Saturday, March 10, 2007

Can you win it all?

The last two days, I've focused on what you can do in the trading arena to improve your team. Today, I'll review how much you need to improve to contend this year.

Last month, I provided an
example of a league ranking with inflation. I used my A.L. Roto league from last year (12 teams, $260 budget, 4x4) as a baseline. I pointed out that the top team, with a projected $356 in value with freezes but after inflation, would be very hard to beat. However, in most competitive Roto leagues with rules that tend to discourage full-scale "dump" trades, these uber-teams are few and far between.

This year, my A.L. has what I consider a more typical landscape.

2007 Billy Almon Brown Graduate
Freeze/Inflation Projected $ Values
TeamSalaryValue$ to SpendAuction ValueTotal $
Team 1$136$200$124$99$299
Team 2$66$120$194$156$276
Team 3 $102$148$158$127$275
Team 4$64$115$196$157$272
Team 5$99$139$161$129$268
Team 6$74$112$186$149$261
Team 7$86$121$174$140$261
Team 8$69$107$191$153$260
Team 9$146$160$114$91$251
Team 10$114$127$146$117$244
Team 11$46$59$214$172$231
Team 12$82$79$178$143$222

It's worth explaining, for those who didn't read the previous article with this table, what these columns mean and how they're derived.

Salary is the amount of salary of players I believe each team will freeze. Value is how much value I think each team will have in its freezes. $ to spend is $260 minus each team's salary. Auction value is the $ to spend divided by the league's projected inflation rate. I am projecting a 24.7% inflation rate based on who I believe will be frozen. Total $ is each team's Value plus Auction value.

If you're the $299 projected team, you're the favorite. Your goal is pretty straightforward. Draft value. You can even pay par for your team, which is good news if need help in a specific category. If your league has moderate to robust trading, you don't even need to worry too much about categories since you'll be able to trade for any shortcomings later.

If you're any of the other 11 teams on that list, you need to think about the following:

1) Can I make up "x" differential in dollar values between myself and the top team?
2) If not, can I pursue an alternative strategy to compete this year?
3) If the answers to #1 and #2 are both no, how can I draft a team that could compete this year if everything aligns correctly but also set myself up for next year?

I don't have a good rule of thumb for how much money you can make up in an auction, but I do know that every year it gets harder and harder to make up this shortfall. I'll talk more specifically about the idea behind bidding under par in a future post, but a brief description here will be useful.

Let's assume you own Team 5. If you match inflation dollar for dollar, you will draft a $268 team. Furthermore, if everyone else matches inflation, you'll draft a 5th place team.

But what if you don't match inflation dollar for dollar? What if you're a careful spender? As an example, Alexis Rios is a $24 player on your sheet without inflation. With 24.7% inflation, he's a $30 player. You, being a smart, savvy (not to mention handsome) owner, get him for $27, or 90% (27/30) of your inflation price. As your day goes on, you draft like this all day, going a dollar or two below your inflation prices. You finish paying $129 for players you had valued at $143, or about 90%, of what you ranked your team at.

That would leave Team 5 with a $282 team. If Team 1 still holds to inflation, that's $17 short.

Can you do better than drafting at 90% of your prices? It's possible, but as leagues become more and more competitive, 90% is about as far as I've seen this get stretched out. Careful spending alone won't make you the frontrunner.

So should Team 5 consider throwing a category away?

I would argue yes. As a rule of thumb, I divide the $260 we have to spend by eight categories to get $32.5 per category. This is oversimplifying; I've already discussed that all categories are not created equal and we pay less for pitching than hitting. But, for the sake of assessing the strength of your team, $32.5 is as good a baseline as any. After three years of doing this hypothetical pricing exercise, I began to notice that teams that were more than $32 behind the projected winner did tend to have trouble making up ground without a category strategy. Team 5 is $38 behind Team 1. In order to be competitive, Team 5 should think about dumping a category.

Since $32.5 is the baseline for one category dump, it would make sense that $65 is where a two category dump might come into play. Typically, two category dumps are radical strategies with little room for error that aren't for the faint of heart. The no-power strategy (also known as The Sweeney Plan) is the most famous of these strategies. The drawback to any two-category dump is that your margin for error is next to nothing. Again, though, if you're down $65 in projected value, you will have a severely uphill climb in your auction anyway; a radical plan might be worth considering.

Finally, if you're far enough behind, you might want to consider playing for next year. This doesn't mean not drafting for this year. Luck is part of the game, and we've all seen teams left for dead put together a nice run. Never draft like this season is over before it begins. But you do want to complete a similar assessment for your league. Francisco Liriano shouldn't appeal to you too much if you're Team 1, but Teams 11 and 12 should be bidding on him for 2008.

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