Last Friday, I asked our RotoGraphs readers on how they would approach my Tout Wars mixed 12-team head-to-head auction. The strategies stated in the comments were similar to the approach I took. But that is not how the rest of the teams operated and it threw me for a loop.
A person must remember the rules to this league are fairly unique with a head-to-head component making up 80% of the league’s wins and a roto component being the other 20%. A full rule set can be found here and the abridged set here.
Going back to the comments from Friday’s, here are the approaches the various readers would have taken.
Few high K starters to make minimum IP, RPs otherwise
Enough SP to make IP min and heavy RP
Entirely punt roto aspect, all RP
Sluggers with a few SB guys
80% to hitting
Truthfully, these commenters would approach the league exactly like I did. Starting with the pitchers, I figured the top starters would go for a gold mine and the top relief pitchers going for more than usual. I ran the numbers and three starters (3 *200 = 600) and six relievers (6*60 = 360) would just barely meet the minimum roto component of 950 innings. I decided to aim for four starters and cut back if my innings are going to be over. I thought of going with SandyK’s approach with no starters, but I have never been in league where intentionally blowing off an entire category (or 20% of the league’s points) works. These teams always seem to finish in the top half, but never win.
My strategy was to go with the “Few high K starters to make minimum IP, RPs otherwise” group. I wanted to get two Ace starters and then put together a high strikeout bullpen with pitchers who are or could get Saves at some point in the season.
For hitting, I wanted to dominate the counting stats (HR, RBIs, and Runs), try to have a decent standing in on-base percentage, and a shooter’s chance with steals. Again, I went with the most popular readers’ strategy.
I decided to go with a 70%/30% for hitter/pitcher split. I assumed teams would go with four starters and five relief pitchers. I was for sure one team was going to go all relief pitchers. The hitting values were pretty standard and I would just look for values when those players were nominated.
I went to the auction with high hopes, and two bids into the auction, I knew I was screwed.
Immediately, Adam Wainwright went for $12 (in which I had around $4) and Michael Wacha went for $11 (I had him as a reserve round pitcher). Low-level starting pitchers were going for quite a bit more than I guessed. I have only 48 (12 *4) starters valued (and some for the reserve rounds) and at the initial rate, I was going to need a ton more starters queued up just to hope to get some of the lower price ones.
I was able to snag Scherzer and Fernandez way under my values, but my others starters would be quite a bit more than my values (mainly because I had them valued under $1). During the first break, I spent the whole time coming up with some more starters than the ones I had on my initial draft sheet so I could get up to four of them.
Here is a breakdown of the how the pitchers got drafted. Instead of 48 starters (44% of pitchers) getting taken, 74 (69%) went in the auction portion of the draft with only 34 relief pitchers getting taken.
Here is a team-by-team breakdown of starting pitcher percentage. I wondered if some teams were going to use the reserve rounds to fill the relief pitcher void, so I have included the relief pitcher picks for the reserve rounds
Name: SP/RP (RP in reserves)
BOGGIS: 7/2 (1)
BELL: 7/2 (1)
BENDER: 7/2 (1)
ANDERSON: 6/3 (4)
CIELY: 6/3 (1)
BELLER: 6/3 (1)
SPORER: 6/3 (0)
HERSHEY: 6/3 (1)
MANS: 6/3 (1)
LAMONT: 5/4 (0)
KREUTZER: 5/4 (0)
ZIMMERMAN: 4/5 (1)
I was the only owner to take fewer starters than relievers in the auction portion. The next two closest (Lamont and Kreutzer) didn’t pick any relief pitchers in the reserve rounds. The one owner who did look to take a different approach was Doug Anderson who took four relief pitchers in the reserve rounds. With that move, he ended up with more relievers than I did (7 vs 6) with the rest of the teams with 3 or 4 total relievers.
Now a short note on hitting, the auction went exactly as I planned it would and I only overbid my values on one player, Jason Heyward. If I hadn’t overbid, I would have likely left a ton of money on the table. I am happy with my offense and I filled an early season void at shortstop by picking up Villar in the reserve rounds.
Overall, it looks like all of the commenters, as I did, made the wrong assumption as to how the league would play out. Maybe we out-thought ourselves? Maybe the other teams plan on getting relief pitchers via FAAB? Maybe we are missing something? I will not know how Doug’s and my approach will work against the starting pitching heavy teams because we are matched up in week one. Week two is when the real experiment begins.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.