Showing posts with label keeper leagues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label keeper leagues. Show all posts

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I heartily concur with Pauly's Picks this week, but there are a few other players I'm looking at as potential free agent pickups, so in the spirit of sharing, here they are:

Jamey Wright - Depending upon the structure of your league and how liberal the free agent policy is, Wright may be worth a bid. In my 15-team mixed, we have a $100 FAAB, and we use the Vickrey auction format, which makes a modest bid a decent play. As of this writing, Eric Wedge says he is sticking with League, but that could easily change. There looks to be a decent chance that Aardsma will not be back at all, which makes Wright even more attractive.

Marc Rzepczynski - I think this guy is a good play in deep "only" leagues, regardless of whether they are keeper leagues or redraft leagues. He has been pitching very well in relief, and I suspect he will wind up in the rotation by the end of the year. I even like him in mixed keeper leagues, where he can probably be picked up for a couple of bucks and could be a potential freeze for 2012.

Laynce Nix, Endy Chavez - These guys have been sitting on waiver wires and free agency lists in many leagues, and there is a chance they can provide you some short term help. Nix should get plenty of at bats for the Nats, at least for a while, and he has been displaying good power and hitting for a good average so far. As for Chavez, many have forgotten he's still in baseball. He's a little long in the tooth, but still has some wheels. The Rangers look like a MASH unit, so Endy should get a good bit of PT and may swipe a few bags for you. Just don't break the piggy bank to grab him.

Louis Coleman - I know that Soria has been one of the safest bets around for the last few seasons, but I like this guy and would not be surprised to see him get a few more save opportunities, despite what management is saying.

Will Rhymes - A terrible start got him sent down, but if your league lets you FAAB guys in the minors, he's not a bad gamble in an "only" league if you have a place to stash him. The guy has absolutely no pop, but he has a good eye and some speed. He could be back up with the big club before long.

So, just a few nuggets. I'll probably be throwing a few ducats at some of these guys myself before the weekend is over.

Good luck and have fun!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Draft Inflation is one of the least understood concepts in all of fantasy baseball. Some people try to ignore it, which is about as practical as ignoring do so at your own peril.

A fantasy auction is not, as some claim, an example of a free market. Demand is fixed. We can have no more than five outfielders or two catchers (without using the UT slot). On the other hand, we must have no fewer than five outfielders and two catchers. Supply is the AL, we have 25 players each on 14 teams to choose from. Most importantly, the amount we spend is fixed. No matter what, we all have the same amount of money. But even though supply, demand and funds are finite and predetermined, the possible scenarios are practically limitless, more so in a keeper league.

I have heard owners say things like “Boy, the price for speed was inflated today”, or “Rangers will have inflated salaries since the auction is in Dallas”. I even heard one owner in a redraft league talking about what he expected the inflation rate to be in his auction. But, the cost of a single category cannot be inflated, nor can the salaries of a certain team be inflated. And pre-auction inflation cannot exist in a non-keeper league. What these owners were talking about were league preferences or tendencies. Your league may pay a lot for ace starters, or the top closers, or the speedsters, or whatever commodity is in the shortest supply. Every league is different. But when it comes to inflation, all keeper leagues are alike in the important particulars.

Inflation is a function of the value (projected) of the players frozen and the cost (actual salary) of those players. These two factors determine how much money will be chasing how much value in the auction. Assuming the value of the players kept is, in the aggregate, greater than their cost, inflation results.

Inflation should always be calculated as part of preparation for an auction in a keeper league. Calculated, not estimated or guessed. You can calculate it with reasonable accuracy even before the freeze date, provided you can fairly well project what the other owners’ freeze lists will look like. (And yes, projecting all the other freeze lists can be valuable part of auction preparation.)

It is simply calculated. Let’s use a mixed league example. A 15-team $260 mixed league has $3900 in salary dollars to spend. The non-inflated value of the 345 players frozen and to be purchased in a mixed league auction is also $3900. (This is a tenet of fantasy baseball...that the value of the players selected equals the total of dollars to be spent. I can go into this more deeply, but for now let’s just assume it is true.) For purposes of this example, let’s say the total projected value of all keepers in the league is $2060, and that the total salary dedicated to those keepers is $1363. To calculate a league’s inflation rate, you first subtract the total projected value of the keepers from the total value of the player pool, which gives you $1840. Then you take the actual cost of the players kept, and subtract this sum from the total league salary, which gives you the sum of $2537. So, you have $2537 auction dollars chasing $1840 worth of non-inflated auction value. This difference is what drives the price of players upward. Divide the auction dollars by the auction talent ($2537 divided by $1840), and you get 1.379. That means the league inflation is 37.9%.

Every player’s projected auction value must be increased to account for a this inflation rate. A $45 Crawford becomes a $63 Crawford. The $20 player now becomes a $28 player. A $1 player remains $1. The reason this player is a $1 to begin with is that only one person is able or willing to spend a dollar on him.

So, what do you do about inflation? Some owners may decide not to pay the inflated prices demanded by the auction. These owners will not get any of the best players. Eventually, they either give in and pay the inflated price, or they will wind up at the end of the auction with a large amount of money and little or nothing to spend it on.

As mentioned in a previous article, the object is not to come out of the auction with a team worth $260. The object is to come out of the auction with a team which will make a profit. But each dollar you spend on a player above his projected value reduces the overall value of your team. If you have $60 salary tied up in your keepers, have $200 to spend at the auction, and the inflation rate is 25%, then you should get only $160 in value for your money due to inflation. This would knock a big hole in the profits you have in your keepers. (The math on this threw me for awhile. I kept getting $150. But you’re not discounting $200 in salary by 25%. You are increasing the cost of $160 worth of players by 25%. It works. You can try it yourself.)

Keepers create profit. Inflation takes it away.

The task then becomes finding a way to counteract this phenomenon, or as the lapel buttons during the Gerald Ford administration said, “WIN" for "Whip Inflation Now”. This can be done, so long as you have a solid handle on player values and have calculated inflation accurately. But you have to be confident of your calculations in this regard.

Here are some things you can do, which will depend in part upon the knowledge and tendencies of the other owners in your league. These tips or strategy are designed primarily for leagues with very high inflation, which I consider to be 40% or higher.

In many auctions, the first people thrown are the biggest stars. I fully expect Albert Pujols to be nominated first in my mixed league auction this Saturday. Sometimes owners are hesitant to bid big on the first few players. They may be unwilling to bid the full inflated value on these early players. (They may decide that they want to wait “until the inflation goes down”.) But if your calculations show the inflated value of Hanley Ramirez to be $53, and he’s going once, going twice for $42, you have a chance to step up and get a substantial bargain. His non-inflated value might be only $36 in your league, but if you have grabbed him up for $43, you have added profit to your team.

Some leagues are much more savvy to inflation, and will not let those big stars go for less than their inflated values. Instead, these leagues will actually pay more than the inflated values for the big name players. They may believe, as some do, that inflation impacts the highest priced players disproportionately. They may think the key to winning is having big stars regardless of price. Or they may just have a serious desire to roster Albert Pujols. Whatever the reason for this tendency, you can use it to your advantage.

