Monday, February 16, 2009

Dustin Pedroia for $40?

Anonymous wants to know how some of the prices in the CBS Sportsline expert auction were humanly possible:
I'd be curious to hear your comments on the bidding - bottom line for me, it's like nothing you would ever see in a "real" fantasy league. The big stars went for way too much e.g. A-Rod & Sizemore at $50+, Crawford, Hamilton, Longoria at $40+ etc. It resulted in solid, middle tier players going for ridiculously low prices e.g. Bartlett at $3, Rolen & Ellis at $2, (and) Byrd & Owens at $1. What gives?
I agree with you that this isn't representative of a "real" Rotisserie league. Why this is the case isn't so clear cut or as simple as saying that the owners in this league aren't good owners.

Prior to LABR, Baseball Weekly presented the results of mock auctions for both the American League and National League...way back in 1993. There were no experts affiliated with the teams; each team was simply listed in order of the players purchased.

I had only been playing Rotisserie for five years at this point and - truth be told - 1992 was my first year in a seriously competitive league where I wasn't just cleaning everyone's clock. But it was obvious to me that this wasn't a serious league. This was a group of 12 people who were knowledgeable about baseball but not necessarily about Rotisserie League Baseball getting together and doing their best to muddle through an auction-style format.

The Sportsline leagues are like this to a degree. To be certain, there are owners like Greg Ambrosius, who has been in LABR since the beginning and is certainly comfortable with the auction format, or Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus, who most definitely knows what he's doing, or Tom Kephart of Baseball HQ, who was complimented (and rightfully so) in the comments section of this blog. There are others, too, who clearly know what they're doing, have experience in auction format leagues, and are proven Rotisserie players. (I am not here to praise or bury anyone's Rotisserie skills.)

However, there are clearly owners in this league who are baseball experts but not necessarily Rotisserie experts. The Sportsline expert leagues have been around for six years but this is the second year that it has been an auction and not a draft. Both this year and in 2008, the league has behaved like a Stage One league (a description of the "stages" of Rotisserie Baseball can be found here.) with a handful of Stage Two exceptions.

As a result, the best players get chased to prices that exceed their worth a good deal. The room has to run out of money and does, and the result is an elongated crapshoot where players like Mark Ellis, Ben Francisco, and Jason Bartlett fall in at prices well below what they "should" be paid at auction.

One intriguing element of all of this is that this isn't a true Stage One auction insofar as Stage One owners were dummies (meaning that we all were dummies when we started playing this game) and this is not a room full of dummies. These people all know baseball, and are not paying ludicrious prices for Ryan Braun, Grady Sizemore, Alex Rodriguez, and David Wright because they don't know who Mark Ellis is. Forget Mark Ellis; most of them probably know more about Cliff Pennington than I do.

A lot of these players are spending this kind of money because they're new to Roto, and haven't spent years making the mistakes that we've made, learning by trial and error, running numbers through a spreadsheet over and over and over again until they look right, or walking into a bookstore and discovering a book by Alex Patton that changes the way you see the game.

That last point is more vital than you might think.

The journey from Stage One to Stage Two to Stage Three is invisible now. We old hands still follow the trail and look for the breadcrumbs that might lead us to Stage Four, but newer owners don't have to bother, since most of the content now available is on the Internet, free, and ubiquitous.

It's also
mostly aimed at mixed league players and is not format-specific.

The Internet is one of the greatest inventions when it comes to Rotisserie - and so many words have been spilled on this topic that I'm not going to waste any more of them. But a lesser discussed phenomenon is that the Internet is also one of the worst inventions when it comes to Rotisserie, at least as far as building upon knowledge and prior experience is concerned.

The seminal work that Alex used to do through his books - and that I attempt to do half as well through this blog - has disappeared from the Internet, unless it's behind a pay wall. Sabermetric study and research has taken off, been built upon and expanded over time, but this kind of work has been lost when it comes to Rotisserie.

All that matters is what we see in front of us today: the next draft, the next big trade, the title and money we can win this year. This is certainly important - and I'd say there's nothing that's more important - but focusing on this alone diffuses from the learning curve that used to exist when it comes to this game.

