Ottonewbs: Colin Charles’ Draft Results and Reflection

Colin Charles reflects on his experience from the inaugural Pitcher List Ottonewbs draft.

A few weeks ago, 12 members of the Pitcher List staff held a draft for a new league on Ottoneu called Ottonewbs: The Pitcher List Ottoneu Rookie League. Ottonewbs is meant to be treated as a learning exercise for the managers and we will bring these lessons to you, the reader. Hopefully along the way we will all learn some valuable lessons. Mark McElroy and Daniel Port also recently released this article which has some valuable insights into value and surplus in the Ottoneu universe.
One of the most influential articles I found in preparing was titled The Math of Winning Ottoneu. Granted, it was written a couple of years ago so the numbers obviously have to be taken with a grain of salt, but it did give me some crucial information. The article starts off by discussing the basics of the Ottoneu system and how you should build your roster and then gets into the numbers you should be looking for in order to compete.
Benchmarks (2015 season)
Now I know the game changes every year, BUT…. there was only one value in that table I focused on during our draft. RUNS. So why runs? If you clicked that link to the FanGraphs article, you would have found the following two sentences underneath the 2015 scoring table:
2015 league winners in Ottoneu Old School (5×5) averaged a score of 104 (a score of 110 is boast-worthy).  One thing to note is that almost without exception, 5×5 winners placed either 1st or 2nd in their league in Runs.
The first sentence is important because it gives you a benchmark for your total score, but the second sentence should be etched into the mind of every Ottoneu player “[A]lmost without exception, 5×5 winners placed either 1st or 2nd in their league in Runs.” Those are some strong words, and they were basis for my entire strategy going into this draft. If I was to have any chance of winning this year I had to build one of the top offenses. The next step was to determine what ratio I would aim for in my hitter/pitcher allocation. The first number that came to mind was 70/30 — 70% of my budget to hitters and 30% to pitchers. I chose these numbers because they are a popular choice, not necessarily the correct choice. Keep in mind that in this sort of league it is almost impossible to be successful if you aren’t thinking differently from the rest of the crowd. You need to think differently, find value in places nobody else is looking, and make that $1 go further than everybody else! Easier said than done, as that takes a lot of preparation.
Without further ado, here is how my team ended up after the marathon auction.
The Roster




I really had no intention of spending $50+ on any player. In the course of trying to inflate Yelich, I arrived at my current situation: a $58 player to anchor my offense. I’m not disappointed in getting him; he’s proven himself to be a true five category star. I’m also very pleased with the rest of my offense. There were some guys that I came into the draft thinking I was 100% going to get that guy (ahem Juan Soto). Obviously that didn’t work out but that’s the nature of the beast. My favorite part about auction drafts, and I can’t stress this enough, is that you technically have access to every player, whereas in a snake draft, if a random number generator gives you #12 you have zero chance of getting most players.

I spent my entire $400 budget in the draft and I’m not entirely sure if that was a good idea or a bad idea yet. On the plus side, I was able to be a bit more aggressive on some players near the end of the draft because I knew I wasn’t going to leave any money on the table, but the flip side is that it may seriously restrict my in-season maneuverability. However, I also knew that I would have to drop some players throughout the season due to injury and performance issues. One of the strategic nuances in Ottoneu is what happens when you drop a player. Here is an excerpt from the rules:

If a player passes through waivers, 50% of his salary, rounding up, counts against his previous team’s salary cap as a cap penalty, until he is claimed by another team or until the end of the current season. Any bids for him as a free agent must be at least 50% of his previous salary.

Functionally, this means cutting a $1 player provides no cap relief until the player is claimed or otherwise added to another team.

If you want to drop a player you still retain 50% of their salary until another owner claims that player. If that player goes unclaimed, the owner who dropped that player cannot make a claim for that player until 30 days after the initial drop. After the 30 days, the original owner can claim that player, paying at least 50% of the original amount and drop the player again to clear more cap space. If you are having trouble following along, you are not alone. Here’s an example on how the 30 day rule would work:

Say an owner drafts Cody Bellinger for $92 (which is currently the maximum bid for Cody Bellinger in first year 5×5 scoring leagues). If that owner decides they want to free up cap space they can drop Bellinger, but they only get salary cap relief at 50% of his salary. They’ve effectively saved $46. If, after 30 days, nobody has tried to claim Bellinger for at least $46, the original owner an put in a claim and wins him for $46. Again the owner decides that $46 is still too much, and drops him once more. They are now on the hook for $23, but they have been able to clear $69 in salary cap space ($46 from the first drop, and $23 from the second drop). If another owner in the league decides that $23 is palatable, they can put in a claim for Bellinger, the original owner is no longer on the hook for any of that cap hit, and they’re now clear of the entire $92.




It’s so difficult to be entirely prepared for a new league with new rules, but I wish I would have read up and understood more about surplus and value before starting this draft. “Value” is the number of dollars a player is expected to produce throughout the season, and surplus is just the player’s salary minus the value. Ideally you want to have many players returning a positive surplus. Here’s a snapshot of mine (with the surplus/value projections):

My first thought is “not great,” as there are a lot of negatives there, and a few fairly large negative surplus values. I seemed to have spent money poorly on Bregman, Yelich and Marte. But you have to remember that these numbers are based on projections right now, so if by some chance all of these players provide enough value to match their surplus then I could gain $45.

I also really struggled with setting up the auction values during the draft. I wasn’t entirely sure if I should draft according to the required roster spots, or if I should have deflated the auction values a bit by including a few bench spots. In the end I didn’t account for bench spots and attempted to spend less on players than their predicted values. I had big plans to create my own auction values, and I had almost everything set up in an R programming script to run and get my predictions, but I just ran out of time to get everything running smoothly. At least it gives me something to work towards throughout the year, and now I have the foundation in place to save myself a lot of work next year.

It’s easy to look at your draft afterwards and find your flaws. I think one weakness of my team will be stolen bases. My initial guess puts me somewhere around 80 SBs, and the game has changed so much since 2015 that I don’t trust the value of 162 SBs set out in the earlier benchmark table from the 2015 season. The league stole about 9% fewer bases in 2019 than 2015. But I will be keeping a close eye on how the other teams in this league are performing in relation to SBs, and I may have to make some aggressive moves if I’m in the hunt.

I was probably too aggressive on both Yelich and Bregman in terms of value and surplus, but I also realize that surplus isn’t everything. Yelich is one of the few players who can be trusted to produce $40 in value with any sort of confidence. So I overspent on him to gain that value, which would have been almost impossible to get from another player. It’s far more likely you’ll get top end production from the top tier of players, and then hopefully you’ll get your surplus from the bargain bin (players who cost less than $5). The numbers say that I will be taking a negative surplus from Bregman, but I’m a believer in his skillset, and don’t really buy the whole home park advantage. Throughout his career he’s posted better numbers away from home — a .396 wOBA in away games against .372 wOBA for home games. The average salary for Bregman in first year 5×5 leagues is $41, so I am right in line with a lot of people. Here are some other options I could have targeted in the draft, compared to him:

3B Options

Out of those options, Yoan Moncada looks to be the best option (disregarding the historic BABIP he put up last season). If I could have gotten Moncada for, say, $20, I would have had another $23 to spend in other areas or to use as cap space. I may have lost a little production, but I suspect the $23 in savings would have gone a long way in other parts of the draft.


League Roster Updates (as of April 29, 2020) 


Since the end of our auction draft I’ve had plenty of time for roster management, and I’ve made a few roster moves:

  1. Dropped Trey Mancini ($17), who was then added by Daniel Port for the full $17.
  2. Dropped Brent Honeywell ($1), has gone unclaimed so I am on the hook for $1 until the end of the season
  3. Added Alex Verdugo for $5

With these 3 roster moves I was able to drop my salary to $388, giving myself $12 in cap space. Certainly not a ton of room, but now at least I have some space for some in-season maneuverability.


Final Thoughts


So to give a quick recap here are what I feel are the most important things to focus on if you want to be successful in an Ottoneu league (some of which I failed at):
  1. Above all else, be patient – the bidding in the first hour can be fast and furious and you might feel as though you are getting left behind, but value can be found later in the draft with the precious savings from your patience.
  2. Be active. Get your games played and you get your points.
  3. Target offense. Get those runs!
  4. Keep track of your allocation between hitters and pitchers. Decide before the draft if you want to do 70/30 or 65/35 allocation and keep track of your money.
  5. Know when to pull the trigger. Too much patience might lead you to miss out on some good deals.
  6. Have hourly breaks during your draft. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.


Colin Charles

I am a data analyst for Pitcher List currently residing in Winnipeg, MB. I've been an R user for 9+ years and a baseball fan for much longer.

One response to “Ottonewbs: Colin Charles’ Draft Results and Reflection”

  1. Joel Shapira says:

    interesting reading… I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at how the hamster runs in the wheel…

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