What kind of information would you want to know about your opponents?
This is a question I seldom if ever address in this space. Most of what I've written over the years has focused on what you can do to improve your level of play. For the most part, I believe this course of action is correct. Nearly everything your opponents do is outside your realm of control. To take this a step further, obsessing over what your opponents are doing will probably damage your own chances of winning, particularly during the auction.
All of this being said, there are certain areas where competitive intelligence can be helpful. While you don't want to lean too heavily on the advice below, here are a few ways that you can scout your opponents to gain an edge:
For years, I've been keeping what I call a round-by-round record of my home league auctions. This list tracks:
- The team that nominated the player
- My raw bid
- My inflation bid
- The actual auction price
- Who bought the player
- Who had the next-to-last bid on the player
These data give me a pretty decent picture of what my opponents' auction tendencies are. There is an owner in my league who almost always goes Stars and Scrubs. If he has money, I know I can probably relax in the first round and let him bid the big names up. Another owner philosophically likes to have strong players at catcher and middle infield. If he needs to fill those slots, I know I had better add a dollar or two up to certain players in the middle if I have a need as well. Another owner absolutely has to compete in saves every year and will spend whatever it takes to get a closer. This tells me that there will be $15-20 extra in the auction to spend and I might get a bargain later. Knowing these tendencies makes my Auction Day a little easier and a little more successful. If you have the time to do it, track your auction round-by-round...and study it later. You won't be sorry.
Every owner has different ideas about the best way to build his team. Some owners refuse to dump categories no matter what. Other owners will never pay for saves under any circumstances. Some owners like to build teams centered around power hitters and worry about everything else later. Other owners will push to buy an ace pitcher at any cost.
If you are familiar with these tendencies, you can use them to your advantage both at your auction and in trades. If you know someone absolutely has to have an ace starting pitcher, you can either stick him at the auction or buy an ace and hold up him later on in trade. Knowing that someone is closer averse means that you can shave a few dollars here and there off of closers and more smartly budget. Some owners play the way I do and are Rotisserie chameleons: adjusting their strategy from season to season and based on their roster. But some owners play almost the same way every year. Use this information to your advantage.
In keeper leagues, there are owners who will hold on to their future prospects for dear life. Some owners will only make dump deals in-season, while others are willing to make category-for-category trades. Some owners won't make fair value trades for pitching because they don't trust pitching. Some owners don't trade that much at all.
There are too many examples to list here, but every league has a cast of characters. Figuring out an owner's trading strengths and weaknesses is probably one of the biggest things you can do work the angles against other owners. It's also worth knowing these things so you can save time and/or shop an offer around to get maximum value. When I'm looking to make a certain type of deal, at this point I know exactly where to go, what to ask, and how to approach my potential trading partner.
There's a lot more to this, but hopefully you get the general idea. There is a lot of information to mine about your competitors. As I said at the beginning, you don't want to go overboard with this type of analysis, but you do want to be aware of these tendencies before you step into the fantasy ring.