Anyone who plays roto knows that what you pay for your players can be just as important as who was on your team. The fantasy game is one of markets, and the winner’s objective is always to get as many players as possible that the market undervalued. How do you know a player was undervalued? At the end of the season he’s earned more than you paid for him.
The funny thing is that despite the importance of what guys cost, once Jerry Heath sold his legendary stat service back in the mid-90s, nobody kept track of what players actually cost each year. Nobody, that is, until I started collecting and publishing that info in the Fantasy Baseball Guide (ON SALE NOW) six or seven years ago.
Right now I’m putting the polish on the stats and projections that are going into the Patton $ Online product we sell (free trial going on now at software.askrotoman.com) and I came across the Cost and Price Scans for Eric Bedard, and do they tell a story:
In 2006, we paid $8 for Bedard, and he went out and earned us $17.
So, in 2007, we paid $19 for Bedard, and he went out and earned us $29.
So, in 2008, we paid $30 for Bedard, and he fell off the edge, earning $7.
But in 2009, we paid $19 because he was Eric Bedard, and he bounced back to earn $12 and lose us money.
Last year, we paid $8 for Bedard, and he didn’t pitch. What are we going to pay him this year?
Alex Patton says $5 right now. Mike Fenger says $4. I say he looks like a reserve to me, a guy who is worth controlling, but not such a good bet to spend money on, though if he’s having a good spring I’d pay a few dollars for his talented arm. The problem is that if he’s having a good spring his price is going to go back up to $8 or even more come opening day.
The point is that we tend to pay the most talented players as if they’re going to have as good a season as we can imagine, even if they’ve let us down recently. Bedard’s price went up lockstep with his earnings in 2007 and 2008, but when the injuries grabbed hold of him the air didn’t rush out of expectations. We kept bidding him up, hoping he’d get healthy again and the little discount we thought we were getting for his iffy health would become a big one.
The problem with this is that we’re actually still investing top dollar in a fragile economy. Over the past five years we’ve spent $81 on Bedard and he’s earned back $65. That’s not a disaster, but it isn’t a winning strategy either. You want to pay up for the guys who are going up before they go up, like Bedard in 2006 and 2007, and try to avoid the guys who are at their peak with nowhere to go but down, as the oft-injured Bedard has proved the last three years.
It isn’t always easy and it’s a call all of us get wrong more than we’d like, but it is the single most important mental adjustment you can make. Paying for last year’s stats, especially from players without a serious track record of success and health, is often a losing game.