Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sportsline A.L. Team Review: Baseball HQ

In addition to my own auction, there was plenty of praise for Tom Kephart of Baseball HQ's CBS Sportsline expert auction performance.
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?
I don't know Tom (he seems nice enough from the brief on-line chats we had during the auction), but I suspect that like me he had a reasonable list of bids, thought that the prices on the first 78 players were unreasonable, and waited until things flattened out to make his move.

Round by Round Salary vs. Value:
CBS Sportsline A.L. 2008

Since there are 12 teams in Sportsline, each round consists of 12 players. You can make the argument that Kephart should have started buying players in Round 6, but generally speaking he was wise to let players slip past in the first five rounds. $180 in losses are accrued according to my bid limits, or an unbelievable $3 per player. This doesn't even take into account the anomaly of players 1-5 all going for par with the exception of Frank Francisco - who went $1 below my bid limit. From the 6th player called out to the 60th, the average player here lost $3.30.

I imagine some owners get nervous by this point about not spending their money if they sit for too long without buying a player, but I've always said that the bargains will come if you're patient. And the bargains did come for Kephart - although he did float around at par for awhile from players 79-90. Jacobs was the first big bargain on my sheet, going for $4 below my par price.

It's entirely possible, of course, that Kephart had different prices on his sheet than I had on which case, he thought he was snagging some bargains.

The larger point, though, is that Tom and I had similar approaches. I wasn't going to overspend early just because players were overpriced early. I didn't wait as long as Tom, but that's because some of the guys that fell in to me fell in at prices that I liked.

I also imagine I had some pitchers at higher prices on my sheet than Tom had on his. He spent $55 on his pitching staff. I like his Greinke/Baker combo at $32, but after that there's a lot of upside but also a lot of risk. He needs two of his low end starters and one of his relievers to pan out to win.

But like many of my readers, I like Tom's auction a lot. He kept his wits, didn't deviate from his prices (I don't think), and came out with a competitive team according to the Patton projections. I tend to agree, and think that he'll be in the fight for this league come September.


NSH said...

This is interesting stuff, makes me wonder how to apply, maybe, in a keeper league draft. In other words, is there a point in a keeper draft with, say, 15% inflation, that inflation deflates to a point that it becomes optimal to begin buying? Like it seesm may be the case in a non-keeper league looking at the chart? I have long thought that inflation does not ever go away in a keeper league draft, just that at some point if owners have paid inflated prices, all will then get "bargains" in what becomes an extended end game. But maybe somewhere around round 6, after waiting to buy, could then grab lots of value (even paying inflated prices, but not buying so much loss) in effect reducing the free value that might have been available at an extended end game?

Eugene Freedman said...

My experience in keeper leagues is that inflation is normally distributed throughout the auction, but disproportionally distributed to the top players and the scarcer statistics.

In more established leagues where most of the owners are in Stage 3, there are few over bids. Granted everyone has their own prices and sometimes one owner loves a player while most just like the guy or are neutral. But, bids are usually done marginally when one anticipates the market value, rather than by jumping, so the relative overbid versus my prices might be a few dollars, never $10.

With less experienced owners, and especially those less experienced in an auction, the bidding might include serious jumps and vastly different player valuation leading to a tipping point scenario. Just put on your Stage 2 hat and sit back and relax while people blow through their cash if that's the case.

Tom Kephart said...


Thanks for pointing me toward your blog last week. I have enjoyed the posts and animated discussion here regarding the AL Sportsline Analysts League Roto Auction Draft.

Since there have been some questions regarding my strategy in this draft, I thought I would provide a bit of illumination for you and your readers.

I was following a two-pronged approach to the draft, combining elements of two Baseball HQ Shandler-initiated strategies, without completely strict adherence to those strategies. I was using a modified-LIMA (Low Investment Mound Aces) and modified "Portfolio 3" approach.

First, I was going to field a LIMA-based pitching staff in the sense of seeking skills rather than roles, and thereby avoid chasing Wins or concerning with projected Wins for any particular pitcher. Where I depart from the traditional LIMA strategy that Ron Shandler first introduced a decade ago is in not focusing on Saves per se. Experienced players are, I am sure, quite familiar with LIMA or variations of LIMA, though there is often some confusion regarding its principles.

