Replacing Replacement Value in Fantasy Auctions

With the baseball season rapidly approaching and recent posts by FanGraphs authors converting projected statistics into auction values, I thought I would share my approach towards valuation I have used in a long-standing A.L. league with 12 teams, 23 player rosters selected through auction (C, C, 1B, 3B, CI, 2B, SS, MI, 5 OF, 1 DH), a $260 budget, a 17-player reserve snake draft and the ability to keep up to 15 players from one year to the next, an attribute that inflates the value of the remaining pool and can further distort disparate talent across positions and categories.

We have traditionally used a 4×4 format, and while I have persuaded my co-owners to switch to a 5×5 for the coming year, what follows is my process for a 4×4 league.

There was a distant time when I was a whiz at math but my utter lack of a work ethic for advanced math collided with university-level calculus and I crumbled as surely as a weak-kneed lefty facing Randy Johnson. So my understanding of some key statistical processes is compromised. And by some I mean most.

But what I lack in math I hope I make up in approach:

(1) For categories over multiple years in this league, teams finish in a standard bell-shaped curve, with two or three teams well ahead, two or three well behind and six to eight clumped more closely together.

(2) In a 12-team league, a third-place finish in a category bets you 10 points. Across eight categories, averaging a third-place finish gets you 80 points, which is enough points to win out league between 80% and 90% of the time.

(3) Given both (1) and (2), my goal is to finish in third in every category, because doing do will far more often than not win my league, and because that target is a comfortable space above the pack in the middle, creating a margin for error within which I can still secure a win.

(4) I calculate what totals I need for each category to finish third based upon the specific history of our league, giving greater weight to more recent and relevant trends.

(5) I calculate the totals needed to finish dead middle in the pack for each category, again based upon the specific history of our league, giving greater weight to more recent and relevant trends.

(6) The difference between the third-place totals and the median totals become my spread, in a sense, the yardstick against which I then measure all projected player performance.

(7) I don’t weight pitchers and hitters evenly because my league does not – the marketplace of my league places significantly less value on pitchers, spending between $70 and $100 on them, and I adjust values to account for that. Perhaps that is also justified by either greater volatility or more injuries for pitchers. In any case, I divide the total value for hitters by 14 and for pitchers by 9 to come up with the average value for hitters or pitchers.

(8) I calculate what each of 14 hitters and 9 pitchers would need to contribute per player for each category for both the top and the bottom of the spread.

(9) For each category, I divide the median production per player by the difference in the gap to find the incremental value of each unit of production.

(10) For each player and for each category, I start with the median value of median production for all four categories, than add or subtract the incremental value depending upon if their projected production is above or below the median.

(11) I do the same for keepers to calculate inflation value, then list both the value and inflated value next to each player, broken down by position, so I can track both availability and the ebb and flow of inflation in real time.

(12) Finally, my league is mostly inelastic except for dumping trades. That means it is not easy to trade surplus categories for deficit categories. So I create a running tally of my projected production, starting with my keepers and adding players I gain in the auction with the goal or at least reaching each of the target levels needed for projected third-places finished in each category.

(13) I don’t adjust assigned value based on the position played but of course I consider position as I bid in order to reach my targets in an inelastic league. I may deliberately pay somewhat more than inflation cost for a good player if the likely alternatives is paying over inflation value for a poor player and being left with more money to spend then there is talent to spend it on. I do so knowing my keepers will produce to much surplus value that I can win simply getting players close to inflation value.

At least in my league, my projected values, adjusted for inflation, are pretty close to the mark notwithstanding the outliers that will come in any marketplace, both for individual players and for more systemic biases (my league overpays for closers, for example). I don’t win every year, but when I fall short, it is not because my valuations were off but because of too many failures in projecting specific players.

Is there a statistical basis for tossing replacement value as a baseline for creating auction values or statistical benefit to instead using league-specific gaps between middling and winning teams? Frankly, I don’t know, however intuitive my system seems to me. But I’d welcome feedback on my approach, statistical arguments for and against it, and whether it warrants further exploration.

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saevel25
Member
Member
saevel25

This is sort of a fortuitous post for me. I am thinking about the same situation with creating my own values. For me I am using the minimum in each category as the baseline over replacement player. I came to the same thinking. You pay for stats. You pay so you end up certain number of spaces above last place, or for your method middle of the pack. I think the math works similarly because it is the same method. Taking the players stat minus the minimum average per player in that category (which is shockingly consistent per year when… Read more »

rotofan canada
Member
rotofan canada

I am delighted I could be of some help! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and methods. Here are my initial thoughts and questions: (1) When you calculate the minimum average per player in each category, how precisely do you do that? (2) I think you are correct in suggesting you can chose as a baseline the minimum or the median of each category. One advantage of the median, though, is that it will be subject to less variability from year to year since last place finishers can be outliers while those near the median, by definition, are not, though it’s… Read more »

saevel25
Member
Member
saevel25

Rotofan, (1) I take a look at the last place team. Lets say a team finishes with 170 HR. From there I just divided that by 14 since there are 14 starting positions. In theory, even if you use, at least in the leagues i am in at least 16.5 hitters on average over the whole season. Basically how many extra players there are in reserve. Still, in the end the overall stats can be brought back to a single player average as if you were having 14 exactly the same players at each position. (2) That is true, and… Read more »

tz
Guest
tz

This actually parallels two concepts in real-life baseball: 1. To measure the value of a player, irrespective of what team he plays for, you use WAR. 2. To translate the player’s value into actual dollar, you would also look at the marginal value per win. This marginal value is the greatest for a team whose expected win total is right on the bubble for the post-season. So, for a lot of auction fantasy players, I’d guess that the value above replacement is a good proxy for “target” value. However, in the heat of the auction process, the task at hand… Read more »

wsmith
Member
wsmith

What methodology adjustments will you be making to move to a 5×5 league given there is no league history in the new categories?