Deep Auction League Strategy: Valuing Players - The Intangibles

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

This article discusses the factors that give an intangible influence on player auction value: multi-position eligibility, playing time and durability, and positional scarcity.

When valuing players, the main inputs that directly affect your player dollar values are those categories which your fantasy league uses in its standings, e.g. home runs, wins, RBIs, etc. But there are other factors to be considered - while not directly involved in the dollar value calculation - that should value a player higher than his actual calculated dollar value.

1. Multi-Position Eligibility

As previously mentioned in my first article, those players that qualify at multiple positions provide your team with flexibility that can be very useful during the season. It is important to know specifically which players qualify at multiple positions, although the value of this flexibility will depend on the rules of your league. If your league has lax qualification rules i.e. one game, then this factor will be of less value to you. But if your league requires 20 games at a position, multi-positional players will be important if you need to move your lineup around for trades and/or eligible free agents. Even though players like Jamey Carroll, Sean Rodriguez and Daniel Descalso might not provide great production, you should be aware of all eligible players that qualify at more than one position.

2. Playing Time & Durability

The second - and maybe most important - intangible is the ability of your hitters to get at-bats. A player in your lineup who is riding the bench or is on the DL does not help your team - this should be an obvious point. After taking a look at a number of past seasons from the leagues I've participated in as well as using Tout Wars data, I've listed below all 5x5 categories and how each category's points in the standings are correlated to each owner's final number of at-bats and innings pitched:

Category

Correlation to AB/IP

Batting Average

.20

Runs

.81

Home Runs

.57

RBIs

.77

Stolen Bases

.33

Wins

.70

Saves

-.14

ERA

-.03

WHIP

.03

Strikeouts

.68

The more at-bats and innings pitched your team has, the higher point total you should have in your standings for those categories that have high correlations. Three of the five hitting categories are highly correlated to at-bat totals and batting average and stolen bases have less of a positive correlation. Only two of the five pitching categories have high correlation and the other three have none-to-slightly negative correlation. This means that performance in the hitting categories will be more reliant on at-bat totals versus innings pitched for the pitching categories. Grabbing as many starting pitchers in your auction as possible is not necessarily an optimal strategy (especially in 4x4 leagues), but for hitters you should look to fill every lineup spot with someone who will get regular, or at least semi-regular playing time.

There are two reasons why players do not get at-bats: they're either not starting (e.g. playing part-time/platooning or are on the bench) or they're injured. The first reason is tough to foresee: while we know who are most of the starting regulars on Draft Day, this can change rapidly and we don't know how this changes as the season progresses.

Injuries are usually what kills many owner's chances of doing well in their leagues; injuries happen to all owners and some are affected worse than others. To show how injuries (or playing time) have an effect on players, listed below are my projected and actual at-bat and innings totals for all players who I thought would be drafted last year in both of my AL- and NL-only leagues:

2012 NL At-Bats

2012 AL At-Bats

2012 NL Innings

2012 AL Innings

Projected

Actual

Projected

Actual

Projected

Actual

Projected

Actual

74,590

64,219

72,670

63,234

14,699

12,974

12,972

11,016

So for most projections, the universe of hitters and pitchers will only reach about 85-88% of their projected at-bats or innings pitched. While we cannot control who gets injured, we do know which players are more durable than others, and this should be a factor that owners should consider when bidding on players. If certain players can avoid the DL more often than others, then they are more likely to reach their projected at-bats, and this should help you in your league's standings.

Defining playing durability is subjective and I leave it to you to define this. One way is to look at this is if the player has avoided the DL over a lengthy period of time, or if the player has played a certain number of games each season. Here is a good source to review who has been on the DL the last three seasons. The Play Index at baseball-reference.com is a good resource (at a cost) to query their database to see how many games all players have played in, say, the last three seasons.

3. Positional scarcity

For those positions where the average hitter is typically weaker i.e. catchers and middle infielders, you'll find a number of players who qualify at these positions that will be valued at $1, but are actually worth less than $1 (see Step 7 of my previous article). You should try to avoid the trap of taking $1 on someone who is, in essence, an overbid that provides negative value to your team. I will be discussing this topic in detail - specifically concerning catchers - in a future article.

Next up: Drafting Hitting versus Pitching

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