Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tweeners

Robert asks about a group of players he wonderfully calls "tweeners":
Sorry to monopolize this post with such a long question, but I have a question on “tweeners,” the guys who you don’t really want to throw back into the auction pool because their current prices *might* be a little better than their auction-day costs.
If you're interested in the players Robert is deliberating over, follow the link to the comment.

Robert's question covers the always-intriguing dilemma we Rotisserie veterans have about whether to keep players who are more expensive than their projected price but less than their fully inflated value (what I like to call "inflation par").

Dan Haren - who Robert mentions in his comment - is a good example of this type of player based on the $25 price tag I've seen floating around in some of the early magazine and Internet bid prices.

Robert has the opportunity to keep Haren at $31. If your raw (uninflated) bid limit for Haren is $25, then inflation par for Haren ($31) happens in a league with 24% inflation.

That's the very simple answer for Robert. If inflation is 24% or higher, keep Haren, since his value will be greater than zero. If inflation is 24% or lower, throw Haren back, since you should be able to either: a) get Haren for less or b) get a pitcher or pitchers at a combined $31 with equal or greater value than Haren at $25.

Naturally, it's never that simple. There are a few other things you should consider when deciding whether or not to keep Haren at $31 or not. I've included links that discuss these concepts in greater detail when needed.


1) Staying below inflation par.
I've talked about this a few different times over the life of this blog. If you go into an auction with $100 worth of salary and $140 worth of value and your league's inflation rate is 20%, the $160 you have to spend will buy about $133 worth of stats if you pay inflation par. A $273 team might finish in the money in a moderately or very competitive league, but you probably won't win. The more value you have on your team, the more likely you'd be willing to keep Haren at inflation par, since you're better off keeping his stats in favor of surrendering value you might pick up in the auction. The less value you have going in, the more likely it is you'd want to throw Haren back and go trolling for bargains, particularly ones with higher upside.

2) Separate inflation rates. In some leagues, the inflation on pitchers is considerably higher than the inflation on hitters. Leagues generally tend to spend about 65% of their budgets on hitting and 35% on pitching, even if there is a considerable talent gap in the auction due to a few super cheap pitching freezes (in 2009, think Cliff Lee and Ervin Santana in the A.L. and Ricky Nolasco and Ryan Dempster in the N.L.). If your league insists on paying $1020 for pitchers or something close to it every year and there are a flood of cheap pitching freezes, you could have a very low hitting inflaton rate and a very high pitching inflation rate, like my "regular" A.L. did in 2007.

My A.L. that year didn't quite have the nerve to adhere to the hypothetical 49% inflation rate and spend $1020 for pitchers - it only paid $964. However, this still led to a 33% inflation rate for pitchers, versus a relatively paltry 12% rate for hitters. As you can see, these types of factors change Haren's inflation value dramatically. A $25 Dan Haren would had a $29 inflation bid using my league's "raw" 17% inflation rate, a $37 bid using the expected 49% pitching inflation, and $33 using the actual pitching inflation of 33%.

3) Scarcity. Here is another look at the 10 most expensive National League starting pitchers in 2008.

Ten Most Expensive N.L. Starting Pitchers 2008
#
Player$Sal
+/-
AP
LIBL
'07
1Johan Santana
$37$40-3
$37$51$33
2Jake Peavy
$24$33-10
$34$36F
$43
3Brandon Webb
$33$29+4
$32
$27F$33
4Dan Haren
$30$25
+5
$22
$30
$29
5Cole Hamels
$33$24+9
$29$10F$27
6Roy Oswalt
$27$24
+3
$25
$28
$21
7 (tie)
Aaron Harang
-$1$21-21
$28$21F$27

Carlos Zambrano
$16$21-5
$24$28F$18
9 (tie)
Chris Young
$8$20-12
$23
$10F
$24

John Smoltz
$6$20-14$20$27F$27

Average
$21$26-4
$27$27$28

I've added the "regular" National League I track during the season in the "LIBL" column. The "F" indicates a frozen player.

Out of the projected 10 best pitchers (using Patton's Top 10 instead, Hudson replaces Smoltz, so the list isn't that different).

If your league is as active and communicative as mine, you'll probably have a pretty good idea who is being kept and who is being tossed back. Even if it isn't, if your league has been around long enough, you'll probably have a good idea of your fellow owners' tendencies, and be able to make a rough guess of who will be out there and who will be frozen.

Using Patton's bid limit as a guideline, three of these pitchers - Peavy, Zambrano, and Smoltz - were kept at a higher price than their uninflated prices. I don't know what the inflation rate as a whole was in this league, but Santana was 38% more expensive than Patton's bid value and Haren 36% more expensive. Oswalt snuck in at 12% over Patton's bid price - a nice buy in this hyperinflated market.

If your league has few pitchers at the top of the heap who will be out there, it won't matter what Haren's inflation price is, whether or not hitting and pitching inflation is split, or what Haren's raw bid value is. He'll zoom past those projections pretty easily. Even if the other 11 owners in your league don't believe in paying full price for a staff ace, if two other owners do, Haren's price will soar.

And, in reality, this is what Robert's question comes down to. How much is Haren worth to Robert?

If there are a lot of pitchers in the auction, and Haren is more likely to go for less than $31, then Haren should get thrown back. If Haren is going to go for $35-37 - for whatever reason - then Robert should either keep Haren if he's essential to his strategy or come up with a strategy that optimizes the $25 he would have spent on Haren elsewhere.

1 comment:

Eugene Freedman said...

Sometimes you have to consider microvalues when you decide to pay more than par value for players. This really only applies to a few categories (those that are highly concentrated like saves and steals). If almost all of the SB are projected to be kept and you've got a top SB player above par, he may be worth keeping if it makes you competitive in SB, whereas without him the other steals on your roster become valueless.

For example, you're playing AL only and all of the players over 20 SB are projected to be kept. You have Brian Roberts under your control at a good price and no one else with the chance of more than 10 bags. You have Gomez at $29. You have him at $20 with 25% inflation. Par would be $25. Why would you pay $4 above par for a player who is likely to be a drag on another category- batting average? Because with him, Roberts' steals are leveraged and you can get close to 80 steals from two players. Without him, you probably have only about 65-75 steals from your whole team, meaning only 1-3 points in the category. Gomez himself is gets you to 100-110 SB, something like 8-11 points. That $4 above par is worth around 7 points and prevents you from eating up all of Roberts' steal value for perhaps no added points.