The dynamics of an auction in progress can impact the inflation rate. As mentioned above, the thing to do when the auction starts with owners paying less than the full inflated rate for players, this is the time when you step in and start buying players. The inflation rate will actually under circumstances. However, if owners start off paying more than the inflated value, inflation will begin to decrease. This will eventually yield bargains among the second tier players, as the owners have overspent. Patience is required for this to work, and you have to make certain there adequate value still on the board. Your money will do no good if there are no players to spend it on.

But what an auction in a league where the other owners have calculated inflation and are buying players at or near the inflated value? Finding profit is harder to do in this case. One thing you can do is to nominate a second tier player while there are still more valuable players available at his position. The other owners may not bid as aggressively on this second tier player if they have their eye on one of the higher value players. But, you cannot wait too long; you cannot wait until after all the stars are gone. If you do, you’ll be going up against owners with money who will bid your guy to full inflated value, or more, if position scarcity is a consideration.

You may also have some guys you are sitting on, guys you have picked to outperform what is expected from them. I would recommend sitting on these guys for as long as possible, only throwing them out when necessary. Of course, you may find that some other owner may be sitting on the same guy, in which case you might wind up in a bidding war.

Inflation rates vary from league to league and from year to year, depending upon the quality of keepers frozen. Some leagues have minimal inflation, near 10%, while other leagues may have inflation rates of 40%, 50%, even 75% or higher. Some owners feel that hyper-inflation can detract from the enjoyment of the league, and I have seen that happen. So where does super high inflation come from?

Various factors can contribute to extremely high inflation. There may be a large difference in skill levels among owners, with more resourceful owners picking players in the auction or reserve draft at salaries which make them superb keepers. It may be that the league has a keeper policy that is very liberal, such as being able to keep players for lengthy periods with minimal salary increases. Some leagues don’t assign substantial salaries to the players taken in their reserve draft. Some leagues have free agent or waiver procedures that increase the number of top keepers. Some leagues don’t start the contract of minor leaguers to running until they make it to the majors or even until they lose their rookie status.

There are some things you can do in your league if inflation is a concern in these areas. Make all contracts commence running at the time the player is acquired, and limit contracts to three years. If contracts may be extended, they should cost a substantial amount during each year of the extension. Assign substantial salaries to reserve draft rounds, such as $15 for the first round, $10 for the next few rounds, etc. Make the contracts of minor leaguers start running immediately. Require a minimum bid for free agents, such as $5. Don’t allow free agent bidding after the rosters expand in September. (Some of these ideas have been around since the beginnings of leagues with active rosters and large reserve rosters. Whether you utilize them or not can determine in large part what your league’s inflation rate will be. Semi-related note...I read recently of a league which misconstrued the language of their borrowed Constitution, resulting in their belief that a player being traded started a new contract clock. So, owners would wait until the third year of a contract, and then trade that player to another owner for a player in his third year. All the best players in the league had been under cheap contracts for years and years. They didn't understand why they had such massive inflation. They were shocked to learn the reason, and moved quickly to correct that misunderstanding.)

Whether you like it or not, inflation is a part of the game if you play in a keeper league. How you deal with it can determine whether you are a contender or a cellar dweller.

Well, that’s it for this week’s article. I hope it has deepened your appreciation of this topic, or at least has reminded you to be aware of the impact inflation may have in your upcoming auction.

Do you have any stories of crazy inflation in your league, or your own tips for beating auction inflation? Let's hear them in the comments section. I may have a new crazy inflation story or two after this weekend.

Good luck, and have fun!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


This coming weekend marks the deadline for a lot of keeper leagues to turn in their freeze lists. This deadline is often accompanied by a profusion of trade activity, in addition to owner anguish over whether to keep this hitter or that pitcher as the last freeze. Many of these are as simple as knowing and applying your league rules. Let’s review a few important last-minute items which can help you make sure your keeper list is the best it can be.

1. Opening Day Roster Issues. Sounds simple, but many of us play in multiple leagues, all with different rules, and some of us are in new leagues this year. Rules regarding keepers vary significantly from league to league. Here are some things you should consider in making your final freeze list.

a) What if you freeze a player who doesn’t wind up on the Opening Day roster? Some leagues let you cut him. Some make you keep him, charging you with his slot and salary toward your 23/260. Some more liberal leagues allow you to move him to your reserve with no penalty. What does your league do?

b) What if you freeze a player who is seriously hurt between freeze day and Opening Day? Again, leagues differ. Some allow you to cut him. Some allow you to fill the slot with another player, but charge you his salary. There may be other variations. Which approach does your league follow?

2. Freezing minor leaguers. Many leagues have rules which allow you to keep a small number of “minor leaguers” in addition to your frozen active players. Minor leaguers are typically defined in the same manner MLB determines who is eligible for rookie status, namely pitchers who have thrown no more than 50 innings, had no more than 130 at bats, and accumulated no more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club during the period of the 25-player limit (excluding D.L. time and military service). Many leagues also require the player must not have appeared on an active league roster at any time prior. Many questions, however, can arise:

a) Say you have fewer than the maximum number of active roster freezes, plus some minor league freezes. Say further that after the freeze date, one of your minor league freezes makes the big club and is on the opening day roster. What are your options? Some leagues make you, prior to the auction, either activate the player or waive him. If you activate him, his slot and player salary count against your 23/260. Others allow you to leave him on your reserve, with no penalty.

b) Say you have a situation similar to that above, except you have frozen the maximum number of active roster freezes. Then one of your minor leaguers makes the OD roster. What are your options? Some leagues hold that since you cannot have over the maximum number of active freezes, you must either waive the minor league freeze, or waive one of your active roster freezes and promote the minor leaguer to the active roster. However, some leagues will simply allow you to leave that minor league freeze on your reserve roster.

3. Aging of contracts. Again, leagues differ on this crucial point. It is generally accepted that the contracts of all roster players, minor leaguers or active players, age each year. However, some leagues do not begin aging minor league contracts until the minor leaguer is activated by his owner or loses minor league status under the MLB rookie rules outlined above. How your league approaches this can be critically important, as it can substantially impact your choices of who to freeze as minor leaguers.

4. Oddball rules. There are some oddball rules around, some of which I add interest to the game. One example is the rule which allows each owner, on the day of the auction, to waive any single player layers from his/her freeze list, without penalty. In other words, if you wind up regretting that freeze of Hanley Ramirez at $57, you can simply drop him back into the pool, adding a roster slot and some serious cash back to your auction arsenal. Other non-standard rules include “topper” rights. If your league uses these, make sure you know how they work and how they can help you best structure your freeze list. Does your league have any unusual rules that can help or hurt you?

5. Freeze deadlines and extensions. All too often I see owners who either do not know or simply forget the deadline for keeper lists. Things can come up at the last minute, but we can plan for contingencies by having our lists as finalized as possible in advance. Personally, I send the commissioner an email a few days before the freeze deadline saying that “subject to last minute changes, these are my freezes”. Should I be unconscious in a ditch, at least I will have submitted my keeper list. When is your league’s freeze date?

Bear in mind that the deadline for submitting keeper lists is usually the deadline for submitting contract extensions. This is sometimes forgotten in the excitement of getting those freezes in. Be aware, or you might find that your cheap superstar is playing out his option year for you when he should have been anchoring your team for at least another couple of years.

