My Tout Wars Mixed Draft.

This is my first year in the Tout Wars Mixed Draft league. The thing to remember about this league is that in the last four years Rudy Gamble has finished first twice and second twice, Adam Ronis has finished first twice and second once, and so since the 2015 season only one other player has finished first or second: Scott White, in 2017.

In the offseason Rudy suggested that he and Ronis had an advantage because of Tout’s rules allowing the top finishers first choices in picking draft position the following year. But a little research with NFBC leagues doesn’t show any advantage to earlier picks in a draft. Last year teams picking in the ninth, 10th and 11th slots has slightly better results than others.

There is talk about changing this rule, but I would like to see some solid evidence that having the first pick consistently helps team finish higher in the standings. For that we need to look at more years.

In last night’s Mixed Draft, I chose to pick in the No. 10 slot. This was based on the aforesaid research, thin as it was, but also on my observation that if you didn’t get one of the first two picks this year you were basically playing a jump ball for the next eight or nine players. Earlier in the week, in the National Fantasy Baseball Invitational, I lucked into the 11th pick (it was random), and scored Alex Bregman.

With the 10th pick in a league that uses On Base Percentage instead of Batting Average, I hoped I might get a shot at JD Martinez or Christian Yelich or some other of that 2-10 group of hitters, and I did. Only the guy who fell to me was unexpectedly Nolan Arenado, since Jose Ramirez didn’t drop as he might have. I did not debate this pick.

Here are some comments on the successive picks:

ROUND 2: Freddie Freeman. The alternative option was Rhys Hoskins. I like Freddie.

ROUND 3: Charlie Blackmon. Two of the Rockies big producers for my Colorado based team. I’m looking forward to seeing them on April 9th against the Braves. Yes, I’m a homer.

ROUND 4: Corey Seager. This was perhaps the most challenging pick. The question: Do I go Correa, who suffered with back injuries last year but says he’s healthy, or Seager, who missed almost the whole year with hip and elbow surgeries, but is expected to be healthy by opening day? When healthy they’re pretty similar. I picked Seager as much on a hunch as on a fear of back spasms.

ROUND 5: Clayton Kershaw. I would usually have taken one of the ace pitchers in the third round, but the only one left was Luis Severino, who earlier in the day was shut down with arm discomfort. In the fourth, as the only team without a pitcher and the second wave of starters just starting to go, I chose an offensive piece, figuring I could get someone comparable in the fifth. In this context, I’ll take Kershaw. He can’t be expected to throw 200 innings, he may not strike out an elite number, but he’s shown that he can get guys out anyway. If I get 150 innings like last year I’ll be very happy with this.

ROUND 6: Michael Brantley. Frankly, he showed up at the top of my queue based on my rankings in this format. Other guys in this area, like David Dahl and Michael Conforto, were tempting. I went with the queue.

ROUND 7: Dee Gordon. This round was very meh. I wasn’t thrilled with the hitters, didn’t feel like the pitchers were worth reaching for, but did have a need at that point for steals. Dee Gordon was a category play. It meant I didn’t need to worry about steals again. On the radio later, Glenn Colton asked me if I was concerned about Gordon hitting down in the order. I would be concerned if I needed 60 steals from him, but I’ll be quite happy with 25-30 and a not totally destructive OBP.

ROUND 8: Josh Hader. It was time for a closer. Instead I took an innings eating setup guy who strikes out a starter’s worth of hitters. He could get saves if things break right, but without an ace on board I decided to cobble a high skills pitching staff together out of injury concerns and question marks. I could have taken someone like LeClerc, who will likely get more saves than Hader, but he might not and he won’t be as decisively dominant. That was my thinking, at any rate.

ROUND 9: Michael Foltynewicz. Surely Folty fell this far because of concerns about his elbow, which has slowed his spring training. The reports sound okay at this point, he may miss an early start (or he could implode) but if he turns out to be okay he’s a big plus.

ROUND 10: Wade Davis. Here come some saves, I figure.

ROUND 11: Tim Anderson. A 20-20 shortstop who is just maturing into his prime is gold, especially since he’s shown some a smidge of progress on the walk-taking side of things. It does mean I need to find ways to shore up my OBP.

ROUND 12: Ender Inciarte. I should have taken Kepler here, but I had Inciarte ranked higher. I’m one who has been holding his breath for the Kepler breakout for some time now. Inciarte makes enough contact and runs enough that I might be able to use him or Gordon to make a trade later.

ROUND 13: Josh James. Like Folty, he’s hurt during spring training, and that seems to be enough to knock the youngster out of the rotation to start the season. Like Folty, he can strike out a lot of guys. Many of my targets for this round, Ryu, Maeda, and Peacock, were snatched up just before my pick. Maybe I could have waited til the 14th, but there wasn’t anyone coming up that one I fancied more.

ROUND 14: Sean Newcomb. He ran out of gas last season, his first, but he’s a bonafide strikeout guy who could quickly become a No. 2 with just a bit better control. And he’s not hurt.

ROUND 15: Josh Bell. This guy can hit. He can also walk. He’s constantly criticized for not hitting for big power as a first baseman, but he was exactly the sort of OBP sink that I needed. The funny thing is that I debated whether to go for Bell or Brian Anderson with this pick. They’re both essentially the same player, and both perfect for late in the day OBP leagues. I chose Bell because it feels like more power could come to him sooner. I’m not counting on it, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

ROUND 16: Jorge Alfaro. Catching was getting very thin and I liked Alfaro a lot last year. There is less to like this year, at least for now, but the AB should be there in Miami and there is some chance that as he settles into the job he’ll blossom as I expected him to last year.

ROUND 17: Jimmy Nelson. Did not pitch last year. Was very good the year before that. I’m wary of shoulder rehabs, but the reward potential here is high. The pitcher taken before him was Carlos Martinez, no prize, and the next after was Jake Junis, who I would have liked to have. Love those AL Central pitchers.

ROUND 18: Gregory Polanco. More risk here, but we’re in the endgame and this is a mixed league. Not totally shallow, but there will be players to sub in for Polanco until he returns. The bigger question is how much he’ll run when he comes back, and how much the injury will sap his power.

ROUND 19: Reynaldo Lopez. He struck out more and walked fewer in the second half than in the first. For a young pitcher, one for whom I would excuse a fatigue-induced second-half melt down, that seems like a good sign. He also has the advantage of pitching a lot of games against the Royals and Tigers.

ROUND 20: Vince Velasquez. He’s not going to throw a lot of innings, he gets pulled after two times through the lineup, but he throws strikeouts and kept the ball in the park last year. No chance he becomes the ace he once looked like he’d grow into, but if properly managed he could be a very sneaky fantasy asset.

ROUND 21: Brian Anderson. Look what I found. Another corner with a nice stroke, excellent on base skills and not a ton of power. Anderson also has the virtue of qualifying in the outfield.

ROUND 22: Freddy Peralta. The theme develops. Peralta, like Josh James, could end up in the bullpen, where his strikeouts will soar as his innings drop. The big question is just how soaring the bases on balls remain, and whether he can continue to throw fly balls that don’t get out of the park. With young pitchers of talent, there is always a chance.

ROUND 23: Austin Hedges. Needed another catcher. Liked Hedges before he demonstrated just how hard it is for him to make contact with bat on ball. He has some power and a bit of pedigree, and he’s turning 27, which isn’t magic but gets him past the early struggles of a young catcher.

RESERVE ROUNDS: There are six reserve rounds in Tout Mixed Draft. Your roster doesn’t have to be complete after 23 rounds, but does need to be after 29. I took Kevin Pillar (useful power speed outfield backup, will play while Polanco is out), Brent Honeywell (staying on message), Framber Valdez (not in the rotation yet, but effective in there last year), Mark Melancon (could he close in SF? Closer monkey says so), Joe Jimenez (could he close in Detroit? Closer monkey says not yet, but he’s behind Shane Greene, who could be traded), and Yonny Chirinos (more in the Franber mode than the Honeywell, he looked promising last year).

In summary, I like my team. It could be really good if things work out, and could be awful if things don’t. The biggest issue will likely be that this staff of talented but risky arms will not run up the innings and will end up struggling in Wins and Strikeouts, even if it pitches well. It’s harder to pull this off in 5×5 than it is in 4×4. But it won’t take a lot of good luck to land in the hunt, which at this point, three weeks before the start of the season, is all you can hope for.

Ask Rotoman: The Next Step to Winning

Hello,
I’m writing because I read your article in your magazine. It’s great it’s been around for 20 years.  Typically I print out a cheat sheet and try to study it and overstudy but can’t beat having a magazine with insights and tips.  I’m also writing because I am the commissioner of my league.  This will be the 10th anniversary of it!  It’s been 10 years and I still haven’t won a championship.  My league is with Yahoo 5×5 Head to Head.  I rack my brains out every year.  I’ve gotten better over the years, making the playoffs, but I can’t get over the hump.  Any suggestions or advice you may have, besides walking away with my sanity while it’s still intact?  I laugh buts it’s true.  Every year I try a different strategy but never seems to pan out.  Oh and it’s not a keeper league.  Which I think makes it a lot more difficult.  Thanks for reading my plea for help.  Hopefully I’ll be able to hear from you soon. Keep up the great work!
“Bridesmaid”

Dear B:
In my day (which is a long one) I’ve won a fair number of league titles, but I’ve been playing in Tout Wars for 20 years and not won a title. Second place a few times, in the money some, but never a first. So I know where you’re coming from. The fact is, however, that there is no one-size fits all answer to the question. Here’s why.
If everyone in your league was equally talented, equally smart, made an equal effort, in 10 years at least two teams, despite doing everything right, would not have won titles. In 2o years the odds would be that one or two equally talented teams would not have a title. So the fact is that we’re really looking at a sample size that’s too small to accurately judge what’s going on based on the results. The challenge for you is to analyze what’s happening in your league, and then come up with a strategy that will give you an edge, because the keys to winning are three: Knowing the values of players, knowing how other teams value players, and working hard to always get the edge in value.
Here are a few places to look:
Knowing the value of players: Of first importance is knowing your scoring system. How many points hitters and pitchers score, and when, makes a huge difference, and will determine how valuable players are. In shallow mixed leagues nearly all the value is found in the more better best most extraordinary players. While everyone knows these players, they’re the first ones to go in the draft. Then, at every pick later in the draft you’re going to have to choose between a player who is 30 years old, a solid regular with unspectacular production and a player who is younger, more athletic, but with perhaps injury or playing time issues. In other words, $10 in the bank versus the possibility of buying $20 with the risk of getting only $1. What you need to remember is that in a shallow mixed league the value of $10 in the bank is less than the riskier player, because if your riskier pick fails there will be other players available on waivers who are almost as good as the safe pick.
Knowing how other teams value players: One of the things I like about drafts is that bad players can totally screw up picks if they don’t know how the room values players. One of the things I don’t like about drafts is that I can screw up picks, too, if I don’t get the room right. The way to get familiar with what other people do in the draft room is to participate in Mock Drafts. It only takes a few, played by your league’s rules, to get a feel for the types of players taking Adelberto Mondesi and Vlad Jr. in the second or third round. There is variation in every mock, but seeing the highs and lows for players will give you an idea about when you need to reach for the guys you value highly, and not reach too early. (It’s also an opportunity to try out different approaches to your draft, to see how the opposition reacts.)
Working hard to always get the edge in value: Working harder means working effectively. I think your first order of business should be to figure out if there is a reason other teams have won your league. If it’s just one or two guys winning, what are they doing? If it’s a different team winning every year, and they’re all doing different things, what are all the things they’re doing? And what can you do to find the bargains they leave behind. Then, work hard in season to stay on top of matchups, player health and slumps, and pursuing creative trades that can earn you extra points bit by bit. Extra points lead to extra wins.
You may or may not solve this thing this year. Head to Head can get pretty random, especially in the playoffs, so the best team doesn’t always win. But having the best team will give you the best chance. If you execute this year and honestly evaluate after the season about what went right and what went wrong, you’ll be able to hone your approach the following year so that you get better. Consistently working in a framework of evaluation and experimentation is the way to improve, so that when you get lucky you’ll find the championship you long for.
Good luck!

Tout Wars H2H: Justin Mason May Have A Point

This is the third year of the Tout Wars Head to Head League and the third new scoring system.

Year one we went with a roto scoring system for 22 head to head contests, and then a real roto scoring standings system for the remaining 36 contests. First place was 12-0, second was 11-1, and so on. It was an interesting idea that earned Jeff Zimmerman a win over Brent Hershey, despite Brent’s better direct H2H record, but it was cumbersome to track in season.

Year two we went with 22 head to head contests, using a variety of roto categories. Vlad Sedler edged out Andrea LaMont on the season. It was fine.

In both the first two years I finished third.

For Year three we’re moving to a traditional points scoring system. The idea has been pushed by Jake Ciely since day one, and the point that finally won the day was this one: More people play head to head points than any other game.

Of course, they don’t play head to head auction, and here is why that matters.

H2H points games are usually run with snake drafts. Teams pick in whatever order they’re assigned, with picks reversing each round. In a points league your goal is to amass the most points, and in a points draft the best player to take is the one you think is going to score the most points. Always.

In an auction, your goal is to buy the most points you can, but there are a variety of ways to get there. You can be creative in how you score your points. The creative approaches teams in the H2H league used this past weekend were two.

1) You could go stars and scrubs, buying expensive players and then filling in with cheap ones at the end. Every team but Clay Link did this, averaging less than three players who went in the teens (Link bought seven such).

2) You could go stars and scrubs, with all your stars pitchers, and spend only $59 on hitters. Only Justin Mason did this.

You can read about Justin’s team here.  He basically cracked the code. He zigged in a way that gives him a pretty big advantage over every other team. Week after week. The reason is because in points leagues two-start pitchers generally earn a lot of points in their weeks, and stud pitchers, who go deep into games (like, say, Justin’s Kershaw and Scherzer) earn a lot of points every start. So in any given week pitchers are going to earn a lot of points, giving Justin’s team a win in pitching.

As long as he scores enough hitting points so that he loses hitting by less than he wins pitching by, he’ll go home each week a 6-2 winner. (Each contest gives two wins to the hitting winner, two wins to the pitching winner, and four wins to the overall winner, and corresponding losses.)

Because this is a 12-team league, there are plenty of replacement players out there. Lots of decent hitters on the waiver wire. The rest of us have a lot of work to do.

For my part, I didn’t come up with a very clever way to take advantage of the rules. Having never played in a points league before, I took my projections, converted them to points, and tried to buy the highest scorers. I figured the most expensive players would be a little overpriced, because they didn’t really score that many more points than others, and I went for guys on the next tier. I like my team, who doesn’t like a 12-team league team, but have no idea how to measure it against the others, all of which have a similar mix of costly hitters, costly pitchers and cheap everything else.

I think we’re going to have to play this one out, and hope that Justin doesn’t run away with it early.

Team Rotoman

C: Sal Perez, Yasmani Grandal

MI: Brian Dozier, Elvis Andrus, Whit Merrifield

CI: Paul Goldschmidt, Josh Donaldson, Eric Hosmer

OF: AJ Pollock, Billy Hamilton, Domingo Santana, Ian Happ, Manny Margot

UT: Yuli Gurriel

SP: Stephen Strasburg, Jake Arrieta, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda

RP: Jeurys Familia, Arodys Vizcaino, Alex Colome

RES: Willie Calhoun, David Robertson, AJ Minter, Amed Rosario, Carlos Rodon, Zach Britton

This is a team that’s probably light in power and innings, that will need a breakout season for Taijuan Walker to push it over the top.

Maas No Maas: The Trouble With Trea Turner

Standup guy Howard Bender sitting down in Half Moon Bay.
Standup guy Howard Bender sitting down in Half Moon Bay.

Everybody’s buddy and fine fantasy baseball analyst, Howard Bender, had a piece in the NY Post this week warning about overestimating Turner this year, the way Carlos Correa was overestimated last year.

That’s good advice in general, and probably as it applies to Turner, but it raises the question of how do you draw the line on a young player with a spectacularly good partial season under his belt.

I looked at hitters who had an OPS+ of 130 or better in the year they lost their rookie status since 1980 (the Roto Era), who had 249 plate appearances or more. Sixty one hitters qualified.

Five of those seasons came in 2016. That would be Corey Seager, Aledmys Diaz, Trea Turner, and the Ryans Shrimpf and Healy. One player, Kyle Schwarber, had a qualifying first season and didn’t play the next. That leaves us with 55 hitters in the pool.

What can we learn from them?

If we sort them from top to bottom based on first year OPS+:

kevinmaasrookiecardThe top 11 had an an OPS+ of 157 in year 1 and an OPS+ of 137 in year 2. Two of this group improved in year two, a man named Trout and another named Greenwell. Three had less than a 130 OPS in year 2: Luke Scott, posterboy Kevin Maas, and Miguel Sano. This group averaged 499 plate appearances.

The next 11 averaged  143 in year 1, and 109 in year 2. One of this cohort, Randy Milligan, improved. Seven had less than a 130 OPS+. Five has less than a 100 OPS+. This group averaged 442 plate appearances.

The middle 11 averaged 137 in year 1, and 116 in year 2. Kris Bryant was the only one to improve. Two were better than 130 in year 2. Only two had less than a 100 OPS+, both at 99, which is why the year 2 average went up for this group. This group averaged 349 plate appearances.

The fourth 11 average 133 in year 1, and 120 in year 2. Ryan Howard and Jason Bay improved. They were also the only two to have an OPS+ the next year better than 130. None of this group has an OPS+ of less than 100. This group averaged 416 plate appearances.

The last quintile averaged 131 in year 1, and 113 in year 2. Josh Hamilton, John Kruk, Lonnie Smith, and Ryan Klesko all improved and had an OPS+ of better than 130. Four hitters had an OPS+ of less than 100. This group averaged 343 plate appearances.

Another way to split these guys into groups would be by plate appearances.

The top quintile averaged 639 plate appearances, with a 151 OPS+ in year 1, and a 137 OPS+ in year 2.

The next group averaged 463 plate appearances, with a 141 OPS+ in year 1, and a 136 in year 2.

The middle quintile averaged 388 PA, with a 138 in year 1, an 85 in year 2.

The fourth group averaged 337 PA, with a 135 in year 1, a 122 in year 2.

The last group averaged just 273 PA, with a 139 in year 1, a 116 in year 2.

All in all, 20 of the 55 players did better than 130 in OPS+ in year 2, 25 did better than 120 OPS+, 33 did better than 110, and 48 did better than 100. That leaves seven true busts, and 30 total who could be considered disappointing.

Eleven of the 20 players who topped 130 in OPS+ had more than 450 plate appearances. Only four of the next 20 players had 450 PA or more.

A final set of ranks, based on percentage of change from year 1 to year 2.

The top quintile averaged 428 plate appearances, posting a 138 OPS+ in year 1, and a 154 in year 2.

The next averaged 508 PA, with 142 in year 1, 131 in year 2.

The middle quintile averaged 415 PA, with a 141 OPS+ in year 1, a 116 in year 2.

The fourth quintile averaged 352 PA, with a 137 OPS+ in year 1, and a 103 in year 2.

The bottom quintile averaged 388 PA, with a 153 OPS+ in year 1, and an 85 in year 2.

Comparing the top half sorted by percentage of change from year 1 to year 2, the top half had 487 plate appearances while the bottom half had 384. The average age of the top half was 23.4 years old, while the bottom half was 24.5. Perhaps not surprisingly, the bottom half hit more homers and stole more bases per plate appearance.

Plate appearances and high OPS+ are the best indicators of a repeat season of top performances for these players, but players of all types do repeat and get better.

So, what happens if we look at only those players with fewer than 450 PA in year 1? There are 37 of them.

Sort them into thirds, and we see that the top two thirds are younger than the bottom third. Older is definitely worse when you’re looking at partial seasons with a high OPS+ in your rookie year.  Or maybe it is better put, younger is definitely better.

So, what do we make of this year’s crop?

Corey Seager and Aledmys Diaz should be the most trusted, because they had the most at bats, but neither had a particularly high OPS+ last year, which is a bit of a warning sign. And Diaz is somewhat older, a reason to distrust.

MG_6917_Trea_TurnerTrea Turner had the best OPS+ last year, but only 324 plate appearances. Still he’s young, which is a positive sign.

Ryan Shrimpf just snuck onto the list at 130 OPS+. He’s 28 years old, very old, and only had six more PA than Turner. He’s neg all the way.

Finally, Ryon Healy is slightly old, with a 135 OPS+, and only 283 PA. Not as negative as Shrimpf, but not as positive as the other guys.

Bonus No. 1: Kyle Schwarber missed last year, but will be back this year after a powerful world series. He’s still young, but is coming off a 130 OPS+ in 2015. He’s a mixed bag until you see him swing.

Bonus No. 2: Gary Sanchez didn’t make the 250 PA cutoff, but in 229 PA last year he put up a monster 168  OPS+. Only Mike Trout and Jose Abreu did better in our 250+ PA cohort. On the other hand, if you look at the cohort of those who didn’t qualify, the only hitters who did better in year 1 were Frank Thomas and Phil Plantier. Both were 22 their rookie year. Thomas followed up his 177 OPS+ rookie year with a league leading 180 the next year, and then 177, 174, 212, 179, 178, 181 in the next six years. Plantier followed his 178 with a 90 and never topped the 122 he had in year 3.

Finally, what to do with all this? Although there is data here, this sort of study is really anecdotal. The sample is small, the results so various as to mock any absolute conclusions. But maybe you read the above and feel differently.

What I think it tells us is that there are players who post a super first season and then repeat. You can’t rule that out for these guys this season.

But as you would expect, extreme performance usually regresses to the mean, so you should not count on a repeat. And you should fear charging ahead taking anyone with such a small performance sample, because the possibility of sophomore slump is always there (except for Corey Seager, right?).

Which is pretty dull and which brings us to Howard’s comment about Trea Turner. He says, “Of course Turner is a great talent, but just doubling his total because he will get twice the at-bats this year is not the proper way to project.”

The trouble with Turner is that even if you regress back his stats you end up with ridiculous numbers. My projection, which doesn’t come close to doubling last year’s numbers is 18 homers, with 49 steals, a modest 93 runs and 68 RBI, with a .307 batting average. In 5×5, that’s worth $37. First-round value.

ZIPS chops more aggressively. It gives Turner 260 more plate appearances than last year and one more homer, three more steals, a .282 batting average and modest 77/66 runs and RBI split. But even that modest projection is worth $29, which is a Top 15 hitter.

Is my projection the median projection? Is ZIPS’? That’s the trouble with Turner. Right now I have him with an NL-only bid price of $27. That’s not going to get him, and paying more isn’t necessarily going to hurt the team that buys him.

So, what you do is you keep bidding. Certainly to $27, maybe to $30. This is a place to read the room. Once you’re at $30 you don’t really want him, but the risk of bidding up the guy who does really want him isn’t huge. I mean, you might end up with Trea Turner!

At that price, that could be trouble, but might not.

Here’s a link to the data, both that which I used and that which I didn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

How It Went: Tout Wars Head 2 Head

Tout Wars decided to start a Head 2 Head game and I set about to create a challenging 12-team mixed game that would not rely on extreme distorting tactics (overloading on relievers or starters) to win. The result was:

The Rules:

5×5, $260, standard Tout Wars rosters (14 hitters, 9 pitchers).

Categories: R, HR, RBI, NET SB, OBP, W+QS, ERA, NET SV, K/9, WHIP

Each team would face each other team twice in 18 one-week contests and four two-week contests. Each contest would generate six games of Wins and Losses. The team that won the most Hitting categories would get two wins, the other two losses. Ties split the two. Same went for Pitching categories, and Overall. So in any contest you might go anywhere from 6-0 to 0-6, with each step in between possible, too. These contests would generate 132 wins and losses for each team.

But there would also be a roto contest going on. Teams would be ranked by 5×5 roto standings for the first half of the season (opening day to July 3 this year),  the second half of the season, and the season as a whole. Each of the three parts would generate 11 wins or losses, so the first place team would go 11-0, the second place team 10-1, and so on. This would generate 33 more wins and losses, so each team would have 165 decisions, three more than a major league team.

There were minimum innings requirements for each half of the season and the season as a whole (450 each half, 900 for the whole).

Fairly late in the game I decided to play this game this year, rather than in Tout NL, because I had never played in a Head to Head league and thought I should take some of my my own medicine.

You can read my preseason comments about my team here.

rotomanisthebestLong story short? I finished third, behind Jeff Zimmerman and Brent Hershey. But the highlight of my year was winning a side bet with Howard Bender, which resulted in this picture being splashed via social media all over the internet.

Here’s a link to the final standings. You’ll find the week-by-week results here.

The first thing that happened was that my main steals guy, Dee Gordon, was suspended and missed the first 80 games of the season. Still, I finished second in steals for the first half because Mike Trout was running and Wil Myers was running and I picked up Jose Ramirez after it looked like Brad Miller wasn’t going to play regularly and he was running. As was Paul Goldschmidt. So, steals weren’t a problem.

Hitting wasn’t a problem, all season, except for the week I lost 6-0 to Andrea LaMont, whose team was built around a strong pitching staff that didn’t perform. Along the way I picked up Aledmys Diaz and Jean Segura, in addition to Ramirez, and all produced in the cumulative and qualitative cats, and Trout, Goldschmidt, Manny Machado all stayed healthy and did their typically excellent jobs. Then reservist Trea Turner emerged and Dee Gordon returned and the offense got even stronger in the second half, even with Diaz missing a lot of time to injury, though by then I could have used Brad Miller back, for his power.

Net Saves became a problem. Jonathan Papelbon, Trevor Rosenthal and David Robertson did not endure. So I hovered in the middle of the pack, winning some weekly contests and losing others.

The biggest problem was that I had one ace. His name was Jake Arrieta and he was a monster in the first half. So was Taijuan Walker. Rich Hill and Trevor Bauer helped in the first half, but Kevin Gausman was inconsistent and hurtful, and Jared Eickhoff turned a fast start into a mess. Still, the bottom line was that my anchor kept the ship afloat, and I finished middle-up in all the pitching categories except W+QS.

The biggest problem came when my anchor went overboard in the second half, and my ship,  er, pitching staff sank. Arrieta became inconsistent and in many weeks was a liability. Overall he had a 4.48 ERA in the second half and struck out barely more than seven batters per nine. Taijuan Walker was terrible when he was healthy enough to take the mound, and Rich Hill didn’t take the mound enough to compensate.

Saves continued to be a problem, too. I picked up Tony Watson and Brandon Maurer to replace the fallen Papelbon and Rosenthal, which worked for a while, but then they went down, too. I again finished in the middle of saves, but near or at the bottom of ERA and WHIP and in the middle in K/9.

The result was that I often lost the pitching categories in the H2H part of the game, which led to a lot of 4-2 and 3-3 weeks. Not good enough to catch Jeff Zimmerman and Brent Hershey, who soldiered on. I did wreck Hershey’s chances with a 6-0 victory over him in the penultimate H2H contest, but that’s no satisfaction.

Could I have done something different? In hindsight I should have traded either Dee Gordon or Trea Turner or Travis Jankowski or Wil Myers or Paul Goldschmidt for good starting pitching. I mean, how could I not? What I can is that I tried to shortly after Gordon returned, but got no interest then at all, and I have to admit that after a while I felt defeated. I didn’t see a way to catch the leaders, even though I wasn’t that far back. The problem had to do with K/9 as a category.

Looking for a starting pitcher, I needed one with a high K rate. But so, obviously enough, did everyone else. That’s because most starters with high K rates are productive pitchers in ERA and Ratio, too, and probably Wins and Quality Starts, as well. That makes them hugely valuable and pretty much irreplaceable. Especially given the innings minimum, because not only are you then losing a high K rate pitcher when you trade him, but you’re adding someone who hurts you in that category. You can’t sit on a lead, you’re likely to be actively undermining it. Not cool.

I’m not sure if this is a flaw, exactly, but it was a part of this year’s game. Alternatives are all problematic, which is how we ended up with the current rules. Doing away with the minimum innings requirement means starters have no value in the H2H part of the game. Changing to a cumulative stat, like K or K-BB robs relievers of most of their value. But I wonder if that is a bad thing? It may be in a 12-team league, but not in a larger deeper league. I’m not sure.

We’ll be having a discussion about that over the winter. What seems evident is that teams that spent less on pitching finished in the top three positions (Howard Bender spent less, too, but had the misfortune of ending up with Sonny Gray and Gerrit Cole as his aces).

We’ll also evaluate whether going to Net Saves and Steals was a good thing, or if it just complicated things unnecessarily. What Net Saves did was undermine the value of non-closing relievers, because they tend to blow more saves than they get actual chances to earn them.

And finally, we’ll look at the hybrid H2H/Roto structure. It made a difference. Brent Hershey’s team won the roto standings all three parts of the season, while Jeff Zimmerman’s team finished second and I finished third. Zimmerman adapted after finishing tied for first in H2H the first half and won the H2H handily in the second half. Similarly, Jake Ciely’s team edged mine in H2H both halves, but I was able to overtake him because of the roto games. Since the advantage seems to have gone both ways, to the H2H play in the Zimmerman case, and to the Roto play in my case, maybe there is something to this.

The biggest problem was incorporating the roto standings into the website. If we can come up with a better way we’ll probably get rid of the roto part. Or not. It’s all up for review.

What I know is that this was a fun and challenging game to play and follow along with (though I’m not sure whether Doug Anderson and Andrea LaMont feel the same way).

 

 

Tout Wars Head To Head With Rotoman’s Team.

Tout Wars Head to Head is a new league with a group of owners from last year’s Tout X, from Tout’s other leagues, and Tout newbies.

It is also a league that has a set of rules that aren’t like any other standard set of H2H rules. You can read about all of that here.

The setup: 12 team 5×5 head to head auction. Cats: BA, R, HR, RBI, Net Steals, Quality Starts + Wins, ERA, K/9, WHIP, Net Saves.

Screenshot 2016-03-22 17.46.58
The first week’s schedule.

There are 22 periods, so each team plays each other team twice. Most are one week, but four are two weeks, so that all 26 weeks are included. There are also three Roto scoring periods (first 13 weeks/last 13 weeks/all 26 weeks), after each of which the team that finishes first goes 12-0, next team is 11-1, and so on until the last place team is 0-12 (no team finishes 6-6, so there are 12 outcomes). Each half season has a minimum innings requirement of 475, while the full season is 950, just like the other Tout leagues. There is no weekly minimum IP.

The first thing I did to prepare was run straight prices using the 10 categories, as if it was a Roto league. What the numbers said was that three hitters towered above everyone else, both hitters and pitchers. You don’t need me to name them. And one pitcher, who also doesn’t need to be named, ranked far above all the others. What was surprising to me, at least a little, was how many hitters had higher prices than that pitcher.

I decided on a few strategic approaches:

  1. This is a 12 team mixed league. I know that the top players, the players without peer, go for more than their projected value. I was going to price enforce on these sorts of players. I didn’t want to overspend to acquire them, but I wasn’t afraid of paying a good bit to buy them. And I would pay a premium for Clayton Kershaw, who I was sure would go some bit higher than the $33 the program had him at.
  2. This is a head to head league, and it was important to load up on Steals and Saves.
  3. I was not going to roster innings eater type starters who have average or worse K/9 ratios.
  4. The roto component represents 36 of the 168 total points (21 percent), and can’t be ignored. Assuming other teams are trying to find six good categories, and ignoring five, I resolved to be as strong overall as possible across the board, and try to build flexible management into the reserve roster. I wasn’t afraid of Stars and Scrubs in this context, because there are everyday players available in the endgame, and replacements on waivers if someone gets hurt.

How did it go?

Starting pitching went for much more than my pricing model showed. I think this has to be a result of adjustments owners made to reach the IP limit that my model didn’t have programmed in. Kershaw came out early, and I bid him into the high $30s, but he busted into the $40s and I dropped out. I hadn’t yet figured out the impact of the IP limit, and feared that alternative aces, while not as good, might go a good deal cheaper. They went for less than Kershaw, but at a decided premium over my expected prices for starters, who really contribute only in QS+W and IP.

The rush to starting pitching had to take it’s money from somewhere, and that turned out to be mostly relief pitching, and steals. A few owners charged in on top closers, like Kenley Jansen and Wade Davis, but soon after the market collapsed, and we all picked up cheap closers.

The top hitters all went for their straight line prices or better, except for the two stars I bought. That is, they cost as much or more as the value of their projected stats. Since I know the top guys are worth more than their projected stats, I picked off players who were costing less than their projected earnings (which made them good bargains), which is how I ended up with Mike Trout and Paul Goldschmidt.

What follows is my roster, with some notes. You can see all the rosters here.

C: Yasmani Grandal $12. He has some power and gets on base a lot, which makes him a fine choice in an OBP league. He has battled forearm issues all spring, but has had about 440 plate appearances each of the last two years, so there is hope he’ll get over it.

C: Yan Gomes $4. I waited and waited, out of money for a long time, and then went on a streak picking up $4 players. Gomes was one of those. He’s the opposite of Grandal, and will have a poor to ghastly OBP. But he has 20+ homer potential if healthy, and he is healthy right now.

1B: Paul Goldschmidt $47. He was on my sheet at $54, so this feels like a bargain. The fact that Anthony Rizzo also went for $47 makes Goldy feel even cheaper.

3B: Manny Machado $37. In my pregame planning, I’d focused on guys I saw priced in the high $30s, like Machado and Kris Bryant, George Springer and Starling Marte. When Machado didn’t reach his price, I plucked him. There are some solid third basemen down the list, but also quite a few problematic ones. Getting the best, a mere child coming off a massive season, is a treat. Also, OBP hounds, like Machado and Goldschmidt, help offset a guy like Gomes.

CI: Chris Carter $2. His bad contact skills makes him problematic, but he will take walks and hit homers if he can figure out a way to get on the field again. Milwaukee is a team that should be ripe for opportunities, and $2 didn’t cost me elsewhere. If he flounders or loses his job, there will be someone else out there, maybe someone on my reserve.

2B: Dee Gordon $22. No, I don’t believe he’ll hit .333 again. No one does. But given his speed and contact skills he could hit .300. That doesn’t make him a big OBP contributor, but he shouldn’t hurt too badly. Of more concern are all the caught stealings. He’s not that efficient, but if he nets out at 40 or so I think I can live with that at this price.

SS: Brad Miller $3. With a Stars and Scrubs approach, you inevitably have some scrubs. The idea is get ones who have some potential to be really helpful, to ideally bloom on your watch. Miller isn’t a star about to bust out, but he should be a regular presence on the field who hits some homers and takes some walks, plus he will steal a few bases.

MI: Daniel Murphy $2. Another scrub, and one to monitor closely. He usually doesn’t have a lot of homer power or speed, doubles are his game, and he doesn’t walk as much as you would like. Probably fine as a fill in in the odd week, I hope he doesn’t end up spending too much time on my active roster, unless he plans on hitting a homer every day.

OF: Mike Trout $49. He was on my sheet at $51, and, as with Goldschmidt, I would have gladly taken him there or a few bucks higher. That’s the way to play it in shallow mixed leagues. I’m of two minds about whether I would like him to run more again. First mind says, sure! Load up on steals! Other mind says stop sliding headfirst! Stop running, hit more homers!

OF: Jay Bruce $4. This is where one pays for buying superstars. Bruce’s bad average and refusal to go the other way against the shift makes his okay walk rate a little dicey. I’m hoping that he figures things out, a way to compromise between his powerful younger self and his stubbornness of late, since there used to be a power hitter in there. In any case, rooting for a rebound, without a ton of confidence, and will be looking for a replacement. Now.

OF: Wil Myers $4. I had him targeted. He’s post hype at this point, and coming off tough wrist injuries. He could, to be honest, once again disappoint, but what if he gets healthy and reaches some part of his potential? We’re waiting, hoping, praying.

OF: Ender Inciarte $2. Waiting, waiting, gone. I didn’t think he’d come to me at $2, but no one raised, so here he is. The price justifies the buy, really. He’s a contact hitter with good wheels. He may not play against lefties, and that will be a good reason to check matchups closely each week, but at this price he should be a good contributor most weeks. At the same time, I’m hoping I end up not needing him.

OF: Jorge Soler $7. I had a couple of options at this price. Billy Hamilton went for $7 (steals were devalued generally), as did Billy Burns and Delino Deshields. I was looking for power, however, and those prices didn’t fall quite so much. There are some issues with Soler. He was fine last year, but not the explosive breakout the Cubs had hoped for. He’s now in a crowded situation and could platoon with Kyle Schwarber, not because he’s shown weakness either way, but because Schawarber may, and both need to play some. My feeling is that last year’s learning turns into this year’s realization, if the chances come his way. They may not.

UT: Nick Castellanos $2. He’s another young guy who has shown he can hit in the majors, but not yet at the level and with the power that was expected of him. Unlike Soler, he has a line on playing time. He’ll take a walk and I hope he hits more homers, but even if the power doesn’t erupt this yeara he should contribute solid production at a bargain basement price.

P: Jake Arrieta $28. I kept waiting for the price of one of the top line pitchers to drop, but none did. Arrieta was the last one out and he cost just as much as all the rest of them. I’m as happy to have him as any of them, he outearned Kershaw last year, but I would have preferred a little cheaper.

P: Jonathan Papelbon $6. I called him out at $6 and Paul Sporer said in a low voice, “$5.” The room cracked up and nobody had the nerve (or perhaps desire) to bump him. Crickets. Fine by me. He’s not a big strikeout guy anymore, but he’s got the job, it seems, and will earn saves as he has every year since forever. And he does strike guys out.

P: Taijuan Walker $3. He was a target for me because his numbers last year didn’t look that good, but he pitched much better after a rugged start to the season, is young and I would expect him to grow up to be the pitcher he was always expected to be. Maybe this year. He has a pretty good chance to break out, if he can keep the ball in the yard better.

P: David Robertson $11. I had him as the fifth best reliever, The ones ahead of him went for $20, $25, $17, and $8. Oops. Melancon was the $8 buy, and was perhaps punished for having a below-average K/9 and chatter that his job is not secure. Robertson’s job is secure and his ERA last year appears to be inflated by a less than normal strand rate. Now, that could be his fault, but since his velocity and control seem to be undiminished, I look for him to bounce back.

P: Trevor Rosenthal $8. Here’s my counterpart to Melancon, with many more strikeouts. He reined in some of his wildness, and the strikeout punch is still there. Looks like I have three closers.

P: Shelby Miller $2. Last year’s most unlucky breakout returns this year in a worse situation for a pitcher because of Chase Field, his new home. Chase is a bit of a help to lefty hitters and Miller has struggled slightly against lefties, but he has also been strong against righties throughout his career, and last year Chase played tough for righties. He probably won’t have quite as good an ERA this year, but he’s going to win more games. I’m sure of that.

P: Kevin Gausman $3. He has electric stuff at times, and hasn’t always known what to do with it, which has led to too many homers and too many runs. But he’s still learning his trade. More worrisome is shoulder tightness, which emerged on Sunday, after I bought him. He’s the former phenom most dissed this year, for not showing obvious improvement last year after a promising 2014. I see the electric stuff and say, I hope he figures out how to use it this year. There’s a pretty fair chance he will.

P. Brandon Finnegan $1. He showed flashes of dominance and vulnerability in his less than 50 innings in the majors last year, so he represents another flyer with upside potential. The biggest problem for him is his team, which isn’t very good and isn’t likely to get better this year. And his home ballpark is not a friendly one for pitchers, 12 percent more runs are scored there than the average NL park. There’s a good chance this pickup is a year early, but for $1 there’s a big payoff if the timing turns out to be right.

P. Hunter Strickland $1. I’ve been talking about him all winter as a breakout closer in San Francisco, if Santiago Casilla reverts to form (becomes an effective short man in the seventh and eighth innings) and the team prefers Sergio Romo in the eighth, where he has been brilliant most of his career (and very much so in the second half last year, after struggling early). Even if that doesn’t happen he should strike out lots of guys and serve as a replacement during certain weeks when other pitchers have tough matchups.

Reserve: Eddie Rosario. He’s not a huge guy, but the ball jumps off his bat and he’s fast. He makes decent contact, but doesn’t walk enough to help in OBP, which is why he lasted to the reserve round. Since his drug of abuse suspension a while back he’s make solid and consistent strides forward as a player. Here’s hoping that continues.

Reserve: Wilmer Flores. Power-hitting middle infielder who may start the year as the starter because Asdrubal Cabrera is hurt. But Cabrera will likely get healthy, and Flores isn’t a great defensive shortstop anyway. But perhaps more importantly he’s also the backup third baseman, behind the deteriorating David Wright. Not enough walks to use every week, probably, but potentially a lot more valuable with a change in role.

Reserve: Trea Turner. Speedy shortstop was expected to start the season with the Nats until they signed Daniel Murphy to play a position Murphy isn’t very good at, second base, and then hired the youth-phobic Dusty Baker to manage the team. Thus, Turner lasted to the third reserve round. High upside pick, but could end up in the minors for most of the year, too.

Reserve: Jared Eickhoff. He looked very solid in about 50 innings last summer for the Phillies, far better than he had at Triple-A Round Rock before his trade from the Rangers (for Cole Hamels). He wasn’t expected to be an ace, but he starts the season in the rotation coming off that excellent major league stint. He’s got a chance to contribute to my team, because the strikeouts are there.

Reserve: Jesse Hahn. Was pretty solid until he was shut down in August with forearm and shoulder tightness. He says he’s scrapping the slider and will go with more change ups, which could make him a better pitcher or could turn him into a batting practice pitcher. I’m not worried, he’s on reserve.

Reserve: Matt Adams. For now, he’s my power-hitting alternative to Chris Carter and Nick Castellanos. He has to fight his way through a crowd, but don’t expect him to gather any moss.

How is this team? I really have no idea. I haven’t played a 12-team mixed in 13 years, and mocks don’t count for this.

I like my power, like my youth, think I have speed but that’s all relative (meaning it may not be enough), have lots of potential power pitching and good relievers. I look at my opponents and I’m glad that they don’t have Trout, Goldschmidt and Machado, nor Gordon, but they all have some talented players.

I’m looking forward to the start of the games.

 

Tout Wars: What Happened?

The Dark Other Side of My Worst Year Yet.

RotomanWhat HappenedIt’s recap time, which is a bummer. Unlike Mike Gianella, whose graceful recap of his Tout Wars championship season is delightful and wise, finishing at the back end of the standings can feel existential. As in “why am I all alone here?”

This year was particularly so, because after the auctions in both Tout Wars and the American Dream League, when I checked the projected standings, I was told I would come in last. This didn’t bother me, at the time, because I had a high-variance strategy. High variance means if things go badly, my team will be terrible, but also that the ingredients are there for a few things to go well and the team to be very competitive.

In both Tout Wars and the American Dream League the high variance came from trying to put together the Perfect Pitching Staff, as I described in a series of pieces last year. The idea is to spend the least in pitching, the most in hitting, and still have a good shot at putting together a competitive staff.

In short, create a strong foundation with an anchor and a closer, then grab the strongest pitchers you can in the $1 to $5 range to fill in. Then add more pitchers in the reserve rounds. It is out of the ranks of the $1 to $5 and undrafted pitchers that some of the biggest bargains come. It is also out of the attractive pitchers priced in the teens that some of the biggest busts come. Avoid busts, hit on a bargain or two and with a solid ace and a solid closer you have the makings of a very competitive and bargain-priced (overall) pitching staff.

In 2014 this worked reasonably well. In the ADL I finished second, just out of first, while in Tout Wars I finished badly, but that was not because of my pitching, but rather because my high-priced hitters all got hurt. Here’s what happened in 2015.

While working through my price lists in March, in preparation for my auctions, I convinced myself that in the past I had too casually blown past my carefully-honed prices. Out of an overpay of a dollar here or a dollar there, I basically ended up overpaying for the guys I liked who someone else liked, too. This could work, of course, but it decreased my chances of finding the real bargains, which are the guys I liked that no one else liked. Based on this observation, and with a desire to do things a little differently, I committed to sticking to my prices. I wouldn’t go over them until I really had to.

Note, that my price lists added up to exactly $3120, the amount available to spend. Note also that I gave 70 percent to the hitting side, 30 percent to the pitching in Tout Wars, which has been the split in recent years.

In Tout Wars, which auctioned on March 22nd, Tristan Cockcroft threw out Max Scherzer for $30. I had $31 on my sheet. I wasn’t surprised by Tristan’s gambit (though I expected it would be Kershaw), but I didn’t go the extra dollar because I didn’t want to define my team so decisively so immediately. Big mistake.

Next out was Kershaw, nominated by Mike Gianella (who sat next to Tristan so he could throw out the big starter that Tristan didn’t). With the bidding at $37, again right below my bid limit, I stopped, with the mistaken belief that I would find a better bargain in the next group,  which included Wainwright, Bumgarner, Strasburg, Greinke and Arrieta.

I look back now and, apart from Wainwright’s injury and Strasburg’s bad first half, these guys were bargains, and therein lay my mistake. Prices be damned, if I was going to execute my plan I needed one of these guys.

And when I didn’t I needed to pivot and do a better job of accumulating other pitchers. The reason to stay away from pitchers priced in the teens is because they can be such big busts, but the odds that some of them will be big earners is better than it is for the cheapies. Here, my inflexibility hurt me.

So too, perhaps, did the fact that Tout teams spent a little more on pitching than usual, spending 31.2 percent.

All the pitchers I was high on in the middling group went for more than my bid prices.  I bid my price and someone went one more and I decided to wait for the next. Until there were none left.

Shoulders not strong enough to carry entire staff.
Shoulders not strong enough to carry entire staff.

At which point I had the Braves saves (Craig Kimbrel) and the Mets saves (Jenry Mejia and Bobby Parnell) and had to do something. Still, I maintained my pricing discipline to the bitter end, letting all sorts of good cheap pitchers go because I had them for $1 and they went to $2. I ended up with Matt Cain for $9 (my max price for a guy who I thought could bounce back, but who couldn’t) and Jose Fernandez for $9 (a fair price for half a season of an ace, only he got hurt again), plus Tsuyoshi Wada and Mike Minor (both also on the DL), and Tom Kohler, my ace.

The good thing, of course, was that I had a killer offense, except, Anthony Rendon went down and Tulowitzki and McCutchen got off to bad starts, and even with a great season from Gerardo Parra and productivity from Wil Venable, I had no excess from which to deal.

And yet, all was not a disaster. At some point over the summer I crawled up to sixth place. I was no threat to fifth place, but I was close to 60 points, and ahead of more teams than I was behind. I had Jose Fernandez, pitching lights out, but because I had been so far behind in ERA and WHIP earlier in the year, I had continued to throw as many terrible two-start pitchers (the only available ones) as I could find, to try and hang in in Wins and Strikeouts.

That made Fernandez  trade bait. In fact, I made a deal to trade him, a deal for two closers, the night in early August he got hurt again. I emailed my trading partner, offering him an out, and he took it. We called off the trade.

After that the slide was inexorable. I tried to stream two-start pitchers and ended up owning almost all of the young Cincinnati starters except the good one. That didn’t matter, because I was dead in ERA and WHIP, but soon I was also dead in Wins and Strikeouts. Bad pitching doesn’t get many of those.

And Tulo in Toronto was not an offensive force, Ryan Braun (who the radio guys after the auction criticized, but who had a great season) got hurt, yadda yadda yadda. Whatever.

I screwed up the auction royally. I had a high variance strategy that instead of excellent or awful had at it’s end points (due to miserable execution) mediocre and miserable. That’s the end of the story.

 

 

 

ASK ROTOMAN: Is Jake Elmore Perfect?

Hi.

This could be a dumb one but I cant find the answer anywhere. Last week I picked up Jake Elmore. In his first game he went 1 for 1 giving him a batting average of 1.000 on that particular day. If I don’t play him again and remove him from my roster do I retain that batting average towards the category? There’s nothing in my league settings that states you have to use a player a minimum amount of times. Is this a loophole that could be used towards batting average and also ERA and WHIP for pitchers? I really don’t want to question my Commissioner in case I have stumbled onto an advantage. I’m a first time player so I hope I’m not coming across as an idiot. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

“Idiot Wind”

Dear IW:

jakeelmoretwitterThe short answer is that without knowing your league rules, it’s hard to say exactly what having a 1-1 Jake Elmore means.

What can be said with certainty is that your ignorant question goes to the very heart of fantasy game theory when the game is played with category rankings.

That’s because one maximizes the qualitative categories (BA, OBP, ERA, WHIP) by reducing the number of AB or IP relative to productive evens (Hits for hitters, Outs for pitchers) by reducing the number of AB and IP, trying to prune away the bad ones and focus on the productive ones.

jakeelwoodFor instance, a pitching roster of middle relievers would almost certainly win ERA and WHIP, but would do very poorly in Wins, WHIP, and Strikeouts, the quantitative categories.

