Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Disadvantages of Category Optimization

Following up on my post about the advantages of category optimization, tonight I'll look at why you might not want to toss away a category.

1) In a league that isn't as competitive, or where there is a moderate or heavy amount of dump trading, you won't win the league by throwing away categories.
Typically, a category optimization plan sets a point total goal in the low to mid-70s as a best case scenario. The no-power strategy, for example, has a 74 point maximum in a 12-team 4x4 league. This strategy can win competitive leagues, but it won't win leagues where there are weak teams that finish in the second division every year or leagues where there is a significant amount of dump trading.

The first year in my A.L. Roto League was 1996, and the winning team finished with 70 1/2 points. Last year, the winner finished with 74 points on the nose. No other winner has finished with lower than 76 points and, typically, 78-80 points is the sweet spot. If you're going to consider a no-power strategy in my league, forget about it, unless you want to finish second or third. Since 6-8 teams dump every year like clockwork, there's an over 80% chance you're going to need more than 74 points to win.

2) If a stud player who is part of your strategy gets hurt or is ineffective, you're through.
Of course, this precept is also valid for any Roto team. But a six-category team that loses its top closer can pretty much kiss the season goodbye, since a 65-point team almost never wins.

3) It's harder to make adjustments as the season goes on.
If you're playing for all eight categories, and your #1 closer gets hurt, you can always adapt and trade your #2 closer and then dump the category. Even though you didn't plan a seven category season, you can always back into that.

If you commit to a seven-category strategy before the season starts, your options in this area are far more limited. You can't throw away an additional category on the fly, unless you're desperate, and you're painting yourself into a tight corner.

4) If someone else decides on the same strategy, it makes it harder to get the players you need.
Comments to yesterday's post discussed the "LIMA" strategy and how difficult it is to use LIMA successfully if half the league is trying the same thing. On a simpler level, you'll be fighting for every steal if someone else decides to punt power. Yes, you're paying more for steals, but Jose Reyes at $62 might not allow you to fill out the rest of your roster the way you need to.

5)...and it makes it easier for your opponents to get stats/profit
The other side of this coin is when prices drop due to two or more teams exit the market for a category or categories. You might be punting saves, but seeing someone else get Jose Valverde for $11 is more than painful...it allows that owner to not only spend more money elsewhere, but also to possibly dump Valverde later in a this year/next year trade. Yes, you can try to price enforce and block this strategy, but it only makes it that much harder to complete your category optimization.

6) You're only delaying the inevitable
For owners in carryover leagues, this might very well be reason enough not to bother. A category optimization strategy is usually fun, but typically only pushes back your inevitable dump trades for a year (or less, if your category dump blows up in May). If you're in one of those leagues I mentioned above, where 70-74 points usually doesn't win, you might not want to bother playing for a 2nd place finish.

I don't necessarily buy all of these reasons not to attempt a category optimization. As I've mentioned in an earlier post, my goal is to win every year; raising the white flag in March is an anathema to me. I'd rather try tossing a category and adjusting later than just giving up. And, yes, that adjustment might mean tossing the season in June. But that's just me. I know owners who have no problem playing for 2008 if they know that 2007 is going to be a big fat waste of time.

Finally, don't dump categories just because it's fun. If you have a team that's the favorite or a team that is strong, don't category dump. If you're close enough to the league favorite that you can have a straight auction and come out with a competitive team, don't category dump. Don't do this just because you want to impress the other owners in your league with how clever you are. Doing a no-power plan and finishing 4th and making your league oooh and aaah isn't the point. The point is winning. If you can win without throwing away categories, that's the best way to try and win.

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