The road to creating fantasy baseball auction dollar projections is paved with many decisions. Some are plagued with methodological potholes but, if done right, the resulting \$ projections should basically get to the same place. (The player projections are the primary driver in differences between competent systems)

Since this is the time of the year where this topic matters, I thought I would shine a light on some of the less visible decisions that impact fantasy baseball auction dollar estimates. I will do my best to keep this from devolving into a mathematical or methodological exercise.

These musings will bleed into at least a second post. This first post is going to focus solely on Position Adjustments.

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about position adjustments this preseason. A significant portion of the fantasy baseball world seems to unconditionally believe that ‘position scarcity’ exists. EVERY draft has a number of C/2B/SS that would be drafted later if they were 1B/3B/OF.

Here are four theories on position adjustments – ranging from smallest to largest:

1. Meritocracy Theory – Do no position adjustments.
2. Apples-to-Apples Theory – Compare hitters against players at their position vs all hitters.
3. Replacement Theory – Project with no adjustment then add/subtract \$ to positions so that the last rosterable hitter at the position is at \$1 (and one could subtract if the last rosterable hitter above \$1).
4. Communist Theory – Adjust so that the dollars allotted to each position are equal – e.g., in a 1 catcher league, the catchers get 1/13th of the total \$ allotted to hitters.

The Meritocracy Theory is what I have adopted this year.

The Apples-to-Apples Theory is the one I followed prior to this year – though I hedged it a bit by comparing players 75% in their position and 25% against the average hitter (for AL/NL-only leagues, I did 25/75). Mike Podhorzer of FanGraphs/RotoGraphs has told me that the model he learned from Todd Zola follows this theory.

I think Replacement Theory is the prevalent one in the fantasy baseball world. I cannot speak for every \$ generator but, for , this appears to be the underlying adjustment behind the FanGraphs Auction Calculation. It was the approach favored by expert Larry Schecter in his Winning Fantasy Baseball book. I think most people who manually rank or determine player dollar values conciously or subconciously follow this theory and boost up C/2B/SS (code words: ‘scarcity’, ‘shallow’).

I have never heard someone promote the Communist Theory but it is the logical extreme of position adjustments.

I think mathematically proving the correct theory with league data would be impossible as a good or bad year at a certain position might skew the data. Picking Tulo at the end of the 1st round was not brilliant in 2015 before his injury and dumb after his injury. Maybe if I review multiple years of RCL there might be a little signal within the noise. I tried with RCL 2013-2014 data and middle infielder draft investment was negatively correlated with a team’s Hitter Points in RCL 2014 (-7%) and positively correlated in RCL 2013 (+6%).

If I had to guess on the impact of position adjustments, I would say they have very close to zero impact (unless someone screws up the math or goes way off the reservation). While drafts have a significant impact on final standings, the impact of a couple picks is very small. I finished 3rd out of 1,008 teams in the Razzball Commenter Leagues and drafted Justin Verlander/Allen Craig in the 4th/5th rounds. I drafted Jose Altuve in the 6th round of the KFFL BAD draft and finished 14th out of 15. Even if the ‘best’ strategy was to not make position adjustments and you jumped three rounds for a SS you loved, it is hard for me to see this having anything but negligible impact.

Rather than focus on the ‘right’ way for position adjustments, this post is about understanding the impact of these various methodologies and helping you determine the best one for your draft preferences. I will also try to point out the possible unintended consequences of position adjustments.

Below is a distribution of auction dollars per hitter position for 12-team mixed (C/1B/2B/SS/3B/5 OF/MI/CI/UTIL) using the results from my 2015 Player Rater, the 2014 Razzball Commenter League ADP (converted to \$), and the FanGraphs Auction Calculator (Note: I did not adjust hit/pitch splits so focus on the percentages/indexes versus totals).

I cut this two ways – the top portion ignores CI/MI and I just counted the top 3 OF. For the second, I incorporated CI/MI (crediting 1.5 for 1B/2B/SS/3B) and all 5 OF. I just included all the catchers in each and ignored DHs. The two indexes compare each source’s distribution against the ADP (a gauge at what ‘real’ drafts look like) and the second shows the index for each source per player (e.g., The Razzball Pre-Season’s 150 for 1B means that 1B dollars are 50% higher than the average auction dollars per hitter).

 Total \$ % of \$ Index vs ADP Index per average player 2015 Razz Pre RCL ADP 2014 2015 FG Pre 2015 Razz Pre RCL ADP 2014 2015 FG Pre 2015 Razz Pre RCL ADP 2014 2015 FG Pre 2015 Razz Pre RCL ADP 2014 2015 FG Pre C 12 97.4 101.6 83.5 5.6% 5.6% 5.4% 101 100 96 45 45 43 1B 12 324.3 312.2 303.2 18.8% 17.1% 19.5% 110 100 114 150 137 156 2B 12 174.7 201.8 166.4 10.1% 11.1% 10.7% 92 100 97 81 89 86 SS 12 147.3 212.6 144.9 8.5% 11.7% 9.3% 73 100 80 68 93 74 3B 12 210.6 239.6 169.1 12.2% 13.1% 10.9% 93 100 83 98 105 87 OF 36 769.7 755.3 689.6 44.6% 41.4% 44.3% 108 100 107 119 110 118 C 12 97.4 101.6 83.5 4.8% 4.8% 4.6% 99 100 96 57 58 56 1B 18 391.4 369 368.3 19.3% 17.6% 20.5% 109 100 116 154 141 164 2B 18 190.2 221.7 186.8 9.4% 10.6% 10.4% 88 100 98 75 85 83 SS 18 157.1 249.5 149.5 7.7% 11.9% 8.3% 65 100 70 62 95 66 3B 18 256.3 282 191.3 12.6% 13.5% 10.6% 94 100 79 101 108 85 OF 60 940.7 871.7 820.7 46.3% 41.6% 45.6% 111 100 110 111 100 109