(While on the subject of extensions, let me briefly climb upon the soapbox. I think they are overused. Too often, owners fall in love with their players and sign them to huge long-term contracts. In most leagues, the extended contract salary begins immediately. So, that $10 stud you sign for three extra years becomes $25 for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Unless your guy is Babe Ruth reincarnate, hitting and pitching for you, such an extension would likely suck the profit right out of your guy, now and in future years. Plus, depending upon league rules, an extension like this could put you in a serious bind in the event of a sudden lack of effectiveness. I’ve been in leagues where dropping a player with a long-term contract reduced your auction budget by the amount of the contract, a harsh penalty indeed. So, my advice is to make sure you know all the rules on contract extensions, and to use them sparingly, enjoying your profits while you can.)

6. Keep working until the very end. A diligent owner will continue to explore ways to improve his/her freeze list until the last possible opportunity. The keys are hard work and persistence. For example, I start my serious work in January, assessing the player pool, analyzing the other team’s winter rosters, and projecting potential freeze lists for each team. This year, based upon built-in profit expectations, I found my own freeze list to rank well toward the bottom of the league. I had a lot of work to do. Starting in February, I began negotiating and finalizing trades, upgrading players and draft picks whenever possible. I made a total of 15 trades in seven weeks. How can that be done? We all know that different owners view players differently. This means a guy who is not a keeper for you may be just what another owner needs. But you have to get out there and do the legwork. In the old days, you had to negotiate all your trades by telephone. It’s easier today with email and instant messaging.

As a result of all this trading, I now have my maximum ten freezes plus two minor leaguers and some excellent draft picks. Only three of those twelve players were on my roster in January. It is now a team I believe to be much improved, and with a strong auction I should be in a position to contend.

Be persistent. Know what the other owner needs, and show him how the trade helps him. Pick up a better draft pick when you can. If you can avoid it, don’t do anything to strengthen a contender. Keep plugging until the end. My league’s keeper deadline is Friday night. And even though I‘m pretty sure I have my ten keepers, you can bet I‘ll be working the trade routes until the last minute, trying to pick up another draft pick or a better minor leaguer. Whatever the outcome, I‘ll know that I did everything I could to build the core of a competitive team…one that I‘ll have to live with for the next six months.

I hope something in here can help you, either this year or next, as you wind down to the freeze deadline in your keeper league. Not all of these suggestions are easy to follow, but all have been proven to be effective.

And now for something completely different….

DEAD TO ME. I kept seeing articles here and there talking about players who were designated as DTM. I had no idea what that meant. Finally my daughter explained the meaning: Dead To Me. This doesn‘t imply that you wish for harm to befall this person, merely that you finally refuse to acknowledge their very existence. Yet, somehow, you just can’t shake that fascination.

In fantasy baseball, there are a number of players who certainly would fit into that category, from back in the day until the present season. I guess my current King of DTM would have to be my old buddy, Alex Gordon. Truly, the man has been my nemesis for years, my Moriarty. How man times will he have to pull that football away at the last minute before I finally figure this out?

But hey, I hear he looks really good in Spring Training this year….

Want to vent? I’d love to hear from you in the Comments section…who is dead to you? Who are the players you can’t avoid, but who continue to break your heart.

Well, that’s the article for this week. I hope you have enjoyed it, and hope that you enjoy the site. Jon puts an awful lot of work into AFB, so if it adds to your knowledge base or enjoyment of our hobby, be sure to tell your friends about us.

Good luck, and have fun!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


This week I'm offering up an idea to help get those last minute trades rolling, plus a look at how to make your post-auction reserve draft a success.

Tentative Freeze Lists. This is an exercise I always try to initiate in any league I am in, at least two to three weeks before freezes are due. You simply invite every owner to post a non-binding list of his anticipated freezes, and you start off by proposing your own. Most owners will respond favorably to this, even if they are not yet certain as to which players they want to freeze.

The exercise doesn’t always provide a great deal of information. If you’ve done your homework you should have already projected most of the freezes. But frequently an owner will list a keeper you didn't expect, or will indicate an intention to drop a certain player who appeals to you. Accordingly, the exercise can serve some very important interests, and create an opportunity to improve your own keeper list, even if you have already gone through the process of predicting everyone‘s freezes.

One benefit is that it tends to get owners active. Even though you may have been studying in earnest since January, there will be some owners who have given their squads very little attention since the end of the previous season. The idea of submitting a tentative freeze list will often spur these owners to get in gear and analyze their rosters.

Perhaps the most important function of the “tentative freeze list” exercise is that it can dramatically increase trade conversations and opportunities. I believe this adds enjoyment to the league, while giving you a chance to improve your freeze list. Owners may realize an area where they are weak, and look for trades to shore up that area. Owners may indicate that they won’t freeze certain players, giving you the sign that these players are available for the right offer. The mere increase in league activity can lead to trades.

The “tentative freeze list” and the trades that it promotes can allow you to establish better relationships with your fellow owners. This can come in very handy during the season when an opportunity arises for you to help each other by a trade.

In summary, it’s a great gambit…fun for all, educational, and helpful in maximizing your freeze lists going into the auction.

The Reserve Draft. Many leagues have a reserve draft after the primary auction, where owners are allowed to fill their reserve rosters in a round-by-round draft, often in a serpentine format. Some leagues have a small reserve roster, maybe five players, while the “ultra” leagues generally have a minimum of seventeen players on their reserve list. How can you best use this reserve draft to your team’s advantage?

Players picked in reserve drafts usually carry the salary of the round in which they are picked. Typically, first round picks have a salary of $15. Rounds 2 through 6 are $10. Rounds 7 through 12 are $5 picks. Rounds 13 to 17 are $2 rounds, but they still hold some treasures if you look closely enough.

My belief is that you should use your first round pick to find someone who can help you right away. Since these players carry a price tag of $15, few owners will use a first round pick to select a minor league prospect. So what should you look for in a first round draft pick?

There are almost always some valuable players who were missed for one reason or another during the auction. If you have kept up carefully with who was taken and not taken in the auction, you’ll have this information at your fingertips. You can sometimes improve your roster substantially, as this overlooked player may be better than one of the players you purchased.

For your picks in rounds 1 through 6, it is a good idea to back up players from your active roster. For example, if you bought Joel Hanrahan as one of your closers in the auction, and Evan Meek is available in Round 2 of the reserve draft, you might do well to add him to your squad. Likewise, if another owner has a shaky closer, you might be wise to use one of these picks to grab the pitcher most likely to pitch the 9th if that closer were to lose his job. Such a player might make a good trading chip, or he might turn into a full time closer.

Rounds 7 through 12 are where you pick up your prize minor leaguers and other prospects with the potential for substantial value in the future. These players will only be $5, so they will start their tenure on your team as a relatively inexpensive commodity. So, grab your favorite minor leaguer here, but know that the other owners will likely have the same game plan.

This is also a good time to pick up an injured player who may miss most or all of the year. You can add that player here without it costing you a roster spot or any budget dollars. Last year, Joe Nathan fit into this category in some leagues. Keep in mind that Round 7 holds the most strategic picks, since this is the first of the $5 rounds and where most owners look for future keepers.

Rounds 13 through 17 can be difficult. Here you can reach way down into the minors and pick up a player with great tools but a long way to go. Often, leagues do not start the clock running on minor leaguer salaries until they are activated, so you may be able to wait a couple of years for these flowers to bloom. In my experience is it noteworthy how many future stars were originally selected as long-shots in rounds 13 through 17.

The reserve draft moves extremely fast. You call a name, you get that player. For this reason, it is absolutely critical that you have a reliable method for keeping up with who was frozen or purchased in the auction, and who is left over for the reserve draft.

