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Fantasy Strategy Ideas from the Guru
Little Big Man
Serious students of traditional roto-baseball scoring realize that Craig Biggio is one of the most valuable players in that game format. He produces superbly in all key offensive categories - runs, HRs, RBIS, steals, average, on-base percent, and slugging percent. And there are very few second baseman who can even come close to his production, especially over a whole season. In a league where each player can be on one and only one team, having Biggio is worth more than his raw stats might suggest, because if you have him, everyone other team in your league is stuck with someone else at second base.
If you look at the list of the best second baseman for the Smallworld game, Biggio clearly stands out. In fact, he's about 3 SWP/game better than his closest rival at the position (although Knoblauch has been coming on strong in recent weeks.) His price reflects this lofty relative standing, as only one other second baseman (Kent - who just went on the disabled list) is priced within $3 million of Biggio. If we expand our scope to include other positions, we see that Biggio's SWP total for the season ranks him ninth among all hitters. Yet, his price is the third highest of all hitters, trailing only McGwire and Larry Walker. (And Walker's high price is more of a function of his 1997 performance than it is of his current year's production - but that's a topic for another week.) Suffice it to say that while Biggio is most definitely a premier performer, he's also a relatively expensive one.
Today, I want to explore whether Biggio's positional uniqueness justifies his high price. I've had some SW managers argue that he is worth the "big bucks", because if you don't own him, you're stuck with an inferior point producer at the 2B position. Some of this is undoubtedly a crossover attitude from the "roto-rationale" I mentioned above. However, in the SW format, there are some important differences. First, owning Biggio doesn't keep anyone else from owning him. If every team wants to own Biggio, all they have to do is pay the price. Second, in SW, the dominant constraint in assembling a roster is your franchise value. If you have accumulated enough money to be able to afford the best possible team, then Biggio should probably be on that team regardless of his price. But today, the "best team that money can buy" - using total SWP's as the objective - would cost just north of $130 million, a price that very few managers can afford. So tradeoffs have to be made. And relative value does matter.
It's at this point that the analysis becomes complicated. There are opportunities to save money at each position, and there are unique names, stories, and trends to consider at each of them. It may very well be that you can find the right bargains at other positions which makes Biggio affordable. But, as a very rough guide, it appears that by trading down at 2B, you only sacrifice roughly 1 SWP/game for each million saved. For example, Knoblauch costs $3 million less, and has produced about 3 SWP/game less than Biggio. Or you could save $4.5 million with DeShields, and only give up 4.5 SWP/game. Obviously, part of your decision must consider whether future performance is likely to be better or worse than past performance. But if you recall the graph of price vs. SWP/game that I showed last week, the average pickup in SWP/game for an extra $1 million was almost to 2 (1.8 actually). So getting only 1 extra SWP/game per $million for Biggio sounds like it may be expensive.
Having said that, I'm quite sure that many of you have scooped up enough bargains at other positions that you can afford Biggio. If your roster is pretty well set, there's surely not much point in keeping $3 million in idle cash when you could upgrade from Knoblauch or Kent to Biggio - unless, of course, you think that Knoblauch or Kent will outproduce Biggio. So don't misinterpret my message as a definitive suggestion to sell Biggio. Not at all - in fact, I'm managing two teams, and I've currently got Biggio on one of them. I'm just suggesting that you recognize and consider all the costs, benefits, and alternatives. And forget about the "roto-rationale", because in this game, it really doesn't apply.
RotoGuru is produced by Dave Hall (a.k.a. the Guru), an avid fantasy sports player. He is not employed by any of the fantasy sports games discussed within this site, and all opinions expressed are solely his own. Questions or comments are welcome, and should be emailed toGuru<email@example.com>.
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