If you haven't figured it out already, I am a nerd.
My favorite fruit snacks when I was a little kid were Numbers
- not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Garfield, but eatable integers.
This pattern of behavior hasn't really changed over time.
Maybe you have heard this anecdote before, but I suspect it will become a story that my future grandchildren eventually get sick of hearing too. During college, I was zoning out during a marketing lecture, working on a spreadsheet with projections for my upcoming fantasy baseball draft.
A girl in the seat next to me leaned over toward my screen.
"Hey, what class is that for?"
To my younger readers, the correct answer to that question is not, "Oh, it's for my fantasy baseball league."
Please learn from my mistakes. I didn't even get her name.
Fortunately, my fascination with Excel has been more beneficial in other settings.
Pinch-hitting while usual Behind the Numbers
columnist Dave Regan is off this week, I had two goals.
1. Bring numbers.
2. Don't ruin his column - the bar is high when you win FSWA awards regularly.
As a site, we dedicate a lot of resources toward making suggestions each week regarding waiver-wire and Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB) pickups. Interestingly enough, we don't spend a proportional amount of time tracking where the money is actually going. Jeff Erickson started posting the weekly bidding results from his NFBC leagues a couple of years back, but it seems like a good time to look back as we wrap up the first full month of the regular season.
For this exercise, I have taken the winning and second-place bids from the first five weekly bidding periods of my NFBC Main Event League.
As promised, we have numbers:
denotes player purchased in more than one FAAB period
There are many ways to slice up the information from the table above, but I want to focus first on the distribution of the money with respect to the entire FAAB pool.
Through five periods, the 15 teams in my league have spent a combined $4,984 of their $15,000 of allotted FAAB money. In my estimation, the range here is most likely 30-35 percent for many leagues, with a few that might check in as high as 40-45 percent if a particularly aggressive set of owners are involved, or if a late-round pick in many others leagues happened to go unselected in a league or two. I would project a similar level of spending in May (25-30 percent) and a little bit less in June (20-25 percent) before there are only a handful of owners capable of making triple-digit bids in the second half of the season.
While there may not be a significant actionable takeaway for this season, looking at the year-by-year trend of your league, or leagues that are similar might be helpful in future years when you are trying to determine how much you want to bid on a particular player, at a particular time of year.
Of that $4,984 spent, $1,881 (37.7 percent) went toward relievers. Overwhelmingly, those dollars were spent in the pursuit of saves, and the ROI to this point has not been great, but with a handful of those purchases in position to close games for their respective teams, the investment could begin to pay off over time.
Table generated at Fangraphs with games played through April 28.
K-Rod added his 13th save of the season at the time of this writing while Joe Smith
struck out a pair of batters during a clean ninth against the Indians on Tuesday night to earn his second save of the season. Adding those two saves to the pile (they're not included in the table), we have 33 saves generated by the 21 relievers that been added via FAAB this season.
Of course, not all of those saves have been earned while these relievers were on rosters and in the lineup for their respective owners. Drilling down further, we can get a feel for what each save purchased through FAAB has cost through the first month of the season.
In many leagues, K-Rod and Charlie Blackmon
have been the greatest sources of production purchased from the waiver wire. Of the relievers in the group above, K-Rod, Smith, Farnsworth and Rondon appear to have the ninth-inning role for their respective teams, but K-Rod has an unmatched level of job security while the situations for the Mets and Cubs figure to be much more fluid.
At what point should you be happy with your investment in a closer? Further research on this topic is needed, but I am willing to speculate that Shawn Kelley
is a useful guide here. Kelley was purchased nearly a full week after getting a very clear temporary opportunity to close games for the Yankees while David Robertson
was on the 15-day DL. At $48 for the one save he earned after being purchased before Robertson returned to his role, that might be in the neighborhood of a reasonable per-save cost. To be certain, a much larger data set should be examined, while determining the value of each save with the respect to Standings Gained Points (SGP) in a 15-team NFBC Main Event League (and the overall standings) would serve as my preferred methodology.
Alternatively, this exercise could be done using bid results from the entire season at the end of the year, as closers purchased in July or August when the top bids are lower due to the limited spending power of the league could yield more per-save value. That is, overpaying may not be as much of an option, so the Kelley-types purchased later in the year might go for less than $48, and even the top options may go for less than $150 then if most teams have spent 80-85 percent of their budget.
The spending at other positions is much less interesting by comparison, but it falls this way:
|POS||$ SPENT||% of $ SPENT||EST./ROSTER||% of ROSTER|
Even though relievers make up 13 percent of a team's active roster spots (less for owners who only have two closers and lean on seven starters to pick up more innings, extra wins and strikeouts), the race for saves and the simple fact that in a 15-team league, there are only 30 closers to go around at any given time during the season, pushes extra money toward relievers each week.
One of the commonly used strategies in the NFBC is to be more aggressive with starting pitching - often by taking at least two starting pitchers over the first five rounds. The leagues also have notorious closer runs, where two-thirds of the closer pool might be drafted before the end of the 10th round.
Looking at the comparably low price of acquiring starting pitchers - many times to obtain a pitcher for a two-start week, or very favorable spot start before turning them loose - perhaps it would be more prudent to aggressively seek an elite closer, at the expense of making a slightly smaller draft-day investment in starting pitching in the early rounds.
In the first table above, you might have noticed that the most spent on a starting pitcher in this league so far as the $81 bid made on Andrew Heaney
on April 13. There have been a number of intriguing buys, and some have already returned more value than expected at discounted prices, including the speculative adds of Trevor Bauer
($58), Colby Lewis
($34) and Derek Holland
($6), along with the dart throws at Alfredo Simon
($44), Aaron Harang
($38), Jason Hammel
($34) and Edinson Volquez
($7), among others.
Perhaps the preferred approach is owner specific. If you think you can reliably identify useful pitchers in the dumpster and consistently execute the sit-start decisions based on matchups without suffering too many blow-ups, it might afford you the ability to make a bigger push when useful position players (i.e. Blackmon, Chris Colabello
) become available. From a cost standpoint, it seems like a more viable way to build the bottom end of the roster, as opposed to waiting too long on closers during the draft and being forced to chase saves due to attrition, which subsequently limits the ability to spend aggressively elsewhere.
Looking at the results above, or by reviewing where the money has gone in your own league, does anything stand out? Please chime in with your thoughts and ideas about how to potentially utilize this (or similar) data in the comments below.