Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Finding your way with FAAB

FAAB stands for Free Agent Acquisition Budget. It is one of the best answers fantasy leagues have devised for allocating free agents in the fairest possible way. It is fast becoming the norm as players just don’t have the time or inclination to be locked to their computer screens in order to secure the best free agents. It’s not a perfect system, but using FAAB as a way to obtain free agents insures at the very least that everyone has an equal shot at the best available guys every week.

Now that the NFBC Main Event drafts are in the books owners are emerging on message boards posting their respective squads. Much like real major league teams our fantasy squads all start the year tied for first place and for the most part fantasy players are usually feeling pretty good about their teams as Opening Day approaches. Of course the feeling often doesn’t last long once the games begin. For many owners the early weeks of the season will resemble being a fan of the Kansas City Royals or the Washington Nationals these days. Early season excitement is quickly replaced by the reality of a flawed and less than competitive team than the one we thought we drafted. That’s where using and managing your FAAB for the season comes in. Since there are no trades allowed in the NFBC, your FAAB budget is the only tool at your disposal to improve your squad, manage injuries and look for new talent.

If you have never played in a league with FAAB before, here is how it works in an NFBC league like the Rookie Invitational. Everyone will start the year off with a $1000 budget to spend on Free Agents. FAAB runs every Sunday night from Opening Day until the final FAAB period in Week 26. You are free to bid on any available player in your free agent pool. Highest bid for a player wins. Unlike some leagues that use FAAB, you don’t get a discount on your winning bid in the NFBC. If you bid $200 on a player and the next highest bid is $25, you still pay $200. You can bid on as many players as you like in any given week and back those bids up with multiple conditional bids. This helps ensure that even if you lose out on your top target, the system moves down your subsequent bids until you win a player for the upcoming scoring period.

I'm entering my third season using FAAB in the NFBC - so I will humbly submit that I myself am still honing my skills using it from week to week. Every league is a different collection of owners and personalities. The free agent pools will be slightly different from league to league. It can be intimidating for a new player, but my experience has been that it adds an extra layer of excitement to the competition as Sunday brings everyone together to formulate bids and eagerly await the results. Successful management of your FAAB budget can often mean the difference between a finish in the money or a slide down the standings, so having an idea of how to approach the FAAB process is as important as all the draft prep you did leading up to the season.

There are many different theories about how to use your FAAB budget and attack the free agent market. Often you will find yourself employing multiple approaches every week as you bid on different types of players in multiple leagues. Everyone has their own style but for simplicity I’ll filter them down to three basic groups which I will name Hoarders, Big Spenders and Cheapskates.

Hoarders are those players who believe that you need to save as much of your FAAB as possible for that big score later in the season. This strategy applies more to NL or AL leagues - because they will always have the Superstars switching leagues at the deadlines. So - while I am not saying you should all spend wildly and irrationally early on - don't hoard your FAAB either. Most NFBC teams are mixed leagues, so there will be no superstars coming into the player pool. The closest we will get is the hot prospect or the closer out of nowhere. The fact is many of the top prospects and closers-in-waiting were probably drafted in your league. So I don't advocate extreme hoarding of FAAB in an NFBC mixed league.

Big Spenders are those players who you will see on the boards shouting "Spend Early and Often". These owners tend to feel that FAAB is useless if you leave it on the table at the end of the year. They also tend to believe that money spent earlier in the season can have a bigger impact on their team and season simply because the player purchased will have more time to provide a return on the investment. I can't deny the reality that a player acquired in Week 2 will have a bigger chance to impact your place in the standings than the guy you get in Week 22. But you don't want to be the guy who runs out of cash and can't make any moves at all in September. The Big Spender likes to get the big prize free agent and while they often hit pay dirt, many times they get very little production for the investment. But the Big Spender also has the confidence that he can manage his team with less if necessary and often the money spent early can be enough to put them over the top. The only problem with being a Big Spender is you only have a couple of shots at taking this approach – so when you swing and miss – it hurts worse because everyone will remind you how much you spent for Jordan Zimmerman or Jordan Schafer.

