Friday, March 06, 2009

Deciding What to Pay for a Player - Freeze Leagues

In my last post, I wrote specifically about my process to prepare for the Sportsline A.L.-only analysts league auction. But since that league is a start-over league every year, that information doesn't help much if you're in a keeper league, which I suspect the majority of my readers are.

Frank had more questions about assigning player values, which is good, since it will move the dialogue toward not only player valuation, but valuation in freeze leagues.
if I understand correctly, in a keeper league auction, each player has three prices:

1. Raw bid price is the price you assign to a player based on your estimate of what he is likely to produce statistically in the coming season.

2. Inflation or par price is an objective number derived at by multiplying the raw bid price by your league's inflation rate.

3. The price you'll actually pay for a player depends on a variety of circumstances particular to your team and league.
#2 and #3 are correct. You can make a case for separating inflation for hitters versus pitchers depending upon your league, but your league's total inflation prices should equal the amount of money left to spend in your auction. #3 is also generally correct, but I try to keep my prices as close to my inflation par price as possible if I'm playing it straight and not dumping any categories. More on this later.

I should also add that I use the term "raw" bid price for the player's "pure", uninflated price. This might sound like an extremely minor quibble, but you'll see why this is important later.

Frank's first point, though, is mostly accurate but needs further clarification. I talked about this in my last post, but the adjustments I make on bid prices are influenced by a number of factors that go beyond a mere estimate of what I believe a player will produce. To use Frank's terminology, you could look at the projection as the "raw" estimate of what a player might do, while the bid limit attempts to determine how much more or less you should pay for that player based on a number of factors.

Frank continues:
I suppose I had been combining prices 2 and 3 in my own mind when setting my bid limits. If I thought Player A was worth $20, and my league's inflation rate was 10%, then Player A's par price would be $22.

But if I knew that I wasn't going to bid past $20 for Player A, then I would adjust his inflation price (which was also my bid limit) down to $20 and reassign that extra $2 to another player.

Now I think I understand that by doing this, I set myself up to bid to "par" on each and every player. I run the risk of overspending early and not maximizing value.
Now this is where things can get a little thorny.

There are two possible reasons that you wouldn't bid past $20 for Player A:
  • Player A provides a good deal of his value in a category where you're already strong. Alex Patton's raw bid limit on Trevor Hoffman is $20. You believe this bid is sensible...but you already have Jonathan Broxton and Carlos Marmol locked up cheap. Unless Hoffman slips to $10 or some similarly silly price, you're not going to bid.
  • You don't like Player A and the idea of owning him at $22 gives you the willies. In this case, you should have made your adjustment on your raw bid prices. Using Frank's example, Player A's raw, uninflated price should be $18, which would make his inflation price $20.
The second problem is easy enough to fix: go back and change your bid limit. If you don't want to pay $22 for Player A with 10% inflation, chances are you don't think he's really worth $20 without inflation. Just make sure to add $2 to another player's uninflated price - or $1 to two other players - so that your league budget matches $3120 or $3380 or whatever your league budget is.

The first problem is a greater dilemma than you might think, and one that isn't solved as easily by applying simple addition and subtraction.

For example, if I absolutely have to have a speed guy and I'm determined to overpay to get one, I'll still come up with a raw bid limit assuming the player's neutral value if I'm simply auctioning straight. If my pre-inflation price on Carl Crawford is $35, then his inflation price is $39 if inflation is 10%. I might make a notation next to Crawford that I'll go as high as $45, but I'll leave the raw bid at $35 and the inflation bid at $39.

There are two reasons for this.

I use bid limits as a rough estimate of how I see each team in my leagues before, during, and after the auction. I do plug the projections in the Patton software and look at how each team stacks up statistically, but since projections have a lot of variability, I like to use the bid limits as a rough guide of how much value each team has.

In other words, I might decide that I want to pay $45 for Crawford but I want to know how much of an actual loss I'm taking on Crawford once I've made that decision. Creating artificial pre- and post-inflation bids deludes me into thinking my team is going to be better than it actually is.

Second, I'm bidding against 11 other owners. I have to assume that their prices are aligned with they think each player is worth, and not with my arbitrary value on Crawford just because I need speed guy.

This reality check is important. If I place raw bids out there that read Crawford $41, Ichiro Suzuki $40, Chone Figgins $30, and Jason Bartlett $17, I'm taking that pre-inflation money away from everyone else. There's a good chance I'm going to wind up with all four of those players - and not enough of anything else in any of the other seven categories I need to win.

To summarize, I recommend calculating your baseline bids independently of what your team's need are first, calculating your inflation values next, and then doing a gut check on these prices based on what you think that player is worth independently of what your team needs or doesn't need. After that, you can come up with a second price that tells you what you're absolutely willing to pay on that player. This method will ensure that you realistically value players, and don't get caught stocking up too much in one category - or devaluing another category or categories entirely.


Frank said...

"...I'm bidding against 11 other owners. I have to assume that their prices are aligned with they think each player is worth, and not with my arbitrary value on Crawford just because I need speed guy."

I think this has been my undoing in auctions. By incorporating my team's needs into my bid prices, I may have overvalued certain players who satisfied those needs and undervalued others who didn't.

Thanks for your work on this topic.

Toz said...

Frank...never is a mistake I still make from time to time. Category dumping is the area where this is certainly true. I will actually make the changes on my bid limits, rather than make the price notation as Mike does, next to his player. This does skew my perception of my team and my perception of a player's "value" during the auction.