The result is that I don't know if we're going to see the evolution in the Sportsline expert leagues that you would have seen 10-15 years ago in a Stage One league. In fact, this might be the beginning of a new trend in newer Rotisserie leagues. Don't be surprised; CBS Sportsline has more of an audience than Alex Patton does, and owners who play Roto are more likely to get their advice from there than they are from Alex. Or from here.


Frank said...


I, for one, am happy to leave CBS Sportsline to the Roto masses and get my advice here (though I check what's being written there in order to understand what the masses are thinking). I did a lot of traveling this weekend and used it as an opportunity to catch up on the past month's worth of posts and comments. There has been a great deal of insightful writing, and I'm glad to have discovered RTT as a resource.

I also spent some time reviewing the AL auction results and offer the following initial observations and questions (in no particular order):

*Congrats on landing Abreu for your target price of $25. Your winning bid of $17 for Aviles seems like a bit of a reach to me, though, and exceeded your $12-$13 target price. Did this have to do with scarcity at that point in the auction?

*Peter Madden (CBSSports) took Kerry Wood, Jon Papelbon, Joey Devine, and no pitchers that are locks for their teams' starting rotations. Does this league have no minimum number of innings pitched?

*Dan Wheeler was the final player to sell for more than $1. Fifty four players were subsequently acquired for a minimum bid because, I presume, no one was in a position to spend more than a buck per player. I've never been in an auction that, for all intents and purposes, turned into a draft so soon. I'm surprised that none of the owners decided to save money for the end game.

*Detroit Tigers seem to have been discounted (no doubt because they burned their fans and owners last year). Bonderman $5, Granderson $28, Sheffield $2, Verlander $16 (he went for $28 last year), and even Miguel Cabrera $40 (he went for $46 in '08) attracted less interest this year. Nate Robertson didn't even garner a bid. Last year's expectations may have been misplaced, but there's bound to be an undevalued Bengal somewhere in the bunch this year.

*Tom Kephart (Baseball HQ) won the bidding for Alex Rios -- the first player nominated -- then seemed to disappear before winning 8 more players among the 18 nominated 79th through 96th. Can you offer any insight into his approach?

*You clearly took a different approach this year compared to last when, I believe, you went heavy on hitting and cheap on pitching. I presume this was intentional and not the result of what was going on in this year's auction. Perhaps you will share the thinking behind this strategy with us. I recall you got burned by Bedard last year. Your staff is so strong this year that, even if one arm flops, you will still have a great staff. You had to take some risks on offense, though, in order to afford those pitchers. You got two great catchers but seem particularly weak at the infield corners.

*Eric Mack (CBSSports) seemed to take the opposite approach. He spent big for Teixeira and Morneau, then settled for $15 starters as opposed to your $20 aces. He ended up having to gamble on unsigned free agents in order to make the dollars work. It'll be interesting to see how the two of you fare relative to one another.

*You did a nice job in the end game. Corcoran and Batista? Were you hoping to bag Seattle's closer?

Best of luck this year!


Eric said...

You explanation makes a lot of sense. CBSports calling it an "expert" league doesn't jibe with your explanation.

It is the "expert" tag that throws the entire thing off IMO. One wouldn't expect non-keeper leagues to see long-time keeper league draft values.

Eugene Freedman said...


I argued the same thing last year, both here and on Alex's pages. Some of these people are Rotisserie experts. Others are guys who write about baseball for a living. That may or may not make them experts on baseball. I'll let you judge that based upon their actual writing.

Eugene Freedman said...

Another point. Mike did a very good write up on this topic.

I corresponded with Ron Shandler a little over a year ago. One of the things that struck me was that he also believes that some of the touts goal is not necessarily to win these leagues. It's to get certain players- so they can tout that they were the one who bought player x because that's who they're selling in their mag or website. Of course in Rotisserie it all comes down to profit and loss based upon the prices of the players. So, if you're selling get Grady Sizemore this year, you get him. But, if he's worth $40 and you pay $51, you lost $11 that you have to make up elsewhere. But, if you don't you're not selling a strategy or a way to win, you're selling an opinion on players.

IMHO said...


That doesn't surprise me as many of these "mainstream" expert leagues seem more focused on business relationships than on a seriousness many of the fantasy hoard want.

Fortunately, there is some career opportunity in fantasy sports. However, the "expertness" of many of the participants seems to be a result of factors other than knowledge of fantasy gaming.