Key takeaways:

• For 12-team mixed, the Razzball Player Rater and FanGraphs calculator are similar in their \$ allotments per hitting category with 1B/2B/3B having the biggest differences. This appears driven by FanGraphs position adjustments which give 3B the smallest position adjustment (behind 1B/OF which is clearly stronger based on my \$ allocation and past experience). So while my Player Rater suggests spending the average dollar amount on 3Bs (index 101) and the market spends 8% above average, the FanGraphs calculator suggests 15% below average. I think this speaks not only to the volatility of anchoring adjustments on the last player at a position but also to the challenge in where to place multi-position players in the replacement calculation. FanGraphs appears to follow my ‘order of operations’ of C/SS/2B/3B/OF/1B/DH. This means that the following players with 1B/3B or 3B/OF are credited to 3B and make it look deeper than 1B and OF: Todd Frazier, Chris Davis, Carlos Santana, Josh Harrison, and Ryan Zimmerman. (Note: the adjustment may lump 1B/3B together which would simultaneously help 1B and hurt 3B)
• While FanGraphs does boost Catchers the most of any position, the investment is (oddly) still below my \$ distribution with no positional adjustment. All three sources are in eerie alignment on Catchers.
• The biggest deviation between Razzball/FanGraphs and the RCL ADP is in Shortstop where total investment is 5% lower than the average hitter whereas the raters say it should be about 35% lower than average. Since the average hitter is worth about \$13, this means that the RCL, on average, puts a \$4.50 premium on SS.

Things get more interesting when running the same analysis using tlhe NFBC 15-team rosters (which use 2 catchers). Instead of 2014 RCL ADP, I am now using 2015 NFBC ADP.

 Total \$ % of \$ Index vs NFBC ADP Index per average player 2015 Razz Pre NFBC ADP 2015 2015 FG Pre 2015 Razz Pre NFBC ADP 2015 2015 FG Pre 2015 Razz Pre NFBC ADP 2015 2015 FG Pre 2015 Razz Pre NFBC ADP 2015 2015 FG Pre C 15 153.7 199.7 252.3 7.2% 9.3% 12.3% 77 100 131 58 75 98 1B 15 368.3 334.9 335 17.3% 15.6% 16.3% 111 100 104 138 125 130 2B 15 230.6 249.5 208.4 10.8% 11.7% 10.1% 93 100 87 87 93 81 SS 15 205.1 228.8 195.9 9.6% 10.7% 9.5% 90 100 89 77 85 76 3B 15 269.6 261.2 223.7 12.7% 12.2% 10.9% 104 100 89 101 98 87 OF 45 903.3 866.9 842.4 42.4% 40.5% 40.9% 105 100 101 113 108 109 C 30 134.4 233.5 301.4 6.3% 10.9% 14.6% 58 100 134 41 71 95 1B 23 444.1 388.4 408.7 20.8% 18.1% 19.9% 115 100 109 181 157 170 2B 23 260.2 285.5 240.4 12.2% 13.3% 11.7% 92 100 88 106 116 102 SS 22 227.1 263.3 220.6 10.7% 12.3% 10.7% 87 100 87 92 107 93 3B 22 321.7 296.9 252.8 15.1% 13.9% 12.3% 109 100 89 131 120 107 OF 75 1109.7 1042 1018.9 52.1% 48.7% 49.5% 107 100 102 135 127 129

Key takeaways:

• With the addition of the 2nd catcher, the FanGraphs model following Replacement Theory adds a huge bonus to each Catcher of about \$12 – all in an effort to get the last rosterable replacement catcher value to \$1. The premium placed on catchers vs my estimates is about \$6.60 on the first 15 catchers (about \$100 total difference) and \$5.56 for all 30 catchers.
• One quirk you may have spotted is that my system values catchers 16-30 at a sum of negative \$19.3. Why? Because I am giving catchers a very mild boost (about \$1) to ensure the 15th catcher is at \$1. I basically then let the \$ operate as a meritocracy and the results clearly show that the bottom half of catchers are uniformly below average compared to the other rostered hitters in this format.
• Yes, I have to bid at least \$1 for my 2nd catcher and it makes little sense to say they have a negative values. I don’t care. Here is the key decision I make – do I want to invest 6.3% of my total hitter budget on catchers or 14.6%?  Personally, I HATE investing in catchers (burns me almost every time) so investing less means I now have 8.3% of my hitting budget (about \$15) to spend on my other hitting slots than someone using Replacement Theory. If a Catcher comes at a nice discount, maybe I will grab one in the middle of the draft. Note that NFBC ADP splits the difference at 10.9%.
• With those extra \$, the Razzball Player Rater is investing a bit higher in all positions with the FG calculator except for SS (a near draw).
• Based on the ADP indices, both the Razzball and FanGraphs raters feel that the NFBC players spend too much on 2B/SS and should divert it to 1B/OF (mine also suggests 3B).