Cheapskates are the guys who won’t overbid for anyone and often load up their bid pages with multiple $1 conditional bids in an effort to save money. They will make reasonable bids on players they like – but they won’t break the bank to get them. The downside to this is the often miss out on impact guys simply because often they won’t overpay. Part of being a Cheapskate is finding bargains. You’ll find these types of owners throwing low cost free agents against the wall to see if one or two will stick. They are often the guys you swear at when you go to the wire to look for a player, only to realize that they already picked them up. Cheapskates differ from hoarders in the respect that they will make moves – but they are more prudent than the Big Spenders– so they try to value their bids correctly.

I would say most new owners start out as Cheapskates until they get their FAAB legs under them. A few lost bids and the aggressive nature of most will make for some spirited bidding. It is a challenge to try and figure out who might be your competition for a particular player in any given week. You never know where or who that crazy bid is coming from. Sometimes it will come from that last place team sitting on a big pile of FAAB at the All Star break and sometimes it will come from you. Sometimes it won’t come at all. Sometimes you’ll want a guy so bad, you will allow a little of the Big Spender in you to take over only to realize that you outbid the next guy by WAY too much. Those bids will make the Cheapskate in you angry and likely start the cycle all over again. That’s life in the world of FAAB. It can be maddening but it is never boring.

As we look forward to the first FAAB period of the season - here are a few tips and observations to remember this season:

1. Keep in mind other team’s needs when bidding. This seems pretty basic, but I always see guys bid against themselves and overpay for mediocre players. If you need a replacement catcher don’t go overboard when you will likely only be competing with a couple other owners for his services. The exception to this is with saves and steals. These stats are always highly sought and always overpriced. There will always be someone willing to pay for them and often it will be the guy who doesn’t need them. When it comes to speed and saves always assume that you are not alone in chasing these commodities.

2. Keep track of other owners FAAB budgets. Most league services will provide this info for you, but make sure you check it out before bidding. If you have an idea who you are going up against for a certain player, this can help you decide how high to go. This can be especially important late in the year as money dwindles. Say you are chasing down a money spot and the guy in front of you needs a certain player. He only has $20 left in his budget and you have $100. A bid of $21 will make sure a difference maker stays off his roster at the very least.

3. Trust your hunches and speculate with $1 bids. I mentioned this above, but it bears repeating. If you have a feeling about a guy who is available and you have a reserve spot to play with. Drop a $1 or $2 bid on him sooner than later. If he doesn’t pan out then just throw him back for your next experiment. One of the best times to implement this strategy comes right before the trade deadline. I always try to read the landscape and grab a guy or two who may or may not come into a chunk of playing time at the deadline.

4. Be wary of buying high priced rookies. In the NFBC there are no $0 bids. Once you are out of money, you are out of moves. Sure it can be nice to land the next big thing, but you will always end up paying more than there are usually worth. If you are going to go after young players try to do it via speculation. Once the guy you had a hunch on isn’t a secret anymore, the value of that player in relation to FAAB quickly dries up. If you do want to try and make a splash of a signing – then realize that you likely will only get one or two of them a year.

5. Keep some money in reserve for September. This can be the difference between winning and losing often. Nothing worse than getting to Week 26, needing to replace multiple players and having nothing in the bank. I would suggest having no less than $10-20 left for the final two weeks of the season.

6. If you are out of the running, still spend your FAAB. This for me is all about being a good player. It can be especially frustrating in an overall competition like the NFBC to hear about owners leaving big piles of unspent FAAB on the table at the end of the season. You can’t win every year, but you can always help make your individual league worth winning. Never give up and never stop bidding on players. It keeps everyone honest and your fellow owners will respect that you stayed active until the bitter end. You paid the entry fee so you owe it to yourself to get your money’s worth. Every week you participate in the FAAB process will help make you more efficient and effective at it.

7. Vary your bidding habits. Don’t be predictable and keep them guessing. If your league engages in some friendly trash talk, don’t be afraid to bluff from time to time. Always assume that someone is tracking how you bid so they can exploit it down the road. If you keep spending $2 on 2 start pitching every week, eventually someone will start jumping the guys you want by going to $3.

