The Best Day of the Year

It’s auction day – the day I look forward to each year.  You arrive with your laptop, spreadsheets, handwritten notes, and the hope that you can land many of your targets.  Meticulously you have followed the advice I and many other experts have given you in regards of preparing for this day.  A cup of Dunkin’ coffee, a breakfast sandwich, and some snacks lay in front of you.  Pleasantries are said around the table as you greet your league-mates – except for the guy who won last year when he passed you the final week of the season.  The commissioner goes over any rule changes for the year and then passes around a hat to pick your spot in the reserve round draft.

“Chris Sale for 20” is the first bid, called out by last year’s champ who is smirking at you, knowing you wished you were the one with the privilege.  Are you ready? Do you want Sale? How high are you willing to go? These are questions you will be asking yourself with each player called out until you are either locked out of a position (usually not the case if you don’t tie up your utility spot too early) or a player is going to be outside of your budget at the time.

What are the important things to track during the auction?

  1. Is the auction in the red or black vs. your predicted values?
  2. Following the scarce stats of saves and steals… since most auction leagues are not tied to an overall title, how many do you really need?
  3. How many players are needed to be bid on at each position
  4. Who is falling through the cracks?
  5. What is each team’s maximum bid?

Considering you have followed the advice of many, you have your players ranked by position and “price”.  I believe one of the most important things you can do in an auction is track how the prices are running vs. your predictions.  After each player is auctioned off, I tally how many units above or below the projected price was.  So if Trout goes for 45 and you have him down for 42, that’s a +3.  The more positive this accounting becomes, the cheaper the remaining player pool becomes.  Again, this only works if your values add up to the dollars being spent in your auction.  $3120 for a 23 player/12 team $260 budget.

If there are keepers, you must adjust your prices based on the remaining total after subtracting the values of the kept players.  Your league must require that the keepers are announced at least a few days (and preferably a week) before your auction to allow adequate preparation. A $12 Aaron Nola inflates the pool by about $13 for example.  The more keepers, most of whom are kept at a discount, the higher the inflation on the remaining players.

Tracking your stats to make sure you hit your targets is essential regardless of whether you are in an auction or draft.  There aren’t many overall championship auction contests available, so in most auction leagues, it is not essential to try to get to the 80th percentile in both stolen bases and saves.  Fully punting one is possible, but definitely not both.  Don’t allow yourself to be the one who needs SBs and gets into a bidding war over the last player left who can steal.  Be aware of these trends for these scarce categories.

At the draft you will be armed with some sort of software, excel file, or a piece of paper that looks like this courtesy of Doug Anderson and Auction League Worksheet. In fact, Mr. Anderson has several good links in this Fantrax Auction League article posted several weeks ago I encourage you to read.

As you fill in the sheet, you will see positions that are starting to fill up.  Again, do not be the one of the last two teams that needs a shortstop and get into a bidding war.  You will be cross-referencing your worksheet to your player list.  Pay attention to this as you get deeper into the auction.  Even though third base may be very deep, if you hold off, many may be taken at both 3B and CI and you’ll be scrambling at the end.

In every auction there will be a player or two that you notice is still available who should have been called out much earlier.  Two things can happen here.  You can get him at a deep discount if you still have some draft capital available, or if there are still a fair amount of units left out there a bidding war can develop and his discount goes away.  I try to have some capital left towards the end of the auction, but it doesn’t work out that way all the time.

Now we are deep into the draft.  Most teams have only six or fewer players left to obtain, but they all have different amounts of units left to bid with.  There will always be someone who has 6 units left for those 6 players and will not be able to bid on anyone except the players he calls out.  Try not to be this person.  It’s ok to do it for the last player or two, but do you really want more than two one unit players on your team?  To get these players, no one else wanted them or else someone would have bid two!!!  By knowing the max bid of each team, you can strategically place bids on players that you want, and hopefully nobody else wants to spend an extra dollar to snipe you.

Let’s say there is a catcher you want and you see by your worksheet that only two other teams need one.  You have played it right and have saved some units for the end game with 10 left for 4 players giving you a max bid of 7.  The other two teams have max bids of 3 and 4 respectively.  By bidding 4 you get the guy you want and you potentially save yourself a unit because if you allow the one team to bid 4 you’d have to go to 5 to win the bid.  This is an important part of the end game.  Saving some units for the end and knowing how to block others with strategic bids is a key part of getting the low unit players you want.

The last word on auction day is this: NEVER have units left over at the end.  It may be ok to have one or two, but what that means is that you may have been able to get that tier two pitcher that you pulled back on and then spent almost the same amount on the last tier-three pitcher because you got into a bidding war for the last pitcher with 180 projected strikeouts.  If you spend less than $258 on your team, you did yourself a disservice by not maximizing your team’s potential.

The reserve round is usually done with a snake draft in most leagues.  Depending on your league rules (DL spots, daily/weekly roster moves) you’ll construct your bench differently.  With DL spots you may take someone like Yoenis Cespedes, who likely won’t be bid on in most leagues and hope he returns earlier than expected (gosh, just realized I used “DL” my apologies if I offended anyone… not).  With daily moves a balance between hitters and pitchers can help maximize active players each day, especially on Mondays and Thursdays when some teams are usually off.  Have an injury prone player? Take a player at the same position that will play a decent amount of time so that the “replacement value” actually has some value.

The day is done.  You say good luck with tongue in cheek to your fellow combatants and head home – usually wishing you went one more unit on Eloy Jimenez and why the hell did I say 15 for Buster Posey?


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Andy Spiteri

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Playing fantasy sports since 1991 when you got your stats in the mail on Thursdays...Husband and father of two. I put people to sleep for a living. Mets, NY Rangers and Eagles/Jets (a product of being born in NYC but living in Bucks County PA for 20 years) fan. Home league baseball auction is top 5 day of the year!

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