+ price on him unless you're dumping power and absolutely must own Carl Crawford to pull off your strategy. Again, keep in mind that the bids express preferences. The three preferences expressed are:
1) Favorable - Tweak your bid up to the point where you think you'll get the player. However, don't tweak to the point that you're no longer getting value.
2) Neutral - You might move the bid up or down a dollar, but on these players you're simply price enforcing/bidding based on value. You obviously want to own a team of players you like, but you also want to win, so the more players like this you get a couple of dollars below your bid limit, the better you'll wind up feeling about your team. I try to fill my team with these types of guys every year.
3) Unfavorable - The initial bid seems out of line and you don't like the player. Push the price down to the absolute least you'd pay. A good way to look at this is to picture a price where you feel another owner would be getting a bargain.
Remember, every dollar you add to a player means another dollar you should take from someone else. I like to use Patton's software to sort by bid descending frequently, as this is a great reality check that let's me see how the players are ranked based on bid. Seeing Bobby Abreu ahead of Vernon Wells might make me move Wells up or Abreu down. It might not make me move Abreu down so far that he's behind Wells, but I might move him until I feel that his bid is reasonable compared to Wells.
If this sounds like a lot of work, remember that this is only a guideline. You can take an expert's bids and walk into the auction with those bids. Many years ago, this is what I did, before I felt comfortable enough expressing my own preferences through the bids.
You also should probably leave most bids alone. A lot your players in the $7-13 range are probably players that you won't have a strong opinion about one way or the other. Don't change bids for the sake of changing bids.
Remember, though, that the most important thing is to feel comfortable with the prices you walk into your auction with. If Patton has Schilling at $17 and you believe Schilling has another year of greatness in the tank, move that price up until it reflects the price you'd be willing to pay.
Remember also that the bids are bid limits. You don't have to pay your bid price for a player and, almost always, you shouldn't. If you listed Schilling at $21 and you get cold feet at $19, let him go. For new owners, I once again recommend leaving bid limits alone and bidding as close as possible to them in your auction. As you gain experience and go through enough auctions, you'll gradually get a feel for how to gauge when to push a player to your bid limit and when to let him go a couple of bucks below that limit. I'll talk more about that in a future post. For now, I'll emphasize again that bids aren't set in stone. Set your prices but never be afraid to walk away from them, even in the auction.