Don’t Price Enforce

I’ve been vocal about this in the past and I’ve been asked to explain why I am so adamant about not price enforcing. The simple reason is because the risk isn’t worth the reward. But I can offer more detail than that.

To start, we need to align on what we mean when we say price enforcing. And that’s not necessarily easy. But I think it comes down to one basic line with two key elements:

Price enforcing is bidding on a player you don’t want to win because you think the price on that player is too low.

Pretty straight-forward. But both of those elements are key. The majority of my bids are on players who have a price I think is low and who I DO want to win. That’s just bidding.

What makes price enforcing its own category is just what the name says: you’re bidding to enforce a price rather than to win a player.

Defining the term helps but if I’m going to tell you the risk isn’t worth the reward, I need to define the risk and the reward, too.

The potential reward to price enforcing is driving up the price of a player another team ends up rostering. They were going to get a $37 Bryce Harper but you bid $38 and they went to $39 and you’ve pulled $2 out of their remaining budget. Maybe you get into a bidding war and drive the price up more than $2 but that will be less common and it also increases the likelihood that the gambit fails and you eat the risk (which we’ll get to soon).

The thing is, that reward isn’t very rewarding. Yes you’ve pulled a couple bucks out of the auction pool but I’m not sure that matters a ton. It’s not nothing, but how much do I stand to benefit?

The $2 (or $3 or $5 or whatever) benefit is split amongst 11 managers, myself included. That’s a tidy $0.18 (or $0.27 or $0.45) per manager. That’s…not that exciting.

What about the risk? The risk is you get stuck with a player you don’t want. You’ve eaten up cap and a roster spot with a guy you didn’t want and you now have to adjust your auction plan for that. You can mitigate that risk post-auction by cutting the player in question, but by then you’ve already missed out.

To me, that risk isn’t worth it. I think we overstate the downside of another manager getting a good value. If you think Bryce Harper is a bad fit for your team, and you don’t want him on your roster, and you think his market price is $40 and someone else wins him for $35, that’s not ideal, but it really doesn’t hurt you that much. At most, if everything breaks the wrong way, that manager might spend $5 on a guy you did want and drive up the price for you. More likely, they add a dollar here or there to a few other guys, some of whom you might bid on, some of whom you don’t. Or they hold the $5 to spend on free agents in-season where, again, they might bid you up, they might bid up someone else, we just don’t know. The hit you by letting that player go for below your perceived market price just isn’t that big

Plus, with 480 players rostered, every team will have good values. There is nothing you can do to stop that. What you can avoid is carrying bad values or players you don’t want on your own roster. Price enforcing is basically the only way to mess that up – you bid on a guy you don’t want, misread the market, and win. Taking the risk that I am stuck carrying a player I don’t want at a price I don’t want to pay just to try to make someone else pay $2 isn’t worth it to me.

My policy: any bid I make, I’m hoping the clock ticks down to zero so I can win the player. If I am only bidding in the hopes that someone else pays more, I am not placing the bid.

A long-time fantasy baseball veteran and one of the creators of ottoneu, Chad Young's writes for RotoGraphs and PitcherList, and can be heard on the ottobot podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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5 days ago

Getting stuck with players is rough, but do you think there’s any benefit to throwing your bids around so that others don’t know exactly who you want? If one only bids on players one wants, others may pick up one’s strategy based on those bids. Perhaps I’m overthinking it, but maybe it’s still okay to bid on players during the bid scrum to throw others off, just don’t be the last one bidding.

Last edited 5 days ago by LightenUpFG
Joe Wilkeymember
5 days ago
Reply to  LightenUpFG

I don’t know about everyone else, but I don’t really pay any attention to who’s bidding on whom. I’ve never really felt like I can figure out what someone’s looking for based on who they bid on.

As for me, I have a price in mind for most players, and they change as the bidding progresses, but if they’re under my target, I bid, otherwise, I don’t. Especially in OttoNeu, it moves to quickly for me to think much beyond that.

5 days ago
Reply to  Joe Wilkey

Yet, I think one can engage in sufficient strategical subterfuge just by occasionally bidding early on players you don’t want. If you know Player X is going in the $30s and you toss in a couple token bids around 15 and 22, most owners won’t notice that your team name only pops up when you’re super serious. That’s not price enforcing, just active participation.

4 days ago
Reply to  g4

Right. I feel that, if one takes time off for 4-5 unwanted players up for bid, it’ll be very obvious that one wants a player when he/she suddenly chimes in on the 6th person up for bid. If anyone is paying attention, that’s a tell. Whether that tell actually is valued knowledge for anyone is another thing.

1 day ago
Reply to  LightenUpFG

Oh, we have caught a guy upping the price and got him stuck with someone he didn’t want. It really through his draft off. I got someone last year, because I was being patient and the guy wanted me to spend money thinking I needed players. I stopped, and he was like, “Are you not going to bid anymore.” You get what you deserve when you price control.

The Hammerermember
1 day ago
Reply to  g4

I certainly know when good competition is bidding, I also know when they want a player..some will have a hard price cap but others have a get your player ,mindset…I will enforce the extra buck or two on them as long as I don’t mind the player

1 day ago
Reply to  Joe Wilkey

@Joe Wilkey: “I have a price in mind for most players, and they change as the bidding progresses, but if they’re under my target, I bid, otherwise, I don’t.” That’s pretty much me. I may not be targeting that player, but if he comes at a good price, I’ll take him. So I will bid him up until the price is not particularly a bargain. Some might call that price enforcing.

OTH, if I bid him up and he comes close to my bid limit, then I might back off before then because 1) he’s not a good fit for my strategy; and 2) he’s no longer much of a bargain. But if he is still a bargain and I win him at a good price, then I’ll adjust my strategy.

3 days ago
Reply to  LightenUpFG

in my experience it’s definitely needed to put in realistic bids on players that may not be your first option in order to throw other bidders off. I had one particular year where another player who doesn’t do his pre-draft homework who just waited around to see what players I wanted since I was only bidding on players I wanted. I was left with the miserable alternatives of having to overpay for every player I targeted or to go with Plan B at nearly every position. If I put in a bid on a player who may not be my first choice, if I play it right I can win both ways. If the player goes for less than expected, I have a decent player at a good value. If the player goes for at/more than expected, I bow out, but am seen as having been “in the running” for the player, so it is less clear whom I’m targeting in addition to making sure that players are bought at their appropriate value. I realize that ignoring what other teams are doing is the proper strategy on paper, but don’t forget that auction drafts are a human event and some players play that game. If they can prevent a better team from executing their draft plan, that is a win for them. As Mike Tyson said, “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”