Rotoman’s Tout Wars Wipe Out

Today my Tout Wars team lost Troy Tulowitzki for the rest of the season. In an OBP league, as Tout is, he’s earned close to the $29 I paid for him, so this doesn’t count as tragedy. And I got him for $29 because he hasn’t been the most durable player over the years.

But if you read this piece I posted the other day at ToutWars.com you’ll see that losing Tulo wasn’t half my problems. Note that since I posted Andrew McCutchen went on the DL as well.

It was a fun run, and I just hope I can stay in the fight for fourth.

Tout Wars NL: I Made A Trade

Work on the Fantasy Football Guide 2014 hasn’t distracted me from my fantasy baseball teams, but it has distracted from writing about it. Last weekend I made a trade with Phil Hertz in Tout Wars NL that might be of interest.

Background: Tout is using OBP instead of BA this year, as we’ve talked about, and in the auction I decided to treat OBP as a more reliable category than BA. So, when Joey Votto was nominated first I bought him, for $5 below my bid max on him (but for $4 more than his BA bid price was). But it turns out no one else was willing to pay the full premium on OBP, so after Votto I kept getting decent OBP guys for BA par prices. Bargains every one, in a sense.

The Problem: I have an awesome team of stars, but early in the season many of my scrubs didn’t play much. Plus Ryan Zimmerman got hurt. I trail in at bats by a huge amount, but am competitive (barely) in the quantitative stats. And I have a big lead in OBP. I needed to convert that OBP lead into hard hitting assets.

What Happened: Phil Hertz has suffered a horrendous run of injuries to his corners. He sent an email last Saturday asking for a corner in exchange for an outfielder. I said I had Votto, who has been on the DL with a bad knee (the same knee he had multiple surgeries on before) and it was announced would not be back this Saturday (31st), when he was eligible. I sent a note to Phil saying I had Votto and in the right circumstances would trade him, but given his injury wasn’t sure what the market was. I said I’d consider an offer.

Next: Phil offered Matt Holliday, who has a decent walk rate, but doesn’t have as much power as Votto. Given the injury risk it was a fair deal, but the problem for me was that Holliday was kind of a Votto lite. He’d protect my OBP, but I couldn’t expect more homers from him if both he and Votto were healthy. In fact, I had to assume I’d lose homers. Not a bad deal for injury mitigation, but not a deal that addressed my needs.

Counter: I told Phil I would make the deal for Jay Bruce. Bruce hasn’t had the on base skills of Votto, but he’s hit more homers. And he’s stolen more bases, especially more than a knee-sore Votto would. So, more quantitative numbers in exchange for a way better OBP hitter with health issues. It was easy for me to say yes. For Phil, who is close to the OBP bottom, Votto may come with some risk, but he brings huge rewards if he stays healthy. You can count on OBP, it is a skill.

The Tickler: Phil asked for $3 FAAB to offset the injury risk. I thought the deal was fair as it was and said so, but countered by offering him $1 FAAB. He accepted. Deal.

Conclusion: My hope had been, before Votto got hurt, to deal him in June to a team at the bottom of the OBP pack for two more productive quantitative players. In other words, trade OBP for AB. But when Votto got hurt, and when the Reds started saying that he might not be 100 percent all year, I thought it made more sense to go for a power hitter now.

Jay Bruce: One problem, of course, is that Bruce isn’t acting like a power hitter at all this year. He’s hitting more grounders, has only hit three homers. Oh, he’s sucked. I call this buying low. He’s a 27 year old power hitter. If he’d been himself Phil wouldn’t have traded him. I think.

But I’m scared, of course, because Votto could get healthy quickly (he played catch today!) and he’s a better hitter than Bruce. And something could be wrong with Bruce.

Of course it could. Bring it on.

How’m I Doing? The End of April Report

I’m playing in three leagues this year. Tout Wars NL, American Dream League AL, XFL Mixed. This is about as close as I’ll get to the ideal of putting all one’s eggs in one basket, where attention is focused and mistakes hurt all season long.

So, how are things going?

TOUT WARS NL

The standings are bleak, and they’re not getting any better. Well, I did climb into 10th place last night, thanks to Todd’s nightmare.

Screenshot 2014-04-30 11.54.42

You can see all the league details here.

I went with an extreme Stars and Scrubs strategy here, and a pitching staff of Bumgarner, Rafael Soriano and a bunch of cheap guys. The hitting has not been helped by Ryan Zimmerman’s injury, and as expected picking up productive hitters via FAAB has not been easy. Tony Campana has helped with four steals. Otherwise, not so much from anyone.

