The Pontifications of Lord Zola: Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!
Lord Zola begins a three-part series on auction dynamics
There’s nothing quite like anticipating if the player is yours as the auctioneer counts it down. Well, I can think of a few things but you know what I mean. And if you don’t that means you haven’t yet experienced the thrill of auction drafting.
This will be the initial installment of a three-part series focusing on auctions. Today we’ll talk in general terms, comparing auctions to snake drafting. Part Two will dissect a set of auctions I recently administered, all of the same format allowing the comparison of trends. The final offering will detail my personal approach to auctions.
For those not familiar, auction drafting involves bidding imaginary (or sometimes real) dollars to acquire your players. The participant willing to pay the most for the player owns him and the winning bid is subtracted from your budget. What follows are some general auction traits.
In an auction, if you want a player, you can get them. This is an extreme example, but if you want to anchor your squad with both Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout you can do so in an auction. If you prefer to pass on the more expensive players, you are free to pursue that avenue as well.
Perhaps the biggest repercussion from absolute player accessibility is the ability to embark on any strategy of your choosing. In a draft, you’re constricted by the nature of a snake draft. It’s a lot harder to design a strategy entailing a incorporating a particular type of player when you’re at the mercy of your fellow drafters. You could be forced to reach for players to enact your plan such that even if you execute it, the potential points you can score are limited due to being forced to roster less intrinsic potential.
Two of the more common big-picture strategies are “Stars and Scrubs” and “Spread the Risk.” The former involves purchasing the upper-echelon players for top dollar while back-filling the end of your roster with less quality players since you don’t have much left to spend. The latter focuses on buying a bunch of good to very good players, not spending a ton on any single player while also avoiding the end-game pool of the bottom-of-the-barrel players. Of course, a hybrid strategy is also possible, if not recommended. Here the concentration is honing in on players that can be purchased less than you feel they are worth.
YOU CAN’T SCREW UP A DRAFT
OK, taking Nick Punto in the first round isn’t advisable, but in general, when you leave a draft, the talent distribution is fairly equal among the teams. This is regulated by the downward spiral with talent being drafted in descending order and the league all having a round idea of how the market perceives, hence ranks each player.
The elegance of an auction emanates from money management. Not only do you need to know the player inventory inside and out, but you need to manage your budget to put as much intrinsic potential on your roster as possible. Mismanaging your money is an auction faux pas not apropos to a draft. Simply put, in all my years of doing drafts, I have never heard some leave a snake draft ruing leaving too much money on the table. On the other hand, this is a fairly common occurrence in an auction. The final installment of this series will detail the manner I avoid the cardinal sin of not effectively spending my entire budget.
As implied above, the primary objective of the auction is to assemble a team, maximizing intrinsic potential purchased at a cost below market value. The chief pathway to do this is patience and recognizing when the auction prices are termed deflated. If some prices are deflated, that implies others are inflated. Inflated prices are those purchased at a cost beyond what you feel they are worth.
To best understand this, the basal concepts of player valuation should be explained. Fantasy baseball is a zero-sum economy. The economy is defined by the number of teams and the budget per team. Players are assigned a value such that the total value of all draft-worthy players is exactly equal to that of the league economy. A draft-worthy player is defined as someone of sufficient quality to be put on the active roster. The end result is the number of players awarded positive value is exactly equal to the number needed to stock each team with a legal lineup and the total amount is the number of teams multiplied by the salary cap.
The concept of inflation is directly a result of the zero-sum economy. If a player is purchased for a price more than you deem worthy, that means someone else has to be bought for a cost less than you deem worthy. Extrapolate this to multiple players being purchased above your projected cost and yields multiple players costing less than your projected value. This is where you want to do your damage, regardless if your overall philosophy tends more to stars and scrubs or spread the risk.
This is a good place to stop since it will segue nicely into Part Two: Dissecting an Auction. Tomorrow we will contrast and compare the prices from three 15-team mixed auctions I ran for the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. The league format and specifications were identical so we can look at the set of prices in context. The focus will be on the end-game but other observations will be shared.