Well, that’s this week’s article. If you have any questions about the article, about specific player issues, or just want let me know what you think, please feel free to use the “comments” portion of the page, found below.

Good luck, and have fun!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Keeper Advice By Request


I am in need of deciding who to keep for the upcoming year. I am in a 10 man H2H points based keeper league. Pretty standard league, we start 4sp, utility, C,1b,2b,ss,3b, and 3 OF spots. We keep 6 guys. The players i am considering are Miguel Cabera, Dustin Pedroia, Jose Reyes, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Ryan Howard, Kershaw, Wainwright, and cliff lee. I do not have a rd1 (rd6 in normal drafts) because i delt it to obtain ryan howard. Who should i keep/trade/let go.

I was thinking of keeing, miggy, ped, zimmerman, reyes, braun, cliff lee. Trading howard and wain. However i love kershaw and think hes a future superstar and would love to keep him. I dont know let me know what you think. thanks


Hey Rob,

Apologies for taking so long to get back to you. I just started a new job and I'm still adjusting to it.

You have a loaded to group to choose from, that's always great news. You have tough decisions to make, but I think you have it right.

Miguel Cabrera
is and an easy KEEP. He is one of the top ten players in any league and probably deserves to be top five. He will provide you with huge stats in almost every category. He hits for average, smashes 40 homers a season, and even on the Tigers should be close to the century mark in both runs and RBI.

Ryan Braun is probably the player most analysts would rank second on this list. Unfortunately, Braun has seen his groundball rate drop for two consecutive seasons which has hurt his homerun totals. Still, I'm not ready to dump him. He should be a $30-plus player even if the power stays at its current level. Just be careful not to depend on his former reputation for power. KEEP

Ryan Zimmerman has been underrated in a lot of leagues but is one of the best players in baseball. He's actually better than the more popular David Wright. The Nationals lineup should be improved this season with stronger hitters in the infield and Jayson Werth filling in for Adam Dunn. He's in the prime of his career he could take a nice step up with better players around him. KEEP

Jose Reyes is coming off another injury plagued season. He is likely to be a free agent after the 2011 season which should provide him with some motivation to play at his best. The Mets should be a lot better than most expect. If everyone is healthy (the big question) their lineup should be stacked. All that is good news for Reyes. KEEP

Dustin Pedroia also struggled with injuries but he won't be had for a discount. Hitting second in the stacked lineup in Boston, Pedroia could score 120 runs easy. Even if the sox move him further down in the lineup he should still be extremely productive and one of the better second base options. KEEP

Cliff Lee has been dominate and after signing with the Phillies he will not only be a productive player but an exciting one to own. If you chose to trade him you could probably get whatever you liked right now. KEEP

Clayton Kershaw is awesome. You could easily decide to stick with Kershaw over Cliff Lee. But I think Kershaw was pitching slightly over his head and his control can still stand some improvement. Still I would trade him unless you can get max value for him. I would rather have him back in the draft than take a lesser deal and eliminate your chances of keeping him again. BACK IN THE DRAFT

Ryan Howard
is still a very nice fantasy player. He is extremely streaky and that hurts him sometimes but at the end of every season he is a great asset to a fantasy team. Someone will want him. TRADE

Adam Wainwright
is a great pitcher he just isn't going to bump any of the players in your top six unless there is some reason to believe pitching will be scarce. TRADE

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Five Tips for Keeper League Owners

If you really want to capture the feeling of running a team of your own, you need to be in a keeper league. It truly adds another dimension of fun to fantasy leagues. Obviously, not every league uses the same rules regarding which players and how many can be kept. However, here are Five Tips you can use to dominate your keeper league.

  1. Don't Focus on Just Minor Leaguers - Many owners convince themselves they are running the Pittsburgh Pirates and enter a continual state of re-building. They trade their studs at the end of every season for a collection of minor leaguers and fresh call-ups. In fantasy you can re-build just as well (if not better) with a $8 Aaron Harang (yes, I like him this season) as you can with a $10 Wade Davis.
  2. At Value Players and Minor Bargains Can be the Best Keepers - Your $40 Albert Pujols or $35 Chase Utley is often a much better keeper than your $3 James Loney (I like him too) or your $7 Brian Roberts (one of my favorites). The value of a player is much more important than his price.
  3. Cheap Does Not Equal Keeper - Although we all hope that our one dollar relievers turn into closers and our $2 utility player earns a starting job but it rarely happens that way. Just because that utility guy hit .280 with 8 homeruns in just 200 at-bats does not mean that you should keep him. If at all possible you want to preserve the opportunity to draft a full-time starter in every spot.
  4. Roster Spots are like Gold - I have watched tons of owners treat their Corner Infielder Middle Infielder, and Utility positions as if they were not important. They bid aggressively at the auction and build reputations as tough traders only to waste spots on Geoff Blum (because he inspires poetry), Doug Mientkiewicz (because they like his name) and Eric Gagne (because he used to be your favorite player).
  5. This Season is Most Important - Sure, it is nice to imagine creating a dynasty with your large collection of cheap young players. But if you are considering tossing your $6 Ryan Franklin back into the draft because your think your $5 Chris Perez is the next closer for the Indians, you really need to think again. Play for this year, keep the future in mind, but the future should always be second to this season's chance at fantasy gold.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Quick Guide to Calculating Inflation and Preparing a Freeze List

What is the deal with inflation in fantasy leagues? Though the math is relatively simple, inflation in fantasy leagues is one of those things that never fails to confuse and even irritate fantasy owners. Many owners do not bother to calculate it, with varying levels of success. However I think it is important to do so.

Some Terms to understand

Cost - The dollar amount attached to a player on a roster. (Albert Pujols cost $40)
Value - The amount a player is worth to a team in your league. (Albert Pujols is valued at $51 by BaseballHQ)
Profit - The difference between a players Cost and his Value. (If Pujols cost $40 and is valued at $51 his profit is $11)

What is Draft Inflation
Draft inflation is the cost beyond a players perceived value in an auction caused by budget dollars that exceed the value of the available player pool. A player's inflated value is his projected price on draft/auction day with inflation accounted for. It is important to know this value so you can properly evaluate what it will take to purchase a given player. It will also alert you to potential bargains and warn you of potential pitfalls during your auction.

When to Calculate Inflation
It is smart to calculate inflation frequently because it will change. First an estimated inflation should be calculated before you declare your keepers. This will give you a bit more information on the available player pool and the cost of the players you need and could convince you to change your keeper list. Inflation should be calculated again when the actual freeze rosters are announced. This is the most crucial calculation and will advance your auction prep. Inflation should also be calculated as frequently as possible during your auction. Inflation will change with each player acquisition. I elaborate on in-draft inflation below.

Things to consider before declaring your keepers
in an Auction League
  • Not every low-priced player is worth keeping. Treat every roster spot like gold.
  • Having the best built-in profit going into the draft is nice, but having the most built in value (at the right prices) is more important.
  • Is there depth in the player pool (or a lack) that might make a certain player worth keeping (or not)?
  • Don't look for balance in your keeper list, instead look to maximize value.
  • Consider the long term value of your players and also their cost as they develop. It may be more effective to place a player back into the draft and buy them at a higher price in exchange for a longer contract.