LIMA focuses on targeting pitching skills, with three major filters. The projection filters are as follows:
K/9 IP=6.0 or more
K/BB =2.0 or more
HR/9 IP=1.0 or less

I am not going to get too deep into the reasoning behind these filters though they should be self-evident to longtime Roto players, or to explain the slight modifications I make in great detail, other than to mention that relaxation of any one filter component requires tightening of the other two filters. For example, I might be willing to roster a pitcher projected to allow HR at a rate higher than 1.0 per 9 IP provided he meets more stringent filters I apply on K's per 9 and K/BB ratio.

Having mentioned the LIMA plan, I felt obligated to explain it since there seems to be extensive confusion among non-Baseball HQ people in the industry. The essential motivation for using these filters to identify skilled pitchers is to be able to field a sufficiently competitive pitching staff that the $260 available at auction can be allocated in a roughly $200/$60 hitting/pitching split so that dominant hitting can be rostered. I tend to use the $200/$60 as a guideline rather than an absolute target. I typically shoot for allocating 75-80% on hitting, with 20-25% allocated to pitching. I wound up spending 21% or $55 on pitching, $204 on hitting with a dollar unspent. I would have been willing to spend as much as 25% on pitching provided I got deals I liked on skilled pitchers while rostering dominant hitting. 25% would have had me at a $195-$65 breakdown.

Essentially this strategy allowed me to indeed roster dominant hitting, as I left the auction with 59 of 60 possible projected hitting points, using Baseball HQ player projections. The only offensive category where I am not projected first is SB, where Greg Ambrosious of the NFBC, who in my opinion has the league's most balanced team, is projected to edge me out by one SB. I am projected to finish with 100 more AB than any other team, with at least 400 more AB than all but one other team because I was able to roster starting players at every position, with the possible exception of my MI slot where M.Izturis may be part-time. I am projected to win HR by 12, RBI by 71 and Runs by 80 above the league thanks to this AB advantage. In fact there is only one other team projected to be within 50 HR, 110 Runs or 170 RBI of me. Had it not been for the hitting-oriented approach followed by the Crucial team, I would have dramatic overkill here and would have spent for another proven Starting pitcher. That team is projected second in HR, RBI and Runs and is also the only team projected to even remotely challenge me in Batting Average. So if I don't have enough pitching it's partially because he was building such a strong hitting team.

As mentioned earlier, I also used a modified "Portfolio 3" strategy. Portfolio 3 is a more recent Shandler innovation introduced in 2007 as a means of reducing risk. Portfolio 3 provides for drafting players who meet various skill filters and particular "reliability" filters. The idea is to target players, especially when drafting hitters, who are durable, consistent producers assured of playing time. The hitting skill filters have the effect of targeting hitters with better than league-average power and/or speed who figure not to pose batting average liabilities.

From that point, it's a matter of avoiding dramatically over-spending for any particular player. The only player I rostered in this draft who is salaried higher than at a level higher than the HQ projected value is Zach Greinke, who we project at $19, but who I paid $20 for as a "must-get" at that point in the auction. I should have kept bidding on Ervin Santana as Mike got a real nice deal on him, several dollars below our projection. However, Santana came up rather early in the auction and I had originally been targeting either Shields or F.Hernandez at the $21-22 level. I basically fell asleep on Santana, though I think Mike would have gotten him anyway, just at a higher salary had I continued to bid.

I also wound up regretting not continuing to bid on Fuentes, who went for the best deal among solid closers, and Felix Hernandez who went for a buck less than our projection. When I let Hernandez go, I was hoping to get James Shields, but Shields went for more than I expected. That is how I wound up having to go the extra dollar or two for Greinke. Scott Baker, conversely, wound up being a steal as I rostered him for $5 less than we are projecting.

I've basically outlined the essentials of my strategy here, with some mentions of my regrets. Basically Mike and I had somewhat similar approaches of not overbidding for players generally. That approach wound up in him rostering quite a few pitchers early, while it resulted in me having several OF fall into my lap for good values. If you follow the sequencing of the draft, you will notice that five of the first six hitting slots I filled were the 5 OF positions. I have no idea why there were such nice deals available on these OF, but they were there.

Hope that answers some of the questions readers had regarding my strategy and approach.