2022 Tout Wars AL Only Auction League – Season Review

My 10th season as an AL Tout Wars participant has concluded and although I failed to take home my second championship, a second place finish was a decent consolation prize. It was also validation of my auction, which was the epitome of high risk and high reward. For those of you who want to refresh your memories with some background information on my auction, check out my initial recap. Let’s start with the standings.

A massive congratulations to Doug Dennis of BaseballHQ who managed to easily win the league while utilizing the mythical LIMA Plan. The TLDR version of this strategy is to load up on relievers with strong skills to ideally win three categories in saves, ERA, and WHIP, while dumping two categories in wins and strikeouts. This is an ideal league to test it out given the lack of an innings pitched requirement. The money saved by not buying a starting pitcher allowed Dennis to spend the most money in the league on offense, which resulted in a clean sweep of all five hitting categories.

Obviously, it’s a highly risky strategy that likely has a low percent success rate at winning a league. By dumping two pitching categories, you’re already guaranteed just two points there and absolutely must have everything go your way with your relievers and offense. It worked out for Dennis this time, but I wouldn’t bet on it happening again! Oh, and yes, he bought Aaron Judge at the auction and held onto him all season. That cheat code significantly boosted his chances of his strategy working to perfection.

Now let’s get back to my team, which in any other year, could have won with my point total. I’ll share my post-auction roster first.

AL-Only Tout Wars Team
Position Player $$
C Mitch Garver 16
C Martin Maldonado 1
1B Anthony Rizzo 22
3B Adalberto Mondesi 21
CI Alex Bregman 22
2B Whit Merrifield 28
SS Ramon Urias 3
MI Jose Miranda 1
OF Jesse Winker 18
OF Manuel Margot 8
OF Seth Brown 7
OF Gavin Sheets 1
UT Nathaniel Lowe 15
Swing Miguel Sano 14
P Justin Verlander 20
P Noah Syndergaard 9
P Luis Severino 7
P Lance McCullers Jr. 5
P Drew Rasmussen 4
P Matt Brash 1
P George Kirby 1
P Aroldis Chapman 23
P Taylor Rogers 13
Reserve Nolan Jones
Reserve Daulton Jefferies
Reserve Michael Lorenzen
Reserve Stephen Piscotty

I’m going to try a new format this time, which is hopefully enjoyed and becomes the permanent layout for future season reviews.

What Went Right

Anthony Rizzo’s HR/FB rate rebounded off his down 2021 season, as he enjoyed the cozy confines of his new home in Yankee Stadium, where he posted a meaningfully higher mark there than in away parks. He also upped his FB% to a career high, and the first time it jumped above 40% since 2016. More fly balls + rebound in HR/FB rate to a mark above his career average = his highest home run total since 2017.

I was shocked I ended up buying Jose Miranda for just a buck at the auction. Although his rookie year was nothing to write home about from a fantasy perspective, playing nearly every day allowed him to accumulate enough counting stats, with a decent OBP, to easily produce a nice profit.

When Seth Brown was nominated, I was in desperate need of power, and while both his FB% and HR/FB fell, he still ended up a steal at his $7 price. With a better offense behind him, his runs scored and RBI could have been better, but he was good enough to deliver what was asked of him. The 11 steals was a nice bonus as well.

Gavin Sheets could have been a clear-cut member of this group of positives, but he was up and down and up and down and never really settled into a full-time role for an extended period. At some point, I needed the roster space after he found himself back in the minors, and I had to drop him in mid-late June. He definitely earned his dollar if I had held onto him all season and would have been part of an even more valuable roster spot if I also replaced him in the lineup when he was back in the minors (he earned $6.90 according to our auction calculator based on his season stats).

Though this wasn’t a massive breakout for Nathaniel Lowe some had hoped for, he pretty clearly enjoyed some growth from his first full season in 2021, upping his FB% and HR/FB rate, while reducing his strikeout rate. Oddly, he stopped walking, so his OBP was actually nearly identical to 2021, despite a significantly higher batting average.

Overall, it didn’t seem like that much went right on the hitting side, so it’s actually a bit surprising that I finished with 11 points in both home runs and RBI! My team actually earned the fourth most offensive points, so clearly it was better than I thought, but a leaguewide offensive decline likely makes the perception of the team’s performance worse than it actually was.

The pitching side is where things reaaaaaaaaally went right. I collected an absurd group of veteran starters coming off major injuries, and yet miraculously, it worked. While none of them amassed the number of innings we got used to during their peaks, they all exceeded expectations while they were on the mound. Justin Verlander actually posted the lowest ERA of his career, while Lance McCullers Jr. posted his first sub-3.00 ERA, though it came over just 47.2 innings.

Furthermore, Drew Rasmussen was fantastic, posting an identical ERA as his 2021 season that was split between the rotation and bullpen. Finally, I had rostered two top starting pitching prospects on the Mariners, Matt Brash and George Kirby, figuring one of the two would win a rotation spot out of spring training and hopefully be a great buy for a buck. While Brash initially won the spot, it was Kirby that turned out to be the steal. Though he wasn’t exactly a whiff machine, his control sparkled, and he performed better than anyone could have imagined.

Did Taylor Rogers “go right”? He did save 31 games, though a couple of those saves came after I dropped him upon his trade to the Brewers. He also posted a good WHIP and solid strikeout rate, but his ERA was inflated. He probably earned his $13 while he was on my team, but it’s hard to say.

Finally, I’m struggling to determine whether Michael Lorenzen deserves to be here, as he was injured for a large chunk of time and posted an ERA over 4.00. However, he proved to be decent enough to include in my starting lineup during some weeks, and was especially strong early in the season. As a free reserve pick, he was a good choice.

Overall, it was a darn good season of pitching. My team earned 49 of 60 possible points, far and away the most in the league. In fact, the second highest pitching points-getter was at just 38.5. It’s a reminder that while betting on pitchers returning from injury is a risk, every player has a price that makes them well worth taking that risk. So don’t just blindly eliminate these pitchers from potentially joining your team.

What Went Wrong

Man, so much seemingly went wrong, I’m still amazed I managed to finish in second with 88 total points!

INJURIES. The most frustrating part of fantasy sports. It’s extremely rare there’s a year where I’m not killed by them. Obviously, we are all impacted by injuries, but some teams certainly have far worse injury luck than others.

Mitch Garver
Adalberto Mondesi
Manuel Margot
Miguel Sano

That’s nearly 30% of my starting offense that missed a significant chunk of time to injury. That’s a lot of home runs and steals I missed out on that I paid for! Combined, this quartet only recorded 703 PAs! That’s essentially a full healthy season from a leadoff batter. The group also hit just 15 home runs and swiped just 14 bases. That’s like 60 fewer home runs and like 40 steals less than I was projecting, which are extremely difficult to replace in a mono league.

The upside? Now I’ll get to buy Adalberto Mondesi for just 15 next year ::rofl rofl rofl:: One of these years I’ll give up on him, but I just know that once I do, he’ll eclipse 500 PAs for the first time and go 15/50.

I think it may finally be time to end my streak of rostering Whit Merrifield, as I’ve done so for four straight seasons! His stolen base total collapsed and his loss of playing time after being shipped to the Blue Jays ensured he came up short in some of his counting stats. His speed was desperately needed after losing Mondesi, so he was quite the disappointment, earning just over half the price I paid for him.

What happened Jesse Winker? I thought I was buying an OBP monster with 20+ homers and a middle of the order spot to boost runs scored and RBI. Instead, he suffered a severe power outage, posting just the second single digit HR/FB rate of his career and his lowest ISO. According to our calculator, his OBP was still strong enough to earn him just over $12, so while that wasn’t a massive loss versus his $18 cost, I expected better counting stats.

As initially discussed in the above section, I rostered two rookie starting pitchers on the Mariners. Matt Brash is the one that failed to work out, but it opened the door for George Kirby. Brash made it through just five starts before his control issues motivated the team to demote him back to Triple-A, where he transitioned into a relief role. His skill is clearly good enough to succeed in any role, so it’ll come down to whether he’ll be able to reign in the walks or not. That’s a common theme for top pitching prospects, but I’d rather bet on the good stuff and the control improving than hoping good control is enough to succeed without good stuff.

My gosh, the downhill skid accelerated for Aroldis Chapman, as his strikeout rate plummeted below 30% for the first time, while his walk rate skyrocketed to 17.5%, continuing his loss of control that started in 2021. At age 34, and with the lowest four-seam velocity of his career, is this the end?

While it’s not totally fair to consider players selected in the reserve round something that “went wrong”, these were missed opportunities that I hoped to benefit more from. I was excited to get Nolan Jones as my first reserve pick and he eventually did make his MLB debut as a starting outfielder. Unfortunately, he did nothing with that opportunity in 92 PAs and was promptly sent back down. With his consistently high walk rates, he’ll be an annual deep sleeper in OBP leagues.

I gambled on Daulton Jefferies’ former top prospect status, but he pitched just 39.1 innings before he had to undergo season ending elbow surgery.

Free Agent Pickups

My perennial sleeper Luis Rengifo finally made good on my call after I picked him up in early-mid May. Though Sam Haggerty only recorded 88 ABs for me, he swiped eight bases, which were worth two standings points. Aside from those two, I somehow managed to make no other real impact pickups on the hitting side.

On the pitching side, I had better luck with my pickups. Reid Detmers was oddly dropped, at which point I scooped him up in mid-July, and surprisingly needed just 23 FAAB dollars (most of us start with 1,000, with some less depending on the team’s 2021 final standings points) to do so. He was quite solid for me over 65 innings, contributing a 3.32 ERA, winning five games, and striking out 71 batters. I added Peter Fairbanks soon after he returned from the IL for a buck and he saved eight games for me with pristine ratios and a big K/IP.

I preemptively picked up Brayan Bello well before his callup so I didn’t need to compete with the rest of the league and have to bid hundreds. I got him for just 2 FAAB, but he was awful. On the other hand, I picked up Chris Archer early on and he was shockingly good. He was riding the good luck train though so I didn’t push my luck and bailed well before his ratios imploded.

Finally, I splurged my FAAB stack on Luis Castillo at the trade deadline. I don’t intentionally hold onto most of my stack solely to use it on a league switcher for two months. Instead, I just rarely find a potential difference maker in the free agent pool that’s worth spending hundreds on and depleting my budget. So I just end up having lots of FAAB available to spend on any league switchers. This time, it worked, as Castillo was as good as advertised, with excellent ratios, four wins, and 77 strikeouts over just 65.1 innings.

Trades

Incredibly, there was just four trades all year in AL Tout Wars this season and none of them were very high impact. It’s usually not an active trading league, but man, I feel like four might be the fewest ever!

I’m not a big trader in any league myself, and certainly not in expert leagues. I did make one of the four league trades this season, but it didn’t come until early September. If you’re doing the math, yes, I made a trade for just a month’s worth of stats. I traded Anthony Rizzo for Cedric Mullins, which was the ideal trade for me, as I was essentially locked into second place in both home runs and RBI, but could gain or lose several points in steals. Mullins ended up stealing five bases for me, which was worth two points in the steals category.

Parting Thoughts

In the end, I couldn’t really expect much better results than what I ended up with, even though the path there was bumpy, and required a detour and a trip through the hospital. You don’t need multiple splashy free agent pickups, or even a number of major breakouts, to win, or come oh so very close to doing so. Don’t be afraid to roster those risky players, especially those returning from injury, especially if your leaguemates are shying away. There’s a right price for every single player, so it doesn’t help you to completely ignore any such players, or your chances of finding profits are reduced.





Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Mays Copeland
1 month ago

So your top three winning bids were Merrifield, Chapman, and Mondesi…?

Yeah, that’s a pretty impressive finish.