Expect the Unexpected.
That’s the mantra you must repeat to yourself daily as you head into your auction or snake draft. Because as much as you think you know your room and how you feel about every player, you are wrong. Trust me.
On Saturday morning, I headed to SiriusXM studios in New York City for one of the best days of the year — the American League Only Tout Wars league auction. Here’s a brief review of the rules:
12 teams, AL only pool
Standard 23-man active roster, with the only exception being we use a Swingman slot instead of a 5th OF, which could be filled by either a hitter or a pitcher
Standard 5×5, but with OBP instead of AVG (this is important, because some player values change dramatically with the switch)
Here’s the complete results, which include all Tout Wars leagues (click on the tab to switch between leagues).
As I’ve stated many times when reviewing my league auctions/drafts, I don’t have any real strategy. I go into the auction with my Pod Projections and calculated dollar values and attempt to purchase the most value. To do that, I want to buy players at a discount. Unless it’s late and I need to fill a position or I have a lot of cash left and risk leaving money on the table, I hesitate to pay even fair value for a player and certainly don’t want to ever pay above my value.
The only real strategic decision is paying less for pitching than most, if not all. Since there is the most disagreement on pitcher values than anywhere else, I’m more confident in my ability to find undervalued pitchers, either during the auction or the season, than hitters.
Here’s the team I bought, followed by various observations and thoughts:
Pod’s 2016 AL Tout Wars Team
Overall Auction Observations
I originally used a 70%/30% hitting/pitching split when I calculated my dollar values, and then at the last minute, decided I should better match what the room is likely to settle at, so I adjusted it to 69%/31%. Naturally, the final split ended up being 70%/30%!
The top tier of pitchers were going above or well above my values. I never buy top tier pitchers, even in Mono leagues, but I thought I valued Corey Kluber higher than most, if not all, and considered the possibility of purchasing him if he came at a discount to the other members of the top tier. Sadly, this did not happen. He tied for the second highest priced starting pitcher.
HOLY BATMAN! I was first to finish auctioning my team and was promptly asked to join the SiriusXM team live on air for five minutes. Upon my return to the draft room, I was browsing the roster sheet to see which players I missed (the auctioned continued as I was interviewed) and soon realized that Steve Moyer had spent a whole $12 on his pitching staff. WOWZERS. How did I not realize this was happening during the auction?!?! I want to badly do something like this in my local 12-teamer, but I think it’s bonkers in AL-Only. If nothing else, it’s going to be a blast to watch how his team performs this year and what moves he ends up making.
Perhaps one of the most memorable moments in Tout Wars history occurred early on in the auction. As a reminder, this is an AL-Only league and NL players are ineligible. Seth Trachtman, however, nominated Ben Revere for $10. But this wasn’t necessarily the best moment. A split second later, 2015 champion Chris Liss enthusiastically blurts out “$17!”. At that point, everyone in the room realized what the heck was going on, laugh hysterically, and then asked Seth to nominate a new player, like, ya know, one who actually plays for an AL team.
Before the auction, I tried to decide who should be my first nomination. It should be a strategic decision, either to set the price for a certain type of player (closers or speed guys, for example) or maybe to get money off the table when everyone has it for a guy I think is overvalued (like Xander Bogaerts). Typically I don’t like to nominate players early who I think are undervalued as I worry that other owners flush with cash would push his price higher than if the player was nominated later. However, I also would like to know early on how much money I “saved” compared to my value, so I don’t get stuck at the end with money leftover because my undervalued guy came much cheaper than I expected. So, I settled on Jarrod Dyson as my first nomination. Even before the injury, I knew I valued him higher than just about everyone. The injury, though, made it a guarantee. So I nominated Dyson, who I valued at $19, and scooped him up for $11. Now I can feel more comfortable paying closer to full value for upper echelon players without having to guess how cheap I might get Dyson for.
Delino Deshields was another player I identified as believing I valued significantly higher than the room. His value received a boost in this format thanks to his OBP and pairing him with Dyson would have given me a fantastic base in stolen bases. Unfortunately, the bidding stopped higher than I figured it would and since I already had Dyson, chose not to go the extra buck, even though the final number was still several dollars below my value.
The AL catcher pool is terrible. In the weeks leading up to the auction, I figured I’d get Matt Wieters since I seemingly like him more than everyone. But his recent injury scare pushed down my playing time projection and his value and he became cheap enough that it seemed less likely he’d be significantly undervalued. The top two catchers went above my prices, while Wieters went for a buck more. For the most part, catchers were all going above my prices, which, like, never happens. Blake Swihart ended up being a relative bargain and he was easily the best catcher still available when he was nominated. I was fortunate to get him for a buck less than my value.
