February 12, 2010
Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball, as you might have heard, now offers auction leagues. We're all quite excited by this historic development. Fantasy owners are no longer draft-dependent. Beginning this year, we've made every aspect of our game entirely free – free live scoring, free draft kit, free customization – and we've replaced all the real money that we used to earn with imaginary money that we distribute. (Which seems like a flawless business strategy. They'll teach this stuff in B-school someday).
In the auction game, we give you $260 of fake currency with which to assemble a roster. Before you spend it, we're also going to give you some pre-auction advice. You'll find a small collection of tips below. As always, feel free to ignore these suggestions, praise them, comment on their absurdity, or offer a few of your own. Just please click the ads.
Mock what you don't understand. Even if you're an auction veteran, it's not a bad idea to test drive the new live Yahoo! app. Head over to the auction mock lobby. Meet with a member of our friendly sales team. For some of you, it will be legitimately useful to create a full roster, on time and on budget. For others, the primary benefit of the mock exercise is that you'll become familiar with the pace and layout of the auction. In a timed environment, this sort of familiarity matters.
Know your settings. Know the categories, know the quirks, know the depth of the player pool. If you're in a mixed league of modest size – let's say 10 to 14 teams with standard starting positions – then don't become so value-obsessed that you neglect to acquire top-tier stars. It's OK to spend big for elite fantasy entities. (And by "elite," we mean proven, healthy, high-impact, multi-category talents – the names at the top of this list, before you start scrolling). In a smallish mixed league, nearly all of the $1 end-of-auction players are going to be useful, so having a financial edge during the late bidding won't necessarily buy you anything spectacular. You'll be able to pay for the difference between, say, Kendry Morales(notes) (our No. 14 first baseman) and Derrek Lee(notes) (No. 17). That's not likely to be a title-clinching purchase.
In deeper AL/NL-only auctions, however, the list of $1 players will include a few truly revolting names – guys who might see 300 at-bats if everything goes their way. As a general rule, winning such leagues requires roster depth. Or, as Mr. Pianowski likes to say, your team will be defined by its weakest players, not its strongest. Pujols is a luxury, not a requirement.
Vary your cadence. Don't become predictable. And if you do become predictable, then quickly veer away from whatever pattern you've fallen into. If it's clear that you're going to bid aggressively on every player you nominate, then you're going to be punished in a competitive auction. You'll find no bargains. Similarly, if it's clear that you don't intend to buy any player you nominate, then, in all likelihood, you'll eventually get stuck with one of 'em. Don't raise by the same increment every time, either. A dramatic bid-jump can occasionally stun the room into inactivity. Near the end of an auction, your position and category needs will be apparent enough to anyone who decides to review your roster; don't give away additional advantages.
It's not real money, so spend it all. Unless you're assembling a team in a dynasty league where this year's salaries will impact next year's salaries, then don't leave any pretend dollars in your imaginary wallet. You'll receive no bonus points for having $4 remaining when the dust settles. You can't go invest that fake $4. It just goes away, and you're left with regret. It's nice to play for end-game leverage, sure, but you don't want to be the guy who throws $12 at Clint Barmes(notes) simply because there's nothing left to buy.
It becomes much easier to spend to your limit when you accept the fact that not every player on your roster has to be an exceptional value. Finding bargains isn't as difficult as knowing when to pay full price, or $1 more. If you're down to the final name in a tier – or the last 30-steal candidate who isn't a disaster in every other category – then paying sticker price is acceptable.
When you've filled a talent-scarce position, nominate the position. It's usually more satisfying to watch other people spend crazily than to spend crazily yourself. If you've just dropped $26 on Jeter, then nominate Rollins. Or Alexei. Or Zobrist. Or some other must-own shortstop. Make others spend as you have spent. With any luck at all you'll trigger a panic, and you'll have already pulled out of the market.
Remember the bidding wars. One of the great benefits to an auction is the fact that every participant in the league has an opportunity to acquire any player. But this of course also means that every participant in the league will tip their hand at various points. When you find yourself in a legit bidding war with another owner – as opposed to an illegitimate, price-enforcing war – take note. If you happen to win the skirmish, there's a fair chance the player involved can be a trade chip later in the year.
Photo via AP Images