Monday, February 09, 2009

Anti-Dumping Strategies

posted by Jon Williams

Few aspects of fantasy baseball have created as much controversy and discussion as anti-dumping rules. Fantasy team owners take advantage of their also-ran status to trade away their expensive studs and expiring contracts for under priced veterans, rookies, and minor leaguers. The owner dumping his present season is hoping to gain an advantage in the next one. The owner benefiting this season is willing to trade cheap keepers to improve his chances of a championship. Message boards from one end of the internet to the other have hosted the debate. Is it more important to protect the integrity of the draft and good team management or to protect the ability to trade freely as in real baseball? Should poorly managed teams benefit from trades with aggressive contenders at the expense of other contenders? Are dump deals a form of collusion or is rebuilding your fantasy franchise via dumping a right worth protecting? Regardless of your answers, most leagues have instituted rules to prevent dump deals or at least limit them.

FLAWED SOLUTIONS

The most commonly adopted rules have been an In-Season Salary Cap and a system for vetoing unpopular deals. These rules, however well intentioned, are flawed. A salary cap prevents an owner from moving a large amount of salary for a smaller amount. This might put a severe drag on dump deals but it also prevents many perfectly fair deals. Why should an owner with the expiring contracts of Chad Billingsley $10 and Jose Reyes $17 be prevented from trading for $40 Carlos Lee and $45 Matt Holliday? Even worse than preventing owners from making fair deals is allowing other owners or even just the league’s commissioner to decide if the trade should be allowed or not. Compare it to the Boston Red Sox given the power to decide if the New York Yankees can complete a deal with the Houston Astros. A trade that seems unfair can often greatly reward the owner making the questionable deal.

Fantasy leagues cannot afford to ignore the owners that despise dumping. If a majority of owners would like to prevent such trades, leagues must take action or their futures become endangered. A Google search will reveal thousands of owners who left their leagues because their rivals took a different stance on dumping. However, it is just as important that a league consider their solutions carefully. An overly aggressive solution can make the league less fun for those owners that like to make frequent trades. The best solutions will encourage all owners to finish as high in the standings as possible. If league members at some point discover that finishing in a money position is impossible, then that owner should also see the value in finishing seventh or even eighth rather than eleventh or twelfth.

BETTER SOLUTIONS

CHANGE THE MINOR LEAGUE DRAFT ORDER

Fortunately, good solutions exist. A very simple solution that works well in conjunction with other solutions is changing the order of minor league and reserve picks. Rather than simply using the reverse of the standings as your draft order, reward the owner that finishes in the highest non-money position with the first pick in your supplemental drafts. Dole out the remaining picks in a similar fashion, with the second pick going to the next highest placed team and so on. The teams in the money would receive picks in reverse of the standings after the non-money teams. The teams finishing out of the money still receive the best minor league/reserve picks, but in a twelve-team league, that has prizes for the first six spots, the seventh place team receives a reward for its superior effort.

EARLIER TRADE DEADLINES

Every league should have a trade deadline in place but often it is late in August. A great change to make moves the deadline for uninhibited trading to a week after the Major League Baseball trade deadline in July. During the month of August, owners can trade with teams within two spots of them in the standings. The late July deadline limits dumping by taking place before most teams’ elimination from contention. The limited trading in August allows teams to make the small adjustments that injuries and MLB transactions make necessary without allowing the drastic trades between the second place team and the last placed team.

THREE-YEAR CHAMPIONSHIP PRIZE

By far the best solution to dumping is instituting a Three-Year Championship. This rule’s intention is to reward the owners that are continually high in the standings over a three-year period. Leagues that charge dues can set aside a small portion each season as a prize. How much to set aside would depend on how much would motivate teams to battle for every homerun or stolen base. At the end of three seasons, simply combine the total stats from each season and rank the teams accordingly. Reward at least the top three teams with a prize and you will have teams that would have dumped previously battling to finish as high as possible every season. This increased competition is the very best drag on dumping.

Implementing these three very simple rules will not only drastically lessen the number of dump trades but also create a more competitive atmosphere around your league without ruining the fun of those owners that like to trade. With owners battling for more prizes, improved draft picks, and more of the pot, participation increases and leagues become tougher, which is more fun for everyone involved.

Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams

Labels: , , ,

IF YOU LIKE IT, SHARE IT!

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love dump trades, it is what makes keeper leagues so much fun. Even when you stink, you have something to play for. But I hate dumping too early in the season.

The problem in my league is that we have some teams that have gone to an every other year strategy. They decide before the spring auction that they are dumping. And the value of dumping that early outweighs the draft picks, and happen way before July.

The idea of a 3 year prize might help some, but you would have to make it significant otherwise the yearly prize will blow that away.

One other idea we are exploring, is rolling salary caps. At the beginning of the year, have a tight cap/floor to ensure that trades have reasonable financial equality. But later in the season open it up to allow dumping trades. Not sure we are going to pass that or not.

Monday, February 9, 2009 at 4:55:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

We collect $50 per team, each season for the three year prize. That's an $1800 pot, enough to get most teams motivated.

Monday, February 9, 2009 at 5:56:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We collect $50 per team, each season for the three year prize. That's an $1800 pot, enough to get most teams motivated."

So, it isn't a rolling three years. If you do 2009-2011, then the next three years is 2012-2014, right?

Also, what are your fees/payout for the regular year? Just curious how that $1800 pot compares to winning a single year.

I am interested in this idea, and may propose it to my league. Just trying to figure it out.

Monday, February 9, 2009 at 6:05:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Yep, our last three-year period was from 2006-2008. The one starting is 2009-2011.

In our 12 team AL-only the fee is $300 per team (not including the 3-year fee)so the pot is 3600 (plus interest and minus expenses of course). The first place team usually collects around 1500 (we pay out six spots). We pay out the 3yr prize to three teams with the 1st place team getting half. So an extra $900 or so.

We had a good segment of owners that wanted the 3-yr prize to be larger but another set of owners didn't want the fees to increase that dramatically. I think ideally the 3-yr pot is at least equal to the yearly pot.

Monday, February 9, 2009 at 6:17:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Marc Edelman said...

Jon:

I am a firm believer that dump trades are not a problem, to the extent that you define those as "trades that allow you to improve for next year." Leagues that fail to agree as to the standard for approving trades is the problem. Both leagues with dump trades, and those that only allow equitable trades based on current stats, seem to succeed if all of the owners in the league set expectations in advance, and put them in writing.

For more on cases where "dump" trades have been upheld and overturned, see some of the opinions on my website, www.SportsJudge.com.

Also, as an alternative to the 3-year pot is having 1-year pots with teams posting their entry fees one to two years in advance.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 at 3:51:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

I agree with you, Marc. When things are understood by everyone going in everything works much better.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 at 9:32:00 PM EST  
OpenID SabermetricsGuy said...

Dump trades are great for keeper leagues.

Our league has decided to use an Open Market Trading system when it comes to dump trades. It's the most fair way of doing things.

I have to disagree with you on the salary cap, too. At the very least, a salary minimum is an absolute must. Otherwise, teams are bound to dump pre-auction. Hell, it'd be stupid not to if you're unlikely to be competitive.

Rotowire's Jeff Erickson discusses Open Market Trading here.
http://baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=7630

Monthly prizes for the final 3 months also is a good idea that our league has embraced.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 3:38:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

My main leagues actually have a salary cap for April and May to prevent just the scenario you're describing. This was put in as a response to SOMEONE dumping studs the day after the draft. Okay, it was me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 3:59:00 PM EST  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home