ASK ROTOMAN: Your Prices Seem Low!

Dear Rotoman:

Your values for top players seem low. I am in an AL 4×4 12-team $260 keeper league. Its the keepers that inflate the value of the top players on draft day. Do you have a formula I can apply to your prices that takes into account how many players we are drafting and how many dollars are left (after keepers).

“Inflate Me”

Dear IM:

Yes! You are absolutely right. In a keeper league (4×4 or 5×5 doesn’t matter), where inexpensive players are carried over from one year to the next, you need to adjust the startup prices in the Guide or prices create yourself or you obtain elsewhere to account for these lower priced players.

For example, I allocate $3120 for 168 hitters and 108 pitchers in each 12-team AL and NL league, because that is what is going to be spent.

In your keeper league, however, you may have 50 hitter freezes and 20 pitcher freezes. What you need to figure out is how much money is going to be “saved” by your having these freezes.

To do this, list the players in your league who are going to be frozen. Then compare their keeper prices to the startup league prices from the Guide (or the updates). Total each column.

Let’s say the 70 keepers in your league are going to cost their teams $700 in keeper fees, but my price list says that they’re actually worth $1000. How is that going to affect your league’s prices in the auction?

1. To start we have $3120 in value.

2. In your league (after keepers) you’ll have $3120 minus $700 which equals $2420 in cash for buying the available players.

3. Based on the values in the Guide, this money is chasing $3120 minus $1000  in value, which equals $2120 total value in your auction.

4. Figure out an inflation rate by dividing the amount of cash you have by the amount of value ($2420/$2120) which equals 14 percent.

5. This extra money is available to be spent in your auction, which means that a player I gave a price of $35 might actually cost 14 percent more, or $40. (Multiply $35 * 1.14 = $40)

The important thing to recognize here is that teams that don’t take the inflation into account will stop bidding at $35 or $36, thinking they’re going over budget. The savvy player will know that a player’s par price is higher than that (in some leagues, depending on the keeper rules, it can be much much higher).

So, knowing your inflation rate is a big help while tracking your auction, but there are some confounding issues.

The 14 percent inflation is usually not distributed evenly. 

For one thing, the 14 percent increase in price of a $3 player doesn’t round up to $4, so what rounds down is distributed to more expensive players. This effect is echoed up the line, so that more money is distributed to more expensive players.

But it also makes strategic sense to manually allocate more bid money to more expensive players.

Would you rather pay $4 for a $3 player, or get the edge when budgeting of going to $41 on the player who rounds up to $40. The fact is that you might still get the same cheaper player and the more expensive one if your budget allocates the inflation money to the top group.

In which case the important number is not the 14 percent, but rather the $300 extra you have to pay the available player pool. Go through your list and bump the prices of top players you like the 14 percent, and then distribute the remaining money (which you didn’t give to those players who cost less than $12) to the players you fancy.

This is subjective, of course, so you’re going to want to be careful, but the effect of inflation is somewhat subjective, too. As an aggressive player you should make sure you err going after the players you value more than those you don’t. Your budgeting can help make those choices clearer in advance.

Another reason to allocate the money to more expensive players is because if you don’t spend on them early on, you may end up holding the bag in the end game by either not having spent all your money, or by being compelled to pour too much extra cash into the last available (and now wildly overpriced) talent.

It’s much more effective to spend an extra dollar on three or four expensive guys than to spend $5 on a $1 player at the end. Or leave $4 (or more) on the table, unspent.

The bottom line is that the proper tracking of inflation can give you a huge advantage over owners who either don’t think about it or try to wing it. Knowing whether owners are spending more or less than they should in the early rounds of the auction will help you decide whether to spend now or wait for bargains later.


Ask Rotoman: Which Star Should I Drop?

Dear Rotoman:

Who should I keep among Robinson Cano, Giancarlo Stanton, Cliff Lee, Albert Pujols, or Adrian Gonzalez. I can only keep four of five.


