TOMORROW�S NEWS TODAY [And what really happened]

It is just midnight, on Sunday. Twelve hours before the Tout Wars NL: Battle of Experts auction. I�m sitting in my office. My story for the Tout Wars website is due today, and when I wake up in the morning my butt is going to the Meadowlands, within view of fabled Giants Stadium, to draft my Tout Wars team. Is that a conflict, or what?

[It is now 9pm on Sunday night. My Tout Wars team has been drafted. I say “my” team because I’m the lead drafter, but Alex Patton and I, with our cohort Mike Fenger, are splitting duties for our LABR and Tout Wars drafts. Alex was the lead drafter for LABR. We did some small consultations before the drafts and these are our teams. But I’m writing this because this team reflects my idea. The following that isn’t in brackets was written last night at midnight. The stuff in brackets was written post draft. And, I hope, explains what happened. This isn’t just about who we got and why. There is a slightly larger point, about the best laid plans and the strategies that inspire them.]

Well, rather than write some sort of considered strategy piece, or talk about the vagaries of �Expert� Play, I thought it might be most pleasant to preview the RotoTouts.com 2002 Tout Wars NL team.

What? How can you do that, you ask? The auction doesn�t happen for twelve hours?

Well, I say, prices are prices, and I spent more hours at www.toutwars.com today following the AL draft than I�m willing to admit to myself, much less my wife. The result? Oh, there was some wild play. Trace Wood spent the first few rounds setting up a bodacious 5×5 Sweeney, then spent the rest of the draft buying cheap and dubious power (and some starters).

Ron Shandler confounded the multitudes by taking the least Lima-like of all hurlers, Doug Davis. [Ron said later, “Davis is trending LIMA.”]

But, for all the fireworks, in general the prices were fair and moderate and could be anticipated. Of the aberrations, the most talked about big bid was Johnny Damon for $36.

Now Damon for $36 wasn�t news a year ago, because he was coming off a $51 year. But this year, after Damon was one of the big crashes of 2001 (he earned $15), his price suggested to me a strategy� �Buy the bombers,� and I�m not talking about those from the Bronx.

So, I�ve put together a squad of players, all of whom did worse in 2001 than they did in 2000. The idea is that most of them will regress toward the mean [Mike Fenger suggests the team be called Progress to the Mean], meaning they should, on the whole, do better this year than last. And most will come at a discount, because what roto player would want to overpay for guys coming off bad years?

So, let me introduce the 2002 RotoTouts.com team, subject to change, of course. I do have alternatives, because I know that out on the draft floor I’m not always going to be able to choose with whom I dance.


Jason Kendall $19: The prices are what I think I�ll be able to get these guys for. They represent a combination of LABR, my 5×5 prices and, sometimes, wishful thinking. I�ve always wanted to have Kendall on my team, and this year he could be cheap.

Todd Hundley $6: If I priced Kendall $1 higher than his LABR price, I�ve dropped Hundley two because of the risk. A bum player in 4×4 costs you production. In 5×5 he sinks your squad.

[Circumstances–primarily the purchase of Albert Pujols, who didn’t fit the model at all, but who went for a rather reasonable $28–meant that I had to save money somewhere. I decided to target Charles Johnson ($11) instead of Kendall. And I did get Hundley for $6. They both certainly had bad campaigns in 2001, yet for a total of $28 they were the TW-winning Wise Guys’ backstops.]

First Base

Mike Fenger, the third cabeza at RotoTouts.com, lives in San Francisco and reports that Jeff Kent ($25) is doing well. A little discount is appreciated. I don�t worry about him bouncing back from last year�s slide. If he repeats I�ll be overjoyed, and I appreciate the chance that he might do better.

Eric Karros ($9) was one of my bete noirs last year. I figure he owes me, with a nice price to boot. But if I don�t get him for $9 I�ll gladly take someone else, like Fernando Tatis.

[Jeff Kent was another victim of Pujols, I guess. His price was right, but at that point in the auction I was struggling for stolen bases, and didn’t want to drop another $20+ bid on another power hitter. I did bid the $23 penultimate bid. Karros went for $11 late, and at that point I wasn’t interested in a guy Patton said hadn’t played in any games this spring. Instead I ended up with Travis Lee ($13), a 27-year-old post-hype bum, according to Alex. His whole career has been a series of trashed expectations, though last year was an up year for him.]

Second Base

Eric Young ($20) is one of my favorite players, for a variety of reasons that I�ve written about in the past. This is a nice price that may not get him. He cost $21 in LABR, but should be worth less in 5×5.