How to Calculate Inflation
Inflation equals (money to spend) divided by (value of remaining talent). Multiply each free agent player’s individual value by this amount and you will have the inflated value of each player. Some owners choose to make separate inflation calculations for pitchers and hitters.

In a standard 12-team auction league, with 23-man rosters and a $260 salary cap, there is a total of $3,120 to spend on 276 players. If the owners in our keeper league decide to freeze players with salaries totaling $1,000 but with a projected value of $1,500, then the players remaining in the player pool have a projected value of $1.620. However, the owners now have an extra $500, giving our owners $2,120 to spend on players worth just $1,620. We calculate our inflation by taking the money left to spend divided by the value of the remaining talent or $2,120/$1,620. This results in an inflation of 1.3086, or 31 percent. So if Pujols is valued at $51 and inflation is 31 percent, Pujols has an inflated value of 66.7386 or $67. So if Pujols is the first player called in the above scenario anything less than $67 spent on him should be considered a bargain.

The Per-Player Budget
An essential part of any auction strategy is the per-player budget. This is simply a guideline to the types of players you wish to acquire. On a piece of paper, list the positions required on each roster. Then fill in the names and salaries of anyone on your freeze list (if this is not a keeper league, then you get to skip that step). Next, divide your player acquisition budget amongst the slots with the approximate amounts it will take to roster the players you wish to own. A top outfielder may cost $40, a top-tier closer may go for $35. When all the slots are full and they total the amount you actually have left to spend, you will have completed your per player budget. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the various players that might fit into these slots, but don’t become too attached to any one player or you could find yourself overbidding to get him.

A proper budget ensures that your team will acquire at least its fair share of the available talent. If there is $1,620 worth of talent available for 12 teams and we assume the freeze lists hold equal amounts of talent (a horrible assumption, I know) each owner must acquire at least $135 worth of talent to stay equal to their rivals. Thus, you must strive to use your remaining money to acquire talent as far exceeding that amount as possible.

In-Draft Inflation
Every auction has moments when players are either being overpriced or going at bargain prices. It is vital to your success that you understand when these periods are happening. In-draft inflation can be tricky to get a handle of when you are trying to track your draft and the rosters of your opponents. The easy way to monitor it is to use a program like RotoLab or Diamond Draft. The software will track the inflation in your auction every step of the way.

However, if you are forced to calculate it by hand, you can use my convenient shortcut. After the first player purchase, jot down how much above or below value (according to your projections) that player was. Do the same for every player that follows – adding or subtracting the difference in dollars. This will leave you with a running tally of how much above or below value the auction is at any given moment. If the number is a large positive value, then players have been overpriced and bargains are about to ensue. If the number is a large negative, the players have been bargains and the correction is coming soon. If the total stays at or just above or below zero, players are going almost exactly as you projected.

An Example from the Mailbag
I received the following e-mail from a reader. The message has been slightly edited and the names changed to protect the innocent...
I had an amazing team last year and was crushing my league all season until a traumatizing final day of the season comeback by the guy in second place where he gained 8 points and I lost 3...

In our league we can select 4 players to keep. Traditional logic would say that I should keep Wandy Rodriguez ($1) Ubaldo ($1) Tommy Hanson ($3) and Aaron Hill (3$) because they would give me the greatest relative value. However I also have on my team Pujols ($38) Kemp ($25) Ellsbury ($18) and Longoria ($25) who would all present some savings but not as much as the previous 4 I mentioned.

The league also has another weird rule that says that new teams are allowed to select any 4 players who were on a teams roster last year but not kept. I feel like if I go for the first 4 players I mentioned I would be doing well value wise, but the 2 new incoming managers would almost certainly keep the latter 4 who are all superior players but provide less value. How would you pick?

This does look like a tough decision. The first step is to look at the projected value of each of our potential keepers. (Values are from

Player Cost Proj. Value Profit

Wandy Rodriguez 1 27 26

Ubaldo Jimenez 1 23 22

Tommy Hanson 3 23 20

Aaron Hill 3 17 14

Albert Pujols 38 44 6

Matt Kemp 25 38 13

Jacoby Ellsbury 18 31 13

Evan Longoria 25 26 1

If we were interested in having the greatest built-in profit we would keep Wandy Rodriguez, Ubaldo Jimenez, Tommy Hanson, and Aaron Hill just as our reader suggested. They combine for a cost of just $8 with a collective value of $90 and a profit of $82. That is a pretty nice group of players to have. But is it the best group?

If we take the four most valuable players we would take Albert Pujols, Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Wandy Rodriguez. Their combined cost would be much higher at $82 but with a collective value of $140 and profit of $58. This is also a good group. But is it more valuable to have $74 more dollars to spend or $50 more value or $24 more profit? This is a tough question to answer without knowing the league more intimately and having more details on the available player pool.

You could attempt to build a combination of players but I believe the second group is the way to go. The only change I'd be tempted to make would be to substitute Ubaldo Jimenez for Jacoby Ellsbury. This is based on my belief that cheap steals will be relatively easy to come by this season. As you will see when I release the All-Sleeper Teams later this week.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Advice on 2010 Keepers

I recently received the following e-mail request for advice...

Jon- I am a long time reader of your site, and I need some advice.

I know it's early, but I'm in second to last place in my 13 team 5x5 Roto league, and I am thinking about keepers for 2010. We get to keep 6 players. I made some trades lately to bolster my potentials, but I'm still unsure what to do.

Here is my list of potential keepers:

Rivera, Mariano RP NYY
Suzuki, Ichiro RF SEA
Sizemore, Grady CF CLE
Votto, Joey 1B CIN
Choo, Shin-Soo RF CLE
McLouth, Nate CF ATL
Quentin, Carlos LF CHW
Morgan, Nyjer LF WAS
Webb, Brandon SP ARI
DeRosa, Mark 3B/OF STL
Branyan, Russell 1B SEA
Gonzalez, Carlos OF COL

First of all, I know I have too many outfielders. But my biggest two questions are Carlos Quentin and Nyger Morgan. Are they worth keeping over Choo and McLouth? And What about Webb? I'll need a lights out SP next year, but he's a big question mark.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks a lot-

Hey Bill,

Thanks for reading. I really appreciate it.

You have plenty of good candidates. It's hard to believe that you finished so low with so many quality players on your roster. I'm guessing your pitching was a problem? Anyway...which six to keep?

The No Brainers
Joey Votto - If he can get past his injury and mental problems he should one of the best.
Ichiro Suzuki - I think he has another high average/high steals season left in him.
Nyjer Morgan - He should recover just fine from the broken finger and hopefully follow up his great debut with a 50 steal season.

Hard to Throw Back
Mariano Rivera - Although he is getting older and the nagging little injuries are popping up more frequently, until he isn't a top three closer I still want him.
Shin-Soo Choo - He has had a fantastic season. The only reason he isn't a no brainer is because he has been very injury prone and this is his first real successful season.
Nate McClouth - He is pretty good when healthy but he is not great and health has been a frequent obstacle. Still, when a player is a 25/20 threat you give him all kinds of chances.
Carlos Quentin - He has serious problems with his heel. Almost exactly the same that ruined a few years of Mark McGwire's career. But he can seriously hit when he's right.
Russell Branyan - The batting average isn't pretty but when a player can approach 40 homers while taking a ton of walks and hitting .250-.260 you love when you can pair him up with guys like Ichiro and Votto who's high averages will more than compensate.
Carlos Gonzalez - He has amazing potential. he could be another 30/30 type of guy. I have trouble believing that will be in 2010 though. But people drool over his tools.