8. Set a weekly budget for yourself. If you find that the Big Spender in you wants to take over then set up a budget for yourself for the season. This will help you meet the goal of having money available to you in the final weeks. You can work backwards from the last week or month of the season and try to stay within the boundaries to make sure you don’t come up short in crunch time.

9. Conditional bids are your friends. Don’t be afraid to back up your primary targets with conditional bids if necessary. If you absolutely need to come out of the FAAB period with a P, the conditional bid process can usually guarantee that you will come away will someone. I often will target a specific SP, and then back him up with as many as 10 other names that are more speculative. The worst thing you can do it come away empty handed when you need a body to plug in your lineup.

10. Enjoy the process. FAAB is fun if you let it be. Don’t let it get to you. After the dust settles relish your victories and be good natured about your defeats. Feel free to rub some salt in the wounds of others, but don’t be a jerk. FAAB can really add some life to leagues, but the fun will evaporate if people get to amped up over it. As the season goes along you will begin to get into the flow of FAAB. Good luck and happy bidding!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

NFBC Rookie Invitational League

If you are a serious fantasy baseball player the odds are you have heard of the NFBC.  The NFBC is the moniker for the National Fantasy Baseball Championship.  This is the high stakes national contest where the best players in the country face off in 15 team leagues to crown the eventual National Champion.

I played in the NFBC Main Event last year and had a respectable finish for my first season.  I came in 3rd place in my league and 125th in the Overall.  So I won some money ($1,250) and finished ahead of 280 other players.
However, I made a lot of mistakes along the way and learned I would need to elevate my game if I wanted to take a step up and really compete for the overall prize.

The thing that makes the NFBC Main Event such a challenge is not only do you compete in your league - you compete against 400+ other players in a gigantic overall competition for the Grand Prize of $100,000. You have to be able to build a team that can compete in all of the 10 Rotisserie categories.  1st place in a category will net you 400 points.  Last place will stick you with 1.  So to have a chance at winning the overall you have to be able to average about an 80% showing in all categories.

When this season began, it became pretty clear to me that I really couldn't swing the entry fee ($1,300) to get back into this year's Main Event.  I had won a free entry in 2009 by virtue of winning a Satellite league.  These are entry level events for those players who want to try the NFBC's unique 15 team format for the first time.  I just couldn't quite square my chances of winning the Main Event with the entry fee.  But I still wanted to play in the NFBC.  So what was a guy to do.

I decided to try something unique.  I really wanted to do something with the NFBC style of play that would keep me interested all year long.  The only option for me this year were the Satellite leagues.  But if you have ever played in an online league you know what is missing.  Interaction between owners. How could I have a league that would truly offer something different to those who would play in it? Where there other players out there looking for the same thing? What was missing in the NFBC experience for me? Learning how to conquer the format.

I decided to ask the people who run the NFBC if they would allow me to start and run a "Rookie" league with a mix of veteran players and first timers.  The veterans would serve as advisers to the new players, answering questions along the way and "teaching" the new players how to play the game.  The winner would get a free entry into the 2011 Main Event.  The NFBC said yes and the NFBC Rookie Invitational was born.

We have assembled a group of 4 veteran players and 11 "Rookies". To qualify as a rookie, you can never have played in the Main Event before. We also have set up shop at the fabulous fantasy baseball information site where we will have a Fourm dedicated to the league.  We will be discussing strategy all season long and you are welcome to come over and join the conversation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

NFBC Journal: Week 6 - Welcome to the season Jimmy Rollins!

Well - it took 6 weeks but Jimmy Rollins finally showed up this week. My first round pick, who had been stinking up the joint. Ian Kinsler, the guy I talked myself out of taking at #8, was of course as hot as a piston. While I didn't expect that kind of production from my SS, his struggles were really hurting my team, particularly in the SB department. So needless to say, the best news of the week was Rollins' production.

A seven game hit streak, 3 multi-hit games, 3 sb's, a run scored in every game and even a HR thrown in made it easily his best week of the season so far. It also is the kind of production I will need if I want to climb a bit more in the overall standings and reel in the teams ahead of me in my Main Event league.

At the end of Week 6, I am sitting in 3rd place with 103 points. In the overall standings, I moved up to number #59 by weeks end. My pitching has been consistently good, as I ended the week with 64.5 out of a possible 75 points. I am leading the league in ERA, WHIP and SV's. On the hitting side, I made some gains, but still have room to move up from my 38.5 points. While I have crept my BA up to a respectable level, I will need a power and speed boost to make up points quickly. The good news is these counting stats can be the easiest ones to make up ground on in season. There are 10-12 points waiting for my team to grab with a prolonged power and/or speed influx.

Week 6 was a solid week for the team. New addition Jerry Hairston provided a speed boost as expected with 3 steals. He and Rollins led the way to an 11 steal week, 2 spots up in the category and put the middle group within reach. Colby Rasmus was the weeks most dissapointing player, he did smack a homer, but overall he failed to capitalize on Rick Ankiel's absence from the lineup.

My pitching continued to impress. Max Scherzer fnally got his first W and Brett Myers finally had a start worthy of a #2 SP. Papelbon and Fuentes were both solid. My pitching has been so good that I actually am down to one P in reserve, Kawakami. I dropped Dan Wheeler for this weeks pickup, OF Carlos Gomez. This was a speculative grab, for $3, as the big money went elsewhere. I see an opportunity for Gomez to get some starts this week - so I am trying to hit on some SB's from him for the week.

I also have inserted Baltimore's Nolan Reimold, who I picked up a couple of weeks ago for $1. Rasmus and LaPorta, who might be sent down head to the bench. Rick Ankiel should return this week, but I will wait to see it first before staring him. Kevin Louzmanoff almost made it back into the lineup, but I elected to go with Gomez for this week at least. Ryan Doumit (DL) and Cameron Maybin (AAA) fill out the bench.

It is rather unorthodox to have 6 hitters in reserve, but injuries have forced the issue. Also I interestingly have 5 players with SS eligibility, which would help explain my power slump. I need Ankiel to come back a add some pop and it wouldn't hurt for Kouzmanoff to start hitting. While Marco Scutaro has been a very pleasant surprise, I can't count on a full season out of him.
Also - Hairston will surely be a stopgap - as he usually is - he produces when he plays, but it never lasts. Injuries always come - but I will ride him while he hits. As of today, he might be the first guy I would cut, as Alex Gonzalez figures to steal AB's shortly.

Anyway, looking forward to Week 7, and happy to report that Kendry Morales has started me off with 2 HR's tonight, and Carlos Gomez stole a base. Keep it up guys, keep it up!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

NFBC Journal: Weeks 4-5 - Hairston and LaPorta to the rescue

Missed a weekly update - so we'll have to catch up with this week.

Rick Ankiel becomes the second Mugger to go down with an injury, and anyone who saw his head first collision with the center field wall knows that it could have been much worse than a trip to the DL. Colby Rasmus replaced Ankiel in the everyday St. Louis lineup and will do the same for the Muggers.

After a fairly pedestrian Week 4 showing, which saw us slip down in the standings and drop below 90pts overall led to a couple roster moves. We officially ended the Felix Pie experiment. I really thought the change of scenery and an everyday job would help Pie turn the corner. It was a late round gamble on a guy I thought would at worst give me a 15/15 season. Sadly I couldn't wait on him anymore. The picking on the wire are slim, so I took another path and speculated on Baltimore prospect Nolan Reimold for $1. Reimold is simply tearing it up in AAA and the buzz has him coming up with Matt Weiters once June arrives. It is a speculative move, but for a buck, could pay huge dividends.

My other big move after week 4 was to grab Toronto SP Brett Cecil. Injuries created an opportunity for Cecil to stake a claim to a full time rotation spot as he would be getting a look. A two start week made him as nice guy to speculate on. I was able to get him for only $15 and cut Ross Ohlendorf to do so. He rewarded me with two nice games, giving up only 1 run in 14 IP and chipped in a W and 12 K's. He looks like he will stick with Toronto for now. By grabbing him a week early - I saved a ton a FAAB money.