[He should be worth less, but the price shot right up to $21–I bid the $20. I let him go for reasons I’m less than clear on now. I think Furcal and DeShields and maybe Luis Castillo were still out there. In the bar, afterward, there was some talk that this was one of the better prices in a very tough draft. As things turned out I wish I’d gone to $22, though I’m far from certain that would have won Young for me.

As it turned out, at 2B I ended up with Marcus Giles. He was the first name thrown out after the second break, and he was the last good player available. I thought I’d won him at $14, but Matt Carter called out $15. I quickly said $16 and there was a faint raise to $17. I knew I’d win with the next bid, and I did. I now need Marcus to be way better than I ever expected him to be this year. In the endgame, with only one dollar per player, I won Keith Ginter. It’s like getting a reserve player early.]

Rafael Furcal ($23) is coming off injury, and is older than everyone thought. Which means he�s 23. Which means his long term prospects may be lessened, but that he�s closer to coming into his prime than he was. If I have to drop $25 on him I will.

Barry Larkin ($8) is the antithesis of Furcal. But he�s now hurt, which means his price might fall further. Goody for me.

[After the first break there was a sudden run on speed guys. I let Young pass, then Furcal went to $25 and I had to let him go. Barry Larkin, whose history of injuries makes him less valuable in 5×5, where reliable AB matters, went for $11. I let him pass, too. Happily, I picked up Placido Polanco for $3 less than my top price for him. Oh, he’s coming off his career year. Basically, my plan is screwed.]

Third Base

Greg Norton ($5) plays in Colorado behind Todd Zeile. Need I say more?

[Albert Pujols ($28) is a big step up from Greg Norton, who did go for $5, but not at a good time for me to add him to the squad. I also acquired Aaron Boone ($16), who, like Travis Lee, is coming off one of a career of mixed years. He is definitely a risk at this price, though he too has the potential to do much better.]


Andruw Jones ($28) is one of those guys whose price could easily slide up into the $30s. But I have an alternative, not quite so upside-y outfielder as a backup, just in case.

Robert Hidalgo ($23) is confounding. He earned $37 in 2000, $13 in 2001. In LABR he went for $21. I�ll take my chances.

Geoff Jenkins ($20) was atop my list of breakout guys last year (along with Andruw), and he didn�t do it. He went for $20 in LABR, which gives me hope.

Derek Bell ($3) is a reach. There are younger players who could do better. But Bell has fallen the farthest fastest. I wont be unhappy not to get him, he looks like he�s spent, but there is no one with more upside at this price if I�m proved wrong.

In the RotoWire magazine I projected Mark Little ($1) to earn $10. That wasn�t a mistake, but it was certainly rash. I suppose it could turn into a mistake. He is the only hitter on this list who did better last year than they had in 2000, but I feel like I have to take him.

[So, I got Hidalgo for $23 and Jones for $29, a price Jones-haters like Steve Moyer thinks is ridiculously high, but others think is cheap. It all depends, of course, on whether Jones gets better or not. It won’t take much, especially if Otis Nixon convinces him to run wild, to climb up into the $40 range. I also got Little in the reserve round, along with Mario Encarnacion. I also picked up Juan Encarnacion for $10. He was cheaper than I feared, and one hopes he plays better than he might. Finally, the outfield is rounded out by Kevin Millar ($18), who wasn’t cheap, but who Alex liked, and Tike Redman, who has some speed and some weak competition in Pittsburgh. And who I thought might be some insurance for Derek Bell, for only a buck. But who probably isn’t really a major league hitter.]


I really want Juan Encarnacion, but I can�t afford him. So I�ll cast my lot with Ruben Mateo ($4), who was hurt more in Texas by injury than the shortcomings of his game (not that those don�t matter). The biggest problem with this whole plan is that if I can get Encarnacion for less than $10 I�m going to do it, and will have to change the composition of my scrubs. Or my pitching staff.

[Out of money, I had to watch Mateo end up going for $2. So we added Lyle Overbay, a solid hitter who will somehow have to crack the Diamondbacks’ aging lineup, for a buck.

Summary: I blinked. When I bought Pujols I destroyed the purity of the Plan. Do I have a worse hitting team than the one I proposed? I spent a little less on this one, which has a little more power and perhaps a lot less speed. But the speed guys were, against all logic, the most overpaid category. So, I’d better hope I have enough pitching…]


Kevin Brown ($22) was brilliant last year when he was healthy. But he�s not fully recovered from September surgery. I�m going to try to wait and see on him, and I�m not going to bid him past $23, because there are a lot of good young pitchers. But at this price he�s well worth the risk.

[The reports all day yesterday were positive, so Brown wasn’t discounted as much as I would have liked. But if he doesn’t break down he’s a huge bargain.]