Injured or in Recovery
Grady Sizemore - He's been playing with a bad elbow all season and will require elbow surgery at the end of the year. That makes him very tough to keep but as a first round pick when healthy you can make the case.
Brandon Webb - He was a brilliant starter for his entire career until now. I would not keep him as a pitcher coming off major surgery who is also a free agent.

The Rest

Mark DeRosa - He's a solid player that qualifies all over the field in some leagues. I believe he'll become a free agent but the cardinals should attempt to re-sign him.

I would keep these players:

1B Joey Votto
CR Russell Branyan ( Due to a combination of readers making some excellent points (that I was nuts! see the comments) and retracing my thoughts I may change my mind about this. I was approaching this incorrectly. I was thinking as if this was an auction league and Branyan was an under value keeper. But in a straight draft league you want to keep the players you project to have the highest value. However, I'm still not sure that is Sizemore, due to the significant injury risk. It is still very early and we don't have enough information to pick Sizemore with confidence. I might choose Mariano Rivera or even Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez is going to be a highly sought after commodity in fantasy leagues this year.)
OF Ichiro Suzuki
OF Shin-Soo Choo
OF Nyjer Morgan
OF Carlos Quentin

Then I would be shopping the rest of the guys on this list in hopes of upgrading a keeper or two. This list obviously leaves you very outfield heavy but that isn't the end of the world. You can trade one or even two of those guys with the other players on your roster to teams with fewer keepers. Try to get guys who are obvious first round picks like Pujols, Utley, Hanley and so forth.

Good luck! Let me know if I can help any further.

Friday, August 14, 2009

An Early Look at 2010 Keepers

When you are in a competitive keeper league, next year's team is always on your mind. You look at every available player and consider his value to cost ratio. You wonder how much they might go for in next year's auction. Or at least you should do all that. I imagine sometimes you put it off. Maybe you wait until after the present season, or maybe until December when the Baseball Forecaster arrives in the mail. Still others may wait until their favorite NFL team is eliminated or (God forbid) until Spring Training begins...

Well I'm always thinking about it. And if you're an annual procrastinator you may find this article extremely useful. Here is a list of players that I am very interested in for the 2010 season. You won't find Albert Pujols or Chase Utley on this list. Some are players that are probably not on your radar yet. In some cases you may even have released or traded them away this season, but next year is a whole different beast. Some are players that have been excellent but whose season's have incorrectly been chalked up to luck. Players that have been bad for a combination of reasons that can be explained have also made the list, some are even potential superstars. Still others are players that have earned a greater opportunity that we can pounce on before they get hyped up this winter. I've broken them down into various categories for ease of use and my own entertainment.

Future Closers

Sean Burnett LHP Washington Nationals - He is a lefty with a dominate fastball and the control necessary in a quality closer. The Nationals have settled on Mike MacDougal as closer in recent weeks but that doesn't mean that Burnett does not have closing in his future. If nothing else he is a quality reliever of value in NL-only leagues.

Matt Thornton LHP Chicago White Sox -He's the best left-handed reliever in the American League. He shows the skill and the guile to close games. He is not young but is definitely a closer candidate should the White Sox part ways with Bobby Jenks.

Mike Adams RHP San Diego Padres - After injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness Mike Adams has arrived as the Padres closer-of-the-future. His mid-nineties sinking fastball has always been a dangerous pitch and he has finally developed his other pitches into assets. The rumors of a Heath Bell trade are everywhere. Adams is the man you want to own.

First Round for the First Time

Curtis Granderson OF Detroit Tigers - He has a shot at his first 30/30 season and is a young rising star in the American League. It may be a bit weird that his increase in homers seems to have robbed him of a good deal of doubles. But this is due to a large increase in fly balls more than an increase in luck. He is trying to hit them out more often and it is working.

Matt Kemp OF Los Angeles Dodgers - I predicted he would become a first round pick this season and I was right. His combination of power and speed would be even more valuable if Joe Torre used his brain a little more often when filling out the lineup cards.

Evan Longoria 3B Tampa Bay Rays - If it wasn't for the injuries, Longoria would be a clear first round pick. He is what we all expected from David Wright this season. With Wright clearly not earning a return to the first round this season, Longoria becomes the second best third baseman available.

Post-Hype Prospects

Delmon Young OF Minnesota Twins - He has officially been wiped off of every sleeper list in the country following his pretty terrible 2009 season. But he has shown signs in the second half of the player that all the prospect watchers predicted. He is still just 25 years old and the Twins are not giving up on him. You should not either, especially when he will have a single-digit price.

Brayan Pena C Kansas City Royals - I called him a sleeper in Spring Training but it took the Royals a little longer to see it. He is the starter now and will likely be next season as well. He should hit for a solid average in a lineup that should improve next season.

Prospects I Like a Lot

Alex Avila C Detroit Tigers - A promising hitter and better defensively than many projected.

Peter Bourjos OF Los Angeles Angels - One of the fastest and most exciting players in the minors or the majors.

Jason Heyward OF Atlanta Braves - The best hitter in the minors with improving power and defense.

Michael Stanton OF Florida Marlins - The most powerful hitter in the minors with improving discipline and defense.

Donovan Tate OF San Diego Padres - An incredible athlete whom the Padres are close to talking out of a North Carolina scholarship. He could be very much like Michael Stanton this time next year.

Brett Wallace 3B Oakland Athletics - A very talented hitter on the verge of the major leagues. He should hit better than .300 most seasons with power. I compare him to Joey Votto.

The Unbelievably Good

Joel Pineiro RHP St. Louis Cardinals - I have not been a big fan of Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan because despite their success, they have a long list of players they abused and discarded because they had a different way of doing things. But Pineiro is undeniably a success story based on morphing him from a mediocre strikeout pitcher into a groundball machine. By making Pineiro throw his sinker 60-70 percent of the time his game has been transformed. Pineiro was on board with the change and was quite excited about it this spring. It has worked for him and there is little chance he would abandon it. Still, most fantasy leaguers have become skeptical about seemingly mediocre talents taking a huge step up in production and will fail to properly value him. I'll take him.

Mark Reynolds 3B Arizona Diamondbacks - Most of us were not shocked by the power that Reynolds showed. But the batting average and stolen bases blew a lot of minds. The average was a little over his head but not by as much as you might think. Reynolds does not steal bases like a true speedster but he is a good base runner. Though if the Diamondbacks improve their lineup next season his opportunities could be limited. It is easy to let him run wild when the team is losing if they start winning games they'll start making more responsible decisions.

Marcos Scutaro SS Toronto Blue Jays - In the post I made the other day about the flood of rookies coming to Major League Baseball I should have mentioned that we will also be seeing more and more Marco Scutaro types. These are the players that look like great hitters in the minors and in part-time duty but for some reason fail to win a full-time opportunity in the majors. That's all going to change. Look for another large group of players like Russell Branyan, Marcos Scutaro, Ryan Ludwick and Nelson Cruz before them to get extended opportunities. I'd name them all but that will be another post altogether.

