People like auctions for one simple reason: you can get any player your heart desires.
While that's an undeniably fun part of the process -- not having Mark Trumbo snatched from your grasp just as I was about to pick him [side note: a lot of people also like auctions because you don't have to hear annoying owners constantly complain that they were just about to pick every player that was chosen before their turn] -- I like auctions for a different reason.
It can sometimes be as subtle as not offering a "nice buy!" when everyone else is giving up their kudos. In some online cases, it could be ignoring the chat room completely in order to cloak myself in mystery and intrigue. When I was a research assistant on the book, Fantasyland, we hired a female videographer to record the first hour of the auction, in order to throw the all-male room off their game. I'm not even sure there were tapes in the camera. Actually, I'm not even sure it worked, now that I think about it.
Still, at various auctions, I've nominated players I didn't like just to suck money out of the room. I've nominated players I like a lot, then didn't bid on them again until the very end. I've pretended to be texting to feign disinterest in a player I really wanted and purposely not laughed at jokes I thought were funny just to give someone else a sense of self-doubt. I've gone on Ray Flowers' SiriusXM show and openly told him what I was planning on doing in our Tout Wars mixed league the following weekend.
Does this messing around and low-level pranking actually work? Maybe. Do I have a problem? Yes, most likely. But it's fun. Every auction tends to take a different path, and if I can win the psychological game, I will be at least a minor step ahead of a room full of Fantasy Baseball's otherwise evenly-matched best and brightest.
Your auction tips ...
1. Make a list of the players you hate. These are your new best friends
The idea is this: nominate players you don't want and draw money out from your fellow bidders. Not only does it deplete the bank accounts of your competitors, but it fills up their roster spots with -- in our opinion -- inferior products. Say, for instance, you want J.J. Hardy. In a draft, you say his name and he's yours. In an auction, though, you want to nominate Ben Zobrist for bidding and let teams looking for a shortstop fight over him, filling up their shortstop spots and spending their money. Feel free to do an evil "Muahahahaa" as bidding skyrockets. You sneak in later and grab your Hardy at, hopefully, a discount.
A secondary benefit to nominating a player you don't want is that it gives you a solid minute to breathe, go through your lists, and re-assess your strategy. If you nominate Hardy, you have to stay active in the bidding as his price goes up. But if you nominate Zobrist and have zero interest in him, you can flip through your lists, see what you need, and take a deep breath amidst the chaos of the auction.You're essentially guaranteeing a minute of respite for yourself.
2. Consider dollar values more like loose ideas
I've never kept any kind of strict adherence to my dollar values. If a player on my list is $18 and the bidding is heading north of $22, it's a normal fluctuation that is understood coming in. I absolutely won't let the $18 value on him hold me back from shouting "23" and shocking the room (or getting thusly bid up to 24, where I will, more than likely bow out). There are 12 personalities in the draft room, alternately being hurried, rushed, confused, and prodded by forces of the process. And they're simultaneously dishing it all out to everyone else. There is not a set market. You aren't bidding against robots programmed to stop at a certain point. The owner across the table from me might be the only other person who wants to go after Jon Lester. But he might want him just as passionately as I do, meaning what could have been a $9 win for either of us goes up to the $15 level, with nobody backing down. Let the dollar values be your guide, but don't consider them gospel.
3. Don't sleep on the reserve draft
After the intense and long auction experience, you're going to have a reserve round, likely in the four-to-seven round range. You're going to have to shift modes from bidding to drafting, and the players available are likely going to have the appearance of all being scrubs. But there are hidden gems, and it's an important way to get depth. If you weren't able to buy a solid middle infielder, for instance, you can pad the position with some gambles in the reserve round (think Robert Andino-type players in single-league formats, and Tyler Greene/Stephen Drew types in mixed leagues). In last year's Tout Wars reserve, Jeff Samardzija, Garrett Jones, Jon Jay, James McDonald, and Ryan Ludwick all came out of the mixed reserve, while Tyler Colvin, Homer Bailey, Steve Cishek, Norichika Aoki, Rafael Soriano, Casey Janssen and Jason Hammel all were taken in the single leagues. It's not like a good reserve will portend success, but the Mixed and AL-only champions had two each of the players listed above among their eight total reserve picks.
4. You should not do anything at an auction for more than a dollar at a time
Place your opening nominations at a dollar. Bid players up by a dollar. Count out one-dollar bills to pay for food. There is no sense in nominating a player at $10, other than to speed things along by 45 seconds. But the downside of getting those 45 seconds could be getting stuck with a player who the room is down on and who wouldn't have gone for more than seven dollars.
Similarly, if a player is at three dollars and you think he's worth $14, don't just blurt out, "fourteen dollars." Sit tight until he gets to around $10, then sneak in "eleven." The room may freeze there, and you just saved three dollars for doing nothing more than being patient. Announcing a shock bid may not intimidate other owners as much as you think; in fact, a savvy owner may bid you up another dollar just out of spite, and you probably just displayed your cards in making such a brash move anyway (meaning that other owner bid that dollar so you'd have to go another dollar up to win the player you obviously covet). Being cool and fast-forwarding bids does nothing in an auction. If you think it'll send people scrambling to catch up, it will -- but they'll just ask the auctioneer to pause for a minute so they can catch up. And the auctioneer will oblige, because hey, we're all friends here. One dollar at a time. Ingrain that into your auction subconscious.
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