Is Middle Infield Scarcity Overblown? by Ariel Cohen January 3, 2018 I think at the crux of it, the question is asking whether people [call them “the market”] are adjusting middle infielders’ values upwards artificially as compared to other positions. But another way to ask this (from a fantasy baseball drafting perspective), is perhaps: “Due to the market’s perceived value of the scarcity in the Middle Infield (MI) position, are other positions better valued at the draft table?” Jeff Zimmerman recently tackled this question in his article, “Exploiting Middle Infield Bias.” In it, Jeff compares player rankings based on Steamer projections to a recent 12-team mock draft. In this article, I will attempt to answer the question in another way, by comparing my method of auction valuation to the market: ME = The ATC Projection System + My method of auction price valuation VS. THE MARKET = ADPs converted to auction dollars (called ADP$) To be technical: My method uses the ATC Projection System to project future player statistics. I then use my own auction calculator to generate auction values. My auction calculator is based on a Z-Score method, and not the SGP method. For the market, I use combined/aggregated Average Draft Position (ADP) & Average Auction Value (AAV) listings from a few various public sources, and then using an algorithm, I convert them to equivalent auction dollar values. I call this ADP$. Note, that ADP$ is similar, but is NOT in fact an AAV, as these figures do not come strictly from observing actual auctions. I use ADP$ instead of AAVs, mainly because it allows me to adapt ADPs or AAVs to any fantasy format (i.e. 10 team mixed, or 12 team AL only, etc.) – where I may not have appropriate or credible AAVs. If there are credible AAVs, I would prefer them – but ADPs are just easier to get a hold of, and are more reliable. Now back to the comparison … For each position MI, CI & OF – Let’s look at which valuation method shows the larger auction value. ME or THE MARKET? I did this in two meaningful ways. Looking at the total auction value for the top N ranked players Looking at the total auction value surrounding any player #1 – Sums up all auction values from 1 to N for me and for the market. I then simply divide the two sums. A GREEN number, or any number over 1.0 will show where ATC shows more value, and conversely RED or under 1.0 for the market. It’s a way to see which system values the top N players for a particular position more. #2 – Does almost the same thing, but instead of looking at all players from 1 to N, it just looks at the 5 players surrounding that spot on the rankings – The player, 2 above and 2 below. This is a better way to show pockets of value for each position. It also happens to be a fantastic way to construct an auction draft strategy – or a phenomenal way to allocate/target auction values to various positional slots. Based on the chart above, the answer to our original question is, “YES.” The market does appear to overvalue the MI position. Using the 1 to N method, it’s pretty clear to see it – as just about all of the MI numbers are in RED. But even using the 5-point surrounding method, you can see that for MI – more of the slots lie in favor of the RED, whereas for CI, and especially for OFs – more slots lie in the GREEN. It is no surprise, that many of the fantasy teams which I have constructed in recent years lack middle infield superstars at the top, and focus more on the OF position up top. The chart above should show why that’s true, as I typically buy the players where the ATC vs Market ratio is the greatest, and have had great success in doing so. Now, to answer the question in a slightly different way – Let’s talk strictly about replacement levels. How do MI replacement levels, and thereby auction values differ from other offensive positions? For one thing, in 1 catcher leagues … no matter what size league … shallow (10 team) or deeper (15 team) – in my model, there is currently NO adjustment given to MI vs any other offensive positions other than catcher. Other than C, the same replacement value is used for all other positions. Auction values are not bumped up or down relative to other positions. For two catcher leagues though, I have found that there is indeed a slight bump up of MIs. However, it is fairly small. For final 2016 stats [excluding catchers], I observed that: For 10 team mixed leagues – All positions are the same other than 1B. First base calculates to about 0.6 higher in the z-score replacement level than for other positions. For a $25 player, for example, it is roughly a $1 bump down for 1B, as compared to the rest. MI, OF and 3B all get the same treatment. For 15 team mixed leagues – Once again, all positions are the same other than 1B. First base now is only about 0.25 higher in the z-score replacement level than other positions. For a $25 player, it comes to about a 70-cent bump down for 1B, as compared to the other positions. For 12 team mono leagues – All positions have the same replacement value. There is no difference in any offensive position other than for catcher. In short, using a Z-Score based method, there appears to be no bump up needed these days for middle infielders in their valuation as compared to other positions. In fact, third base (not the focus of this analysis) has most recently been a weaker position than MI. If any position should get a bump these days as far as replacement value goes – it is 3B. To note (and I am far from the only one who has noticed this) – Catchers are now getting a bigger and bigger bump from exhibiting a lower and lower replacement value. The bottom of the catcher position has been trending worse and worse. In addition, the very low replacement values that arise from pre-season projections data, is far lower as compared to actual final-season data. It is so low these days, it is at the point that I tend to have to artificially cap it. Otherwise, Buster Posey would become a must-buy. Biography The Average Total Cost System was developed by Ariel Cohen before the 2011 MLB season for the purposes of winning fantasy baseball leagues. Ariel and his fantasy partner, Reuven Guy, have used the ATC system projections in their home leagues ever since, wining half a dozen league titles and finishing in the money almost every single time. In 2015, they finished 2nd in the national Doubt Wars Mixed Auction league, and in 2016 they finished in 1st place in their NFBC New York Auction League. Both national successes came on their very first try. Ariel Cohen is a fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA). He is a Vice President of Risk Management for a large international insurance and reinsurance company.