The good news is that Nate McLouth should see more playing time due to Bryce Harper’s surgery, and I have an insane cushion in OBP. The question coming out of the auction was whether I would be able to deal OBP for productive hitters in other categories. It’s still too early to judge, but if I’m going to climb out of this hole it will be because someone saw lots of value in Joey Votto.

The other good news is that the pitching staff has been pretty good, despite their pathetic standing in WHIP. Cheap guys out of the draft, Wily Peralta and Tanner Roark, have been good. So has cheap FAAB pickup Alfredo Simon. Bumgarner’s WHIP has been a big problem, as has Edwin Jackson’s performance overall, though that has improved lately. There’s work to be done here, but if Jake Arrieta isn’t bad and Andrew Heaney shows up in June, there is some potential to be a pretty good staff.

Getting off to a bad start is a problem. It makes it more difficult to maneuver, and puts pressure on that leads to mistakes. My week by week finishes (11, 10, 10, 3) show some improvement. There is still lots of time, if I make the right moves.

AMERICAN DREAM LEAGUE

I’ve been in first or second all season thus far.

Screenshot 2014-04-30 12.10.51

I came out of the auction thinking I had a pretty strong team, both offensively and in pitching. Until last week I was languishing in homers, however, but then Kyle Seager busted out, and things are okay there.

Where I am suffering right now is stolen bases, despite having guys like Alex Rios, Shin Soo Choo, Erick Aybar, and Ian Kinsler. And wasn’t Eric Hosmer supposed to run a little, too? The problem is that all my speed guys are pushing into their thirties, so it shouldn’t be a surprise they’ve slowed down some. I’m going to need to do something about that.

Especially because I didn’t buy a closer, despite intentions to. I did buy Matt Thornton, as a CIW, and scored, sort of. He’s saved three games, which is better than nothing, but obviously if I don’t add steals I’m going to need to trade some speed for saves. It’s going to take a lot of luck to improve in both categories.

Last week was a rough one, because I lost Chris Sale and Shin Soo Choo for extended period, and dropped into second place. Shoo came back last night, and Sale is expected next week, probably. This team has broad enough talent that I should be able to compete, but it’s still early. Plenty more could go wrong.

XFL

This odd mixed league, with an auction in November and a 17-round reserve draft in March, is a keeper league. Alex Patton and I are co-owners.

Right now we have a strong offense, but have been hobbled by our big three starters, Jordan Zimmerman, Jered Weaver and Mike Minor. We also have a team construction problem. Since these guys aren’t big strikeout guys, and we’re playing three closers, we can’t really compete in strikeouts.

This being a mixed league (15 teams), the success of the secondary starters is very important and we’ve not gotten much out of Jenry Mejia, Felix Doubront, Jarred Cosart and some others. Henderson Alvarez has been excellent, but it’s hard to expect him to continue on this level.

This is a league in which teams play to win, and when that is clearly not in the cards they trade for next year’s keepers. We’re in poor enough shape to have started to think about the next step, but we have so much talent it’s hard to embrace failure so soon. Alex is chomping to make changes, I’m keeping my fingers crossed. But losing Archie Bradley is not a harbinger.

Screenshot 2014-04-30 12.25.56

Link: Rotoman on BaseballHQ Radio

Patrick Davitt is a fantastic interviewer, which makes me feel just a little smart or witty or whatever I’m going for when he has me on. I’m on this week, talking about Tout, Doubt and JD Bolick’s Guide to Fantasy Prospects, which my ebook company, Booknoise, published recently.

In my picks and pans at the end of the program I demonstrated my perverse fixation on the Twins this season.

Brain Walton On Doubt Wars! Sign Up Soon!

We’re running a contest over at toutwars.com. You shadow draft an AL, NL and/or Mixed Doubt Wars team based on the prices paid in last weekend’s Tout Wars auctions plus $1.

Brian Walton of Mastersball explains it all in his story here.

Come play with us!

Let Me Count The Ways.

Screenshot 2014-03-24 10.38.34 In my prep for Tout Wars this year, the biggest question was what sort of impact the switch to On Base Percentage from Batting Average was going to have.

After all, we have years of creating player values based on BA and some players change value quite a lot–up and down–with the change. Mike Gianella said he didn’t think prices would change much, while my research showed that players who walked a lot saw a big increase in value. Why wouldn’t prices go up? Especially since a player’s walk rate is relatively predictable compared to batting average.

I decided to price the top OBP guys a step lower than my calculated price for them using OBP, deciding to buy whoever I was able to buy under my listed price. The idea being that I would buy bargains, and if guys like Joey Votto and Andrew McCutchen didn’t get the full bump up in price they logically should have, then they represented real bargains.

That is what happened.