Daryl Kile ($15) is coming off surgery, too, but seems more ready than Brown. Maybe that means his price will go up from LABR. It probably does. The biggest trick of making this team click will be managing the trade-offs mid-draft, if the situation warrants.

[Part of the problem of the plan is that it’s hard to manipulate when a player is nominated. I feared getting stuck waiting for Kile, and when Dempster was nominated first I felt obliged to go get him, for fear that Kile’s price would be driven up. As it turned out he went for $17. I got Dempster for $14.]

Pedro Astacio ($10), like Kile, is a former Rockie. Like Brown and Kile he�s coming off a serious injury. Like those guys, he can really pitch. I can afford to lose one of these three. Maybe even one and a half, but if Astacio and Kile never get untracked I�m derailed.

[Astacio got caught in a vortex of Mets-mania and went to $15. So I acquired Kevin Millwood, who is supposedly throwing in the mid-90s again, for $11. Alex hates Millwood.]

Bud Smith ($6) excites me, though he doesn�t seem to excite anyone else. He�s a finesse guy and way less than perfect for 5×5, but if he pitches enough innings I don�t care. As long as he mixes in the occasional no-no.

[Bud Smith was nominated early and went for $12, way more than his LABR prices. I was willing to go a little higher than $6. Not this much higher. When the bidding stalled at $10 on Robert Person I jumped in with $11, which seems really cheap.]

Tim Redding ($3) is a live arm on a good team. He could start the year in the minors, but he�ll get his chances.

[Having spent $62 on four pitchers, when I wanted to spend $66 on nine, it was time to wait. Shortly after the extended run for Marcus GIles, I nominated AJ Burnett, the best remaining pitcher by my reckoning. I ended up with him for $7.]

Carlos Hernandez ($3) is a live arm on a good team. He�s probably a better arm than Redding. One of them is going to have to be rostered, but for this money there�s little risk even if one of them blows up.

Dave Coggin ($1) could cost $2 if anyone thinks about it. I hope I have the extra buck to take him at $3, though if I don�t there will be other guys like him to buy. An awful lot of 5×5 value comes from adding innings. Coggin could stink, of course, but if he is just average he will help my team by adding five strikeouts for every nine innings pitched. That�s because I�m chucking Saves, and few others will. The more innings my guys pitch, the more likely I�ll win Strikeouts, a category that tracks most closely with Innings Pitched.

Glendon Rusch ($4) went really cheaply in LABR, but not as cheaply as I hope he goes in Tout Wars. Let�s just say he�s at the top of my wishlist, but I have to save money elsewhere to be able to afford him.

Albie Lopez ($2) could also be a case of wishful thinking. Starters are worth more in 5×5, which is why I�m buying no closers. I�m not even consciously buying any closers in waiting.

[With a $3 maximum bid after buying Burnett, I waited for Wilson Betemit to be nominated, and called out the names of pitchers I liked who might not get topped. I lost a few, like Dave Coggins, and I won a few, like Sean Lowe and Chuck Smith. And I topped someone’s bid on Omar Daal and won him for $2. I also ended up with Brett Myers, the Phillies big top-of-the-rotation prospect.]

So, that�s my team. Or so it is at 1:33 AM, nearly 10 hours before the Tout Wars NL draft. For a recap of how it all turned out, visit ToutWars.com, where I expect you�ll find a story not unlike this one.


[There is no conclusion. This was a very tightly fought draft. There was a little deflation early and a little inflation later, but the prices so consistently hit the bid prices I listed (over by a buck if I was buying, right on target if I was not) the valuations were stuck to pretty carefully. Which I think means my original analysis stands to reason. Whether or not this hybrid draft works will depend on just how far my best prospects for improvement Progress to the Mean.

Want to know who else was on my list of players to get? Here they all are except for those who are on the RotoTouts.com squad, with the prices they went for:

Ken Griffey $31, Preston Wilson $28, Rafael Furcal $25, Geoff Jenkins $23, Eric Young $21, Adrian Beltre $19, Edgar Renteria $21, Jason Kendall $22, Edgardo Alfonzo $20, Adrian Brown $17, Mike Lieberthal $11, Eric Karros $11, Delino DeShields $18, Jeffrey Hammonds $13, Barry Larkin $11, Armando Rios $10, JT Snow $7, Marvin Benard $4, Ruben Mateo $2, Brad Wilkerson $4, Eric Owens $5, Brad Ausmus $2, Greg Norton $5, Derek Bell $2.

One of the advantages of this sort of strategy is that it frees you from worry. By not following the plan strictly I have many more worries, but also think I have a few fewer bums. As somebody said as the room cleared: We shall see. ]

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