Posted on: May 4, 2011 1:42 pm
Edited on: May 4, 2011 1:44 pm

Nine FAABs in a Single Week

Week 5 of the 26th Season of MuDVIL

We use a $100 full year FAAB in our league, which seems fairly standard these days. What is not standard is what I'd call an orderly expenditure of these funds team by team. Every year we have a group of teams that sits on all $100 hoping to get an impact player from the AL who comes over in a trade, usually to resell said player to another team, and another group that buys players willy-nilly to get whatever spare parts they need to balance trades positionally, and an overlapping group that sits on FAAB in $25 increments for our special status rules. (In brief, our rule is that you cannot "coin" a Special Status player who is not an ALXO by bidding $25, but there is an exception for ALXOs that was originally intended to prevent the likes of Mark McGwire from being immune to the special status trading rules; the effect of this is that the really horrible ALXOs who would normally be ignored or would get a few bucks of FAAB bid all go for $25 or more, so they acquire special status, and can be used by contenders to balance trades with rebuilders, who, yes, spend their $100 to get those Mark McGwire types who come over at the end of July. If this all seems rather recursive and formalized, it is; it's an artifact of the original Waggoner rules and the anti-dumping clauses, and it has what I would call a moderate muting effect on dump-trading, but in a league comprised of 12 strong owners, I don't even think anti-dumping rules are necessary. But I digress.

The other eccentricity of our league is we run a 12x25 roster, with 17 reserve slots. The 25 active roster slots evolved so we would not have changes in values of retained players as the NL went through its various expansions. We did go to 13 teams in our league briefly, with 23 slots, after the last NL expansion, but this ended up being a sort of unwieldy number of owners so when one dropped out we went back to 12 teams, where we've been for almost a decade. We also upped our auction budget to $280 to ensure continuity of valuation. It worked out quite well from that standpoint, but astute observes will note that with 17-man reserve lists (another oddball artifact of expanding -- we never contracted the 17-man reserve list, that grew from the classic 6-man farm to a farm plus reserve list, so we have 42-man rosters, not 40) we end up with precious few actual free agents in our pool. In our 10-round post-auction reserve draft, typically half the players taken are minor leaguers (or other -- NCAA, high schoolers, Japan League guys, you name it) and the other half are major leaguers left over from the auction. So you can imagine how thin the free agent pool is even before the year gets started.

With Ultra rules, of course, you can benefit from things such as FAABing the emergency spot starter or the AAAA outfielder up to cover a DL stint who is not otherwise a prospect, the sorts of guys who come into the pool on a continuous basis during the year. But there is rarely a point to doing this; such players are, by definition, marginal major leaguers, and the opportunity to accumulate meaningful statistics from such players is fairly rare. There is also the "pre prospect" FAAB pick, the player who is either a marginal prospect (too marginal to be picked up in the regular reserve rounds) or who more typically is a former prospect who has been called up at an age where there's still some vague hope of upside. These are also not that common, although the temptation to "buy a lottery ticket" on such players, particularly pitchers who might luck into the job of a closer, is fairly strong.


All this said, since FAAB costs real money as well as money from the pretend FAAB budget in our league, you'd think that with a shallow pool of not-wonderful talent the FAAB bidding would be spotty, with no ALXOs in the mix as yet. Not at all the case so far; we've already taken 34 players in FAAB this year in the four weeks of bidding since our auction, and at the fairly remarkably low price of around $7 per player (we have a $5 minimum bid; $7 is the default salary of a player taken during our reserve rounds, as well as promoted farm players).


What was particularly strange about this week: we had 9 different teams make successful bids this week. Yes, there were a few more players called up from AAA due to injuries, but not that many. In looking at the players taken, it seems like all the reasons to FAAB (save coining special status players) were in play this week. That said it's highly unusual for that many different teams to have a successful bid in a given week. I've put out a call to the greybeards of the league to see if anything comparable has ever happened, particularly this early in the season, and it seems that it has not.

Adding to the eccentricity of the week: somewhat unusually for our league, at least in recent years, we have one team that's running away with the crown. They had a carefully-constructed multiyear rebuild capped by a number of very advantageous trades both right before and right after our auction, and they're still sitting on some nice talent with multiyear contract potential to be able to trade later in the season to make a tactical adjustment. They're already in a huge lead in HR and RBI, and competitive in every other category, have a 12 point advantage over the 2nd place team and a 22-point advantage over the third place team (me), and have 107 points (out of 120 possible), which is good enough to win in our league pretty much every year (winners usually end up around 110).

I tend to think FAABing so spiritedly at this point in the season is just a sign that, well, reality hasn't sunk in, or everybody's giving it the old college try, or we're just playing the game with the options we have at this point because that's what we do and 26 years of accumulated habit says to do it. But I'd still like to note this week and track the players who were taken and see if this is just one of those odd spikes or some kind of trend.

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