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Base Advances
Fantasy Strategy Ideas from the Guru

April 28, 1998

If you've played other Smallworld fantasy games, you know that the prices of the better players always tend to rise as the season progresses. This is a natural byproduct of the structure of the games. Trading, of necessity, adds franchise value - at least, on average. Since players are bought at today's price, but the act of buying a player produces an increase in his next price, buying a player has an expected gain in value - even in a perfectly efficient market, where no manager is expected to have better information than the market as a whole. I could dig deeper into the reasons for this "ingrained" increasing franchise value phenomenon, but I don't see a need to belabor a point that is presumably well accepted, if not totally understood.

As franchises increase in value, their managers are both able and motivated to buy better and better players. Again, since the act of buying a player produces a marginal increase in that player's price, the better players tend to rise in value. This continues throughout the season for the best players, since they are the ones that all managers strive to own. In fact, if you have enough wealth to afford them, the best players should be the ones you own, regardless of their relative prices. Only when wealth is limited does relative value matter. And if the early weeks are a reasonable basis from which to project, there will soon be quite a few teams with no practical limits on their ability to "pay up".

To illustrate this effect, I calculated a "Blue Chip Player Index" for the regular season Smallworld Hoops game. For each repricing day (of which there were an even 100), I determined the roster value of a team comprised of the "best" players. For this purpose, "best" was defined as the highest priced players on any given day - essentially an assumption that market prices reflected the broad market consensus as to who the best players were at any point in time. First, let me briefly describe the way I constructed that index.

Each valid roster was obligated to carry 4 guards, 4 forwards, 2 centers, and 2 additional players (wildcards) from any position. So, for each day, I identified the 6 highest priced guards, the 6 highest forwards, and the top 4 centers. This allowed for the two wildcard players to be represented by any position. Since this list includes 16 players, I then multiplied the sum of these prices by 75% to factor down the value to a 12 player equivalent. There are clearly other ways to construct such a "blue chip index", but I think this produced a reasonable result.

For the initial draft, this index equaled $119,451,375. By the end of the season, it had climbed to $150,577,500, an increase of 26.1% over the opening day level. Interestingly, the peak index value was reached on April 10th, at 26.7% over the initial index. The subsequent decline was mostly a result of Rod Strickland's season ending injury, as well as late season softness in David Robinson's price. (If you want to see the daily index progression, click here.)

Rather than dwelling on the Hoops experience, let's move on to baseball. I've constructed a baseball version of the "Blue Chip Player Index" (BCPI). Here's how: For all hitting positions other than outfielders, I've calculated the average price of the two most expensive players. For outfielders, I averaged the 4 most expensive players, and for pitchers, I used the top 5. Next, I constructed a roster value by using these average prices for each roster position. I assumed that the DH slot is filled by the highest of the non-pitcher average prices. The BCPI is then the sum of these fourteen values. The following table shows the composition of the index for each of the first four pricing periods:

Pos # 24-Apr 17-Apr 10-Apr 31-Mar
P 5 $11,712,000 $11,330,000 $10,832,000 $10,694,000
C 1 $7,290,000 $7,450,000 $6,225,000 $6,530,000
1B 1 $10,235,000 $10,205,000 $10,155,000 $9,195,000
2B 1 $8,860,000 $8,980,000 $9,010,000 $8,895,000
3B 1 $9,070,000 $8,250,000 $7,520,000 $7,445,000
SS 1 $8,695,000 $7,755,000 $7,515,000 $7,690,000
OF 3 $9,647,500 $9,635,000 $9,817,500 $9,722,500
DH 1 $10,235,000 $10,205,000 $10,155,000 $9,722,500
Team 14 $141,887,500 $138,400,000 $134,192,500 $132,115,000
weekly %   102.5% 103.1% 101.6%  
cum %   107.4% 104.8% 101.6%  

Notice that the index is already up 7.4% over opening day. The corresponding index for Hoops attained a 7.4% gain on December 1st, which, although it was one full month after opening day, was also only the 15th pricing period, or roughly the equivalent of three weeks of repricing, assuming 5 cycles per week. In baseball, we've also had three weekly repricings - so at first blush, the results look quite similar.

Although I don't have good records to compare, I do recall that December 1st was also the date that my Hoops team's value reached the $100,000,000 mark. I also recall that other teams reached that level before I did. Similarly, today there are some baseball teams with a franchise value exceeding $100,000,000, but not many. So, in spite of the widespread feeling that prices have risen much more quickly than in Hoops, I see no evidence that indicates that the general baseball experience is significantly different from the comparable Hoops experience - at least so far. Of course, there may be many more teams approaching the $100m mark today in baseball than there were at the comparable point of the Hoops season, but I don't have any data to be able to substantiate that.

If Hoops provides a reasonable guide, then the "ultimate" roster will have an "ultimate" cost of roughly $167m. The sooner you can get that cast of players assembled, the cheaper the cost is likely to be. Some teams will probably be able to afford that "dream team" in two more weeks, when its price tag will probably be in the high end of the $140 million range. So, recognize that this degree of hyperinflation is a fact of life for these games, and plan your trading strategies accordingly.

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 to Guru<>.

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