Conclusions:

1) In the key areas where my non-adjusted Player Rater diverges from FanGraphs position-adjusted Player Rater, I feel better about my results. Investing less in Catcher is admittedly subjective. I would argue that the 3B undervaluing is a quirk that one could resolve with a more sophisticated solution.

2) The ‘market’ (as defined by ADP) invests more in 2B/SS than the Raters suggest at the expense of 1B/OF.

So I will now frame the concept of positional adjustment as follows:

1) Forget all the math/theories you have learned on positional adjustments and think about how you want to invest your \$ across positions. While I like the simplicity of going without positional adjustments, I am making the decision because I feel comfortable in a) Severely limiting my Catcher investment in two catcher leagues, b) Feel that no position deserves a premium above their position-neutral worth, and c) I want as much of my hitter money as possible going to the best hitters regardless of position. If this means I have a loaded 1B/3B/OF/OF/OF/OF and weaker C/2B/SS, so be it.

If you want to invest more in C/2B/SS, that is fine. Just do not feel anchored by a theory that (in my opinion) causes more issues (i.e. the 3B glitch) than benefits. So instead of doing a full adjustment on Catchers, make a partial adjustment. As long as your total \$ adds up to \$260*# of Teams, you are fine. If your last 2 SS are worth -\$1 and -\$2, it is not the end of the world. There is no mathematic imperative that requires you to boost every other SS \$3 and re-distributing 2% of your \$ budget away from other positions.

2) If you just do rankings, this exercise can help uncover biases.

I ran a similar analysis against Grey’s rankings, ESPN’s Top 300, and the FanGraphs rankings for Mike Podhorzer and Zach ‘Z-score’ Sanders. (Note: converting rankings into \$ is easy. Just cut/paste my Player Rater for that league format and credit my #1 player’s \$ for your sources #1 pick, etc.).

For Grey, his antipathy towards catchers comes through loud and clear but I think his 2B/SS preference was higher than he might have guessed (He sees this as a coincidence because he just happened to like certain 2B/SS this year. I believe him as last year he was slanted towards 3B).

For ESPN, they are pretty much in line with my distributions with a slightly greater preference for 2B/SS than me at the expense of 3B/OF.

FanGraphs’ Podhorzer and Sanders are eerily similar in their category distributions and invest more in C/2B/SS vs 1B/3B/OF (their low 3B investment mirrors that of the FanGraphs calculator. In talking with Mike, he mentioned the methodology he uses treat 1B/3B the same. Given the wide disparity in their value on my unadjusted PR – 154 v 101 – I can see why 3B is hurt by this methodological choice).

 Average \$ Per Position Indexed Against Average Hitter \$ (~\$13) Razz PR RCL ADP FG Calc Grey 2015 ESPN 2015 FG Mike FG Zach C 57 58 56 39 61 72 74 1B 154 141 164 134 153 142 145 2B 75 85 83 96 89 96 96 SS 62 95 66 89 73 73 73 3B 101 108 85 101 93 81 81 OF 111 100 109 106 105 108 107

If you found a ranking source you liked in general but felt they were off at a position, this type of exercise could be used to calibrate it as you see fit.

3) By better understanding your dollar distribution by position, you can better focus on the player pool that you will likely draft.

I think most people do this anyway (a comparison vs ADP often does the trick) but it can be overwhelming to have a point of view on every hitter/pitcher. Based on my distribution, I can pretty much ignore the top tier of catchers, 2B, and SS and focus on finding the late-round bargains in those positions.

4) Take a moment to think through your logic behind paying a premium (vs their position-neutral value) for hitters at weaker positions. I understand that because you need C/2B/SS/MI, it does not matter if the market overvalues it. The goal of the drafter is to pay the smallest premium possible. So if someone determines that the premium on 2Bs is always two rounds or, say, \$4, perhaps it makes sense to go for Altuve/Rendon/Cano instead of a 1B/3B/OF. Here is the key fault with that logic:

• Once teams fill these positions, they (for the most part) stop drafting these positions. So even if EVERY team values shortstops \$4 more than you and they maintain this premium throughout the draft and they have the same top 17 SS as you, that means you are still getting the 18th best SS in a 12-team league at your price.
• Once you get past the first couple 2B/SS, your player values and your competitors’ player values are likely going to be different. You may see Howie Kendrick as the 10th best 2B while the draft room thinks 16th. So, it is definitely possible that by waiting on weaker positions, you will eventually pay face value based on your projections instead of a premium. In my experience, this happens around the midpoint of a snake draft and/or \$10 range players in auctions.
• There is also a secondary benefit to waiting on C/2B/SS. While drafting a lower ranked player generally brings more risk in playing time or performance, no one in your league is going to pick a player at these positions up for UTIL. And those who invested heavily at these positions are ignoring the waiver wire. Thus, these positions have less competition on the waiver wire than corners and OF. (This reason alone makes investing in Catcher in shallow leagues a dumb play IMO. I still fooled myself into doing it the last two years in RCL but fool me twice…)

In Part II, I will be tackling the concept of balancing \$ values across categories.

## 72 Responses (Jump straight to the comment form)

1. Matt says:

Hi Rudy – you said, “If this means I have a loaded 1B/3B/OF/OF/OF/OF and weaker C/2B/SS, so be it.”

I agree with you. In my auction league, you have to pay a premium for middle infielders and that doesn’t make much sense to me when they are generally weaker hitters.

