ASK ROTOMAN: Doing the Newest FAABest Steps!

Dear Rotoman: 

As a league that’s been around for 30 years, we’ve played by the rules that Alex Patton established in his book, and have made sure we changed the ones he did in newer books. Since he hasn’t put out a book in several years, many in our league are wanting to know if some of our rules are outdated and need to be changed, dropped or modified.

We play NL, 5×5 (HR,R,SB,OBP,RBI and W,S,K,ERA,WHIP), $280 starting salary, $340 in season cap, 25 players with Farm Team. Three year contracts with extensions at $5 per year. We do $100 FAAB from after All-Star til last week of August. FAAB over $10 must be kept next year or dropped for $10 salary penalty.

Anyway, do you know if most teams still use these same basic rules or have any of them mostly changed. The one I want to modify is to make FAAB all year vs. six weeks. Currently, early in the season, lower ranked teams are “rewarded” by drafting guys that don’t play or will soon be sent down, to wait and see the two or three guys we all miss in the draft each year. The league winner last year screwed his draft and left with $60+ dollars, only to pick up Erving Santana, Hector Rondon and Aaron Harang the first three weeks of the season. Personally, I feel like every player needs to be FAAB eligible so that EVERY OWNER has a chance. Higher ranked teams cannot get these guys for DL selections because lower teams are holding their DL guys several weeks to see if someone good comes up.

Any input you can give us would be greatly appreciated as it relates to how most leagues deal with things these days.

“Old Ruled”

pattonbookDear OR:

What’s funny is that I’ve played with Alex Patton in the American Dream League, which was something of the model league in his books, for more than 20 years, and our rules are totally unlike yours. I’ll be brief: AL, 4×4 (BA), $260 budget, no salary cap, 24 man rosters with seven man reserve. One year contract with no escalator. $50 FAAB starting the third week, and then all season long.

Crazy no?

The fact of the matter is that your league is much more progressive, with your 5×5 and OBP, particularly, than the ADL is. Which doesn’t mean that rules can’t or shouldn’t be changed. There’s just no reason to try to conform to any one set of rules, because you can’t. There are people playing in so many styles I hesitate to list them, because I’m nodding off just thinking about them.

Which brings us to your crazy FAAB rule. Yes, I said crazy, because I think you guys have it all backward.

In the old days, before their was FAAB in Fantasyland, the waiver wire ruled supreme. Whoever got their claim in first, when a player “came over,” (as we still say though without the frenzied dialing), would acquire the player. But everyone soon realized that this gave such an advantage to the unemployed obsessive they wished they could be, that weekly waivers became more the norm.

The problem with weekly waivers is that priority goes to the bad teams, the teams lower in the standings, which means they acquire talent that all too often would get traded to one of the good teams, thus making all the other competing teams angry. Hence, FAAB.

FAAB is an equalizer. It gives each of us the chance to make the market on a particular player on a particular day. And if we blow our wad one day, the teams that still have FAAB left have the advantage. Which is why it is perfect tool for leagues to use all season long.

In fact, relegating it to a brief period means there is no warp and woof to the budgets. I would imagine players are traded over from the AL and everybody goes all in on them, and they’re awarded to the team lowest in the standings on the tie-breaker. That misses the point.

I mentioned that in the ADL we wait three weeks to start up our FAAB. This is a vestige of our time before FAAB. We held up waivers until there was some settling in the standings, a bubbling up of talent, a dropping down of not so much, so that good teams off to a bad start weren’t unjustly rewarded. Some argue that since we use FAAB now we could start waivers Week 1, and they’re right. But I resist that.

Having a week or two, or even three, before teams can beef up their rosters is a test for teams that take players in the auction who are injured. The idea is no more an impetus to force them to find a replacement than the Affordable Care Act was intended to compel the States to set up their own exchanges. Rather, the goal is to inflict on them a little pain if they don’t draft a replacement. Isn’t that fun?

As for some of the other crazy new rules the kids are coming up with, OR, don’t get me started. Have you heard of the Daily Games?


ASK ROTOMAN: How is a stat service like a nice Chianti and fava beans

All Hail Rotoman!

Is there a ‘3rd party’ available for a weekly FAAB process?

Currently, our FAAB rules require us to turn our weekly roster changes and FAABs into the commissioner on Sunday Nights by 9pm.  The league-friendly commissioner, has made that 9pm kind of a ‘soft deadline’ and has on occasion accepted FAABs and roster changes past that 9pm deadline with a friendly reminder to get it in on time.  In addition, new job responsibilities have delayed the FAAB results and roster changes until Tuesday, sometimes Wednesday mornings.

My thought here is… IF there is a 3rd party process available, any and all deadline and integrity concerns can be completely eliminated.

There is NOT an integrity issue with the commish.  Just looking at alternative methods for assuring that the FAAB process is timely and legit.

Hannibal Lester

Dear Hannibal,

Almost all stat services have automated FAAB processes. These require that teams enter their claims and picks and moves into the box, via a form of some sort, and at the appointed hour, as the bells strike, the software does it’s utterly rational magic and awards are made.

In the past I’ve used the systems at Yahoo, ESPN and CBSsports and found they all worked well enough. It has been a while, however, so chances are decent they have improved, though I don’t know for sure.

I can enthusiastically endorse the BidMeister at, which is quite flexible and fault tolerant, though it does force you to submit your bids structured as replacement blocks. That is, all your claims to replace your first basemen go in at once, then your claims for a starting pitcher, then the outfielder.

I was at first wary of this, but once you take this into account you can gain most of the control you want by ordering the blocks and using your FAAB.

And this is how a stat service is like a liver, which goes so well with the favas and a nice Chianti. It filters out the labor and toxins of a fantasy league, increases communication and information, making the thing work better, and does so quietly, at least in the best of times.


Gone FAABing.

Gone_Fishing_(7631766304)I had the two highest bids in Tout Wars this week. $8 each for the Mets Eric Campbell and the Diamondbacks Chase Anderson. I would be lying to you if I said that either were close to my radar on Friday, so I thought it might be helpful lay out some of the reasons for going after these two. You can find’s analysis of all the FAAB moves here.

First off, I went with a Stars and Scrubs team in Tout Wars, and my team is currently very near the bottom of the standings. Why? Because I’m not getting enough at bats. The injury to Ryan Zimmerman has cost me perhaps 100 at bats, and even with those I would be last in the league in PA. This is a huge burden which has come about because once productive part timers like Gregor Blanco and Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit have been nearly shut out this season. This is my own fault, the risk with the strategy, the curse of the $3 players.

It also calls for aggressive action.

So, I’m looking for hitters. This week the other options were Josh Harrison, Tyler Colvin, and Joaquin Arias. I had $2 on Harrison as my backup if I didn’t get Campbell, but it seemed to me that Campbell was the belle of this ball. The Mets sent down Josh Satin and might (emphasis, might) give Campbell some AB. They might also send him back to Las Vegas, since Lucas Duda is once again healthy.

Campbell was hitting .355 in Las Vegas, which has a major league equivalency of about .260. I’ll take it, if he plays. He’s shown a little power and a little speed and he was replacing Stephen Souza, who had already returned to the minors, so the bar was as low as can be. I’m not looking for a home run here, but our $100 FAAB budgets in Tout can be used for home run swings and for picking off the best available guys each week and hoping you find a keeper. That’s what this play was.

Phil Hertz bid $4, so I ended up paying $5 for Campbell because of our Vickrey auction system.

In Vickrey, the team with the highest bid wins the auction, but pays $1 more than the second highest bid.  I bid $8 on Anderson because I was willing to pay that for a minor league pitcher who was showing extraordinary control, decent power, and had a solid major league debut on Sunday. He allowed one run in 5.3 innings, with one walk and six strikeouts.

Last year and this year Anderson has looked brilliant in Double-A. Last year in Triple-A he got killed, in the PCL, for 60 innings. Anderson is not a top prospect. He threw 92 yesterday, tops, and showed a curve and a change. He had a good outcome and may not get another chance this week because the White Sox have two days off.

I bid $8 thinking I might be outbid, but I wasn’t. No other money was bid, and Anderson cost me a $1. I’ll take it.

There is much to be afraid of looking at his 2013 Triple-A results, but pitching in the PCL and failing is not necessarily an indication that a pitcher is doomed. The parks are small, at altitude and in the desert’s dry air. It is a league that punishes pitchers, and sometimes that isn’t fair.

Whether or not it’s fair to Chase Anderson there is no way to know. We do know he wasn’t a top prospect, he’s not a power pitcher, he throws strikes, has good control, and even last year in the PCL wasn’t a homer monkey (though he did allow more than one per nine innings).

I have a staff that isn’t doing too badly, all things considered. This week I felt I had to get rid of Carlos Torres, who got me a save early but who has not been sharp lately, often pitching in the sixth inning. Auditioning another arm is worth the risk of spending $8 and monitoring closely. Between Anderson and Campbell it would be very helpful to catch some lightning in a bottle, but not crippling if neither pans out.

I love the weekly FAAB process. It is a little mini-auction, a chance to weigh risk and reward and do the right thing. At least sometimes.


ASK ROTOMAN: What is FAAB Worth?

Dear Rotoman:

I was thinking about redeeming the DLed Nate Jones in Tout Wars AL, which got me thinking about FAAB, Vickrey bidding and being in last place a few weeks after the season starts. I wrote about it here at USA Today.

Does it make sense to add Jones’ $14 now? Or should I wait to see if he can get healthy and reclaim the closer job in Chicago?

“Ron Shandler”

Dear Ron,

I had some thoughts about your recent column and thought they made a better topic here than at your various discussion boards. Though perhaps I’ll show up at those, too.

You raise a few interesting issues that I wanted to touch on.

I will admit that I thought the Tout Wars redemption process was going to be a disaster. It has instead been a great success. (I thought the same about FAAB trading as well, and was wrong about that, too.) In Tout Wars teams are allowed to cut any player on the DL and reclaim their draft day price as FAAB up until the All Star break—after which they can reclaim half their draft day price as FAAB.

The  usual dynamic for redemption is determining how long a player will be out, versus his utility when/if he returns, filtered by the value of the added FAAB. This means that guys who are out for a while, but who may not be out all season, can reside on a team’s unlimited DL reserve until it becomes clear that the extra FAAB is going to matter (as we approach the break, and the interleague trading deadline).

What makes Nate Jones interesting is that he could return to the bullpen eventually and not gain the closing job, which would pretty much waste his $14. That’s a good reason to cut him and reclaim his bid price, though at this point he’s not close to returning, and it is pretty unlikely that the $14 you add to your FAAB total will have any utility at all until much later in the season.

For those reasons, I suggest waiting until he’s either done for the year, close to returning as a non-closer, or you need the $14 to buy something better.

As for Vickrey, the bidding auction system that we use in Tout Wars, it awards the FAAB player to the highest bidder, but reduces their cost to $1 more than the second highest bidder. Cory Schwartz was quoted earlier this week about how he thinks Vickrey just randomizes the process, and he doesn’t like it, but his bidding last week in Tout Mixed Auction is a prime example of Vickrey’s importance and why you and I like it.

As we all know, there were some closers available in last week’s bidding. Cory decided he needed one of them. Zach Steinhorn agreed with Cory that the best available closer was Francisco Rodriguez. Zach bid an aggressive $33, but Cory trumped him by bidding $60, which was then reduced a la Vickrey to $34. One can look at this as Cory “saving” $26, but it is a fairer evaluation of Vickrey to say that Cory bid aggressively because he wanted K-Rod most. Such overbids are made knowing that someone else who did the same thing would raise the price of K-Rod a lot, but that was a price Cory was willing to pay. The stated intention of Vickrey auctions are to limit system rigging, since bidders are encouraged to bid the absolute most they’re willing to pay (knowing that if they value more than the market they won’t have to pay their full price). Cory bid what he was willing to pay, and since no one else would pay as much, he ended up with a discount, as it were. That’s a feature, not a bug.

Where Vickrey excels is when there are a number of bidders. Where Vickrey falters is on the players for whom there is a limited market. With only 12 or 15 teams in a league, many without holes at particular positions, there may only be one or two teams looking for a player at a particular position. There may only be one or two of those players at that position available. One of those teams may value one of those players a lot, but chances are, even if he bids aggressively, his bid will be reduced to $1 or a few dollars because there was no market for that player. That seems to me to distort the bidding process.

For a couple years we played in Tout Wars with a $10 floor on bidding. If you bid $10 or less, that was the price you would pay if you won, with no reductions. If you bid $10 or more and no one else bid more than $10, your winning bid would be reduced to $10. If two bids exceeded $10 the standard Vickrey rules applied. The idea was to increase the cost of roster churning at the low end, where the market is less than robust. Many objected to this, saying they thought that if we were going to play with Vickrey we should play pure Vickrey. After a rule change, that’s the way we play now, and while I still think it makes the low-level bidding somewhat arbitrary, it isn’t really a problem.

I recommend Vickrey bidding for the most contested players, but the use of a floor for the cheap bidding. That’s the best balance in my opinion.

Okay, back to FAAB and inseason values. One rule that might help us find the balance between Draft Day dollars and FAAB dollars would be to combine the two. Let’s say teams are given $360 on auction day, and are told that they can spend as much of that as they like, with the balance ending up as their available FAAB balance. How much would they actually spend on Draft Day?

Or, less radically, you’re restricted to the $260 for your regular team, but then can bid FAAB $ for the reserve rounds.

By increasing the porousness between Draft Dollars and FAAB budgets, we open up ways for teams to play different strategies at the draft table, in the reserve rounds and all season long during waivers and claims.

Earlier this year I looked at how many stats were available via FAAB and claims in the NL and Mixed Leagues. This is what our money goes to buy on draft day versus what we’re able to add as the season progresses. Would that number change if we spent more cash on draft day and had less available for inseason buys? It sure looks to me that paying more on draft day is the way to go.