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April 17, 2013

Fantasy Freestyle

Big Spending in FAAB Leagues

by Mike Gianella

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Over the last three weeks in Tout Wars NL-only, Chris Liss has made quite a splash on the free-agent market. Out of a  $100 budget, Liss has already spent $83. While he has made a few one-dollar bids, $74 of those $83 were invested in two young pitchers: Jose Fernandez was purchased for $22 on March 31, and Tony Cingrani went for a whopping $52 this past Sunday, April 14.

While there is no question regarding Fernandez or Cingrani’s prospect pedigrees, Liss’s wild, early spending did make me wonder whether or not blowing the bulk of your FAAB by mid-April is the right play.

Table 1: Top 10 AL Free Agent Earners, Tout Wars 2012

Player

Date

FAAB Bid

Earned

Fernando Rodney

4/9

$16

$32

Tom Wilhelmsen

4/9

$4

$21

Ryan Cook

4/9

$0

$20

Ernesto Frieri

5/7

$16

$19

Casey Janssen

4/30

$1

$17

Scott Diamond

5/7

$2

$16

Jake McGee

4/9

$0

$15

Darren O’Day

5/21

$0

$15

Brandon Moss

6/11

$0

$15

Jarrod Dyson

4/30

$10

$14


None of these players is a big buy, but nearly all of them were purchased in April. Six of the 10 players on this list were purchased on April 30 or earlier, while only Moss was purchased after May 21. The size of the bids isn’t as important here as the results are. Early speculation paid off in a big way last year.

This is particularly true when you compare the most productive free agents to the most expensive.

Table 2: Top 10 AL Free Agents by Salaries, Tout Wars 2012

Player

Date

FAAB Bid

Earned

Zack Greinke

7/30

$95

$11

Ryan Dempster

8/6

$59

$5

Hector Santiago

4/9

$52

$9

Anibal Sanchez

7/30

$33

$6

Omar Infante

7/30

$32

$6

Alex Cobb

5/21

$31

$14

Jim Thome

7/2

$28

$2

Manny Machado

8/13

$26

$6

Stephen Drew

8/27

$20

$4

Brad Eldred

4/30

$18

$0

When you consider FAAB, this is the kind of spending you expect to see. Most of the players the Tout Warriors spent big bucks on were NL imports. You can’t blame an owner for hoarding his money to get a shot at Greinke, but it turns out that Scott Diamond was the better play. The hitting earnings are even more depressing: $6 of earnings for Infante isn’t terrible, but taking a stab at Moss earlier would have been better.

The National League data paints a very similar picture.

Table 3: Top 10 NL Free Agents by Value, Tout Wars 2012

Player

Date

FAAB Bid

Earned

Wade Miley

4/23

$3

$19

Justin Ruggiano

6/4

$4

$17

Justin Maxwell

4/9

$1

$13

Ross Detwiler

4/9

$10

$13

Wilton Lopez

4/9

$0

$12

Ronald Belisario

6/11

$0

$12

Matt Carpenter

4/9

$4

$11

Josh Rutledge

7/16

$8

$11

Craig Stammen

4/23

$1

$11

Logan Forsythe

6/4

$0

$10

There wasn’t quite as much value floating around in the National League free-agent pool last year, but the profile of these players remains very similar to the AL. Once again, most of the players in this group were taken early in the season and there isn’t a single AL import to be found here. Rutledge did come up relatively late, but he is the exception and not the rule. As it turned out, hoarding money in the NL was an even worse idea if you were waiting for a big name to come over from the junior circuit.

Table 4: Top 10 NL Free Agents by Salary, Tout Wars 2012

Player

Date

FAAB Bid

Earned

Travis Snider

8/6

$83

$2

Matt Adams

5/21

$57

$2

Alex Presley

6/11

$54

$8

Adrian Gonzalez

8/27

$41

$5

Josh Beckett

8/27

$35

$3

Ryan Wheeler

7/23

$30

$1

Rafael Dolis

5/7

$28

-$2

Brandon League

9/3

$22

$6

Andrelton Simmons

6/4

$21

$5

Adam Eaton

9/10

$20

$3

The players coming over from the AL at the trade deadline in 2012 didn’t have the same star power that the NL imports did. But since owners had to either spend their money on FAAB or leave it behind, most experts decided to use their available funds. However, the odds of getting a good return out of one of these players was poor. The late trade between the Dodgers and the Red Sox made Steve Gardner’s aggressive bid on Snider look like bad strategy, but no one know that trade was coming until the moment it was announced.

Conclusions

While Liss’s approach might have been too aggressive, he had the right idea snagging potential top talent early rather than waiting for someone better. The bulk of the free agent value in Tout Wars is acquired early in the campaign, not late. While it is impossible to predict who the best free agents are going to be come April, it might not be a bad idea to bet a few extra bucks early on players who aren’t just seat fillers but who have a legitimate opportunity to become something special for your team. 

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

Related Content:  Tout Wars

7 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Tarakas

Nice piece.

It is also worth noting (and should be obvious, but maybe it is not), that the earlier you spend the money, the longer you have the players purchased. 5-6 months of an average player is going to usually be worth more than 2 months of a better player. Assuming players perform as well as expected, a player you own for 2 months has to be more than 250% better than one you hold for 5 months to pay a bigger return.

Players owned for a shorter period of time also will have more variability in their performance, meaning increased risk.

I would think that as the season goes on, your money is worth less every day. Let's take $100 on opening day. Clearly, if you don't spend it, it is worth nothing the day after the season is over.

But it does not instantly lose all of its value. My guess is it is not worth very much a day before the season ends, or two days, etc.

One could create a formula for how the value of FAAB money decreases each day the season progresses.

This should be used when calculating what to spend on players. $100 on July 1st simply is not worth $100 on April 1st. You've essentially lost money, even if you don't spend it.

Apr 17, 2013 07:07 AM
rating: 1
 
swarmee

There's also a selection bias. Players that have been named "Closer" or called-up or traded from the other league are more likely to have positive value, than an April waiver claim for a fill-in reliever who ends up getting 30 saves. How many total FAAB selections were made? If you spend $8 over and over again on the wrong FA reliever or two-start pitcher, you run out of money early, and you probably don't keep that guy on your roster the whole season.
How many of those players with the highest earnings were benched or dropped after being selected with those cheap bids? Even in an only league, someone's not likely to keep $15 earner Darren O'Day in their lineup weekly if he's not getting save chances.

Apr 17, 2013 08:53 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

You definitely don't just want to spend $100 in April, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. But you should be aware that there's a better chance your investment in April is going to work out better than your investment on a big-ticket item in late July/early August. I wouldn't advise on spending big on a two-start pitcher based on the data above; I don't see a strong corollary between starting pitchers and high FA earnings. Relievers, though, are a different story. For one thing, the data doesn't agree with your assessment that a significant number of these middle relievers are dropped, added, and then picked up again. It happened in one or two cases I could find. But those were the exceptions, not the rules. I think it's more likely in home leagues that owners don't appreciate the value of strong middle men like O'Day. In expert leagues, owners hold on to these guys for dear life once they identify them and don't let go. Middle relief value - even in 5x5 - goes a long way.

Apr 17, 2013 09:14 AM
 
swarmee

Agree; if people don't understand the value of a middle reliever, they won't put them in their lineup or derive $15-20 in value from them.

Apr 17, 2013 10:27 AM
rating: 0
 
Tom

I don't disagree with the premise that hoarding FAAB money might not be the best plan. But comparing the $11 Zack Greinke earned vs. the $16 Scott Diamond earned ignores the fact that you would have had someone else in Greinke's roster spot for two-and-a-half months who might have made up the $5 difference in their values.

Apr 17, 2013 10:39 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

It might ignore it, but the impact of that free agent is typically overstated. The average AL pitcher free agent earned $3.19. The average NL pitcher free agent earned even less, at $1.14. Even if you use the $3.19 figure, there's still a gap between Diamond/Greinke but the gap is wider if you're only using 40-50% of the season versus 100%.

Apr 17, 2013 11:35 AM
 
Robotey

Certainly makes last night's Cingrani v. Fernandez matchup interesting.

Apr 19, 2013 08:40 AM
rating: 0
 
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