The Z Files: Navigating FAAB

The Z Files: Navigating FAAB

This article is part of our The Z Files series.

Apologies in advance if these seems self-serving. That's not the intent. I'd reference these columns even if I wasn't the person staying up into the wee hours of the morning putting them together. OK, maybe it's a wee bit self-indulgent.

Every Sunday night during the regular season, yours truly generates a FAAB report for League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) and Tout Wars, posted Monday on Mastersball. Every player garnering a bid is listed with the amount. A Mastersball participant playing in the league sums up the results while I offer a pithy comment or two for each. All three LABR leagues along with the five Tout Wars contests are covered. What follows are some takeaways applicable to your leagues after perusing these columns as well as the FAAB results from your leagues.

Players to put on your radar

Granted, if you play in a 12-team American or National League only format, the reports are likely posted after your FAAB run. However, there still may be some utility looking at the contingency players that were not awarded. Having compiled the reports for years, I've noticed this week's unawarded player is next week's target acquisition.

I've had many tell me they use the AL and NL only results as a watch list for their shallower leagues the following week. Seeing how much the industry stalwarts were willing to pay helps frame their own try. In addition, the level of interest each player received is interesting information. If the same

Apologies in advance if these seems self-serving. That's not the intent. I'd reference these columns even if I wasn't the person staying up into the wee hours of the morning putting them together. OK, maybe it's a wee bit self-indulgent.

Every Sunday night during the regular season, yours truly generates a FAAB report for League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) and Tout Wars, posted Monday on Mastersball. Every player garnering a bid is listed with the amount. A Mastersball participant playing in the league sums up the results while I offer a pithy comment or two for each. All three LABR leagues along with the five Tout Wars contests are covered. What follows are some takeaways applicable to your leagues after perusing these columns as well as the FAAB results from your leagues.

Players to put on your radar

Granted, if you play in a 12-team American or National League only format, the reports are likely posted after your FAAB run. However, there still may be some utility looking at the contingency players that were not awarded. Having compiled the reports for years, I've noticed this week's unawarded player is next week's target acquisition.

I've had many tell me they use the AL and NL only results as a watch list for their shallower leagues the following week. Seeing how much the industry stalwarts were willing to pay helps frame their own try. In addition, the level of interest each player received is interesting information. If the same player was the back-up bid for several owners, there's an excellent chance he'll be someone's primary target next week. If your commissioner service provides the data, looking at the losing bids helps set your bid the following week, as players drawing interest usually command a higher bid the following week.

If you play in an AL or NL only format with fewer than 12 teams, the results of these deeper leagues will almost assuredly be prescient for your league. Similarly, the 15-team mixed leagues serve as a harbinger for shallower mixed leagues.

Learn the market for your league

While some commissioner services may not provide all the losing bids, the winning bids are surely accessible. Maybe this week you were set and didn't need to bid, but next time, you need a starting pitcher or a closer. Or maybe you need some power or speed. The best way to gauge the amount necessary to win the player is studying your league's bid history.

Another lesson learned from your league's past results are identifying the aggressive owners. If there's someone not shy about dropping a big percentage of their FAAB budget on a player of need, when you share that need it will take an equally strong bid, or you'll need to shift your focus to a player that won't cost as much.

This is integral in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC). Even if you don't play, this is worth checking out. Each week, the NFBC posts every player acquired in every league, along with every drop on their message forums. If you're in the NFBC and are unaware of what the market rate is for specific types of players in your league and the others, you're not doing FAAB properly. Obviously, your league is more important, but since the results for every league are publicly available, your competitors may see the results of other leagues and decide to increase their amounts.

Identify trade targets

This too necessitates access to losing bids, but if that's available, you can learn what your competitors sought in free agency. If they were shut out, or even won a player that was obviously down on their list, they may be interested in acquiring that position via trade. This most commonly occurs with starting pitcher, though I have seen it, and used it to my advantage, when someone fails to acquire a position player. The best way to facilitate negotiations are with a clever ice-breaker showing you're looking to make a win-win deal.

"Hey, I saw you fell short replacing Drew Smyly in this week's FAAB run. I can't believe Jeremy Guthrie cost that much. What was Zola thinking? Anyway, it looks like I have some starting pitching depth with Sal Romano called up, do I have a pitcher that could fetch me some of your excess speed? By the way, nice call on Mallex Smith."

There's a good chance this owner will bite. Some are reticent to deal this early. Some plan on sending out a cattle call, but if you beat them to the punch, they may simply deal with you and not be bothered fielding a slew of frustrating offers.

Get a feel for bidding patterns

Something I've observed over the years is many bids end in zero or five. As such, I began ending my bids with one or six. Recently, that has caught on, or others read my comments on this every year and make the adjustment. Now, I end my bids with three or seven. This is good since three and seven have always been my lucky numbers. Everyone in my family has a three or seven in their birthday. Well, everyone except my Dad, but check this out, it can't be a coincidence. He was born on April 21:

2+1=3
4+2+1=7

Pretty freaky! And you thought only ballplayers were superstitious.

Look for teams changing strategy

This is more useful later in the season as categories being to take shape. You can often discern a team's plan based on their FAAB bids, or drops, if available. The most obvious ploys pertain to pitching. Often, you'll recognize a team decided to punt ratios and focus on wins and whiffs. If you have someone only active for favorable starts, this could be an attractive addition for your opponent as they don't care about the matchup, they want strikeouts and a shot at a victory. The reverse can be true as some owners jettison all their starters to concentrate on ratios. Maybe you have Chris Devenski or Michael Lorenzen, ideal for their strategy. Yeah, they're useful to you every third week, but there's a decent chance you can acquire someone helpful every week, then backfill with Grant Dayton or Jacob Barnes.

Always look at the drops

Here's another tip dependent on your scoring site, but almost all make the releases viewable. Everyone scouts free agents differently, Again, at the mercy of your service, you can sort by week, or year-to-date, etc. The point is, depending how diligent your league mates are, players can slip through the cracks. Let's say someone grew frustrated with the lack of playing time for Delino DeShields and dropped him. His lack of at-bats, for both the period and season, may be enough to have him fail to show up in a free agent search, or at least not high enough to draw attention. Taking the time to check out last week's drops insures you won't overlook a potential stash. Some sites allow you to flag the player so you won't forget. Why not take advantage of that feature?

Everyone values players differently

Let's end with a lesson I'm reminded of every season, most applicable to trade talks. When putting the FAAB reports together, I like noting the bids for the same player in Mixed LABR, Mixed Auction Tout Wars and Mixed Draft Tout Wars. They're all 15-team leagues with free movement between active and reserve, so the comparison is apples to apples. It's fascinating how the inventory is evaluated across the three leagues. Of course, there are similarities, but there's always someone drawing a huge bid in one format while landing as a non-awarded contingency in another. This hammers home how we all have varying expectations for players, especially those in between stars and scrubs.
The manner in which I take advantage of this information is in offering choices in trades. I can't tell you how many times I'm pleasantly surprised my dance partner elected the option I valued the least while offering me the one I coveted most. Had I proposed something I thought was fair, it may have been rejected. Or maybe it was accepted, but I left a better deal on the table.

"Any interest in Smith and your choice of Blue, Red or Green for Jones and your choice of Purple, Yellow or Orange?"

The thinking is you're fine regardless of the selections, or you wouldn't have included them. But by presenting the offer in this nature, there's a great chance you give up less, and/or receive more, than if you chose one name in both lists.

That'll do it for this week's installment of the Z Files. Thanks for letting me shill a couple columns worth checking out. I promise, it will be worth your time.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Todd Zola
Todd has been writing about fantasy baseball since 1997. He won NL Tout Wars and Mixed LABR in 2016 as well as a multi-time league winner in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. Todd is now setting his sights even higher: The Rotowire Staff League. Lord Zola, as he's known in the industry, won the 2013 FSWA Fantasy Baseball Article of the Year award and was named the 2017 FSWA Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year. Todd is a five-time FSWA awards finalist.
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