The Injury Discount

Josh Hamilton OF Texas Rangers - I don't care that he slipped up in January. I care much more that he owned up to his mistake the very next day to everyone who truly had a right to know and that was not us. He tried to take a step in normal drinking and he failed miserably. If you've been concerned about his actual performance you really shouldn't be. Hamilton is a fantastic athlete and a terrific baseball player. Towards the end the of the 2008 season he (with the helpof the best hitting coach in baseball) attempted to remove a hitch from his swing that would in theory make his already great bat speed -Otherworldly. The process was going okay but was interrupted by almost three straight months of injury problems. He'll be fine when he's healthy again and you'll get him at a discount to boot.

Vladimir Guerrero OF Los Angeles Angels - Vlad is no longer the best outfielder in all the land, the player that made us drool over 40/40 possibilities. However, he still owns incredible power when his aching old bones are properly medicated. You can now get the lesser Vlad for far less of investment than was once the case, in fact he now goes for less than he's actually worth. That makes him a target in my mind.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Auction Keeper League Strategy

I have received this question so often that I feel it is time to write a post about it:

What is the best strategy to follow in Auction Keeper Leagues if...

The line above is usually followed by phrases such as "if my keepers really suck" or "I only have a few keepers but they are really good" and even "if all the good players are kept."

It is impossible to answer those questions well without a ton of information about the league, the owners, the rules, and rosters. I thought it might prove useful to some to share my own approach. By necessity (and enjoyment factors) I vary the plan a bit in every league. I think it is really boring to have multiple teams with duplicate rosters. I will not present this as a infallible plan. But this should give some of you a way to go and others some ideas to implement with your own strategies.

My Philosophy
KRS-ONE isn't the only one who thinks very deeply. After years of flipping and flopping I finally decided a few years ago that rebuilding in fantasy baseball is for losers. We are not running the Pittsburgh Pirates and unless you're in a very unique league there is no team with a New York Yankees advantage. Go for it. Every season. Rather than try to win every other year (I've seen some owners re-build for multiple years --sick) I try to finish first every year. If I fail to win a championship and finish second and third instead of rebuilding for the following year so be it. This doesn't mean I won't make a trade or pick up a player with the future in mind. You can very successfully do both.

Which Players to Keep
First and foremost, if you want to win do not keep players (aside from minor leaguers of course) based on what they might do in two or three years. Every player you protect should be a contributor to your success right now. While it is important to take a few chances on draft day, your protected list should be as full of as many certainties as possible. If you have young players with future value who you cannot stash in reserve or on a farm roster you must trade them for some present day value or future value that you can stash. If you are as obsessed with young players as I am this can be difficult but you get used to it when it results in winning more often.

The most valuable keepers are usually pitchers. It is much easier to replace the under priced hitter you put back into the available player pool than the under priced starter or closer. I like to keep as many under priced pitchers as possible so I can concentrate on hitters come draft day. I often attempt to trade my borderline hitting keepers for cheap pitching. Some years it works and others it does not. This year in my AL-only I tried to trade for a cheap Kevin Slowey and Phil Hughes.

Set Your Goals High
I often hear owners mention they set goals of finishing third in every category. That's sweet. I set a goal of finishing first in every category. Do I make it? Not usually but I've been damned close. Setting my goals high forces me to draft players with upside potential. This has the extra added benefit of building up my keeper list. It also gives me a little more room to screw up and still finish third in every category.

Building a Strong Roster
I use what is often referred to as a Stars & Scrubs strategy. However, the way I do it it is more of a Stars & Future Stars strategy. I plot out my budget well ahead of time and experiment by plugging various names into the different slots. If I have a very strong keeper list I'll take fewer risks but reach for my biggest upside sleepers. When I have a weaker roster I draft more sleepers but try to limit the downside. John Smoltz has a lot of upside if healthy but has very little downside. Russell Branyan has huge upside but also a pretty miserable downside. I usually split my budgets into 70 percent hitting and 30 percent for pitching. I split my roster into the following fairly obvious groups:

Catchers - I allocate enough here to buy one of the better catchers available. My second catcher will be a younger catcher with offensive potential. A lot of teams are willing to live with whatever two bucks will get them at the catcher position. I would prefer my one dollar guys to be corners and outfielders.

Corner Infielders - I like to have at least one stud at this position, if that stud is a inexpensive keeper all the better. In my optimum situation I end up with a stud, a steady vet and a young player with upside. Corners are usually among the most productive players on your team. This is not the place to be stingy.

Middle Infielders - I like to have a strong middle infield but if money is tight this is the spot I cut dollars from. I always seem to find cheap and productive middle infielders in the end game. I'm okay with drafting the good side of platoons and talented youngsters with bench roles here. Speed is especially easy to draft in the middle infield.

Outfielders - I do not feel comfortable unless I have two stud outfielders. When I have those two studs I grow very willing to take chances in my outfield. The outfield is a good place to do some gambling with your roster because mistakes are fairly easy to overcome. You can also find the widest variety of stats in the outfield.

Utility - When my utility does not need to be a qualifying Designated Hitter (as in a lot of AL-only leagues) I try to match positions with the biggest gamble I'm taking with the rest of my roster. This allows me to more easily replace that player if the gamble fails. I very rarely allocate more than a few dollars to this spot on my roster.

Starting Pitchers - I know a lot of fantasy baseball veterans who refuse to draft more than five starting pitchers. This is usually done as precaution against adding too many bad innings (which is difficult to overcome). I refuse to limit myself to a certain number of starters. I like to have at least five and actually prefer to have seven. This helps me be more competitive in the wins category. To pull this off you have to be careful not to bid on interchangeable fifth starters that appear at the end of a lot of major league rotations.

I usually look for pitchers with the following criterion (but there are always exceptions):
  • At least half a season of major league experience in the books, but the more the better.
  • A career K9 of 7.00 or higher
  • A career Ground Ball rate of at least 40 percent
  • Pitching in front of a strong defensive team (which does not require the team to actually be good)
  • A good minor league resume (majors is obviously better but also more expensive)
Relief Pitchers - Nine times out of ten I refuse to pay for saves. I usually manage to roster a few future closers while they are still cheap. In keeper leagues you have the advantage of looking beyond just the present season. I drafted Heath Bell two years ago and he's been worth rostering both seasons and now he is a closer. In the last two years in addition to Bell I've drafted Chris Perez, Joey Devine, Joakim Soria, Jonathan Broxton, Chad Qualls, Frank Francisco, Matt Lindstrom, and Grant Balfour. More often than not for less than five dollars each. In almost every case they have been worth owning well before they became closers.
Drafting future closers has usually been about drafting relievers with dominating stuff in bullpens with shakey, old, or injury-prone closers.

How to Stretch Your Budget Further
Never spend your available cash on mediocrities.. This is the kiss of death to fantasy teams. I buy the best talents available within my budgetary limits. I always place talent above roles. I would prefer to spend one dollar on talented Orioles starter David Pauley fighting for a job than on Jarrod Washburn who has a spot gift wrapped for him.

For every full price David Wright or CC Sabathia on my roster I plan to have a one dollar player. This will make it seem as if you have a lot more money to spend on the middle of your roster. If you find more bargains use any extra money on the middle of your roster rather than eliminating the one dollar spots.

Not every player needs to be an immediate everyday hitter like left fielder Ryan Braun is for the Milwaukee Brewers. For example, a player such as shortstop Emmanuel Burriss may not have a full-time role for the San Francisco Giants as the 2009 season begins but he is still likely to make a significant contribution to the fantasy teams that draft him. If he receives just 250 at bats he could steal 25 bases. At the right price a part-time player who contributes is worth rostering.