THE STARS

Early in the draft, I just kept buying. Votto came out first. I had him on my sheet at $39, but he was the player with the biggest OBP value because of his incredible eye. I bid $38 and won him. We were off. ($paid/$budget)

Joey Votto, $38/$39. The premier OBP player. I couldn’t let him go to someone else for $37. I couldn’t. And maybe he’ll have a few more runners in scoring position, if the $22 Billy Hamilton proves a bargain.

Andrew McCutchen, $38/$40. The premier OBP outfielder. Remember, I considered these bid prices to be fairly conservative.

Hanley Ramirez, $30/$36. Big OBP boost, yet he went for his 5x5BA price. The big thing is he’s one of 10 good shortstops.

Troy Tulowitzki, $30/$36. I was ecstatic about adding the top two shortstops, both with no bump up of price for their good OBP skills. Each brings a certain amount of injury risk and a certain amount of ability to produce big numbers in limited playing time.

Madison Bumgarner, $25/$26. The pitching prices were pretty fair. My plan was to buy one ace or maybe two near aces. I did not want to get caught up buying midlevel guys. Buy a closer, and then round out the rotation and the reserve list with <$5 guys. I chose Bumgarner, though when Jordan Zimmermann went for $18 I regretted not taking him and Matt Cain, who went for $20. Those were the two best bargains by my lights. But that would have driven up my pitching budget a little. My goal was to spend as little on pitching as I could get away with, and use the extra dough for hitting.

Ryan Zimmerman, $24/$30. I was kicking myself for letting David Wright go at $29 (I had him at $33), but I decided I couldn’t buy them all. Still, that was an excellent price. But I also knew that after Wright and Zimmerman the NL third basemen are a motley group. Who is Chase Headley? How long can Aramis Ramirez last? Is Pablo Sandoval going to show up? Can Pedro Alvarez make enough contact? There are a few guys eligible at both second and third, like Martin Prado and Matt Carpenter, who are less dicey if not much more talented. And that’s it. The bidding on Zimmerman made it easy. He went for his BA price, but he’s a OBP contributor.

Martin Prado, $22/$23. At this point I didn’t need Martin Prado necessarily, but I did need a second baseman, and I liked that Prado qualified at both second and third. But I didn’t really think I was getting him. Usually the bidding moves quickly until it slows, and then it inches forward a few more dollars. In this case, there was a flurry and didn’t expect my bid to stand, but suddenly the room went quiet.

Yasmani Grandal, $10/$11. We really don’t know what Grandal can be, because of the injuries and drug suspensions, but we do know he’ll take a base on balls. Catcher is a position that drops off so suddenly that I prefer to not scrape the bottom of the barrel (though that works sometimes). I had identified Grandal as a guy with a strong OBP, which should be a plus even if he doesn’t play as much as I hope he does.

Ryan Doumit, $7/$9. He should play regularly, has some power, and was relatively inexpensive. Only a star in comparison to my scrubs.

Rafael Soriano, $13/$13. I never used to buy closers because I thought they were overpriced, which works out great if you’re able to pick off one of the closers that emerge early in the year. But if you miss out on that, not buying a closer means that if any other category becomes an issue, you’re suddenly tanking two, which is not a very comfortable position to be in. So last year I bought a closer, but Kyuji Fujikawa fell apart shortly after gaining the role. I’m hoping Soriano fares better. He’s certainly better established, though he struggled at times last year.

SCRUB HITTERS

Nate McLouth, $5/$11. His batting average hurts you in the BA game, but in OBP his value increases. He set a career high in steals last year, but is devalued because he’s getting older. I’m hoping for 450 at bats, with some homers. I’ve seen projections for 250 AB, but why sign him for two years if that’s the expectation? At this price, he fit my team.

Gregor Blanco, $2/$8. He doesn’t have much power, but he runs and he takes walks, so whatever his batting average he contributes. Like McLouth, he’s not a regular but should fill in regularly and put up 400 at bats or so.

Brian Bogusevic, $1/$1. He bats lefty, and could get a fair amount of play until Marcel Ozuna is called up. He has a little power and speed, and I certainly hope I can improve on him soon.

Derek Dietrich, $1/$4. Earlier last week I mocked him. He doesn’t have the contact skills to hit for a high average, but he does have some power and, more importantly, he seems to be ahead of Donovan Solano on the Marlins’ depth chart backing up Rafael Furcal. What I wasn’t aware of was that he took a ball in the face last week and suffered a fracture, which will have him wearing a plastic face guard for some time.

Kris Bryant, $1/R1. I’m not convinced he’s going to hit, at least not at first, but he was the blue chip third base prospect available in dollar days. There will be some guys available on waivers to replace him. The biggest issue is that I also took a minor league pitcher as Swingman, and with four reserve slots it will be a challenge to manage this productively.