You know how I ended up with Alex Avila in my second catcher slot? I missed out on my preferred choice after a surprising bidding war with Larry Schechter for…Chris Iannetta. That’s the side effect of an OBP boost at its best!
I had the most cash in the auction for a while and at some points was getting a bit nervous that I may leave money on the table. I still needed a third baseman and a corner guy and wanted any of Mike Napoli, Mitch Moreland, or C.J. Cron to fill that corner slot, with Luis Valbuena the best of the lot at third base. Since I had the money, I knew I just needed to pay whatever it took to get them. I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to get both Moreland and Valbuena for a buck less than my values. Usually when dealing with the last respectable player at a position, a bidding war ensues, but this seemed to happen less frequently this time.
Nori Aoki is a classic example of a player who is going to be undervalued in this, and perhaps all, formats. A lot of his value is tied to his batting average, and in this case, OBP, while he doesn’t stand out in any other category. However, he does contribute positive value in both steals and runs scored. It might not be obvious, but he was a bargain at $13.
How did I end up with Alex Rodriguez and how did I get him for just $12?! His DH-only eligibility hurts less given the SW slot, he offers above average power and OBP and should continue to hit for as long as he remains healthy.
I was almost certain I would not only get Hyun-soo Kim, but get him at a major discount given how late I got him in LABR. At the time of his nomination, he was easily the most valuable player on the board and I had the most cash. He was mine, no matter what. But Jason Collette made it a little more difficult, as he bid me up to my exact value. When I asked him about it, he told me he needed to increase his team’s OBP. Makes sense, as Kim should be a nice asset in the category.
Yup, my “aces” are Justin Verlander and Michael Pineda. I always hop in the mid-tier and down when it comes to starting pitchers. With the amount of fortune involved in pitching results, Verlander and Pineda have a much greater chance of finishing as a top five or ten pitcher than Aoki has of finishing as such among outfielders. Check out Pineda’s 2015 SIERA. All he needs is better luck and he’s gold. Of course, his health must cooperate
Rich Hill resulted in some comments after I nominated and then won him. Obviously. He came out of nowhere last year, pitched out of his mind for four starts, and has then seemingly remembered who he really is by leading spring pitchers with 12 walks in just 7.2 innings, driving a bloated 15.26 ERA. His poor spring guaranteed he’d make it to my team, and probably at an even lower cost now. But last year, he was legit good, with some obvious explanations behind his success. Ignore his spring, we have no idea what he may or may not be working on. For $3, that’s quite the low risk/high reward acquisition.
I had $5 for my last pitcher. I debated between Anibal Sanchez and Kris Medlen to nominate for those $5, assuming I’d probably get the guy at that price. Though I had valued Sanchez two bucks higher, that was only because of a higher innings projection. I decided to go with the better projected ratios and heck, Sanchez’s injury history means he’s not even guaranteed to beat Medlen in innings anyway!
Speaking of injuries, why did I draft Sean Doolittle for the second straight season?
Expect the Unexpected
In various places, I have shared my skepticism about Carlos Correa. Sure, he was a top prospect, but the dude wasn’t supposed to be this good this quickly. That he was consistently going in the first round of snake drafts and in the top 10 was crazy. So it wasn’t in my wildest dreams that I’d leave the Tout auction with Correa on my team. But, it happened! He was nominated early and when the bidding stopped $5 below my price, I had to go the additional dollar. No one else outbid me, to my shock. That I acquired him underscores the concept that everyone has a price. No matter how I feel about a player, there’s still going to be a price in which he’s worth rostering. This was Correa’s price.
Relatively early in the auction, I decided to get cute and nominate a pitcher for a buck who I didn’t want in order to fill up a roster spot on someone else’s team with a crappy guy. That pitcher was Yovani Gallardo. Surely an established veteran coming off a 3.42 ERA and a career 3.66 ERA was good enough to go $2 on, right??!? WRONG! Crickets. So I got stuck filling one of my nine pitching slots with Gallardo and I wasn’t pleased. That I valued him at $2 mattered little, as I was confident than in the end game I could have gotten an even better pitcher for a buck than Gallardo. I never got that chance.
Hanley Ramirez was one of five players I identified as having serious HR/FB rate downside this season (along with Correa!). So his acquisition meant that 40% of the players on my list ended up on my team. Ridiculous. But here’s the thing — that downside is already accounted for in my projection. If I can still get that player at a discounted price, I’m all over it. And this is precisely what happened with Hanley.
Overall, I’m extremely happy about how the team turned out. I’ve been super busy since the auction and have yet to calculate my projected team totals or the value I accumulated. But I know the pitching staff is far better than last year, and since I managed to snag all full-time players (a difficult task in a Mono league), I like my offense and think it’s extremely balanced.