Paul the Critic

Commentary on sports, movies, and life

A New Way to Add

Right now as the manager of a fantasy baseball team, you’re main responsibility is roster construction. Who needs to be added and who gets cut.

If you’re like most managers, your decision-making process when choosing which player to add weighs a combination of the following two factors: 1) Recent past production and 2) Favorability of upcoming matchups .

This isn’t a terrible criterion to judge free agents. In fact, it often leads us to choosing the best player. The issue is, it doesn’t lead us to the best free agents before anyone else. And in leagues that allow daily transactions, this is a big deal.

What I’m going to propose is a new way to look at adding free agents. It’s not the only way–I’m not even saying it’s better–it’s just another perspective you can give yourself and it might lead to a clear answer when the other method does not.

What you do is ask yourself what your opinion of that player would be tomorrow if he had an unbelievable game. Pretend the pitcher threw a two-hit shutout or that batter had six RBI. What would your opinion of that player be the next day?

If he would become the new hot rookie who’s begun to hit his way into the lineup or that pitcher who’s coming back from Tommy John and has better stuff than ever, you add him.

However, if there’s a player who, even if he hit two homers in a game you’d still doubt him, what’s the point? Think of John Buck. Think of Jeff Baker. Even if they have a fantastic game, you won’t think they’ve become better hitters. They simply had a good day is all. An aberration.

Even if they put together a string of quality games–say like three homers in five days–people will be telling you to sell, sell, sell. If you try to trade him, people still won’t give you anyone of value in return.

A pitcher or hitter people can start to believe in though, can quickly gain trade value. This in itself is valuable and can be the separator between two players. When in doubt, add the player who people will wish they had once the player starts producing.

A Look at Movie Revenues

This is an exercise for me in using R to make graphs and such. Some of it you may find interesting, but there’s no set goal to this article.

Daily movie revenues were taken from Boxofficemojo.com for the years 2002-2013. First thing I did was sum up the daily revenues for each movie to get it’s total gross. The top five are shown here:

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Not the greatest output format, but it’ll do for now. If you’re curious why Avatar is only listed at having made $7,500,000, the answer is because this is domestic receipts only. It made only about an extra $2 billion overseas, so I think it’s ignore if we ignore foreign gross.

Here’s a quick line graph of when these movies made their money:

rainbowplot

I tried to get a legend in this plot, but sizing it was an issue, so I simply scrapped the legend idea altogether. Once again the Y axis is mucked up, and I should probably limit the X axis. I could do these things, but instead, let’s move forward.

Let’s see if we can compute daily totals for each day. This will be done using the aggregate function in R, summing by date. Here’s an unpleasing line graph of all the daily totals:

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To convert these daily totals into weekly totals would be quite the challenge. Luckily I have a code to do so, but it is both discouraging and safe to say without such help, I would not be able to have figure it out. Needless to say, with a little help from my friends, I now have weekly box office receipts as well. This was done with Friday as the first day of the week, to capture weekends uniformly. Here’s a less neurologically paralyzing line chart of weekly box office receipts:

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If I was trying to be professional about this, first thing is the Y axis labels would have to change. R defaulting to scientific notation is rather silly. Is there a slight uptick in the data? I think there is ever so slightly, since I have not controlled for inflation, something I am well capable of, believe it or not. But I won’t use inflation-adjusted figures just yet.

First I want to average the weekly grosses across years to get an average weekly gross. And here that chart is!

avgweekly

Sigh, the end of the year is putridly done because of numbering the final days of the year, but this works. I think. We got those nice summer, Thanksgiving, and Christmas bumps, so it appears I have succeeded in something. Yea yea, the title is cut off, whatever. I ain’t publishing this in a scientific journal. This was an exercise for me, I just want to publish it and move onto more things.

 

 

Tout Wars Mixed Auction Recap

 

Lookin' good, Paul

Lookin’ good, Paul

This weekend marked my third time participating in Tout Wars Mixed auction. As with all leagues, the passage of each year increases my comfort with its unique settings and the individual quirks of the participants. So, last year’s auction was a little easier than the year before, and this year’s was easier than the last. Still, you never know exactly how an auction will play out, and what’s fresh in your mind right after an auction fades slightly over the course of the year leading to it all still being a slightly unnerving experience at the outset, no matter how many years of experience you have under your belt.

I came into the auction without a specific strategy in mind, but based on my dollar values I knew a couple things were likely 1) I would end up with a top tier hitter and 2) I wasn’t likely to get a top tier pitcher. This turned out to be true as I landed Paul Goldschmidt for $39 early in the draft and was outbid on all pitchers one would label “elite”. Anyhoo, here’s how the roster ended up shaking out:

Pos Player Price Value
C Jason Castro 12 16
C Derek Norris 5 7
1B Paul Goldschmidt 39 40
2B Jed Lowrie 6 9
SS Jean Segura 19 21
3B Evan Longoria 27 30
CI Josh Donaldson 20 25
MI Chris Owings 3 4
OF Austin Jackson 14 18
OF Shane Victorino 11 13
OF Christian Yelich 10 10
OF Michael Cuddyer 9 16
OF Nick Castellanos 3 3
UT Xander Bogaerts 9 9
P Shelby Miller 12 15
P Jeff Samardzija 7 14
P Rick Porcello 7 10
P Yordano Ventura 6 13
P Corey Kluber 6 9
P Alex Wood 5 8
P Archie Bradley 3 8
P Joe Nathan 15 15
P Ernesto Frieri 12 13

In the above table Price is the price I paid for the player and Value is what I had him listed for in my rankings. As you can see I didn’t have to go over my dollar value on any player, though I did get Christian Yelich (meh) for his $10 price, and Xander Bogaerts for $9. Both purchases occurred later in the draft when I had more money than I wanted, and was looking to buy every player right up to his listed amount. Yes, that does mean there are times when I don’t bid a player up to his listed amount, either because I don’t need a player at a certain position or because I see numerous players going for a few dollars below my listing (and I assume, sometimes wrongly, that trend will continue).

I got my two closers, and despite not grabbing a top name pitcher I’m extremely pleased with the depth of my staff (although who isn’t). My hitting is a little light on power but should be competitive and yadda yadda I like my team. Shocking.

One thing that stood out to me is the different approaches the different participants took to bidding. There were two basic strategies: 1) Either being in on players from the beginning or 2) Waiting for a “Going once, going twice” to finally jump in on the action. It’s always funny when two people utilize Strategy No. 2 on the same player and blurt out “Fourteen!” at the last second and then enter a bidding war for that player. Yea, we all know you wanted him all along.

There’s the advantage to always being in on most players in that you’re there when the bidding unexpectedly (in a good way) stops and you land a player for a good value. You may not think that one dollar matters, but I guarantee at least 100 times per auction a player is going once, going twice for say $9 and someone else is thinking in their heads, “Man, I would have liked to have landed him for nine, but I’m not bidding up to ten.” And that, my friends, is the difference between getting a player and not getting a player, which I don’t think requires an explanation of the impact it can have on your draft.

So there’s an upside to being in on players, and as with most upsides there’s also a downside… this downside being that there’s a chance you’ll wind up stuck with a player you’re not happy to be stuck with. Not dragging the flip-side of this out, Strategy No. 2, bidding only when you have to, won’t lead you to make as many regrettable purchasing decisions, but there’s a greater chance of FOMO (fear of missing out) on a player. You have to strike your own personal balance of how “in” on players you want to be, and most of that draws back to confidence in your self and your rankings. There’s nothing terribly wrong with taking either a aggressive or passive approach to the auction, so I’ll leave that decision up to you.

One last minor point about auctions in general that I want to bring up, and it’s regarding how you should increment bid, particularly on a player you really want. Say you’re a big Rays fan and are dead-set on landing Evan Longoria for your listed price of $30, though not a penny more. He’s nominated at $24, and you quickly jump in with a bid of $25. And so it continues to $26…$27…$28…you offer $29… going once… going twice…but right before you hear that glorious “Sold” the other person shouts “Thirty Dollars!”. “Goddamnit” you mutter to yourself and Longoria is sold to another owner. What happened here isn’t that someone truly outbid you for Longoria, they simply got the timing of their bid right, presuming both of you had him listed for $30.

This may seem like a rare enough occurrence to ignore—especially because you don’t usually ever know whether or not the other guy would have kept biding up even if you were the one in turn to bid $30—but even if it happens a few times draft, I would deem it worth paying attention to. The simple rule is try to bid on the evens for players you have worth an even dollar amount, which will ensure your best odds of landing that player, assuming you are willing to bid right up to your dollar amount.

Yes, this strategy is thwarted by simple non-incrememental bidding—non-incremental bidding being your tool to get “on track” to bid your max on a player. But once you know how stupid you feel when a player you want goes for exactly your dollar amount, you’ll start to pay attention to these things.

It should be another fun year, hopefully I come away with my first title, and at least I hope my team stays competitive throughout the season. I’ve already started doing my daily prayers and sacrifices to the Injury Gods, who have served me fairly well in the past. Thank you to Peter for running the league once again and all the participants who make it a great experience.

Play ball!

 

Auctions: What You Can Control

It’s March, and I’ve got baseball on my mind. I’ve already written two pieces on auction strategy, because I believe that focusing on strategy and preparation itself is more important that perfecting dollar values. Paying twenty or thirty bucks for some site’s auction values will get you 95 percent of the way there. What I want to propose today is that you have more control in an auction than you think.

Basically, if you want Mike Trout this year, you can get Mike Trout. Sure, it may cost you nearly $50, or nearly 20 percent of your budget. But the point is, if you want him, go get him. An issue can arise if someone else bids up there with you, I mean, you do have to pick a number to eventually stop at. We aren’t pricing bots algorithmically coded with to upvote the current highest bid, no matter what. So, maybe some whackadoo will spend $51 for Trout, but then you can always take Miguel Cabrera for hopefully something like $45. The point is, if you want a top player, you can essentially guarantee yourself a top player. And that simplifies things a lot. Stars and scrubs is essentially the recommended beginners strategy for an auction, so long as you have your scrubs in order.

If you miss out on top position players for whatever reason, then go hard at pitchers. Elite talent is totally acquirable, and in fact, recommended. Unless everyone else thinks so, of course.

This is essentially the strategy I used last year in the Tout Wars auction, that hey(!), ended up pretty successful even if my final ranking didn’t reflect that. Damn. Thinking negatively, I probably won’t nail the auction as well this year. Thinking positively, even if I don’t it won’t matter cause I can make up for in-season. Here’s how my spending broke down on players last year:


Price Range My Team Avg No. Total No. Max Min
45+ 1 0.07 1 1 0
40-44 0 0.20 3 1 0
35-39 1 0.40 6 1 0
30-34 0 0.47 7 2 0
25-29 0 1.53 23 5 0
20-24 0 1.40 21 5 0
15-19 1 2.87 43 7 1
10-14 8 3.87 58 8 0
6-9 7 4.67 70 7 2
2-5 4 4.87 73 8 1
1 1 2.67 40 7 0

Yup, that’s stars and scrubs if I’ve even seen it. I didn’t even sniff a player in the $20 range and good riddance, since they were all a bunch of overpriced basterds (a QT spelling). I even spent time breaking down my break-down compared to the rest of the league, so let’s analyze that for a second.

I was the only team to spend more than $45 on a player. That was on Miguel Cabrera, so no qualms there. The other players to break $40 were Mike Trout, Joey Votto, and Ryan Braun; Braun being the only regrettable pluck of the bunch.

I’m a pretty big fan of this chart, as far as where showing perspective on the draft is concerned. I’ve never been able to resist the fruit at the top of tree, and before making said chart, I never quite internalized how patient some others are. Four teams in the league—Zinks, Tractman, Davitt, and DiFino— didn’t spend more than $25 on one player. Zinkie won the damn thing while the others had varying degrees of less success. Unsurprisingly, there’s not going to be any hard’n’fast rules coming out of an analysis like this, i.e. you can win with any auction strategy. There are also very few (non-extreme strategies) that guarantee not winning.

Last year I plucked two top bats, and then afterwards loaded up on guys in the $6-14 range. It’s a simple plan I’m certainly liable to try again. Grab one of the top bats and a second-third round bat. If a guy in the $20s tempts me, I can either abandon my upper teens player (Rizzo) or move two down from the low teens group to the high single-digits. You don’t want to pigeon-hole yourself to such a strict interpretation during an auction, but it doesn’t hurt to have a intuitive idea of how many high and mid tier players are at your disposal.

A couple other takeaways from this chart I found interesting. Forty players went for $1, for an average of just under three per team. The team with the most $1 players had seven of then. Every team bought at least two players in the $6-9 range.

Next up I definitely want to look at what kind of return each tier offered, to see if the market was generally efficient in this regard. I wouldn’t do this overall, since I don’t think a $15 hitter is comparable to a $15 closer, for example. Breaking it down by position, or maybe simply hitters, starters, and relievers will help un-muddy the data.

Trendy Picks: Drafting Rookies

More than any other type of player, we have no idea what the fuck we’re doing when drafting rookies. Their minor league stats are more untrustworthy than a girl named Bunny. Guys we think are gonna be called up any day now languish in the minors for weeks or months due to service time manipulation. It’s called “seasoning”. Meanwhile, some Single-A schmohawk gets a surprise promotion and puts up Cy Young type numbers for five of the six months of the season. Hello, Jose Fernandez. Even projection systems that try to translate minor league numbers, more often than not, spit out wonky equivalencies. Nearly everyone is expected to hit .222/.296/.412.

Still, choosing to avoid rookies altogether is a tough stance to take when a Troutsian season is up for grabs for a mere late-round flyer. It’s a classic risk/reward situation that’s worth looking into how we’ve faired as a knee-jerk community the last few years. To do this, I’m going to look at where rookies were drafted in the past Yahoo! Friends and Family leagues, and also how much money was spent on them in Tout Wars auctions. I’m using these sources because I was in them, and therefore I can access them easily. It’s not perfect, but together these drafts will give us a good sense of how rookies were valued. After I look at that, I’ll look at which rookies actually provided value in fantasy leagues, and if our investments were wise ones. Get it on!.

Let’s take a look at those drafts now.

 

Player Tout $ Round Pick Value PA IP
Adam Eaton 3 9 123 -14.4 277 -
Bruce Rondon 6 14 188 -4 - 28.2
Jedd Gyorko 6 15 197 5.9 525 -
Kyuji Fujikawa 6 16 219 -4.7 - 12
Wil Myers 4 17 249 1.2 373 -
Aaron Hicks 1 18 252 -13.9 313 -
Leonys Martin 4 19 258 10.5 508 -
Dan Straily Res 20 274 6.9 - 152.1
Oscar Taveras 1 21 289 NA 0 -
Nolan Arenado Res 21 291 -5.6 514 -
Trevor Bauer 0 22 295 -10 - 17
Billy Hamilton Res 22 302 -21.3 22 -
Mike Olt 0 23 315 NA 0 -
Gerrit Cole 0 23 317 8.7 - 117.1
Hiroyuki Nakajima 0 24 328 NA 0 -
Hyun-Jin Ryu Res 25 346 17.4 - 192
Trevor Rosenthal 2 25 347 6.3 - 75.1
Mark Rogers 0 25 348 NA - 0
Shelby Miller 3 NA NA 19 - 173.1

Now, let’s see who the most valuable rookies actually were.So here we have the rookies deemed worthy of being selected during the draft. Most of the same players were picked, though there are a few differences. Overall, there wasn’t much of an investment in rookies, with no more than $6 spent on any rookie in the Tout auction. This could be a 2013 anomaly, so I’d prefer to look at the 2012 numbers first before jumping to any rash conclusions. Using Razzball’s player rater, Leonys Martin (questionably a rookie) was the most valuable hitter while Hyun-Jin Ryu (also questionably a rookie) was the most valuable pitcher, of the players selected. Razzball’s player rater’s scale is not very informative for this exercise, so I’ll look into using something else or re-scaling the numbers next time.

Name Pos $$$
Jose Fernandez SP 25.8
Shelby Miller SP 19
Julio Teheran SP 18.5
Hyun-Jin Ryu SP 17.4
Jim Henderson RP 14.3
Yasiel Puig OF 10
Tony Cingrani SP 9.1
Gerrit Cole SP 8.7
Chris Archer SP 8.7
Cody Allen RP 7.2
Tanner Scheppers RP 7.1
Dan Straily SP 6.9
Trevor Rosenthal SP 6.3
Jedd Gyorko 2B 5.9
Evan Gattis C 5.4
Danny Farquhar RP 3.6
Martin Perez SP 3.5
Sonny Gray SP 2.4
Wily Peralta SP 2.2
Zack Wheeler SP 1.6
Michael Wacha SP 1.3
Wil Myers OF 1.2
Matt Adams 1B 0.3

These are all the rookies that put up positive value by the player rater. There were a ton of relievers on this list, but besides for the top few and those who spent time as closer, I decided to start manually excluding them.

Jose Fernandez tops this list, which should come as no surprise. The dude jumped from Single-A Advanced to put up a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 173 innings. Holy fuck. Next is Shelby Miller, who provided a nice profit to those who spent a lil chedda to get him in their drafts. Eh, Teheran was sort of a rookie last year, but his name had been known for years before. He had a great year, as did Korean import Hyun-Jin Ryu, who, in retrospect people significantly underestimated. All the foreign players that signed this offseason, I’m gonna feel justified in just throwing a late round pick their way. The highest ranked hitter, Yasiel Puig, is a good example for this rule, though he certainly wasn’t even sniffing the major leagues in the pre-season. Don’t sleep on or with foreigners.

We’d have to compare how rookies fared compared to players picked similarly late in the draft, but it appears that they live up to their reputation as hit or miss picks. Those that played in the majors played well, and plenty of guys never made it.

As far as conclusions are concerned, I’d prefer to hold off until I look at future years, but it seems like taking a couple chances on rookies that will get playing time seem to pay off, though I cannot compare rookies to other late-round fliers at this juncture.

Gravity (2013)

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About a week ago I watched the highly praised, yet also highly criticized Gravity. To use an appropriate metaphor for the film, I was blown away. All it took was the first scene and I was hooked. (The fact that the first scene is almost 13 minutes long does undermine this statement a little).

The Opening Scene

We (the camera) begin by gently gliding in space, miles above Earth, as if a satellite in orbit. Slowly, a speck in the distance materializes into a floating spaceship named Explorer, which we (the camera) glide around weightlessly and effortlessly.

Outside this spaceship are three astronauts, two attached by cable hooks and one floating around with the aid of a newly-designed jetpack. “Send my regards to engineering,” space vet Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) remarks as he floats in and out of the frame, freer than a bird. Astronaut Shariff Dasari completes his task and dances in celebration, which Kowalski describes as “the Macarena, but that’s only a best guess on my part.” The scene continues, now zooming in on third member Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), who is occupied trying to get her board initialized to send data back to Earth. For what purpose, we don’t know. Stone is more scientist than astronaut, meaning she is not well acquainted the effects of space on the human body. Despite an elevated heart rate, she repeatedly insists she is “fine”.

Except for Stone’s minor struggles, everything seems fine outside the explorer, far from danger even. Kowalski floats around to country music and tell jokes to Houston, some of which they’ve already heard during his prior space missions.

As Stone continues to work on her system, now with the aid of Kowalski, we hear communication that a Russian satellite has been struck, causing a floating storm of deadly debris, though said debris isn’t projected to interfere with our astronauts. At first, it wasn’t clear whether this was just an example of routine talk during a space mission, or something that would end up impacting, well, everything. Things were going smoothly so far for The Explorer, I soon realized they likely were going too smoothly, and danger likely where we were headed.

If you haven’t forgotten, this is all occurring in the first scene, in one take. As Stone and Kowalski enjoy light banter as they work, he remarks, “You gotta admit one thing, you can’t beat the view.” Now seven minutes into the scene, the camera rotates as if on roller coaster loop—but in no hurry—from Kowalski’s face to a full view of Earth again and back to Kowalski. Even as a viewer I have to admit, he’s right.

Now, just over eight minutes into the scene, we receive transmission that the aforementioned debris won’t pass by as harmlessly as previously thought. In fact, a storm cloud of metal, traveling at thousands of miles per hour is heading right towards The Explorer. And so begins a frenetic effort by our astronauts to survive in an environment so unforgiving to survival, outer space.

For the next four and half minutes, havoc is wreaked upon The Explorer and its passengers. The camera follows Kowalski and he zooms around the craft, attempting to do whatever he can to save himself and Dr. Stone. Soon the debris pieces bombard the ship, killing Dasari and whoever was inside, and also sending Dr. Stone into a tumbling frenzy into the unending depths of space, out of Kowalski’s range of sight, and without anything to save her. And so concludes the opening scene of Gravity. Wow.

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A few things to say at this point. First, the direction in this first scene alone elevates director Alfonso Curaón to the top of the list of the most talented directors working today. I don’t know the technical details of how this scene was shot. Right now, I’m not sure I want to know, CGI, whatever. The point is the effect created was breath-taking, awe-inspiring and unlike anything I’ve seen in a movie before. The choreography required for this massive 13 minute doozy of a scene is unfathomable.

Generally speaking, the effect of a long take is to make the action on the scene appear more real, more believable that what’s on the screen actually happened, because to some extent that’s literally true. For a sometimes difficult to believe movie like Gravity, Cuarón’s use of long takes throughout the film is essential. It certainly didn’t make his job any easier, but it helped make Gravity into the heart-gripping thriller it is.

Part of the reason Gravity works is because for film, space works. The delicate inertial danger constantly present in Gravity translates beautifully to the screen. As Sandra Bullock torpidly tumbles away from the ruined Explorer, her desperate cries for help gradually turn into a sobering realization that her current supply of oxygen is likely her last. In the vast empty of void of space, there’s nothing to change her course, ever. The dread that creeps up in her in the tiny confines of her spacesuit, I feel it.

I’d like to contrast this with the supposed thrills from another movie I watched recently, Lone Survivor. In this war film, the intensity of the action comes primarily through gun fights. There’s a reason almost all gun fights in movies devolve into fist fights—there’s not much cinematic suspense in them. Take for example, a typical sequence in Lone Survivor: Shot of Taliban man on hill. Shot of Mark Wahlberg running among rocks below while bullets fly off near his head, prompting him to do a half-hearted “duck” to avoid future bullets. There’s not much suspense there. It’s not even simply that I know that he’s not going to get shot; it’s that even if he does, it wouldn’t be terribly dramatic anyway. One quick motion of the finger.

Besides long takes, Cuarón beautifully uses other techniques offered by his unusually unconstrained camera. Most notably, in one scene the camera goes from viewing Dr. Stone in space, to inside her helmet, to back outside. The change in perspective brings out empathy for our tragically situated heroine. Her survival isn’t a matter of indifference, we actively feel the fear she does, and understand the impossibility of the task laid before her to return to Earth.

To conclude, Gravity is a wonderfully intense and visual experience. The outrage people express at the plausibility of certain events, at small deviations from physical laws, and at the lack of character depth is 100 percent trumpeted by the drama on screen. To me, these are petty arguments compared to the colossal cinematic achievement that is Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity.

Stoker (2013)

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Last night I searched through HBO on demand’s offerings and found a movie worth watching: Stoker. It’s a psychological thriller about a girl grieving form the loss of her father while she deals with the threatening appearance of her uncle into the house. Stylistically the film is beautiful with the sound editing maybe the best I’ve ever heard. The cracking of a hard-boiled egg, the sound of a thick brush running through hair–all of these sounds are amplified to set an eerie tone that perfectly matches the film’s dark mood.

As a sexually incestuous thriller involving violently-intentioned characters, the comparisons to the Korean classic Oldboy cannot be avoided. The similarities go beyond what can simply be called coincidence, and it should come as no surprise that they are the product of the same director, Park Chan-wook. This film is as captivating, confusing, frustrating, and intense as Oldboy at many turns, but falls short a few ways. Oldboy’s plot is tighter than Stoker’s, with every detail having meaning and relation to the ending’s final twist, while in Stoker there are a few gratuitous details that emerge simply to help move the plot along. Also, the twists in Stoker are considerably more obvious than in Oldboy, whose plot pieces fit unexpectedly together to form a consistent narrative. As the incomparable Roger Ebert put it, “”Oldboy” is a powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare.” Stoker lacks this depth with characters lacking redeeming qualities and a weak message involving familial ties but not much else.

The film is a beautiful sight though, one worth watching for a late-night thrill. A scene involving the main character India (played by Mia Wasikowska) spinning on a playground toy and running down a slide are masterfully directed. A speech by Nicole Kidman on why, at a certain time in our lives, we choose to have kids was thought-provoking. The way the music perfectly crescendoes during a lustful scene between Kidman and the bright-faced villain (played hauntingly by Matthew Goode) is a moment of great filmmaking. Lots of good scenes are packed into “Stoker” but at the end you’re left with something beautiful but hollow.

Auction Guide: Preparation

Let’s just be upfront about it, auctions are scary. They’re fast paced with no breaks, making it easier to make that dreaded bonehead mistake that causes your face to flush red while the rest of the draft room laughs. We’ve all made decisions we regret in a regular ol’ snake draft, so it’s no surprise that auctions induce more considering it’s not just which player, but for how much.

To help you navigate these tricky waters, I’m writing an auction draft guide, starting with how to prepare for your auction to how to execute on draft day. For the past two years I’ve participated in the Tout Wars mixed league auction, giving me experience competing against some of the best, most confident auction participants around. And plenty of “experts” have shown some nerves during the auctions I’ve been in, making me believe this is an overwhelming common reaction.

So how to prepare? First of all, you have to be knowledgable, extremely knowledgable. You should have an informed opinion of every player and know why Jayson Werth is listed at $15 instead of $16. You have to fully trust your rankings. If not, you might make some wonky decisions in-auction. This is not to say you can’t go above your dollar values; since you never know how an auction is gonna play out, flexibility is important. But what you do have to bring to the table is a list of every player, and next to every player’s name a dollar value.

What this dollar value should be is not obvious. One commonly accepted rule is that your dollar values must add up to the total money available to all teams–$260 dollars X # of teams in most cases. This calibrates your dollar values to an appropriate level. The basic decision to make regarding your dollar values is whether they are done Max Bid or a Target Bid style. These are fairly self-explanatory, but just to make clear, Max Bid means the dollar value listed is the absolute max you’d be willing to bid the player, and Target Bid lists a price you’d “like” to get a player at, though you are more willing to go above this value as deemed necessary. I have not conducted a formal interview of any relevant sample number of people to find out which bid type people use more, but I’m confident Max Bid is used much more prevalently. In fact, I’m pretty sure I made up Target Bid, but it is the system I use so I figured it needed a name.

So, you’ve got your players ranked with a dollar value, how are you going to bring these to the draft? The choice here is technology or no technology. Technology means you’re using either draft software or an Excel Spreadsheet. No technology means you use a paper printout with all the rankings on them and cross off names with a pen. My first year in Tout Wars I used an Excel Spreadsheet. Last year I decided to mix it up, and went with the no technology approach. Surprisingly, I found it quite effective. Having all of your rankings on one or two sheets of paper actually help you get a nice macro overview of all the players taken and who’s still available. I did still use Excel for keeping track of my budget, but that’s it. Everything was paper and pencil baby. I was one of only two participants to do so.

So that’s how I come to the draft. In the next installment I’ll discuss some more in-auction strategy and how not to get overwhelmed and dominate your league!

Three Colors: Blue (1993)

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Blue is the first of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s critically acclaimed Three Colors Trilogy. I’ve yet to see the second and third installments, though after watching Blue I’m eagerly awaiting to. Kieślowski’s direction is the standout element in this film, full of carefully selected angles and lighting, which creates its chilling tone.

On the surface this is somewhat of a well-tread story, a young widower is left to grieve after the untimely death of her husband, a famous composer no less, and her five year old daughter Anna. The usual plot twists with dead spouses are involved. Unusual, is how this story is told.

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The genius of Kieślowski lies in his ability to manipulate. Manipulate everyday objects and actions to make us really think about them feel the emotion motivating these actions. We feel Julie’s pain through a feather on her blanket, swaying gently with each of her breaths as she is sleeping. We see coffee soak up an initially pure white sugar cube. A luminescent, empty blue pool seems endlessly surrounding Julie on her swims… until a child swim session invades it. One of the more powerful objects is a simply blue-beaded chandelier that reminds her of her daughter. One character remarks that she had a similar one but has since forgotten about it. Maybe you had one too. Kieślowski shows close ups of this cheap, but beautifully sparkling decoration. It’s a painful reminder of the beauty in her lost child. She rips out one of its tassels.

This isn’t the type of movie that jumps out at the audience with catchy plot and dialogue. Instead, it’s often coy-ish with characters attempting to keep their thoughts and emotions inside them. You as the viewer must constantly search Julie’s face to make sense of it all. If you aren’t up to the task Blue can seem too subdued and slow. With effort, Blue reveals itself as an emotionally rich and visually stunning film that comes together as greater than the sum of its parts.

While maybe not 100% on Rotten Tomatoes worthy, Blue is definitely a great film worth watching.

If you liked this movie see also: Mulholland Drive

Stop Trying to Have the Perfect Auction

Today let’s talk about auctions. It is my opinion that the standard snake draft will soon be obsolete, or at least less common, than the more fair and exciting auction.  As I just said, they are fairer. Everyone has the chance to get the top player if they want. You can grab the top two players if you so desire. There are a lot worse strategies than that, to be honest. Why the fuck not, trust your end game a little for once, okay?

Knowledge is extremely valuable. Not just knowledge of the players you want, knowledge of every single player. You need to know. Well, you don’t need to but if you want to come out of an auction feeling like you did well, you have to know. A lot. Unless your auction is run by Yertle the Turtle, it’ll be fast paced you’ll have to reflexively make decisions. No conferencing with a player’s stat page. No checking for an injury history you’re not sure if you remember correctly. Know dat shit.

Which brings us to our first strategy. Strategy No. 1: If you know you are willing to pay X dollars for a player, don’t always bid up by one to get to price X. If you are willing to pay $35 for Joey Votto and the opening bid is $20… $22… $23… DON’T BE AFRAID TO GO TO $35 IMMEDIATELY. The sudden jump can cause your less prepared, confident, and good-looking opponents to freeze for a second, landing you Joey Votto for $35.

The downside here is maybe increment bidding would have let you get him for $29. Well, that’s a chance you take. If you know your shit, by speeding the auction up in this way, I guarantee it will net you more dollars saved than lost. It also may cause you opponents to make rash decisions on players you’ve bid up. They now they don’t have time to think, so they just go with whatever whim enters their cortex at this moment. How do I know this? I’ve been in this position.

This should be obvious, but I’ll spell it out anyway. You don’t have to jump directly to your target price or whatever price you’ve got on your draft sheet. If you’ve got Matt Carpenter listed at $25 and the bidding starts at $5. Jump in with a $18. This bid not likely to land him, though if it does, pray to holy God that you snagged him because this strategy worked and not because your rankings are shit.

No segue here. Strategy No. 2: Bid any bona fide proven closer to $10 immediately. IMMEDIATELY. By the time the fifth closer comes out I want everyone else in the draft room to start just nominating any closer to $10 cause they know it’s coming from you anyway. This isn’t some weird mind trick to somehow land you a closer on the cheap, that will only happen with luck and a draft room full of your friends probably. What it does is just keeps the auction moving along swimmingly (see Strategy No. 1 above for benefits). Closer is just one of those positions not to dilly-dally on.

All right, so far we are being knowledgeable and bidding quickly in our auction room.  Now let’s talk about how to get in on the bargains that inevitably come up during every auction. Fact No. 1: Every auction has some inexcusable bargains due to some combination of dimwits freezing up on a player. So the question now is, how do you make sure you get these players? We can answer this by stating how you can’t get these players, which is when you have that spot filled by another player already.

Simple example here: you got Buster Posey for $27 early in the auction. Great. He’s an awesome catcher. But you don’t feel super great about it after Yadier goes for a measly $10 later in the auction. Even though you wanted to bid $11 on Yadi, you were hamstrung by your roster’s current makeup.

These are things you cannot predict before or during the auction, where the biggest bargains will come from that is. So there’s a balance you have to strike of nabbing the players you want, while also keeping your roster flexible to scoop up the players that end up going for way less than you value them.

And basically, my main point is to stop aiming for the perfect auction. There are too many unknowns to guarantee everything will go according to plan. So stop worrying about it!

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