I had the pleasure of heading up to New York this weekend with Mike for the Tout Wars weekend of auctions. It is a shame that the auction is not open to the public, because it is something all serious fantasy baseball players should experience (I wonder if there are thoughts of putting the auction on video in addition to the radio, since having a live audience is really impractical). While Mike and I skipped the American League auction on Saturday morning (thanks, in part, to Foley's New York), we did attend and observe the Mixed League auction on Saturday afternoon. And while Mike auctioned in the National League auction on Sunday morning, I ran the live spreadsheet. Talk about a quality seat - sitting at the head of the table, able to watch everyone in the room (except Scott Wilderman and Brian Walton, who were sitting behind me). Because I had that great seat in the National League, and since I spent a lot of time with the Tout group, I wanted to share some thoughts and observations.
We sometimes (well, lots of times) question prices in expert auctions: Why did this guy go so low? Why did this guy get overpaid? Why did no one push "X" player? I have one hypothesis: pace of the auction. The National League auction took approximately 4 hours and 13 minutes, with two 10-15 minute breaks. The Mixed League took 4 hours and 15 minutes. The American League took about 4 hours and 10 minutes. Without getting into all of the math, let's just say that this is over a player per minute, about 10 minutes per round. If we ran our home keeper leagues at that pace, we would lose a couple of guys to heart attacks, though there would be more time for adult beverage at the conclusion.
So why does pace matter? Mike put it best in a conversation after the auction about Ubaldo Jimenez. Mike thought that Chris Liss would be pushing him on Jimenez, and it looked like Chris wanted to say $23. The pace of the auction, however, seemed to have an effect; Chris said nothing and Mike got Jimenez at $22. At a slower pace, with another moment to scan the sheet or give due consideration, Liss may say $23 and then Mike is forced to make a decision. I think this accounts for less pushing on players (particularly at the top), and more racing to the tout's "number."
2. Stage Three Variety Show.
I am always curious to read the write-ups of the respective auctions, even before Mike and I do our own analysis. Having sat in the room, the summations/wrap-ups are even more interesting, as I got to sit and watch the respective auctions go down. We talk quite a bit about how we are mired in Stage 3. Despite this, it seems many touts bring a different pricing scheme to the table. Moreover, the touts that are not merely attempting value auctions control their strategies via splits. I will talk more about splits in another post for Tout (following up on my previous splits posts), but, as an example, Rotoman spent $94 on his pitching in National League Tout, and Tristan Cockcroft spent $111. Whether by design or by reaction to that spending, Larry Melnick/Paul Greco spent $204 on hitting along with Phil Hertz. Some touts slot particular dollar values for positions ($25 for OF 1; $16 for OF 2; etc.). Others come in with a list of players and bid accordingly...that is a feel that I just do not have...yet.
No one strategy is better or worse than another. This is where we are at, though: strategy; pricing preference; and a little bit of luck.
3. What Do The Prices Mean?
This question arises time and time again. The reality is this: every league is different. In the context of a fresh National League 5x5, the Tout Wars bids are pretty solid and contain lessons for everyone. As usual, Tout did not spend enough money on the top players, and there was a ton of money left late: Infante, Morse and others can be explained, in part, by this. This does not mean you should throw the bids away; put them with your bids and compare...a good gut check for your own list. I think it is also compelling to look at the player preferences expressed toward the endgame.
Mike and I will be writing a little bit about this later in the week, but some of these lessons are: do not get caught with too much money late; make sure you spend money up front; adjust on the fly if need be; etc.
I hope this gives you all a little insight into the room and what I saw just sitting back and watching. As we move forward with some analysis of the three leagues, we'll explore some of these themes, particularly with pricing and strategy, in more depth.
These are just a few observations from the room; more will follow as we talk about some of the oddities, strategies and pricing schemes as the week goes on. If you have any specific questions about the room in general, or the touts, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message on Twitter at @TozRotoThink.