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Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Stage Three Leagues

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Roto Think Tank has been analyzing the results of an AL-only 5x5 auction draft held for CBS Sportsline's 2008 fantasy baseball coverage.  In it, he concludes it must be a Stage One league because many of the top players are overbid.

For those unaware of the Stage Theory of Rotiserie baseball, it was posited by Alex Patton back in the days when Rotisserie stats were done on Tuesday and Wednesday when each league's stat were published in USA Today.  Mr. Patton breaks down the level of league skill into one of three stages.

Stage One is the least experienced with the auction behavior characterized by out-of-control bidding on all the big name players with none left over for the productive, yet not as well known, players.  This left tons and tons of bargains available.

Stage Two occurs when some of the more astute owners in the league catch on to those bargains and wait until the less astute ones are finished blowing their wad on the better known players.  They then come in and clean-up on great undervalued players.

Finally, Stage Three occurs when everyone knows this and knows the true value of all the players.  As a result, no one bids wildly and no players end up grossly over- and under-valued.

Which brings me back to Roto Think Tank's assesment that the AL-Only auction draft was Stage One.  See, it is an expert's draft and should be Stage Three - at least if Mr. Patton's theory holds true.

Obviously, the theory doesn't capture all the draft behavior possible.  What it doesn't address is the fact that the player performance that goes into the player valuations is just a projection, or predictions of the future, and cannot be done perfectly.  

Whether Stage Three-ers explicitly know this or not is not important.  What they do know if some portion of their roster will not perform as expected, and they draft accordingly.  That new behavior takes the form of going a few more dollars for the best players and less for the middle of the road ones.

Based on experience, these drafters know Alex Rodriguez for $3 more dollars helps their offense more than making sure they get fair expected value across the board.  And those extra dollars of value a true believer gets at the end of the draft (Yeah, I have a $4 Jeff Mathis for a $1!) do not make a real-life difference.

And that is Stage Four! Perfect predictions of player performance are not infallible and do not draft as if they are.