Back In Tout NL. A Draft Recap.

After five years or so playing in Tout Head 2 Head and Tout Mixed Draft, this year I returned to the National League version of Tout Wars, to compete against old friends, joined by some new faces (for me), including Fred Zinkie and Justin Mason.

With Tout Weekend canceled because of the ongoing pandemic crisis, we decided to have the auctions now as scheduled, rather than moving them to nearer the start of the season for two reasons. We knew everyone already had the time blocked now, just the location would be changing, and we figured that while there certainly will be news between now and when the season starts, the player evaluations we’ve done this spring will be just as valid now as in the future. Later we’ll scramble to fix bad luck, or take advantage of good fortune. That’s part of the game.

I haven’t gone back to read all of the auction write ups I’ve done for Tout NL over the years, but I’m afraid (since I’ve never won) that many of them start the same way. My goal was to bargain hunt in the middle range all auction long, but the bargains at the top were too enticing, so I went where the (extra) money was. This year was no different than any other. Here’s what happened.

Ronald Acuna Jr. $44 ($47 value): Some say he’s not an OBP guy, but why not? Sure, he’s no Yelich, who I had valued at $51, but he hits the ball hard, should have a decent average and walk 10 percent of the time. That’s an OBP guy. He also has power and runs. I was very pleased. Yelich, by the way, also went for $44, which was the superior buy. I almost bid $45. Maybe I should have.

Walker Buehler $30 ($29 value): I pressed the +$1 button on the auction site on a $28 bid, but a flaw in the auction software allows a momentarily earlier bid to take precedence and then bump your bid another dollar. That happened here. Buehler came out early enough that I might not have actually bid $30, there were still plenty of other pitchers to be bid on, but at this price a $1 difference is insignificant. $29 is my median value for Buehler, there’s plenty of ways he could beat it. An equal number he could fall short.

Ozzie Albies $27 ($33 value): You know how you have your guys? I don’t know why, but you have your reasons for your guys. Well, I have my guys, and my guys are the players who consistently rank higher than the prices the experts seem to be willing to pay for them. Albies is one of those this year. He has power, he has speed, he will hit for a decent average and while he’s not a base on balls machine, he walked more last year than the year before (and struck out a little less), which may be normal fluctuation but may also be improvement. If he earned $29 last year and $25 the year before and he’s just 23 years old with 1360 plate appearances, why would you expect him not to do just as well again? Maybe it’s the seven percent walk rate. Looking at my value for him, I’ll admit that I’m probably giving him a little too much OBP credit. If he hits .270 instead of .295 he’ll be worth $27 this year, all other stuff being equal. And really, he could also get better. That’s my guy.

Nolan Arenado $35 ($40 value): After buying three of the first 16 players nominated I was determined to hold off, but 15 picks later the bidding stalled on Arenado. I bid $35, expecting to be topped, but I wasn’t. The only thing I can figure here is that folks are scared of a trade. I’m not scared of a trade. First of all, there’s no guarantee he’s going to plotz if he is traded. Sure, he’s been a much better hitter in Colorado than on the road, but it isn’t as if he’s been terrible on the road. Just an ordinary guy hitting .285, which right there isn’t an ordinary guy these days. Plus, he might not be traded. Plus, who knows how trades are going to go in this weird season. So, I’m willing to take something like an eight percent discount on the chance to have the best third baseman in the game. By far.

Will Smith $14 ($14 value): I’m a believer in Will Smith, so paying the ticket price just made sense. Smith wasn’t a top prospect most of the time coming up, but a look at his play through the minors showed plate judgment and growing power. I don’t see any reason why that should stall at this point. Might he be a low-average guy? Could be, but he walks more than nine percent of the time. His OBP may not be big, but for a guy with his power and quantitative stats, he’ll get on base enough to be much better than most catchers.

Wilson Ramos $13 ($17 value): Ramos is another one of my guys. Three-time Tout NL champion Mike Lombardo, who passed away recently, thought having two good catchers was the center of any winning strategy. Don’t overpay, but get good catchers he’d say, because a lot of teams are going to be playing with garbage. The homage wasn’t intentional, but very appropriate.

Reisel Iglesias $13 ($13 value): I hate buying closers, but when you plan on only buying one expensive starter you can’t afford to punt saves. Iglesias wasn’t quite as reliable last year as in the past, but the top-line numbers are more dramatically negative than the underlying ones. As with nearly all closers not called Mariano, pretty much a dart throw at a pretty good strikeout rate.

Yasiel Puig $5 ($3 value): That value is a little bogus. If you figured Puig was 50/50 to play in either AL or NL, he’d have an $11 value in both leagues. But that’s complicated by the fact that he hadn’t signed when ST camp ended. So there’s some chance he won’t play at all in the majors this year. Calling that a 50/50 shot seems fair, which means his real value should have been $5.50. Not a great bargain, but a little one, and if he does land in the NL he should be a great profit center.

Mike Moustakas $22 ($22 value): I was getting nervous about shortstops, that’s why I bought Moustakas (one of my guys) here. The real guy I wanted was Corey Seager, who was the next guy nominated after Puig. He’s another of my guys. He even went cheap, for $21 ($23 value), but I was feeling cash poor and didn’t pull the trigger on $22. 22 picks later I was feeling like I needed another bat, and when I could get Moustakas at my price I took it. He has valuable position flexibility, can cover corner or middle, so I wasn’t jamming myself up, and he’s moving to a good park. Might one be optimistic even?

Dylan Carlson $8 ($8 value): Taking another risky guy boom or bust guy here probably is a mistake. If either of them works out I’ll have a profit, but the chance neither of them will are good enough that a safer choice might have made more sense. But heck, you have to take chances to win, don’t you?

Mike Foltynewicz $12 ($12 value): I was hoping to pick off him or Dinelson Lamet as ($13 value) my No. 2, but I didn’t get to $13 first on Lamet so I settled for Folty. He had a great second half, which coming off injury may or may not mean something. But if he returns to 2018 form and luck I got him at about a 50 percent discount. That’s at the high end, but I think there’s a better than fair chance there’s profit here.

Ender Inciarte $6 ($6 value): There were better outfield bargains, but most cost more. Or I thought would cost more. Inciarte has a low price because he was awful last year while battling injuries and fighting for playing time, but he should play more this year and isn’t that old and gets on base, even if he doesn’t run as much as he did (though I hope he does). And most importantly was not that costly. I have a weird outfield, for sure, that’s really all I can say.

Freddy Galvis $7 ($7 value): Budget limited, I had to let my guy Dansby Swanson go for $17. This is going to happen in NL only, you can’t have great players at every position. Galvis has some power but he doesn’t walk much and his batting average isn’t going to be average, which makes him an OBP liability. On the other hand, he has some power which is more than can be said of the other guys I could have picked up. I had hopes of landing Johan Camargo, who would not get as many at bats but could be a more productive hitter, in the endgame. That didn’t work out, so there is work to do here.

Chris Archer $5 ($7 value): It hasn’t gone well for him in Pittsburgh, but he’s earned $7 the last two years. He strikes out more than a batter an inning. At this price I’m throwing darts.

AJ Pollock $7 ($14 value): Okay, here’s one of those outfield bargains I was talking about earlier. He’s not likely to see 500 plate appearances, but he projects out at $18 of earnings for me. LABR paid $13 and I should probably adjust my bid price down to $10 or so, still he’s a good price for a good player who could play more if there’s an injury or trade. Historically he has no platoon split.

Jon Lester $2 ($4 value): Veteran grit, of course, and he’s earned $12, $16 and $7 the last three years. It could be the end of the line, he’ll be on a short leash, but he’ll also be looking to prove something. That he’s ageless.

Wade Davis $2 ($4 value): A second closer? Maybe. Scott Oberg went for $2 as well, to Tristan Cockcroft. One of us might be right.

Sean Newcomb $2 ($4 value): There’s a reason he’s only $2. He doesn’t have the big strikeout pitch, he’s been better in relief than as a starter. He’s also a good age to make some change that either wins him the starting role or not. The bet here is maybe.

Dollar Days:

Dominic Smith: I needed a first baseman. I know, I know. Smith has real upside if he can find at bats.

Jose Osuna: Technically $2 because he was on my mind in my first base misery and I clicked +1 when I shouldn’t have. Not as much talent as Smith, and no greater chance to play. A mistake, my mistake.

Brian Dozier: He hit 20 homers last year and he walks a lot. Discounted because his batting averages are bad and he has no path to obvious at bats.

Tony Gonsolin: Talented arm in a crowded rotation. Not a huge strikeout guy, but throws ground balls. Could be Ross Stripling, if only Ross Stripling wasn’t still on the team.

Touki Toussaint: Talented arm in a crowded rotation, was terrible as a starter in Triple-A last year and not much better in relief in the big leagues. But he’s young and he’ll always have 2018.

Of course I like my team!

The bones are good, the talent for the most part young and exciting or middle aged and moving into good situations. The big risks are having no first baseman, three risky outfielders, and a lot of arms with some pedigree, but one or two of the five will have to step up. But it’s a long season, unless it turns out to be a short one, and this is the price to pay for having some top talent.

So, we wait.

The 2020 Roto-Regs Draft is Over.

Back in the bad old days of the internet, when AskRotoman had a bulletin board visited by hundreds, before spam and malicious interlopers wrecked it, the regulars at the bulletin board formed a funny league. Funny because the format was different than other leagues.

For one, 20 teams. But only nine hitters (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, OF, OF, UT) and seven pitchers. A good man named Steve ran the league for a number of years. My memory is that the first year I finished second, and I’ve done worse every year since.

Actually, after the bulletin board was no more (I pulled the plug, sadly) the Regs league went on hiatus, but our friend Tim McLeod has revived it and I had my second new era draft last night.

You can see the results here. I’m not sure how transferable they are. Pitchers flew off the board because each round is so long you never know if the best ones will get back to you. Maybe that’s how we play now, or maybe it reflects these peculiar rules. In either case, it was a fun time.

Historical Picks and Pans: A correction

In this year’s Fantasy Baseball Guide 2020 (out now!), we received some bonus Picks and Pans from longtime contributor Kevin Cook and his son Cal. The Cooks imagined the Hall of Fame cases for Shoeless Joe Jackson, Pete Rose and Barry Bonds, written as Picks and Pans. I liked the idea so much I included them in the Guide’s editor’s letter. And I hoped that readers would come up with their own, which we would publish here.

That hasn’t happened, but I did hear from a reader named Steven McPherson, who knows a thing or two about the Eight Men Out. He wrote:

In regards the arguments made for Joe Jackson belonging in the Hall of Fame in the Letter from the Editor in The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2020.  It states “he handled 30 chances without an error and threw out five baserunners.”

You are mistaken.  He was credited with 16 put outs and one assist.  The assist occurred in the sixth game when Jackson threw out Cincinnati second sack Morrie Rath at the plate in the fourth inning.  The play-by-play in the Spaulding’s Official Base Ball Guide reads:

“Rath tried to score on Daubert’s short fly to Jackson.  He was doubled at the plate as he slid into Schalk and knocked the little catcher over.”

In fact, a photo in the same publication suggests that Jackson made a poor throw up the first-base line, forcing Schalk to retrieve the poor throw and then dive back towards home plate into Rath’s flying spikes to make the tag.  Great effort by the catcher who was not involved in the fixing of the Series.

BTW, the number of putouts by Jackson are meaningless anyway since, for example, in one inning he could misplay or misjudge five flyballs and still make three putouts.

I think Jackson probably did give his best effort in most of his plate appearances because he was, after all, playing for next year’s salary; however, it should not be overlooked that he did not run the bases particularly well: he was thrown out at least once trying to steal, doubled off at least twice after failing to tag up, and fell down at lest twice trying to advance on the bases.

Additionally, his public and legal versions of events changed radically so much so that in 1923 the Judge in his civil trial charged him with perjury.

In his 1920 Grand Jury testimony, he stated he had been promised $20,000 and received only $5,000 for his part in the fix.

FYI, you might enjoy the link below.  There are also references to more updated research on this subject at this link.

Steve

PS- I agree with the takes on Barry Bonds and Pete Rose.

I know there are competing views about Shoeless Joe, so I forwarded Kevin Steve’s letter. He wrote back:

He’s right about the assists–that’ll teach me to accept a stat on Wikipedia. But putouts aren’t the same as chances handled. There were hits he fielded cleanly that he could have booted. I should certainly have been more careful about throwing out five baserunners, an awfully high number; I still think Joe still belongs in the Hall.

So there, an acceptance of a correction and a refutation. The debate will doubtless continue. Maybe it’s time for me to develop an opinion.

ASK ROTOMAN: A Keeper Question

I’m in a 12 team auction keeper league with 30-man roster. We are allowed to keep up to seven players. Each year a player is kept his salary goes up $5. We can keep a player for a max three yrs. This year’s salary is in parentheses. Out of the following players who would you keep. M Chapman(11), P Dejong(13), V Robles(18), E Jimenez(11), J Luzzardo(14), T Glanow(12), S Bieber(15), j lucchesi(11), N Senzel(12), J James(11), J Villar(16).

First off, if salaries go up $5 a year, I don’t see why you have a three year limit. The idea of an escalating salary is that eventually the player becomes too expensive. This might happen in a year or two, usually, and for some surprising players it might not happen for four or five years. But it happens.

Get rid of the time limit. Reward teams who get in early on the right guys.

As far as your keeps, I’m assuming you’re using a S260 budget. The thing is in a 12 team mixed league the stars should go for a lot of money, and middling talents should go for a lot less. So I don’t see your list as choices between prices as much as choices between players.

You have some big talents, not all of them yet fully expressed. So, you have to keep Shane Bieber, Nick Senzel, Jonathan Villar, Jesus Luzzardo, Tyler Glasnow, Eloy Jimenez and Victor Robles. And you’re done.

Really. Chapman and Dejong had great years, are very good players, but they and more like them will once again go for $11 or $13 because we’ve seen their best and that’s what they’re worth in a deep league. They may be better this year than Senzel or Jimenez, but they’ll go cheaper in your auction. That’s what keepers are made out of.

Trade Talk

Q: Should I trade Mitch Garver for Dansby Swanson in a straight trade? Seems a little light to me. I have two other startable catchers.

A: I like Swanson. They both earned the same last year. Garver was a career year. Swanson, probably not. Better could come. Have no idea if you could do better for Garver, who did hit a ton of homers in limited AB, but if you can’t Swanson is a good match I think.


OUT NOW! The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2020

People are finding it in Barnes and Noble stores in New York City and Cincinnati, so it’s out there. 160 pages of fantasy baseball info, enough I hope to last you through all of a 2020 season that will answer a lot of questions we have about home runs and strike outs.

More than 30 fantasy experts, people whose online columns you read, podcasts you listen to, radio shows you follow, Twitter feeds you devour, folks you mostly know, have written hundreds of Picks and Pans. They are funny, perceptive, opinionated, and sometimes right!

We (mostly Rob Blackstien, HC Green, Jeff Zimmerman and Rotoman) profile more than 1400 players, so that when you want to know something about a callup or a trade, there’s a good chance we’ll have an answer.

The Guide also features a Top 30 Rookies column, with extra sleeper prospect picks, and JD Bolick’s Unheralded column, which each season has pointed out non-prospects who have gone on to have major league impact that year.

Plus, a great group of fantasy experts gathers in November for our mock draft, and helps us by writing comments on why they made their picks. It’s a fun time for us, and a trove of fantasy baseball opinion by some of the game’s best writers.

Plus there’s more! We hope you enjoy.

The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2020 is coming soon!

The files are off to the printer, and it should start showing up on newsstands in a couple weeks.

The Fantasy Football Guide 2019 Is Here!

The official release date was July 21st, but the first copy in the wild appeared on July 14th. Let us know where you’ve seen it and we’ll get out the word!

Ask Rotoman: Keeping It Fair While Adding Keepers

Dear Rotoman:

As commissioner of our league we traditionally kept three players for three seasons with the three keepers counting as your first three picks just to keep it simple.

I was wondering if we gave owners the option to keep up to five players with those players going as your five first rounds. But I want to keep it fair for all owners, even ones that don’t have a too many true keepers.

My question is, would it necessarily hurt a weak team if he only kept one or two players and attempted to rebuild from the draft. My goal is not to put someone at disadvantage because these changes.

“Even Steven”

Dear Even:

Your issue isn’t expansion, I don’t think, but rather your decision to make your keepers the first three picks in your draft. This setup means that the keeper comparison, the rationale for keeping a guy rather than throwing him back and taking the best available player, is much higher than it probably should be.

Here’s why:

Assuming your league is 12 teams (but it doesn’t matter if it isn’t, the same rationale would apply to any size league), your three keeps are going to take 36 players off the draft board. Are these the top 36 players on your board? Almost certainly not.

Well, the first few years they might be close, but as freeze eligibilities expire for players they go back up on the board. If they are better than your third-best, or second-best, or even first-best freeze, you might as well not keep the keeper, or keepers.

This is sure to happen, and when it does your keeper system should break down quickly. The only way for it to not break down is if each owner is required to keep three players.

And, of course, expanding to five keepers, and giving owners the option to not keep five, will only make matters worse.

The right way to value keepers in a draft league is to keep them in the round they were taken originally. That way they have real value and don’t have to compete with the best available players on the draft board for value.

It isn’t as easy to track, but it isn’t that hard either, and should make your game much more fun.

Sincerely,

ASK ROTOMAN: More categories please.

Hi,

Our three-player keeper/yahoo standard roster /10 team league/ daily moves. wants to modernize our standard 5×5 categories for next season, but we can’t come to an agreement.

Either 6×6 adding OPS, QS and replacing S with S+H.

Or 7×7 adding OBP, SLG, QS, Holds separate.

We are expanding the rosters slightly next season as well, and we also don’t want to drop the win category all together.

We don’t know what potential issues we will have with these potential set ups, thanks for your help.

“Cats Meow”

Dear Cats:

I’m in favor of modernizing, for sure, but you were right to ask, because there are implications worth considering in all your potential moves.

The big one: Do more categories make for a better game? The obvious answer is with more categories you have more verisimilitude. More different players have value doing different things and that’s good, right?

Maybe not. Or rather, more categories means you run into a math problem. Back in ancient times we played 4×4 (no Runs or Strikeouts), but sometime around 2000 it became obvious that more and more people were playing 5×5 (with Runs and Strikeouts). In Tout Wars we switched over and those of us who do player pricing discovered something that makes total sense but wasn’t at all intuitive: More cats mean the most expensive players earn less.

The reason is math. Each category siphons off some value from the players at the top, and gives it to the players in the middle. Last year the game’s premiere strikeout pitcher, Max Scherzer, earned $40 in 5×5 (with strikeouts) and $41 in 4×4 (without strikeouts). Crazy, eh? Be prepared for that.

In other instances, you’re adding redundant categories. For instance, if you add OPS to a league that counts batting average, too, you’re counting batting average twice. And counting home runs twice, too, since they’re a big part of the SLG slice of OPS. I would recommend replacing BA with OBP, so that you count walks on the hitting side as well as the pitching side, and be done with it.

Similarly, adding QS as an extra category in addition to Wins, means starting pitchers games started are counted twice in counting stats (plus strikeouts! That’s three times) and they loom larger in ERA and WHIP as well. This will make good starting pitchers much more valuable, and much more pricey I would think.

Plus, adding Holds to the Saves category makes relievers much less valuable. The reason is supply and demand. Saves have value because there is only one fellow on a team getting a save in any given game. Holds can be spread between two or three pitchers, which expands the pool significantly. With more supply comes less demand, and lower prices. Is that what you want?

In The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2012, I think, Tim McLeod pitched the idea of using Saves + Half Holds as a category, to give recognition to middle relievers, but to continue to venerate those who are able to close games without getting hurt or becoming ineffective. I think this is much better way to go.

And while we’re at that, Wins + Half QS as a single cat recognizes that bad luck can hurt starters who are pitching effectively without destroying the notion that getting a win is something pitchers are trying to do and should be rewarded for.

Okay, so right now I’m on: OBP, Runs, HR, RBI, SB for hitters. ERA, WHIP, W+Half QS, Sv + Half Holds, and Strikeouts for pitchers. Hmm. 5×5.

I guess if you wanted to go to 6×6 I’d suggest adding SLG to the hitting side (count doubles as well as homers) and Innings Pitched to the pitching side, though I fear that doubling up on IP and Ks is going to push too much value to the pitchers again. Tristan Cockcroft has long suggested adding IP and changing Ks to K/9, making it a third pitching rate stat. That does restore some balance to the starter/reliever mix.

Might there be unintended consequences having half the pitching cats be rate stats? There might be, but Tristan swears by this and so it is surely worth a shot.

One other idea: Fielding stats. I know, they’re all flawed, but in fantasy baseball the goal isn’t a perfect reflection of a player’s contribution on a baseball field, but a given valuation based on the stats you choose to count.

Inside Edge has published fielding stats in recent years that track plays based on difficulty. So they have plays rated Impossible (no one can make them), Remote (a 1-10 percent chance), Unlikely (11-40 percent chance), Even (40-60), Likely (60-90), and Routine (91-100). My idea is to add Remote plays as a counting stat.

Last year, Nolan Arenado made 39 Remote plays, two more than Brandon Crawford, who made one more than Manny Machado. This would be a little like Home Runs, events that some players do regularly, but far from every day. Giving value to Brandon Crawford for his defense seems like a worthwhile idea.

The other category would be to count Routine as a rate stat, so every error or misplay on a play everyone should make would hurt your team in that one. Many outfielders and catchers top this list, having not made a mistake on a routine play last year, but there is Rougned Odor in 19th place, the highest ranked middle infielder by far. Let’s give him a hand.

The only problem is that this data is not available from Inside Edge in game, and FanGraphs is not even showing it for 2019. If no stats services have it, it doesn’t exist, so for now this is a pipe dream. But in the future, I’m all in.

Good luck with your decision. I hope you and your leaguemates have a fun discussion.

Sincerely,