March 04, 2010

When two buddies are discussing their fantasy baseball teams, it will not take long before one or the other mentions the word value. But have you ever stopped and thought about what value really is? Of course not, and that's why I'm here. And I am here to tell you the definition is not as clear-cut as it may seem. Why? Because there is no sole definition. There are several permutations of the word, some obvious, some not so obvious. The objective here is to hopefully reduce your reliance on one type of value and introduce you to another, one which is integral to success.

Value is the liaison between statistics and rotisserie points. It is the common denominator, the currency, if you will. Auction leagues express this as a dollar value. Draft leagues generally use rankings, but this is almost always simply an ordered list of dollar values. In this sense, value is used to quantify how much a player is worth. The better the production, the higher the value and the more the player helps you toward accomplishing your goal of a championship.

The type of value discussed thus far is best thought of as raw value. In a vacuum, how much is the player worth? There are several different means of computing a player's value. Some systems assign value proportionately to how much production they contribute. Since rotisserie scoring involves multiple categories, the production in each category is determined and then summed into a total value. Other systems consider how many of each statistic is necessary to jump your team up a place in the standings and determine value accordingly. Some look at the difference in player value as how far each is from a mean player in terms of standard deviation. Others value players based on how much they help you achieve a specific scoring level in each category. It does not really matter what the system is, ultimately, so long as the system ranks a player within his position and also across positions, it is useful as a foundation.

Most essays of this nature will then suggest not to get too hung up on a value as a static entity. It is best to treat values as a range, mostly because the projections on which they are based are best considered ranges. And there is a whole lot of truth to that. But we want to take that thought process to the next level. There is more to the "range" aspect of a projection that simply because a projection is a range.

The primary problem with assigning a dollar value is unto itself, it really means nothing. It is merely potential. The higher the value, the more points that player can potentially provide. But value does not win championships, rotisserie points win championships. Yes, the more value you have, the more stats you have, but these stats still need to be distributed in such a way to maximize your fantasy points. It is quite possible that one team has more value than another, but the other finishes higher in the standings.

The reason for this is the raw value is the player's value in a vacuum. You do not play the game in a vacuum. What is important to you is how much a player is worth to you and your squad. It is this intrinsic value that you must be most concerned with and not get so married to a raw value spewed out by a little black value-generating box. Based upon your squad's constitution, a certain player may be worth more or less than his raw value. Remember, the raw value was calculated based on static projections with everyone in the player pool being readily available. The second the first player is acquired, those conditions change. After each player is rostered, you need to re-evaluate the landscape in terms of positions and statistics available. This means the intrinsic value of a player can be fluid throughout the draft or auction as opposed to the static raw value you have at the beginning of the proceedings. Once you draft a stolen base specialist, the intrinsic value of the other speedsters declines. If you pick up a stud first baseman, chances are the value of the other studs to you is less than their initial raw value.

Something else that takes away from the utility of a static raw value is while the same exact stat line can be produced by two players at the same position, their intrinsic values could be markedly different. What if one player was projected to put up his numbers in 130 games while the other would fundamentally play the whole season, getting a day off now and again? As calculated by all conventional methods, their raw values would be identical. But you can likely backfill the 130-game player for a week or two. Sure, the substitute is not going to be as good, but if you can withstand the probable hit in batting average, the counting stats effectively add onto the value of the injured player, so his roster spot over the course of the season will produce more value than the other guy with the same stats. And if the 130-game player stays healthy, you really benefit.

Intertwined with all this is another form of value, and that is market value. As implied, market value is what everyone else is willing to pay or willing to draft a player. There are a few different reasons as to why the market value is different than your raw value. The obvious one is you differ from the masses with respect to your expectations for the player. Another is someone else has a higher intrinsic value for the player, thus is willing to pay more, whereby driving up the market value.

Ultimately, what we want to do is determine our personal bid value for each player. This brings us to the crux of this discussion, tying everything together. To do this, I would like to quote a contributor to the message forums at, KJDuke, who succinctly stated, "Try to acquire the greatest intrinsic value while paying the lowest possible price in market value." KJ verbalized in one sentence a concept I have been trying to find a way to say for years.

But do you notice something odd about that statement? There is no direct mention of raw value, only market value and intrinsic value. And while it is true that the raw value is a component of both the market value and the intrinsic value, it is just a component. Raw value should therefore only be a component of your bid value. It should fuel it, but not drive it. Your bid value should encompass both market value and intrinsic value.

The manner this related to your game play is the following. If you are in an auction, and the bidding stops below your raw value, that alone is not sufficient reason to bid another buck. If you do just for that reason, you are only considering the market value and not how much intrinsic value the player brings to your team. Similarly, in a draft, the market value is defined by the player's average draft position. If it is your turn and a player is left on the board when he should have already been drafted based on ADP, do not take him unless he adds sufficient intrinsic value to your team. The opposite scenarios are also true and might be more important to grasp. If your intrinsic value of a player is greater than your raw value and the market value drives the cost past your raw value, do not drop out of the bidding. Pay more than your static raw value as what is important are the stats the player brings to the table, not how much they cost, assuming you still have enough leftover to buy the other stats you need. The analogous draft scenario is if there is a player you need, but his ADP says he is being taken too early, who cares? Take him, assuming you will be able to pick up the other production you need with your remaining selections.

So the take-home message is do not be completely driven by a dollar value in an auction or a ranking sheet and ADP listing in a draft. Look at the big picture to determine how much a player is really worth to your team. And if this means leaving an unneeded bargain on the table, so be it. If this means paying what is an inflated price as compared to your original valuation, go for it. Value does not win championships, rotisserie points win championships and your objective should be to amass the greatest number of points, not value.

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