Cliff_Lee,_philly_cropDear Stocked:

I’m assuming you play in maybe an eight-team mixed league. Usually I would go to my prices from the Guide, but in such a shallow league the pricing curve changes quite a bit. The best players are bid up aggressively, because the last players taken are not only excellent, but there are also many undrafted players who are just as good.

So, let’s look at where your guys were taken in the magazine Mock Draft, which at 15 rounds has some of the same characteristics as your draft:

Robinson Cano went fifth overall. He’s dropped a few slots in some drafts because he landed in Seattle, but he’s your top-rated hitter.

Giancarlo Stanton went 12th, which is aggressive given his troubles last year and how bad the Marlins will be this year, but he’s a must keep for you because of his youth and power potential.

Albert Pujols went 38th, coming off the worst year of his career. He’s an interesting one because, in addition to the foot injury that wrecked him last year,  he’s shown signs of other age-related wear and tear. The Angels say his foot is healed, and he’s not that far removed from being the game’s best hitter. Let’s come back to him later.

Adrian Gonzalez went 44th, based on his record as a solid hitter with some power. He hasn’t been a superstar the last few years, as he was before, but he makes good contact and will park one now and then. A very solid bet I would probably rank just ahead of Pujols, because we can’t be sure of the latter’s health.

Cliff Lee went 80th, which is no knock on him but an affirmation of the belief that it is necesssary to load up on the best hitters in a draft before getting into the pitching (and obviously favoring the young strikeout arms before the older ones, like Lee).

I’m not sure that you have to go that way, but there are many advantages to it. I think on the potential risk of failure, Lee might have a slim edge over Pujols, but unless your league does something weird, like draft pitchers aggressively, I’d take the hitters over the pitcher, who is likely to still be there when you pick later.


Playing for the Middle

A few years after I joined the American Dream League I had a decent season and finished in fourth place. I’d battled pitcher injuries and failures all year long, and had the sense that–in this 4×4 league–I was losing ground in wins. I had struggled valiantly to hang in there.

A few days after the season was over I received (in the mail! that’s how long ago this was) the final report from Heath Data, which confirmed the numbers those of us who were in the hunt got when we updated the stats each day manually during the final week. I wasn’t happy about the result, but I was glad to be in the money. But then I looked at the report that Heath called the hypothetical standings, based on our teams’ rosters coming out of the draft, as if we’d made no moves all season long. The hypotheticals are a good way to look at the team you were dealt, as it were. If you suffered a lot of injuries or PEDs suspensions that year your team would suffer in the hypotheticals.

But the draft day hypotheticals are also a good way to see how you played during the year. If you suffered a lot of injuries but turned your poor hypothetical showing into a strong real showing, you did good. Or vice versa, which is what happened to me in that long ago year. In fact, when I looked more closely, I discovered that if I ranked my draft day stats in the actual end of year standings against the actual non-hypothetical stats of the other ADL teams, I’d bought enough stats in the draft to have won the league. Another way to put it: if a safe fell on my head as I left the draft at O’Reilly’s that year, I would have finished first even with the other teams picking up injury replacements and making trades all season long.

Instead I had finished fourth. I found this to be profoundly depressing.

Screen Shot 2013-09-21 at 7.43.29 PMI bring this up now because something similar is happening in the American Dream League this year., our current stats service, sensibly offers up hypothetical standings all season long. Push a button and you get the draft day standings up to that date. I was aware all season long that I was hypothetically doing much better than I was in the real game, but I chalked that up to a disastrous series of moves I made back in May. That was when I traded Elvis Andrus and Junichi Tazawa for Justin Verlander. I knew I had a big surplus in steals and I thought adding the best pitcher in baseball would help my team. I was able to leverage Tazawa’s presumed role of closer to swing the deal, and was glad to see my hunch pay off and Tazawa didn’t hold the job. Unfortunately, Verlander didn’t do the job–perhaps distracted by girls–but that wasn’t my mistake. I made the right move but it didn’t work out. My actual mistake came from the blind side.

At that point in the season, mid May, my pitcher Felix Doubront was looking dismal. His velocity was down, his control stunk, his ERA was something above 6.00 with a giant WHIP. I had liked him a lot coming into the season, but I despaired that he was damaged and killing my pitching stats. Also, a few weeks before, I’d picked up Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, who had looked like a strong strikeout pitcher with good skills for a few games, but then he got pounded in a game and his ERA ballooned up above six, too. Which pitcher would he be going forward? I figured with Verlander and Shields I didn’t need the risk.

Another factor was our rule that teams that don’t get seven saves during the season get zero points in the saves category. This isn’t a huge deal, but points are points and having just traded Tazawa, who I assumed would get a few, I was scouring the waiver wire and found two potential sources in Oliver Perez in Seattle, where Tom Wilhelmsen was struggling, and fireballer Josh Leuke in Tampa Bay, where Fernando Rodney had suddenly gone all, um, historical-Rodney-like with his control. I decided to go after these putative closers, deciding to release Doubront and Kluber–who each had two-starts against tough teams coming up that week–if I got them (another rule we have limits you to three Special Reserves a season of players who aren’t on the DL or in the minors). I got them.

Both Doubront and Kluber pitched surprisingly well in their four games that week, but to my satisfaction didn’t win any of them. The next week I made a substantial bid on Kluber but was beat out. I didn’t bid on Doubront because I was still convinced he was damaged, but he soon showed he wasn’t. He immediately, punishingly, became the pitcher I had frozen to start the year, thinking, hoping, I had a major breakout candidate. Kluber pitched very well until he got hurt, and certainly would have helped my staff a lot if I’d Special Reserved him, and until a rough patch in September, Doubront was excellent. Perez and Leuke turned out to be nothing, which is why I thought pitching was the problem with my team. But when I looked more closely at the hypotheticals today, they show something different:

My team has 14 fewer homers and 18 fewer steals now than I bought on draft day. I do have 18 more wins, but my ERA and WHIP are both higher than the team I bought back then, even after trading for Verlander. That’s in part because when Verlander was on my team he had a 3.91 ERA, just barely better than my team’s, and a hurtful 13.24 Ratio. (I subsequently traded him for Chris Sale, who will be a decent freeze next spring.) But the real damage to my team came to my offense, which was the result of a series of trades with which I intended to add homers and batting average.

Following Andrus and Tazawa for Verlander and Marwin Gonzalez I did the following:

jacoby_ellsburyI traded Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Zunino for Alex Rios, Ryan Lavarnway and John Jaso. Rios had 10 homers and 10 steals at that point, Ellsbury 1 homer and 24 steals, and didn’t hit for much power last year. I needed homers badly, I thought, even though I expected the weakling speed-corner Hosmer to hit a few and the feckless DH Butler to get going at some pointuy-=. Nothing happened for a week, and then Rios started running like crazy and hit no homers for the 89 at bats I had him for. Ellsbury went crazy and hit .350 over the next month, with a few homers, and has now hit seven homers for the Peppers. I needed catcher at bats, too, and while Lavarnway was a long shot Jaso was getting them. Zunino was not hitting in Triple-A, so who knew when he’d get the call, and even if he did, he might not hit .200.

Five weeks later I traded Rios, Tommy Milone and Jimmy Paredes for Ian Kinsler, Erasmo Ramirez and Leury Garcia. Kinsler would surely hit some homers, I thought, and with him and Zobrist and Asdrubal Cabrera my infield was pretty strong. There was a lot of griping in the league about the Milone for Ramirez component, the team that got Milone badly needed pitching and had for some reason had been talking up Ramirez up like a huckster, but I thought there was a pretty good chance Ramirez would be the better of the two the rest of the way. I wanted him in the deal and I was right, though Milone set a low bar landing in the minors for most of the second half.

A few weeks later I traded the newly FAAB-acquired speedster Jonathan Villar for Derek Jeter, who was just back off the DL. That didn’t work out, since the Captain proved unable to play, but I’m still second in steals at this point, so it wasn’t too costly.

The problem is that if I’d stuck with my draft day team I would have seven points in HR, instead I have two, and I would have 12 points in BA, instead I have eight. My draft day team inserted into the current real world standings against the actual stats of the other ADL teams would have 60 points, a solid fourth place, instead of 52 and a mad six-team scramble for places four through nine.

That team includes Al Albuquerque, Jake Arrieta and Brett Anderson, active all year, as well as Tommy Milone and Fernando Martinez a big hole on offense. Just adding Cory Kluber to the mix for Arrieta (AL stats only) and sticking with it would move the team up a few points and into solid contention with the BBs, Veecks and Jerrys for the championship. Yeesh.

The real mystery is how did I add 225 AB on the year and lose 14 homers (and seven RBI) and .007 of BA when what I was trying to do was add homers and BA? The answer is timing.

In 470 or so AB for my team, Jacoby Ellsbury, Elvis Andrus and Ryan Flaherty hit one homer. In 900 at bats not for my team, that trio has hit 19 homers. Plus Alex Rios, who hit zero homers in the 90 AB while I had him, hit 11 in the 246 AB before I acquired him, and six in the 250 at bats since I traded him. There was a power outage at Bad K Park this year, to be sure, and to catch up I churned the waiver and FAAB wires, trying to add homers, and didn’t succeed while damaging my BA.

The result is that rather than fighting with three other teams for the money spots, I’m in a wrangle with six teams for fourth place. I’m not sure what the lesson of this is. I played aggressively and got burned by bad timing. Verlander’s ERA when I traded for him was 3.17. For me he was 3.91. Since I traded him he’s been 3.74, but his WHIP during since I traded him was by far his best of the year (1.15). Whether or not it was my fault, clearly my activity was damaging.

Maybe next year I’ll practice stillness, and see how that works out.

ASK ROTOMAN: Who Should I Keep?


I am in a standard 5×5 keeper league with 12 teams. AL and NL. We can keep 3 players from one year to the next. If we keep a player we can’t draft in the round they were taken in the previous year. Just wondering who out of the following players you would keep. I have Matt Harvey, Fernando Rodney, Sergio Romo, Todd Frazier and Chris Davis all from the 27th round (final round of draft, most were free agent pick ups during 2012 so they qualify as the last round in the draft). I also have Jason Kipnis from the 10th round.  I can only keep three. Leaning towards Rodney, Davis and Kipnis. (I really like Harvey too though) Who would you keep?

“Is Kipnis A Keeper?”


I think the question here is what is the difference between the late rounds and round 10. Kipnis is a good keep, but in the 10th round he’s a bargain by a round or two, maybe. While taking three guys from the rounds 25-27 means you have real players in your endgame. That’s real value.

Fernando Rodney is surprisingly old, but he was surprisingly solid last year. I’m not going to guarantee his continued success, but given what he showed you have to take a shot. He was too dominant to let go.

If Chris Davis was Rodney’s age I would caution against a repeat, but despite all the years of underachievement Davis has under his belt, he’s going to be 27 this year. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t come close to repeating this year.

As for Sergio Romo, Todd Frazier and Matt Harvey, all rank within a round of each other, somewhere around number 160. Since you have a closer in Rodney and a power hitter in Davis, it makes sense to me to take a shot at an ace in the last round. He’s riskier than the other two, but with more upside (and help to your team).

And I wouldn’t object to you reaching a little for Kipnis, if he’s the second baseman you want, but by not freezing him you also have the option of going for Robinson Cano or Dustin Pedroia, who will pump up the value of your 27th Round keepers.

Good luck!