If you pay full price for a star batter be certain that said player will contribute in every statistical category. If you pay $35 dollars for a player you don't want him hurting your batting average. This is not to say that every player must contribute to every category. I'll roster a .250 hitter or two I just demand a discount.

Some Quick Auction Tips
The following bullet points are taken from my RotoExperts article "Dominating the Auction Draft" which is available for free as part of the RotoExperts Draft Kit if you register (again for free) as a member of the site. The article is a very good compliment to this one.
  • Vary your bidding style between frequent small increments and sudden big jumps. This will keep your rivals off balance and unable to anticipate when you are truly interested in a player.
  • Bid on as many players as possible. This will make it difficult for your rivals to discern your ultimate strategy.
  • You will hear that you should never nominate players you really want and you will hear that you should never nominate players that you do not want. Ignore these people and mix it up.
  • Hold off nominating your sleepers until most of the money is off the board. But do it before you run out of money yourself.
  • Follow your instincts. There is nothing worse than having regrets after a draft.
  • Draft players with upside potential, these are the players that have huge breakouts.
  • It is okay to pay for saves, just do not overpay.
  • Reserve some money and roster spots for the end game, there are always bargains at the end of an auction.
  • Watch the other owners as much as possible, everyone has a tell.
  • You are not running the Pittsburgh Pirates, there is no need to waste a whole season in re-building mode – just go for it.
  • Do not overpay for rookies, especially pitchers, no matter how highly touted.
  • However, do not avoid rookies altogether, a large percentage of breakout seasons come from rookies.
  • With everyday players, it can be beneficial to draft a mediocre player if he has guaranteed playing time. The more at-bats you can roster the better you will do in Runs and RBI.
  • Avoid starting pitchers without quality skills. They collect too many innings and drag down your ERA and WHIP.
  • The point of all this is to have fun, so do it.



Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ten Questions to Consider in Keeper Leagues

Every season owners in keeper leagues spend weeks if not much longer agonizing over which players on their rosters should be kept. Should they keep just the huge bargains or is a $45 Alex Rodriguez or $31 CC Sabathia too good to pass up? How do you decide? Every league is going to be different. In some leagues a $31 Sabathia is a huge bargain, in others it is the height of stupidity. Today I give you ten criterion to consider as you struggle through these decisions.
Ten Questions to Consider in Keeper Leagues
(In no particular order)
  1. Was it a fluke? A fluke could be a great season or a lousy one. Look at the player's progression over the last few seasons. Does the last season fit in that progression? I like to look at BB percentage, K percentage, GB/LD/FB percentages, HR/FB and BABIP for hitters. For pitchers K/9, BB/9, GB/LD/FB percentage, BABIP, and FIP. These are the factors in a players performances that are usually consistent from season to season. If they are a young player making steady gains then a great season can be expected. If their rates have been steady and were basically the same during a disastrous (or wondrous) season there is reason to believe the performance could have been a fluke.
  2. Would the player help you more from the Draft Pool? A $28 Josh Hamilton may not seem like much of a bargain on the surface. But if your league has significant inflation and Hamilton is certain to cost $40-45 or even more if you let him go, then be becomes a serious candidate to be kept, traded, or placed back in the pool. If you don't like his price compared to his expected performance then a trade should be attempted. Remember, just because you don't like a guy doesn't mean that others will not. Try to get his inflated value in a trade. Placing the player back in the pool can also be a good option if you believe he will be overbid. If one of your oppoenents will spend 15-20 dollars more than you believe a player will be worth that gives you an advantage over that owner (assuming that you're right).
  3. Is the player acually good or just cheap? Your five dollar outfielder may typically earn five dollars but that doesn't mean he's worth keeping. One of the most valuable commodities you have are your roster spots. You should be attempting to fill each and every spot with as much value as possible. To commit to a player with an extremely limited ceiling robs you of the chance to find a significant bargain at the end of your draft. Every season in every league there are players who come out of nowhere to become fantasy studs. If you keep every Willie Bloomquist you have at value you rob yourself of the chance to roster late round bargains like the 2008 versions of outfielder Carlos Quentin, starter Cliff Lee, or catcher Kelly Shoppach.
  4. Could you throw the player back and get him for the same price? In most leagues there is a limit to how long you can keep a player. If a player would basicly go for the same price that you have on him now, why not re-draft him and keep him longer. You might get him cheaper if he's called out at the right moment. By the same token he could end up going for more if you've read the market incorrectly. But if the player is someone you like long term it could be worth it for a longer term of service.
  5. Who else is available? You could own a perfectly fine shortstop but if there are several vastly superior options and you clog your only available shortstop slot you'll be cutting yourself off from any potential bargains. It is a good idea to keep your roster flexible so if for some unexplainable reason the bidding on Troy Tulowitzki stops at $7 you can pounce all over it.
  6. What does your budget look like in relation to the players you need? If you are spending 60 percent of your budget do you alsoH have at least 60 percent of the production you need to win the league? Can you get the remaining 40 percent that you need with what you have left? One of the things I always do before declaring my keepers is to calculate how much of the value I need is provided by my keepers. I'm usually not satisfied with 40 percent of my budget for 40 percent of my needs. So I tend to throw back players that are not bargains, even if they are at value. The exception being players at the top of the position rankings - I'lll keep an at value Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, David Wright and so forth but not an at value Derek Jeter, Trevor Hoffman or Bobby Abreu. The point is to pack as much value on your keeper list as possible balanced with keeping as many of your resources available for the auction as possible.
  7. Are the types of players you need available? In keeper leagues the player pool can take strange turns. There could be just one available closer and only one or two top tier outfielders. If that is the case you might need to keep a mediocre closer or alter your strategy to avoid closers altogether at the auction. Maybe the pool is woefully short on power. You may need to keep a slightly overpriced A-Rod to ensure you reach the stats you need. It is vital that you compare the needs of your team to the players available in the auction. If there are too few options you may have to make some changes to your keeper list or to your auction strategy.
  8. Who are your opponents keeping? You need to know who is in the player pool in order to make the best decisions on your keeper list. To do this you have to guess who your rivals are keeeping. In one of my leagues I've known owners to just call and ask. Usually I don't mind sharing this information to an extent. I tell the players I'm considering keeping and let them narrow it down themselves -- of course assuming that they'll do the same for me. This will help you figure out not just who is in the player pool but also what they might cost. This is extremely valuable knowledge.
  9. How much is the inflation in your league? Calculating a rough estimate of the inflation in your league before keepers are declared can give you edge on the rest of the league. It will help you figure out what the players in the pool will cost while you still have the ability to alter your keeper list.
  10. Can you win with this as your core? Your keeper list needs to provide you with a base of stats you can build on. This isn't the time to take chances. You look for upside in the auction. You need your keeper list to be as full of sure things as possible. However, just because Joe Blow expert with the magazine article doesn't like a guy doesn't mean that he isn't a sure thing, if you believe that he is. But you need to be honest about the size of the risk you are taking. If the player in question only costs a buck and you aren't keeping him ahead of anyone better then that should be fine. But if the player in question cost $22 and he has yet to experience major league success and nothing but a hunch suggests that he can this season, you need to look at things again.
Do you have other questions you ask yourself or items to consider when forming your keeper list? If so, please share them.