An Early NFBC Auction: Did it work?

In last week’s Z Files, Dee Gordon was discussed in depth, with the conclusion that his 0.333 batting average last season was likely to fall, but the landing spot may not be far from that lofty mark. The suggestion that targeting Gordon in an auction and coupling him with a pure power guy could be an intriguing ploy. The National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) is offering on-line satellite auctions so why not put the idea to the test?

The leagues are of the 15-team mixed variety, this one uses a 7-man reserve with FAAB while others have a 27-round reserve and are played using standard NFBC Draft Champion rules. So, did it work?

Based on the previous four auctions, Dee Gordon would cost in the $32 range. The perfect complement is Chris Davis, also with an expected cost of about $32 so $64 was loosely budgeted.

Of the two, Gordon came out first and cost me 36 clams. Perhaps the room was aware of my plan either from reading the column or hearing me discuss it a couple times on SiriusXM Fantasy Radio. I was committed to the strategy but not necessarily Davis. Someone like Chris Carter could be subbed in to accomplish the same purpose.

Davis was nominated a little later and I stayed out of the bidding, so as not to draw attention to the plan and possible incur some price-enforcing. One of the best parts of auctions are these head games, about 98 percent of which are garbage, but they’re fun to pretend make a difference. Anyway, the bidding for Davis was at 26 so I jumped in at going twice and bagged him for 27 balloons. Maybe the Gordon bidding was just coincidental after all.

On paper, I got the duo for a buck less than budgeted so the inclination may be to say the plan worked. Not so fast. Personal valuations had the pair at $58 so on paper I overpaid. Honestly, spending five bucks more than valued is nothing in a mixed format as the prices for all top-end players is inflated.

The real issue with the strategy is what’s the difference between pairing Gordon and Davis to get about 50 homers and 60 steals and buying a couple of more balanced hitters to achieve similar totals? This only works successfully if the combined cost of the speedster and slugger comes in less than expected earnings. Back in the day, the analogous plan was buying Ichiro Suzuki and Adam Dunn. This difference being Ichiro and Dunn both routinely cost less than my valuation. This isn’t the case with Gordon and Davis. Pairing them was essentially a wash. So while it didn’t work, it certainly didn’t hurt either.

Fully understanding no one cares about your team but you, let’s ask “Did it work?” on a couple more elements of this auction.

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My plan with pitching was not to target any particular starter, but gauge the room and grab a top-ten guy that came in at the best price. The danger with this is potentially missing out if the best price is one of the early tosses and you get greedy and hope for something better. I ended up with David Price at $22 – did it work?

This isn’t the order they came out, but here’s the top pitchers and their prices.

PLAYER Cost My Price
Kershaw, Clayton 42 43
Scherzer, Max 33 32
Bumgarner, Madison 31 24
Sale, Chris 30 27
Cole, Gerrit 28 23
Arrieta, Jake 27 25
Harvey, Matt 27 23
Strasburg, Stephen 25 19
deGrom, Jacob 25 18
Fernandez, Jose 24 17
Syndergaard, Noah 24 17
Kluber, Corey 23 22
Price, David 22 23
Greinke, Zack 22 22
Archer, Chris 22 15
Hernandez, Felix 21 21
Cueto, Johnny 21 19
Keuchel, Dallas 20 20

The only two that came in under my price were Clayton Kershaw and Price so I’d say it worked. Of course, if you have a lower amount for Price then you may disagree and perhaps suggest Scherzer would have been better at the cost – and you may be right. Time will tell. The only other name on the list that’s causing buyer’s remorse is Corey Kluber (a subject of the February 17 edition of The X Files) as I’m more bullish than most. That said, who’s to say the high bidder would have stopped at that point if I was in the bidding.

What about my general roster construction, did it work? Sparing my team, the short answer is no, I didn’t balance power and speed, overloading on steals. This loops in an important concept and that’s to draft to strength. Examining the player pool, I know there are several stolen base sources that I like usually use to build up steals spreading the wealthy between a few players. Here are some examples and their winning bid price, along with my expected earnings:

Revere, Ben 20 19
DeShields Jr., Delino 18 12
Wong, Kolten 12 15
Marte, Ketel 12 12
Pillar, Kevin 11 15
Burns, Billy 10 14
Inciarte, Ender 4 13

I bought Marte and Pillar which isn’t the problem. I also rostered Cesar Hernandez, a total waste as my middle infielder as well as Dalton Pompey. Compounding things was grabbing old favorite Jose Peraza in reserve.

I lost sight of team construction with Marte, Pompey and Hernandez. Jhonny Peralta cost $4. Put him in the place of Marte and add that extra $8 onto Pompey and I could have picked up Brandon Belt, Jorge Soler, Josh Reddick, Shin-Soo Choo, Evan Gattis or Mark Teixeira, all of which went for eight or nine bucks. This doesn’t even consider I left money on the table – more on that in a minute.

The take-home lesson is buying Dee Gordon stripped one of my edges – being patient enough to buy ample steals on the cheap later. Give me Belt and Peralta instead of Marte and Pompey and I like the squad a whole lot more. So no, it didn’t work.

What about my money management, did it work? As alluded to, I left six bucks on the table, one of only four not to use up the entire $260. The other three left $2, $4 and $8. You can still win a mixed league leaving a few bucks on the table – it’s really no big deal. What bugs me is I failed to take advantage of one of the main tenets of a mixed auction: everyone likes different players in the end game and if someone happens to outbid you, the inventory is still sufficient to find some nifty $1 players.

That said, what transpired was really odd, especially for an auction of this nature. I help the NFBC administer these auctions and there’s almost always at least one team with a ton of money left. What happens is that team forces everyone else to pay a lot for some players, forcing them into dollar days prematurely. There’s always a handful of teams with $5 for 5 players something like that. The last 20 or 25 players are literally drafted since no one can outbid $1.

But something funny happened on the way to the end game. The money was incredibly balanced throughout all 15 teams. No one really controlled the board. Players went for reasonable prices – no one forced a handful of players to be chased before the real bargains kicked in.

I noticed this and determined the best thing to do was be the last to dollar days so I could always bid another buck and get everyone I wanted down the stretch. The problem was no one nominated the guys I wanted and no one upped my $1 bids for the players I nominated. I forgot the aforementioned tenet. I should have trusted I’d get the majority of my guys for $1 and aimed to spend the rest earlier.

I got the end gamers I wanted. But man, add that $6 onto the $9 from before and I’m looking at Matt Kemp or Evan Longoria instead of Belt. Oh well.

Mistakes aside, I still like the team. The auction was mid-February. I’ll find some power to use instead of Pompey. Some middle infielder will emerge to replace Hernandez. Who knows, maybe I’ll even tell you about it.