I also was able to grab a just waived Kenji Johjima to replace Jason Jaramillo as my Ryan Doumit replacement. Johjima cost me only $2 and quite frankly, I shouldn't have been able to get him. I can live with him in my lineup til Doumit returns.

Going into week 6 I tabbed only one new Mugger. Desperate for some SB's I grabbed Jerry Hairston Jr. who looks like he will get consistent playing time for the first time all year. He cost me $35 FAAB dollars and I had to cut loose Pedro Alvarez. I doesn't look like Alvarez is coming up anytime soon, so he was the guy to let go.

Also, I gained the services of Matt LaPorta, who got called up by Cleveland. However, Cameron Maybin got sent down to AAA by the Marlins. This was a blow, because I was counting on Maybin for a power/speed boost. He really made the Hairdston aquisition necessary.

Week 5 was a good week for the Muggers. We gained ground in the standings with a balanced attack and have moved up to fourth place in the league. Also, the team that has been holding down first place just lost Manny Ramirez for 2 months. Should bring him back to the pack a bit.
In the Overall Standings, we are back in the Top 100, at #86.

Chris Davis and JJ Hardy both look to be heating up, which is nice to see. Jimmy Rollins is still scuffling and I have to admit, that I shouldn't have talked myself out of Ian Kinsler at pick 8. I also am constantly reminded about my choice of Matt Kemp over Evan Longoria. Kemp has been solid, but Longoria has been the best hitter in fantasy to this point. If I had made those two picks, I'd be in first place today.

But, we are glad to be in contention. That is what you aim for, be close enough to see first place, then keep chipping away. We are there, andI think this offense is just about ready to go on a tear. Also, I think Brett Myers is due for a hot stretch as well and he will further boost what has been the best staff in the league so far this year.

Now if Eric Wedge would only start playing Matt LaPorta everyday, I'd be really happy. Come on Wedgie, I need his power and so do the Indians. Play him already!!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NFBC Journal: Week 3 - Doumit injury beginning off tough week.

One of the challenges of fantasy baseball is that it is a 26 week marathon, rather than a sprint. The teams that sit at the top of the standings in your league (and mine) are the ones who have had the appropriate mix of skill and luck. Luck comes in two forms of course, good and bad. I got my first bad break of the season as my top C, Ryan Doumit, went on the DL with a broken bone in his hand. He will be out for 8-10 weeks. It is a big blow, and I appropriately went out and grabbed his replacement Jason Jaramillo. He has started out well and I can only hope he is decent while he holds down the forst.

For the week, the Doumit injury was the beginning of a fairly mediocre week for the Muggers. We didn't excel anywhere and gave back all of the gains made in our big Week 2, sliding back down to 6th place, with 94 pts. In the Overall standings, we tumbled down to 125th.

Taking a quick look at my team's Week 3 stats: Offensively, Jimmy Rollins continued to stick up the joint. O sb's is not what I drafted him for and it is really killing me in that important category. Matt Kemp had a down week, but he was due for a correction after his torrid start. Nick Markakis continued his torrid hitting, and is easily my offensive MVP. My Felix Pie gamble was a disaster as he was awful for the week. He survived being cut for one more week, but he is squarely on the chopping block.

On the bright side, Chris Davis, Rick Ankiel and Kendry Morales - three very important power and rbi sources for my team all finally woke up. Asdrubal Cabrera and Kosuke Fukodome have continued to be fantastic values as late round picks. Cabrera has even been moved up the the two-hole in the Indians lineup, so he should see a nice value boost at least in the short term.

My pitching was good, but inconsistent this week. Billingsley continued his great pitching and has been everything I could have hoped for. J Cueto and J Jurrjens both turned in stellar starts, but I need to get more K's from Cueto. Brett Myers needs to get it going for me soon though, he had another rough outing last week. Kenshin Kawakami found out that Cincinnatti is not a fun park to pitch in if you don't have your best stuff and Paul Maholm came back to earth a bit.

As the week came to a close, I needed to obviously address my catching situation. As I stated earlier, I placed a bid on Jaramillo with numerous conditional picks to make sure I came away with a sub. Ryan Perry was the casualty as saves don't look like they will be coming his way anytime soon. Having to carry a DL'd player means my bench got one player shorter. I also decided to grab an 8th starter and cut Todd Coffey. Hoffman is back and Coffey will head back to middle relief. I almost cut Pie, and if Hoffman hadn't come back I would have. I bid on Scott Richmond, but didn't get him - he went for $51. The runner-up bid was $45. I bid $41. My fallback was Ross Ohlendorf, who has pitched well of late. I got him for $1.

I held onto Matt LaPorta and Pedro Alvarez for another week. LaPorta is tearing it up in AAA, and may get called up sooner than later. Andy LaRoche has finally started hitting, so it may be time to give up on Alvarez. Pie will be the next Mugger cut though. I dropped Perry and Coffey, but held onto Dan Wheeler for another week. I still believe he'll get a chance to close at some point.

For week 4, in a move aimed at trying to get some SB's, I have inserted both C Maybin and C Rasmus into the lineup this week. Pie and Scutaro head to the bench. K Morales finally has his CI eligibility, so he moves there. Kawakami gets a break this week and Ohlendorf gets a start. I may start targeting two-start pitchers for the 9th spot in my rotation on a weekly basis.

Okay - that's the weekly update. I am very pleased to say that Jimmy Rollins stole his first base last night - I can only hope it is the start of a hot streak for him and my team this week.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NFBC Journal: Ryan Doumit's wrist my first bad break.

Well, it was bound to happen, but the news of Ryan Doumit's broken wrist was a real fantasy buzz kill. What was initially reported as a day-to-day injury has now turned into a broken bone in his wrist that will require surgery and shelve my #1 C for up to 8-10 weeks.

It's a tough injury, coming at a time when my team was off to a nice start. Couple in the fact that the pickings at C on the wire are pretty dismal. It puts a real dent in my draft strategy, which was to grab 2 C's earlier than most, giving me a decided advantage at that scarce position.

There was inherent risk involved here, because catchers are prone to injury, but still this injury basically erases whatever advantage was gained by choosing Doumit in the 7th rd. I will have to make up his production elsewhere, and must be careful not to roster a replacement who does more harm than good. Doumit's best attribute was his .300+ average from the C spot, a nice way to bolster your team in that spot and take guys like Rick Ankiel later on. I am reserved to the fact, that anyone I pick up will be lucky to hit .250.

The other thing to consider, is with no DL spots in the NFBC, I will have to carry Doumit in reserve, tying up a roster spot with an unproductive player. I will also have to follow his injury status over the upcoming weeks and if it seems like he will miss more than the initial 8-10 weeks, I may have to cut him outright. Wrist injuries have a way of lingering even after the player returns.

Oh well, time to circle the wagons and go check out which catchers are available in my league.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Yankee Stadium: Coors Field East???

I was able to pay a visit to the New Yankee Stadium over the weekend. I didn't get to see my Indians 22 run outburst, but did see yesterday's game, the second game of the series where a game changing homer squeaked over the wall in RF.

Buster Olney is reporting that the Yankees are privately worried about the balls (20 HR's in 4 games) flying out in the first four games.
ESPN-Buster Olney

It would have to have you a little worried now about starting Yankee SP's against high powered lineups at home.

Jensen Lewis, who gave up Jeter's and Posada's dink shots over the weekend commented that they were both "Pop flies in any other park."

The problem, if it is for real, is complicated by the fact that there are no fences to move back down the line.

My own observation is, that while the field dimensions are the same, the stadium is smaller inside, and it seemed like any ball hit high to right was carrying.

Here is a good look at the NEW Yankee Stadium
New York Times

Now here is a look at the OLD Stadium


You can clearly see how much more open the Old stadium was - especially behind the fences. Also, the new scoreboard and signage is much more enclosed than the old stadium.

How much will this effect Yankee starters???

Don't ask CW Wang.