The challenge of Rotisserie style scoring is to find the balance between these two inexorable and mostly contradictory forces, though the challenge was reduced as the game moved from 4×4 (in which 37.5 percent of the categories were qualitative) to 5×5 (in which they are 30 percent). Still, in recent years a lot of roto thought has turned on how to take advantage of strong middle relievers in 5×5.

Still, it’s hard to see the advantage you’re going to get out of a 1 for 1 performance by Elmore. That’s just one of thousands of at bats your team is going to accumulate over the course of the season, which makes it the smallest of advantages possible.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

ASK ROTOMAN: Dump Power?

Rotoman:

5X5 , NL only, 10 team auction league. Have rule where we can keep toppers and at draft can keep them if we bid one more dollar where bidding stops. Am thinking about punting HRs and RBIs.

Have Grenke, Wainwright, Bumgarner, A.Wood, Wacha, all as toppers. Have deGrom at $10, Melencon at $5, Cishek at $17, and hitters Span, Revere, Carpenter, D. Murphy, J. Upton, Polonco, E. Young all as toppers. Suggestions on punting HRs and RBIs and are toppers worth keeping?

“Topper”

Dear Top:

I have one point. Toppers are fun, but they are almost never bargains.

The process of topping in your league turns a 10-team auction into a nine-team auction. That should make little difference, if any, on the prices paid for players in your auction.

This is important because it means you should not plan your auction strategy around your Topper list. Feel to hold onto as many Toppers as you’re allowed. Sometimes the bidding will stop early and you’ll save a buck or two, but more often, at least in the leagues I play in, someone else will bid the extra dollar, knowing that it makes the Topping decision that much harder.

It is your keepers that should determine your how you approach your auction.

deGrom at $10 is a decent keep. Melancon at $5 is a very good one. Cishek at $17 is keepable, but he’s no bargain. Your strength going into auction is that you won’t need to buy any saves.

Your weakness is that you’re going to have to buy everything else. Which brings us to your second question: Should you dump power? Or, as we say, should you Sweeney?

Screenshot 2015-03-05 08.38.43The decision to dump one category, much less two, is predicated on the competitiveness of your league. In a league where all the teams are relatively equal, the expected total points of the winning team will be relatively modest. In that case, dumping may be a way gain an advantage. Win the eight categories other than HR and RBI, you end up with 82 points, which can win a competitive league.

Is that the situation in your league? There’s no way I can know that.

What I can say for sure is that the best time to Sweeney is when you have great closer keepers, and an otherwise weak hand. That’s you, though I would say your closer keepers are just okay, since Cishek is at market value. Still, that’s a fair place to start.

The Sweeney Plan was invented in a 4×4 league. It is very hard to dump HR and RBI and win the Runs category. Here’s why:

Screenshot 2015-03-05 08.14.30Carpenter, Span, Reyes and Yelich didn’t hit that many homers, but they didn’t score that many runs either, compared to the leaders. Nine of the top 11 positions in this list of major league runs leaders went to guys who get paid to hit homers.

Fantasy experts generally say, Never dump a category in the auction! Never!

I’m a little less doctrinaire than that. There are times it makes sense to face reality before you auction. But I’m not sure it ever makes sense to Sweeney in the auction in 5×5, at least if you are trying to win. There’s just too thin a margin for error for the Sweeney to make sense.

Since your team is wide open, since your keeper list is weak, it makes sense for you to look for a competitive edge. I would suggest deemphasizing batting average. Not dumping, exactly, but disregarding BA as a category when you’re evaluating players.

Try to accumulate as many at bats as you can, getting regulars at every hitting slot. In your league, look for top of the lineup types who aren’t stars, obviously.

You’ll still have a tough road ahead. I’m sure you have competitors with much better freeze lists going in. But if you are able to buy enough at bats and a couple of those guys have career years, especially with the batting average, well, ya never know.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

 

 

 

ASK ROTOMAN: Getting Ahead in Head 2 Head

Dear Rotoman:

I have played in a head to head league on CBS sports for the past five years.  The first year, I followed fantasy advice and skewed heavily towards hitters rather than pitchers.  I got destroyed that year.

Mat_Latos_01In this league, pitchers go first and often.  By the time I started drafting pitchers I was left with Mat Latos, Kyle Lohse, and downwards from there.  The best teams in the league had 12 starts for their pitchers each week because they had so many pitchers, while I had 5-8 starts.

Since then, I have sought the best bat available in the 1st round, two aces in rounds 2-3, and a decent player with position scarcity in round 4.  In the next 18 rounds, I target middling pitching, youth (ages 25-32) and OBP.  I don’t draft relievers until late and usually punt 2nd base and catcher.

Any ideas how I can improve my draft philosophy this year?

“Trying To Get Head 2 Head”

Dear Trying:

I guess after taking the standard fantasy advice, things didn’t go much better the next four years. Am I right? So you’re back.

I will not give you standard head 2 head advice, because you didn’t tell me your scoring system, so I can’t get to much into that. But I do have some suggestions I’m sure are worth taking a look at.

Take A Look At History: If the team that wins every year takes an ace starter early, and teams that don’t take an ace starter struggle, it’s probably worth giving the winning way a try. Not only will you end up with a better pitcher than usual, but your opponents will end up with lower-ranked pitchers in their later slots.

Take A Look At Categories: Different providers have different point values for different stats, so it is dangerous to get too specific about values from provider to provider. But CBSsports has a good stat download service, allowing you to download last year’s stats (I think) and definitely this year’s projections. You can then multiply the category values  by the player’s stats or projections in a spreadsheet, add them up, and see which players have real value across the season. One reason starting pitching often has a extra value is because points are given for a Win and a Quality Start and Strikeouts. That makes an ace on a good team a huge contributor when he pitches. Closers usually get a nice bump for a Save, too, though you can often find guys who get saves in the later rounds.

Take The Best Player Available: In auction leagues, you can concoct different strategies for your team by deciding how to budget your money, but in a draft league you want to focus on the best available player with each pick. Early on this is easy, the only questions will be whether you should take players at the less hitting-rich positions ahead of similarly rated guys at 1B and the OF. The answer is almost always yes, but you should always be looking at your next two picks, trying to find the best available talent for those two spots combined. I’m not sure how you’re dumping 3B and C, but my guess is that at some point you’d be better off taking better guys at those positions and scrambling at the end for your last outfielder.

Take Fun Guys Late: The last few rounds are the time to look for high upside risky players. There will always be boring productive guys on your waiver wire, so use those last spots to take erratic starters with high strikeout rates, and the home run hitting prospect who may not be called up until June, or the overall bum who has amazing splits against lefties or righties (or maybe at home versus the road). These types will vary depending on the size of your league and how aggressively owners chase this sort of talent. Just remember that you don’t have to be the most aggressive to score big here, if you study up before your draft.

The bottom line is that you’re going to win if your accumulate the most talent, so the only trick is knowing who has the most talent so that you make the best pick each time your turn comes. Good luck.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature