Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ten Questions to Consider in Keeper Leagues

posted by Unknown

Every season owners in keeper leagues spend weeks if not much longer agonizing over which players on their rosters should be kept. Should they keep just the huge bargains or is a $45 Alex Rodriguez or $31 CC Sabathia too good to pass up? How do you decide? Every league is going to be different. In some leagues a $31 Sabathia is a huge bargain, in others it is the height of stupidity. Today I give you ten criterion to consider as you struggle through these decisions.
Ten Questions to Consider in Keeper Leagues
(In no particular order)
  1. Was it a fluke? A fluke could be a great season or a lousy one. Look at the player's progression over the last few seasons. Does the last season fit in that progression? I like to look at BB percentage, K percentage, GB/LD/FB percentages, HR/FB and BABIP for hitters. For pitchers K/9, BB/9, GB/LD/FB percentage, BABIP, and FIP. These are the factors in a players performances that are usually consistent from season to season. If they are a young player making steady gains then a great season can be expected. If their rates have been steady and were basically the same during a disastrous (or wondrous) season there is reason to believe the performance could have been a fluke.
  2. Would the player help you more from the Draft Pool? A $28 Josh Hamilton may not seem like much of a bargain on the surface. But if your league has significant inflation and Hamilton is certain to cost $40-45 or even more if you let him go, then be becomes a serious candidate to be kept, traded, or placed back in the pool. If you don't like his price compared to his expected performance then a trade should be attempted. Remember, just because you don't like a guy doesn't mean that others will not. Try to get his inflated value in a trade. Placing the player back in the pool can also be a good option if you believe he will be overbid. If one of your oppoenents will spend 15-20 dollars more than you believe a player will be worth that gives you an advantage over that owner (assuming that you're right).
  3. Is the player acually good or just cheap? Your five dollar outfielder may typically earn five dollars but that doesn't mean he's worth keeping. One of the most valuable commodities you have are your roster spots. You should be attempting to fill each and every spot with as much value as possible. To commit to a player with an extremely limited ceiling robs you of the chance to find a significant bargain at the end of your draft. Every season in every league there are players who come out of nowhere to become fantasy studs. If you keep every Willie Bloomquist you have at value you rob yourself of the chance to roster late round bargains like the 2008 versions of outfielder Carlos Quentin, starter Cliff Lee, or catcher Kelly Shoppach.
  4. Could you throw the player back and get him for the same price? In most leagues there is a limit to how long you can keep a player. If a player would basicly go for the same price that you have on him now, why not re-draft him and keep him longer. You might get him cheaper if he's called out at the right moment. By the same token he could end up going for more if you've read the market incorrectly. But if the player is someone you like long term it could be worth it for a longer term of service.
  5. Who else is available? You could own a perfectly fine shortstop but if there are several vastly superior options and you clog your only available shortstop slot you'll be cutting yourself off from any potential bargains. It is a good idea to keep your roster flexible so if for some unexplainable reason the bidding on Troy Tulowitzki stops at $7 you can pounce all over it.
  6. What does your budget look like in relation to the players you need? If you are spending 60 percent of your budget do you alsoH have at least 60 percent of the production you need to win the league? Can you get the remaining 40 percent that you need with what you have left? One of the things I always do before declaring my keepers is to calculate how much of the value I need is provided by my keepers. I'm usually not satisfied with 40 percent of my budget for 40 percent of my needs. So I tend to throw back players that are not bargains, even if they are at value. The exception being players at the top of the position rankings - I'lll keep an at value Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, David Wright and so forth but not an at value Derek Jeter, Trevor Hoffman or Bobby Abreu. The point is to pack as much value on your keeper list as possible balanced with keeping as many of your resources available for the auction as possible.
  7. Are the types of players you need available? In keeper leagues the player pool can take strange turns. There could be just one available closer and only one or two top tier outfielders. If that is the case you might need to keep a mediocre closer or alter your strategy to avoid closers altogether at the auction. Maybe the pool is woefully short on power. You may need to keep a slightly overpriced A-Rod to ensure you reach the stats you need. It is vital that you compare the needs of your team to the players available in the auction. If there are too few options you may have to make some changes to your keeper list or to your auction strategy.
  8. Who are your opponents keeping? You need to know who is in the player pool in order to make the best decisions on your keeper list. To do this you have to guess who your rivals are keeeping. In one of my leagues I've known owners to just call and ask. Usually I don't mind sharing this information to an extent. I tell the players I'm considering keeping and let them narrow it down themselves -- of course assuming that they'll do the same for me. This will help you figure out not just who is in the player pool but also what they might cost. This is extremely valuable knowledge.
  9. How much is the inflation in your league? Calculating a rough estimate of the inflation in your league before keepers are declared can give you edge on the rest of the league. It will help you figure out what the players in the pool will cost while you still have the ability to alter your keeper list.
  10. Can you win with this as your core? Your keeper list needs to provide you with a base of stats you can build on. This isn't the time to take chances. You look for upside in the auction. You need your keeper list to be as full of sure things as possible. However, just because Joe Blow expert with the magazine article doesn't like a guy doesn't mean that he isn't a sure thing, if you believe that he is. But you need to be honest about the size of the risk you are taking. If the player in question only costs a buck and you aren't keeping him ahead of anyone better then that should be fine. But if the player in question cost $22 and he has yet to experience major league success and nothing but a hunch suggests that he can this season, you need to look at things again.
Do you have other questions you ask yourself or items to consider when forming your keeper list? If so, please share them.

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Blogger Dave Zahniser said...

I wish I could limit my time considering my keepers to just a couple of weeks. Nice tips. Thanks.

Sunday, January 4, 2009 at 6:37:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Yeah, I know lots of people with that problem. I do my best but I usually end up dwelling on my roster from the World Series to draft day.

Sunday, January 4, 2009 at 7:25:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will typically list my best 14 or 15 players and then whittle that down. Using what I expect to pay at the draft versus the player's current salary is the prime determinant of keeping.

Sunday, January 4, 2009 at 7:42:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

To Anonymous,

How many do you actually get to keep? My list usually starts with every player that could be kept, but my main leagues keep up to 12, which is a lot compared to most leagues in my experience.

Sunday, January 4, 2009 at 7:48:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

15 in NL-only and 14 in AL-only. Classic Rotisserie rules.

Monday, January 5, 2009 at 7:24:00 AM EST  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Sweet, sounds like a great pair of leagues.

Monday, January 5, 2009 at 8:34:00 AM EST  
Blogger storminspank said...

Great list. I am pining over my keepers right now. Value vs. Stats/Talent/Money.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 1:53:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

What type of league is it? I've been obsessing for weeks already!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 2:08:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Russ said...

in my keeper league im having trouble deciding who to pick i can only have 1 raul ibanez or jason worth ibanez is older but still puts up numbers worth is young and has some speed and puts up decent numbers with potential. any opinions????

Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 7:13:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

I'd probably go with Werth if the price is the same, for the stolen bases.

Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 7:30:00 PM EDT  

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