SCRUB PITCHERS

Wily Peralta, $4/$5. Hard-throwing sinkerballer hasn’t put it together yet, which is why he was available for $4. At this part of the auction I was looking for arms that might get a fair number of innings with some potential to break out or surprise a little. If Peralta realizes a bit of his potential he’ll be a big plus for my team.

Tanner Roark, $3/$7. This was a tough situation. I really wanted Jenry Mejia, but I had no way to gauge the temperature of the room. I had Roark ranked similarly, which was high enough to expect half a year of solid pitching with questions about his role to start the season. He’s had a good spring, and I’m hoping to hit with all my lottery tickets.

Vic Black, $2/$2. A good young arm is the likely Closer in Waiting to Bobby Parnell. This was off plan, but seemed like a good bet despite his bad spring.

Jake Arrieta, $1/$4. My AL-only friends will tell you how long I’ve been waiting on Arrieta. He pitched pretty well once he landed in Chicago and the National League last year, but was cheap because there isn’t a clear rotation slot for him.

Edwin Jackson, $1/$2. His FIP has been below 4.00 forever, while the ERA bounced around. Not an elite strikeout guy, but good enough to earn some profits.

Freddy Garcia, $1/$1. There really isn’t much justification for this pick here, except that he pitched well in short spurts last year, especially in the NL, and has a shot at the rotation in Atlanta to start the season. But realistically he’s a placeholder, especially since he was released while I was writing this.

Paul Maholm, $1/$1. Another back of the rotation veteran starter, though he has the first third of an inning pitched for my team in relief, down under, and has delivered a 0.00 ERA. Obviously, I hope one of these three veterans comes through.

Andrew Heaney, $1/Res. High upside arm, will start the year in the minors. It’s going to be hard to hang onto him and Kris Bryant on reserve, as I try to improve me team, but after a good spring, he’s a fair shot at a callup in June. He’s got great stuff and could succeed immediately.

RESERVES

Arodys Vizcaino. Another great arm, he’s coming back from TJ two years ago and is almost ready.

Will Smith. I love his arm and he showed last year that he can pitch, at least out of the pen. Not sure about the role going forward, but he’ll throw lots of strikeouts and has the potential to push himself forward.

A.J. Cole. He was brilliant in Double-A last year, and it’s hard to see a clear line to the majors right now, but he’s a big mature-for-his-age talent.

Tyler Colvin. I circled Pedro Strop on my sheet, but when it was my turn I called Colvin. He’s really a bad player, but both times I’ve had him he’s been a big money maker. A bad player having a bad spring is not an inspiration, but rarely is a fourth round reserve an inspiration.

DO I LIKE MY TEAM?

It’s hard not to like all those stars, and while it wasn’t my plan to buy them all, I did go in aware that this might happen.

And I’m not unhappy with the outfielders. They are a serviceable lot considering the strength of my middle infield.

The challenge will be to convert the “undervalued” OBP into counting stats and at bats, plus improving the pitching staff. If one or two of these guys doesn’t end up pitching well, I’m going to have to find some value out there by trade or FAAB.

In other words, I have a valuable and solid foundation, but there is a lot of work to do to get the structure built.

LINK: OBP’S Lawr

Mastersball.com’s Lawr Michaels tackles on-base percentage, as Tout Wars’ AL and NL leagues transition to the greatest stat ever! Um, to a better stat than Batting Average. Read it here.

LINK: Tout Wars Mixed Draft Results

A spreadsheet of the draft results and eventually, hopefully, transcripts of the chat room, are available at http://www.toutwars.com/?p=2446.

In The News: Lord Zola Proclaims 2-20-14

Todd Zola and I were members of the alt.rec.fantasy.baseball usenet group back when George Clinton was president. We knew what was coming.

And now, today, umpteen years later, we both published charts linking draft order to auction prices, which seems to be the new orange. Make of it what you will.

I think Todd’s story does a fine job pointing out that using ADP for your mixed draft analysis is not enough. And I’m happy to embrace Todd’s perfectly independently concluded idea that draft value is akin to auction value.

FWIW Todd and I are talking about sharing data and working on some new ideas, too.

Doings Over at Tout Wars

If you missed them, Doubt Wars final standings are posted over at ToutWars.com.

Perhaps more importantly, the Leaderboards have been been updated to include the 2013 results. Larry Schechter has increased his wide lead in lifetime earnings. I decided to make the default sort the career earnings, since that is the goal all of us aspire to.

Jeff Erickson says the Leaderboard page is the best argument for reading Schechter’s book. I agree, but can also say while in the midst of reading the book that the book recommends itself. He’s done a really great job of being informative, straightforward, sophisticated and clear. You can order it here: