I am participating in Tout Wars NL auction this Sunday. I think it’s my 13th NL draft and I’m sorry to say that I’ve never won. I’ve finished second once, fourth once and fifth five times. I’ve had a few very bad years, too, usually because of injuries, though it is fair to say that the good years were at least in part because of lack of injuries.
Tout Wars drafts are the toughest. The pace is unrelenting. Keeping up on the live blog, which you’ll find during the auctions on Saturday and Sunday at toutwars.com, is tough. But the pace actually makes the auction fun. It is go, go, go, time only for action, when your moment comes. And then you are brushed aside, like a newspaper in a strong wind, and the room is onto something new, and maybe you are, too.
The Tout Wars drafters are not all genius 5×5 roto players, but they are all extremely knowledgeable about the player pool in its full depth and glory. And they know roto strategy and theory and they have plans, so one doesn’t go into the auction anticipating there to be bargains. And there are no bargains, though some players who come with risk sometimes go cheaper than you expected.
Today I’m going to write about some of things to watch for in the Tout AL and NL auctions, with the particular examples mostly from the NL, and I’m going to create a mock version of the team I hope to acquire, with their average price from CBS and LABR, and what I hope to pay. We’ll see how that works out.
There are a few things you can count on at Tout:
1) The first guy will be cheap. This is true in almost all auctions. Things start, the room isn’t warm yet, nobody wants to start the day off with a gaffe. If Ryan Braun stops at $39 I’m saying $40, even though that undermines everything I’m planning on doing. If someone else says $40, I may well say $41.
2) I might also say $42, because Tout Wars hitter prices are dull at the top. Just as the Touts seem reluctant to push the first nominated player’s price, they rarely push the best pitchers’ prices. Last year’s most expensive pitchers: Halladay $32, Lincecum $28, C. Lee $26, Kershaw and Gallardo $23.
$132 for the top five pitchers, who earned $151.
Of course, if you include the four $22 pitchers (Josh Johnson, U Jimenez, T Hanson, Cole Hamels), you spend $88 more for $42 of earnings and tip over into a loss.
Running total for Top 9: Cost: $220. Earned: $193.
It gets worse after that. The fact is that the league skimps on the most expensive pitchers, making all the other less talented and reliable pitchers more expensive. The problem is that a strategy of spending more money on pitchers, taking advantage of the expensive bargains, decreases the amount of money you have for hitters. The solution: Get one of the high priced bargain pitchers, then resist the temptation to buy the $25 bargains for $22. Stick to your budget, which if you’re approaching this in the trad way, should be $80-$85.
The Alternative: Buy that staff anchor, then bottom feed. Last year many young starters went for cheap. Brandon Beachy ($3), Johnny Cueto ($6), Anibal Sanchez ($5), Jair Jurrjens ($5) all earned profits. Obviously, you can’t count on hitting on all of them, which is why you have the anchor.
3) Taking closers is like being in a draft. The only differences in closer prices are based on health, strikeout rate, and job security. The top strikeout closers go for $20. The other closers who don’t strike out quite so many are $16. The guys who seem to have jobs but aren’t that good are $13. The guys about whom we’re not sure of skill or role go for $7-$11. Name your poison, and how much of it you want to eat.
4) Power hitters at all positions will be pricey, except Jonny Gomes. At 3B the premium will be extreme. In the NL there are four very good third basement, three others who are better than the rest, and then there are the rest. Choosing between them is a crazy mess. Here they are ranked by average price in CBS and LABR: Gamel (13), Paredes (8), Chipper (8), P Alvarez (8), I Stewart (7), Wigginton (7), Polanco (6), Rolen (4), Arenado (4), McGehee (3), Francisco (2), Uribe (2), Blake (2), C Johnson (1), Descalso (1). In many leagues Gamel doesn’t qualify at 3B. Yeesh.
With these thoughts in mind I put together a team with target prices. I find a somewhat ideal player, one who might be bargain priced, and then also list some alternative bargains at the position. The idea is to game the draft, find solutions beforehand to the thorniest problems, and leave open options when things inevitably go differently than expected.
You can see what I worked out on this Google spreadsheet.
This is a team built on young mostly unproven strikeout pitchers, and lots of potential at bats from players who are on the edge. The thing that could derail the plan is if other Tout owners covet these same pitchers.
The upside comes from the fact that the CBS/LABR prices were almost all lower, so there’s the chance I could make some upgrades.
Based on my projections, of course, but also apparently those of ZIPS and the Fangraphs Fans, this is a pretty solid team. Lack of saves is one problem. There is also a lot of low batting average risk, so that this team could quickly slip form high middle to lower third in BA easily. On the other hand, a lot of strikeouts and decent qualitatives from a lot of arms.
If all goes well.
UPDATE: Friday morning, just after midnight
I think it’s a mistake for me to plan to take a pitcher as Swing. Â The projections show me finishing very high in wins and strikeouts whether I have Johan Santana or Kenley Jensen in that $8 slot, and expectations are rising for Santana each time he takes the mound. He may well go for $12 on Sunday. So I dump him, move Jensen to the pitching staff, and look for a hitter.
I find one: Jesus Guzman. Good average, some steals, Petco attenuated power, and a chance at lots of playing time backing up Carlos Quentin. Plus, he’s the fallback, too, if Yonder flounders.
Maybe it’s the late night, maybe it’s the Sinatra I’m listening to, maybe it’s perverse. The question: Should my Tout opponents know about this? My personal position is that I don’t care. Bring ’em on, as Kirsten Dunst once said.
I live in the Eternal Sunshine of the Roto Mind and think they Can’t Touch Me. But I could be wrong, and that makes me think of the Tubes’ Don’t Touch Me There. Take your choice.
The one thing that won’t change: I’m going to do everything I can to buy the team on the spreadsheet on Sunday, at these prices. Does that get me in position to win?
See you at Foleys! (Tout party on Friday night at Foley’s Pub at 18 W. 33rd Street. If you’re in the nabe we hope to see you there.)
Friday morning, 10:30 Update: I just got off the radio with Scott Engle and Adam Ronis of rotoexperts.com. They asked me if I had a strategy and I told them I was buying the guys listed in this post, if I could. Do Tout NLers listen?