Who are some of your 1B/3B/OF targets this year if you were targeting these positions with your top end picks (or planned to spend more auction \$ there)?

Thanks.

• @Matt: Agreed – i love when that happens in auctions as it just takes \$ out of the pool.

I never quite know my top end targets – they seem to come into clarity after a few drafts. Following my Player Rater for the most part.

• Matt says:

@Rudy Gamble: Yeah, I understand. There are a lot of good 1B/3B/OF out there and sometimes you take what the draft gives you based on who is available at the time.

How about rephrased a different way. When I go into an auction draft, I like to have a short list of guys I think I can get for the money I want to spend. Even though I can theoretically bid on anyone, I think certain guys will present more bang for the buck.

Not to be greedy, but do you have a couple OF’s who you think you might roster in an auction draft, based on where you see the market valuing those players vs. yourself?

• Ha – I’m in too many drafts to divulge that but comparing my \$ vs averages should highlight a few. For LABR snake, I was somewhat positive that Marte makes it back to me at pick #33. He goes like 10 picks before that but Ellsbury – whom I thought would’ve been gone way before – makes it back to me. So I thought I was super-high on Marte and average on Ellsbury. No idea if that’s the truth now :)

One guy who is clearly higher on my \$ is Pablo Sandoval. Ended up going Seager in the 5th in LABR but did grab Sandoval in last week’s CBS AL-only for \$20.

2. Alky Sobrera says:

Another illuminating article Rudy. Thanks for this, as I am a reader/follower of both sites, and wonder about the philosophies behind the rankings. My usual go-to is to use a base set of rankings (usually from here) and make adjustments based on my own biases. As you said though, it can be overwhelming to factor this stuff in for each player, and furthermore, to ensure that the same colored lens is applied in the same way every time. However, knowing the methodological biases of each system, and the benefits/drawbacks of said biases, will surely make this exercise easier.
Ultimately, as you yourself stated, the biggest factor is the player projections themselves. Maybe one day I’ll learn to tackle those as a whole. In the mean time, thanks for another thoughtful and useful article. Looking forward to part 2.

• Blues says:

I got you covered, great stuff Rudy wish I would have read this before my last draft. @Alky Sobrera:

3. Heb says:

Thanks for the deep dive look at the relative value of position scarcity among some of the various rankings-makers. Based on your analysis, how much premium do you think players qualified for, but not actually playing, at “shallow” positions should receive under the Replacement Theory vs. Meritocracy Theory systems? I play in a \$260 13 team Yahoo 5×5 auction league with c/1b/2b/3b/ss/mi/ci/of/of/of/of/util and I’m planning on exploiting a Yahoo’s liberal position eligibility by drafting Gattis @ catcher and HanRam @ SS, even though they’ll both playing at other positions with less wear & tear. I’m supposing these players are the sort of anomalies that set the two rankings philosophies apart. Are your auction values significantly lower than the Replacement Value rankers for these guys?

• @Heb: I am suggesting no adjustment for C/2B/SS. Those players aren’t anomalies – there is always a Catcher moving to a non-catcher position (Mauer last year, Carlos Santana last year?). With Gattis, I’d only draft him if he came in a few rounds after non-adjusted value (b/c i hate investing in catcher). For Hanley, I have him #26 with a 582 PA projection. The bet w/ him is like w/ Tulo – if he was available around after pick #20, I think he’s a solid pick. I’d rather Cano or Ellsbury. I would prefer Donaldson or Marte as well. If you go w/ a Hanley, though, I think you have to avoid pairing him w/ another fragilish player like Tulo, CarGo, EE, or Braun.

4. GhostTownSteve says:

Very good analysis here Rudy. I’ve always advocated for no positional adjustments for a couple of pretty basic reason. First, after the draft is over, a home run from a catcher counts the same as a home run for a first baseman. Having the players pre-ranked according to the absolute value helps you visualize the player pool in terms of the actual \$ value likely to be produced by a player. When the values are already normalized across positions in some way, you don’t get a sense of how much more you’re likely to get out of two identically \$ ranked players one outfielder and one catcher when their \$ pre-ranks have already been adjusted.

Which brings me to the next and most important point; positional adjustments do not do what they are supposed to do. The idea behind positional adjustments is that you basically want to know, if I take an lesser outfielder and a better catcher, am I going to get more total year end production than I’m going to get from a greater outfielder and a lesser catcher relative to the rest of my league. And this is basically an impossible calculation to make in any meaningful way for a whole host of reasons most of which boil down to the fact that there’s an enormous number of possible draft permutations at any particular point in a draft or auction (even to the very end).

This is one of the things I always talk about when discussing the Deep Blue fantasy baseball playing computer and how it might improve on human performance. If the computer could run billions of simulations on a draft or auction that use the current state of rosters and player pool in that draft at that point and also make meaningful predictions about likely outcomes and create possibility ranges for different roster arrays then you could actually back into a meaningful positional adjustment number, but there’s no other way to do it.

All other position adjustment numbers are at best a signpost to tell you the relative depth at a particular position and at worst (usually) are misleading because the way they normalize is completely incongruous with the task at hand, which is to quantify the effect on endstate production relative to selecting players from different positions at point x in a draft. It’s why folks who run these kinds of adjustments always value catchers much more highly than our sort of native intelligence and experience tell us to value catchers and SS.

• Rabbit says:

@GhostTownSteve: I like your points here, GTS, about the large number of possible draft permutations affecting the positional scarcity calculations. But it seems to me possible that the expected production curve for a position could make a difference on how you draft, regardless of how the draft plays out. E.g., if in a 10 team draft/auction with 5 starting OFs (ignore for the sake of simplicity using the OFs for your Util or other eligible positions), you believed that OFs ranked 30 to 50 would give you roughly the same production, and that production would be, say, roughly 75% of the production of the top 10 OFs, then you could calculate a (rough) balance between taking a top catcher with your fourth round pick and taking the 45-50th ranked OF in a late round, verses taking say, a 2nd OF with that fourth round pick and taking a lower-ranked catcher later. It seems to me that the most important variable in this calculation is the relative dropoff in player value as you move into the less valuable players. If it is a steep dropoff in one position verses a smooth, slight dropoff in another, then all other things being equal aren’t you better off buying in the steep dropoff category early? (Assuming the dropoff is calculated in absolute terms, not in terms of relative production within the position–if the higher category OF gets you 30 HRs and the lower category 15, you are better off going with the higher ranked OF if the difference between the higher ranked Catchers is 20 HRs verses 10–even though the higher ranked player doubles the lower-ranked in both instances, 15 is more than 10.)

• But if the market prices efficiently, everyone would draft the back end of the smooth drop off position and wait until the end for the steep drop off. For that to work, the market would have to inefficiently bid. I think in leagues like RCL, bidding is inefficient but this seems to be an area people falsely inflate. There are \$5 premiums early in draft that go down to face value midway in draft for MI.

• Rabbit says:

@Rudy Gamble: But no market prices efficiently (Supreme Court precedent in Basic v. Levinson be damned) which is why we who take this stuff seriously look for little edges like determining which positions have steep back end drop offs and which have smoother back end curves. (Oohh, that sounded dirty.) You’re absolutely right that simple rules like “positional scarcity means pump up the values of the top Catchers, 2Bs and SSs” because it is a blunt instrument trying to work in a more nuanced world. “Positional scarcity” is a misnomer; what we’re actually looking at here is rate of return for the top guys in a position vs. rate of return for the late round guys, with the comparison between positions being done on an absolute numbers basis, not on a compare-within-the-position basis. I do think there is value in that, and it’s value that most fantasy baseball markets do not efficiently account for.

• I agree that fantasy drafters should be exploiting any market inefficiencies. I think the 2B/SS investment skew in RCL shows that one can exploit the inefficiency by being patient on MI. I say every year that aces are undervalued. I just don’t think that position talent curved are that different and that the perception that they do leads to slight inefficiency.

5. TheTinDoor says:

I use Replacement Theory, but with modifications…

If there’s a big drop-off with the last player or two at a position, I’ll use the next guy up the list so that the ‘end of a tier’ doesn’t artificially inflate.

In a two-catcher league, no WAY am I using replacement theory. I tend to use a guy in the middle of the pack as replacement, or just eyeball it so the values look like what I want to pay (much like you do).

This year, for a 13-team mixed league, the replacement values for 2b/3b/ss/of were within 0.2 units of each other, with 1b values only slightly higher. Basically, outside of catcher, I don’t see a need for replacement.

You discussed hitters at length – do you use raw or adjusted for pitchers? By my valuation, relievers get a pretty sizeable bump using replacement theory, bringing their values in line with what I expect. Without it, I wouldn’t get any closers at all.

• Sounds like u are making some mild adjustments and are conscious to avoid distorting the results (it also helps u aren’t building a tool that u have to code for various dynamic scenarios).

For SP/RP, I never had issues adjusting SP/RP. I found it easier this year to fix the overall \$ for SP and RP vs keep them in one pool.

6. Jim says:

Hi! Has there been a post about what the first-place numbers should look like for NL-only leagues? What are the 5×5 category total numbers I should be targeting in the draft auction? Thanks so much.

• Jim says:

Awesome man, thanks. Related: I wish there was a tool that I could plug in my keepers/draft targets and see where I stood, percentage-wise, against those first-place targets in an NL-only league. Do you know if such a thing exists?

• I don’t know of a tool but that is easy to set up in excel, no?

• Jim says:

Maybe? I’m not as excel savvy as I’d like to be. I know other readers are interested in such a tool — may be worth a post if you can whip one up easily. I know I’d click on it many, many times!

• @Jim: Kind of crunched now. Smartfantasybaseball.com could hook you up in his sleep.

7. Blue says:

At the end of the day what you want is the highest share of a limited pool of stats. It is, to be blunt, a logical error to assert that maximizing value by position (which is what replacement theory tries to do) will lead to the value of the overall function being maximized. It is easily possible–indeed even likely–that attempting to achieve the local maxima by position will fail to find the overall maxima of the function we care about–the highest number of roto points overall.

• GhostTown Steve says:

@Blue:

Exactly. Same thing as I said above.

• @Blue: Agreed. You obviously think about it more theoretically than most but it gets to the question I asked – “Exactly why is Reyes a 3rd round pick as a SS when he’d be a 10th round pick as an OF?” You don’t have to be a deep thinker to realize that the 1B/3B/OF/SP position you passed up will never swing the other way and give you a super bonus (unless your projections are much different and, in that case, everyone gets great value at the end of drafts). It’s like someone working overtime Mon-Thurs b/c they plan on taking off Friday but then they have to work Friday anyway.

8. Maestro says:

Hi Rudy –
Nice work, as always. I play in AL and NL only H2H Points leagues and wondered if you could reach out to Baseball Press on their H2H calculator. Although points are customizable and include saves, blown saves, steals and caught stealing the stats pulled from Razzball / Steamer don’t include the #’s. Also, even though there’s an option for players/stats by league, the list shows all players and not by league. Do you know if Baseball Press refreshes the feed from Razzball / Steamer or if it’s just a one time upload?

Anything you can find out is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Mike Herbst

• @Maestro: They are hooked up to the feed so it’s updating whenever I do. I’ll e-mail them about your note.

• Maestro says:

Awesome, thanks!
@Rudy Gamble:

9. Shane says:

Rudy, please educate me. If a HR is more valuable than other stat categories because it also nets a R and RBI, should I use a multiplier for determining HR z-scores? How should I determine that multiplier? I’ve been guessing zHR*1.7.

• @Shane: Category adjustments are my next post in this series. If you are already reflecting R/RBI in your z-scores, no need to double-credit with HR.

10. Matt says:

I think the reason Fangraphs is showing 3B as the strongest with default settings is it’s rostering so many 1B in the util/CI slot. If you switch it to be 1 of everything and 3 OF, 20 teams, then the order becomes 1B<OF<3B<2B<SS with catcher wayyyy out in front.

• @Matt: Interesting. I like how their tool (which they admit was patterned after Last Player Picked) is transparent about the position adjustment. Even though I think those adjustments are wonky.

11. ReplaceMe says:

I’m not convinced that ignoring scarcity completely is completely the way to go. I think the distribution of value within a position is important. For an extreme example consider the following:

Pos Value
C1 25
C2 20
C3 15
C4 10
C5 5

1B1 60
1B2 60
1B3 60
1B4 58
1B5 57

In this example, value can be considered fantasy baseball win shares or something.

I think clearly you need to take C1 with your first pick.

Replacement theory is by far the most common and accepted strategy in fantasy football. You have to get your RB1 right away even though the QB1 might even double him in fantasy points.

• @ReplaceMe: This is a partial picture. What is C12 and 1B18? For 15-team NFBC, the is a \$36 range between the top 1B and 22nd 1B and about a \$30 range between the top C and the 30th C. I value #1 1B + #30 C at \$32 and #22 1b + #1 C and #22 1B at \$27. If I take that down from #1 1B to a 1B at a similar ADP as the top C, the sum goes down to around \$22. BUT, I can get the 30th Catcher much later than the 22nd 1B. So it still balances out in my mind.

I think distribution within a position helps as a tie-breaker while in a snake draft (there are 3 1b and 1 OF near top of my board, take the OF).

• ReplaceMe says:

@Rudy Gamble: A replacement theory advocate would argue that your examples just demonstrate that 1B should have a higher positional adjustment than C, not that we should ignore positional adjustment. This is clear based on how you chose rankings. In a ten team one C, one 1B, one CI, one U league, the difference between the first catcher chosen and the last is pretty marginal relative to the first 1B and the last (including U and CI slots). But in a 15 team two C, one 1B, one U, no CI, league the difference between the first C and the last (30th) may be greater than the difference between the first 1B and the last (20-25?).

To take this to a complete extreme, consider a ten team four C one 1B no U no CI league. The difference between Buster Posey and some AAA catcher you hope gets called up is certainly greater than the first and tenth 1B.

Overall, replacement vs best available is probably pretty marginal. However, I do think scarcity is important to consider (even if you consider 1B scarcer than C).

As an aside, do you consider replacement in fantasy football? I think the impact is much bigger there than in baseball, but the overall idea is the same.

• Blue says:

@ReplaceMe: It your posited league, getting the top ranked 1B is even more important than in a normal roto league since everyone is going to have a dog’s breakfast at C anyways. The top n number of picks in the five round draft should all be 1B where n = number of teams.

• Anchovies says:

@Blue:

This is just incorrect. I mean let’s just assume 10 teams pick over a 5 round snake. 9 teams grab the first baseman first drafting for stats and I have 1.5 and pick Posey then fill out my catchers, drafting with replacement level adjustments, before grabbing the 10th best first baseman. The team with the best 1B (most important to you) gets 1B1, C11, C12, C31, C32. Whereas I get C1, C7, C16, C27, 1B10

So if we all draft by Steamer the teams are something like

Abreu, Yadier, Zunino, Cervilli, Bethancourt vs Posey, Mesoraco, Vogt, Iannetta, Freeman

What does Steamer actually project from these teams?

Team Abreu: .259/78/250/282/19 over 2092 ABs
Team Posey: .268/82/287/301/12 over 2203 ABs

I’d wager the guy who decided to use positional adjustments has a pretty significant advantage in this league.

• @Anchovies: This example is so far from the norm that I can’t even entertain it.

• CM52 says:

I didn’t make the parameters.

• CM52 says:

However extreme or not, isn’t it obvious how the lower replacement level makes someone like Posey more valuable than Abreu? Obviously your league has a higher C replacement than that league, but the logic remains the same and you should make your valuations accordingly..

• I agree that position adjustments might make sense in extreme league set-ups. But standard leagues are not extreme. The most extreme case by far is in 2 C leagues and I shared my take there that I do not want to divert significant \$ to that position.

• CM52 says:

OK then consider again a league restricted to Cs and 1Bs for simplicity that has a ratio approximating standard league ownership: 2 Cs and 2 1Bs (the second being a mix of CI/Util ownership). If I draft 1.5 and am the only person adjusting for positional replacement value I’ll get a team something like Posey, Gattis, Carter, and Belt. Those latter two are weak options at your 1B and CI spots in a 10 team league for sure, but hey it’s the team I want. Meanwhile the guy drafting after me at 1.6 would end up with a team more like Goldschmidt, Davis, Perez, and Castro if everyone drafted by Steamer (Goldschmidt wouldn’t last to him, but Im just going by Steamer so let’s say he gets him).

Me:
.257/100/278/312/13

Him:
.259/86/255/275/16

I would gladly take my team over his. Feel free to run similar simulations based on full roster construction (much longer to do obviously) or a mix of people following both strategies. You will see the same results.

There’s a reason respected rankings are put together by people valuing scarcity to some extent. Do some overvalue it? Sure, and if you find you way into a league where more people are doing that than not than ignoring scarcity altogether can luck you into a competitive team. However to ignore it in a league full of people making proper valuations is quite literally suicide.

• @CM52:
1) Yes, in a world where nobody does position adjustments except one person, I concede there would be some advantage – particularly in a simplified scenario like this.

2) But, many in the market already does these adjustments. So there is no advantage. And if enough people fade a position like Catcher, it’s like unoffical collusion and those faders benefit.

3) When factoring in the volatility in projections, I think this all washes out. There is no systemic market inefficiency at the position level and, if there is a slight one, it is too much position adjusting (see RCL 2B/SS).

4) Regarding Catchers, I know Fantistics did analysis showing they are riskier investments. For 1 catcher leagues, i think it pays to punt catcher but 2 catcher leagues requires some thought. For me, better to keep catcher values low and if one nears the top of my draftboard, i know i’m getting the discount i’d want.

5) Key part of this post is giving perspetive on the impact of position investments. Own how you end up weighting each position.

• Anchovies says:

@CM52:

Yes, of course the gain from following the optimal strategy decreases the more other people follow it. There’s less profit to be made by the individual as you divide it across more people. But to then say “there is no advantage” is completely false, because if you’re the one person stubbornly making incorrect valuations, you’ll be the person everyone is making that profit off of.

As for projections being volatile, of course they are. But your post wasn’t about player projections, it was about the strategy of what to do with them. Don’t change the topic.

“For 1 catcher leagues, i think it pays to punt catcher but 2 catcher leagues requires some thought. ”

What you’ve done right there is state the entire concept of replacement level theory. Congratulations.

• @CM52: (Anchovies) – You think that position adjustments lead to ‘optimal’ strategy. That’s fine. I think it’s more or less a jerk-off session and that it doesn’t matter. Agree to disagree.

If someone is going to use a hypothetical of 11 non-adjusters and 1 adjuster to show why adjusting makes sense, it is fair to note that this is not the case. The reality is a little closer to the majority adjusts thus one gets slightly more value by waiting on those ‘scarce’ positions.

For two catchers, I think the optimal strategy is in doubt. I have chosen none but I am keeping my mind open. I DEFINTIELY don’t think adding \$10 to every catcher is optimal. But if a catcher is going about \$2-\$3 ahead of my \$ value, will I consider drafting him? Sure. It doesn’t mean, as a rule, I want to bump every catcher \$2-\$3.

So if my unadjusted \$ are showing that the last players at every position are worth ~\$1, exactly where is the advantage of position adjustments? I pay \$20 for OF vs \$20 for a \$15 SS and we both can get \$1 SS and OF at the end of the draft or both get \$5 SS/OF once the majority of the SS sports are filled.

Perhaps other \$ systems show dramatically different mid/late game values at the various positions? Beats me.

• Blue says:

@ReplaceMe: The problem with this example–and other examples like it–is that what is true to maximize a two-variable equation is not necessarily true to maximize an equation with multiple variables. Imagine, for example, that you have three picks. Why not take 1B1, 1B5 for 117 and then C15 for, say, 2. You end up with 119 points. If you take C1 and 1B5 for a total of 82, your third, later 1B15 or so has to be worth 35 points just to break even! In reality it’s even worse because there ISN’T a flat top end in 1B–in fact, losing out on the top end means you are suffering a more dramatic drop than in catchers, where the WORST you can lose is 25 points, of which half can be avoided for the small cost of a mid-round pick.

• ReplaceMe says:

@Blue: You are still using replacement logic to justify this. It’s just that your 1B replacement cost is steeper than your C replacement once you open up another roster spot to carry both 1B1 and 1B5. Any replacement calculations of course need to be calibrated to league specifications. This is exactly my point.

• Blue says:

@ReplaceMe: No, I’m not. I’m pointing out that under your logic your point fails.

12. Natty Boh says:

I’ll be in a AL only auction league (\$260 to start) where post draft there is no salary cap. Bidding is straight cash for players. Larry Schecter provides a nice template in his book how to allocate the money for the draft. Would you advise that spending a little more (auction dollars) on a stud would be ok, if you are willing to shell out the cash to acquire a quality Free Agent or stay true to the board?

• @Natty Boh: Counting on free agency is tough in AL/NL-only. I still prefer depth to stars/scrubs in that format as you can always bid heavy on FAs and trade your depth for upgrades.

• Natty Boh says:

@Rudy Gamble: True. Thank You

13. Jason says:

Rudy,
So if you go by your player rater then you must beleive that Kershaw is worth an early 1st round pick? Also, Evan Gattis is the 60th ranked player on the player rater. So I could take him 60th overall? I can get Gattis in round 10 or 11 around an ADP of 120. So would I still be reaching if I draft Gattis in round 10? Please can you explain? Thanks!!

• @Jason: Yes on Kershaw. Completely justifiable as early as pick #2. For Gattis, Player Rater loves him. I prefer to wait on Catcher but drafting him where Player Rater has him can’t be considered a ‘scarcity’ play.

FWIW, I have my own draft preferences. I think there is more value waiting on an SP in picks 20-36 than taking Kershaw in top 7 picks or so. I don’t love Gattis’s profile which is heavy on power and poor on AVG. Have some worries on his health and playing time security. (Him and Chris Carter in same lineup – ugh). So Gattis is the type that I want a discount on. He becomes more attractive though if my early hitter picks are stronger on AVG/SB than power.

14. Jason says:

Also, I can draft Carlos Santana as my catcher in Yahoo leagues in round 6, which I think is a good value. Would that be reaching?

• @Jason: i have him as #92 overall. So it’s a slight reach but totally defensible. Would be tough to pass up there.

15. Jason says:

Thanks Rudy. You are the man!

16. Corey II says:

Thanks! Interesting stuff!

Question: my10 team NL only league has odd positions and starts 2 C, 2 2B, 2 SS, 1B, 3B, CI, 5 OF, Until.

As you can expect, the extra middle infielders compared to corners drives up the 2b and SS auction prices. Would this artificial additional scarcity from the league rules make you more IR less likely to adjust prices upwards so you aren’t stuck playing terrible bench guys at those positions?

Last year I refused to pay a premium and started the season with Mark Ellis and Joaquin Arias as my 2 2B. But I had a strong OF, 1b, 3b, CI, and Until, so maybe that’s OK to repeat again…?

Thoughts on how you would approach this twist?

• @Corey II: With AL/NL-only, you get into what I’d call real scarcity thanks to the playing time cliff. I would probably adjust 2b/ss a bit with that. In that scenario, the worst is having to pay \$10-\$15 for awful PAs (like Adrian H of MIA). I’d consider targeting 1 middle tier 2B and SS then punt the 2nd 2B/SS (\$1) to avoid too much money in those positions.

17. Pine Tar Incident says:

Rudy-

Keep one, 5*5, OPS, everyone keeps four as long as you want them, H2H, 12 teams (already keeping Trout, Miggy, and Sale): Dee Gordon, Darvish, Pujols, Reyes, Alex Wood, Alex Cobb.

Nice to have those steals banked, I suspect you’ll like Darvish given your penchant for pitching… but it’s just so deep in an stream-every-day-including-middle-relievers-league!

• Ops instead of AVg – wow that would hurt Gordon. I would go with Darvish

18. And Now the John Lovitz Dancers! says:

earlier i asked about what’s the easy way to come up with player values per draft slot as draft goes on to find our hitting to pitching ratio at any time. The answer was the ever so easy just go down whatever value \$ rating list i use (OPS/holds etc) and match each pick to that level of player (so 222nd pick gets the 222nd player’s value). But in deep enough leagues i find myself getting into negative player value town, in those instances what should i do? Should i maybe first go about finding a total amount of value each drafting team has (based somewhat on it’s draft slot), and come up with some sort of dropoff (like pick 200 is worth X% less than pick 145 for example)?

• How many teams in your league?

• And Now the John Lovitz Dancers! says:

@Rudy Gamble: in the one i just asked about 16, but i’d love to have some sort of methodology to do this for anything above 12 as well.

• Use the 16 team player rater. Categories don’t matter if all you care about is draft pick value it does matter if you don’t have 13 hitters, 9 pitchers

• And Now the John Lovitz Dancers! says:

@Rudy Gamble: ok, so when i cross from player 336 to 337 (hardy to paxton) i would actually start subtracting value from my hitter or pitcher total (depending on whether i just drafted a pitcher or hitter) in terms of finding out my ratios of hitter to pitcher (trying to hit your prescribed 66.3-33.7%’s). It seems for comparing player to player value negative numbers make sense, but for adding up what % of your roster is hitting vs pitching invested it could be counterintuitive, but i could be wrong.

19. Tyler says:

Thank you for this article Rudy! I have been wondering who to go for in my early second round pick (I draft in spot 10 of 12, in 5×5 standard yahoo league) Edwin has been falling to me right around pick 10, and I was pushing to grab the most elite player at their position (Tulo/Rendon), but after reading your article I see that you have Bautista ranked REALLY high on your player rater. Thinking that maybe I will just shoot for value and wait on positions that haven’t been filled naturally. BTW, do you have a rankings guide or do you only use your auction values in a tier like system for each position when you are drafting? Thanks for the write up!

• @Tyler: I went Bautista #11 in one of the Razzball-organized NFBC leagues. I would’ve gone EE ahead of him but he was taken before.

I use the auction values but am not a slave to them. There are certain players that I’m just not comfortable taking when at the top of my board (e.g., Pedroia). If there is a unique talent, I will reach for them. Took Ben Revere in late 7th round of NFBC (over Sandoval who got snapped up before my 8th) because I felt his elite SB + AVG combo couldn’t be found elsewhere. Gave me flexibility to draft Kris Bryant next.

• Tyler says: