Analysis of the 2016 IPL Auction


The Indian Premier League is without doubt the most high profile domestic T20 league in the world.  Players are signed at huge expense, the stadiums in cricket-mad India are sold out, and with four foreign players allowed to play of numerous options in the squads, many of the top players in the world participate.

The Indian Premier League operates an auction format which is something I've been looking at with regards to 'solving' the auction problem, with particular reference to foreign players who offer good and bad value.  

Here is a list of the foreign players signed in 2016 by the various IPL franchises, with their likely playing status in teams, and auction fees:-

Player

Playing Status

Auction Fee (£)




Shane Watson

All-Rounder

1080370

Chris Morris

All-Rounder

796062

Mitchell Marsh

All-Rounder

545871

Carlos Brathwaite

All-Rounder

477637

Jos Buttler

Wkt/Batsman

432148

Kevin Pietersen

Batsman

398031

Tim Southee

Bowler

284308

Dale Steyn

Bowler

261563

Dwayne Smith

All-Rounder

261563

Kyle Abbott

Bowler

238819

Kane Richardson

Bowler

227446

Mustafizur Rahman

Bowler

159212

John Hastings

Bowler

147840

Aaron Finch

Batsman

113723

Thisara Perera

All-Rounder

113723

Jason Holder

All-Rounder

79606

Marcus Stoinis

Bowler

62548

Andrew Tye

Bowler

56862

Ben Cutting

All-Rounder

56862

Samuel Badree

Bowler

56862

Scott Boland

Bowler

56862

Travis Head

Batsman

56862

Adam Zampa

Bowler

34117

Colin Munro

Batsman

34117

Farhaan Behardien

Batsman

34117

Joel Paris

Bowler

34117

Peter Handscomb

Wkt/Batsman

34117

Sam Billings

Wkt/Batsman

34117


Shane Watson commanded the highest auction fee for a foreign player at the 2016 IPL auction...

Immediately we can see that of the five highest players valued in the auction, four were batting/bowling all-rounders, and the fifth, Jos Buttler, was an all-rounder of sorts, as a wicketkeeper-batsman.

Kevin Pietersen, Tim Southee and Dale Steyn were the three highest valued out and out batsmen or bowlers.

So who represented value?  We can use expectation averages, adjusted for opponent quality, to find out.  It makes it much easier if we break down the players by their likely playing style, so this is what I did here.  Adjusted batting average/strike rate is against an average worldwide bowler with average venue difficulty.  Mean differentials are simply a multiplier of the respective mean T20 figures. 

Data from 2013-2015 was used, so it was relevant to the IPL auction at the time.

Batsmen (sorted by average/strike rate mean differential):-

Player

Playing Status

Auction Fee (£)

Adjusted Batting Average

Adjusted Batting Strike Rate

Batting Average Differential

Batting Strike Rate Differential

Batting Average/Strike Rate Mean Differential









Farhaan Behardien

Batsman

34117

37.63

123.10

1.50

0.91

1.21

Aaron Finch

Batsman

113723

31.65

126.84

1.26

0.94

1.10

Jos Buttler

Wkt/Batsman

432148

25.06

143.66

1.00

1.07

1.03

Kevin Pietersen

Batsman

398031

28.71

121.65

1.14

0.90

1.02

Travis Head

Batsman

56862

23.66

142.51

0.94

1.06

1.00

Colin Munro

Batsman

34117

19.32

132.30

0.77

0.98

0.88

Peter Handscomb

Wkt/Batsman

34117

25.98

94.34

1.04

0.70

0.87

Sam Billings

Wkt/Batsman

34117

17.56

121.86

0.70

0.90

0.80


I added in the three wicketkeeper/batsmen to this sample as they obviously didn't bowl, and in the case of Buttler in particular, he would be used as a front-line batsman.

We can see from the batting average and batting strike rate differentials that Buttler was the only batsman acquired in the 2016 IPL auction who had average or above average differentials in both area - in effect he's a very balanced player.  Travis Head was a little more balanced here than most, and at a cheap price he wasn't a disastrous purchase.

This wasn't the case for Aaron Finch, Kevin Pietersen, Peter Handscomb and in particular, Farhaan Behardien, who had relatively high adjusted averages but mediocre adjusted strike rates.  Whilst Behardien came out top in this sample, data like his has limited merit in T20 because he'd need to be surrounded by hitters in his team while he played an anchor role.  If there was a team of Farhaan Behardiens, it wouldn't score well.  Only in the right context, he could be an asset.

Pietersen looks overpriced compared to Head, and as he has aged it looks like his expected strike rate has declined.  From an average basis, he's still strong enough, but is that enough to justify almost a £400,000 price tag, almost certainly not.

Peter Handscomb's strike rate is not an asset in T20...

Colin Munro and Sam Billings look outclassed compared to their rivals, as does Handscomb, who doesn't score runs nearly quickly enough to be a useful T20 batsman.

All-Rounders, sorted by value added to team using the formula (batting average/strike rate mean differential + bowling average/economy mean differential - 2):-

Player

Playing Status

Auction Fee (£)

All-Rounder Value Added to Team





Thisara Perera

All-Rounder

113723

0.16

Dwayne Smith

All-Rounder

261563

-0.08

Shane Watson

All-Rounder

1080370

-0.09

Chris Morris

All-Rounder

796062

-0.11

Jason Holder

All-Rounder

79606

-0.13

Carlos Brathwaite

All-Rounder

477637

-0.21

Mitchell Marsh

All-Rounder

545871

-0.25

Ben Cutting

All-Rounder

56862

-0.32


We can see that with all-rounders, only Thisara Perera was likely to add value to a team both in batting and bowling, whilst big money buys Shane Watson, Chris Morris, Carlos Brathwaite and Mitchell Marsh failed to do so.

Certainly, it reasonable to question the sums paid for all of that quartet.  

Watson's batting was decent enough (average differential 1.12, strike rate differential 0.95) but his bowling (average differential 0.72 and economy differential 1.04) less so.   

Morris' bowling looks to add value but his batting, an adjusted average of 18.16 at almost exactly the mean T20 strike rate was not expected to.

Brathwaite had an incredible batting strike (expectation of over 160) but doesn't add anything else of value, with poor bowling numbers and a low batting average.  It's a lot of money to pay someone who can slog for a few overs at the end of an innings. 

Marsh's stats showed he lacked value in all areas.  His batting average differential of 0.91 was his best area, which is a pretty damning indictment of his stats.

Ben Cutting (a worse version of Brathwaite) was the worst graded all-rounder purchase.  

Ben Cutting's data was not impressive...

Bowlers (sorted by average/economy mean differential):-

Player

Playing Status

Auction Fee (£)

Adjusted Bowling Average

Adjusted Bowling Economy

Bowling Average Differential

Bowling Economy Differential

Bowling Average/Economy Mean Differential









Joel Paris *

Bowler

34117

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

John Hastings

Bowler

147840

15.16

7.87

1.66

1.03

1.34

Mustafizur Rahman

Bowler

159212

19.62

6.43

1.28

1.26

1.27

Samuel Badree

Bowler

56862

22.63

5.75

1.11

1.41

1.26

Andrew Tye

Bowler

56862

19.32

6.86

1.30

1.18

1.24

Dale Steyn

Bowler

261563

23.26

6.33

1.08

1.28

1.18

Adam Zampa

Bowler

34117

24.09

6.88

1.04

1.17

1.11

Marcus Stoinis

Bowler

62548

20.53

8.57

1.22

0.94

1.08

Scott Boland

Bowler

56862

24.01

7.75

1.05

1.04

1.04

Kane Richardson

Bowler

227446

25.36

7.55

0.99

1.07

1.03

Kyle Abbott

Bowler

238819

33.67

7.91

0.75

1.02

0.88

Tim Southee

Bowler

284308

37.11

8.44

0.68

0.96

0.82


* Not enough data on Joel Paris.

John Hastings came out as the top bowler, and considering his batting had an expected average of 17.76 and strike rate 153.48 he is pretty much the prototype of a modern T20 bowler who can bat very usefully down the order.  If I was running a franchise, I'd be looking to sign someone like Hastings immediately.  

If you were going to create the perfect bowler for T20, John Hastings wouldn't be far off the end result...

Mustafizur Rahman wasn't hugely expensive, and is a bowler of huge ability and potential, whilst Samuel Badree's abilities are well documented.  Andrew Tye also showed up surprisingly well as did Dale Steyn, although his 2014-2016 numbers are a fair bit worse than 2013-2015.  Given that the franchises obviously wouldn't have known that at the time, it's difficult to criticise the Steyn purchase hugely, but I think it's fair to say he wouldn't justify such a fee if the auction was held now.  Adam Zampa was a good, cheap buy, whilst fellow Aussies Marcus Stoinis and Scott Boland had decent data and weren't expensive.

However, at the bottom of the list, Kane Richardson, Kyle Abbott and Tim Southee all commanded fees in excess of £200,000.  Richardson's data wasn't bad at all, but considering the higher rated cheaper options above, it would be difficult to justify his price.  

It is very difficult to find any logic behind the Abbott and Southee purchases.  Perhaps Southee's reputation was better than his numbers, but almost £300,000 better?  

As a reminder, the data used to analyse the signings was from 2013-2015, but moving forward to the actual IPL 2016 we can look at these two player's bowling figures. 

 Abbott's figures in IPL 2016 were horrific - 16-0-177-2 (average 88.50, economy 11.06) whilst Southee's were a little better, but still poor - 43-0-329-9 (average 36.56, economy 7.65).

Usage of data would have saved Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians, respectively, a lot of money.

Kyle Abbott had a predictably poor IPL 2016...

Many foreign players went unsold at the auction, and that's entirely logical given the fact that only four can play in a team at any one time, and no doubt there is a premium price on quality Indian players due to this.

However, it is difficult to argue that the likes of Usman Khawaja, Ravi Bopara, Martin Guptill, Nuwan Kulasekara, Reeza Hendricks, Krishmar Santokie and Evin Lewis - all foreign players who attracted no interest in the auction - are worse players than many of those listed above.  They are certainly less well known than many, but they are certainly not worse players than most in this format.

Considering the findings above, it is clear that there are huge inefficiencies in both T20 and the IPL auctions.  There is a huge gap in the market for a team to be run via a 'Moneyball' method, and it will be interesting to see if a franchise picks up on this, and has strong results whilst saving/making themselves a lot of money indeed...

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