On Finishing a Disappointing 2nd in AL Tout Wars

In 2013, I won the inaugural year of the Tout Wars Mixed Draft league. I was rewarded with a promotion to one of the three live auction leagues and was ecstatic to have been slotted into the storied American League only version, made famous by the fantastic book Fantasyland. Unfortunately, year one in AL Tout Wars went terribly, as I finished 10th. As further punishment, my team garnered fewer than 60 fantasy points, which resulted in me beginning the 2015 season with a reduced FAAB.

As a result, I vowed to make a strategic change at the auction this time around by trying my best to ignore empty-OBP guys, unless they came at a gargantuan discount. Since OBP is a category and a player’s contribution is already baked into my dollar value, it’s impossible to ignore the category. But if given the choice of two similarly valued players (which I would never be given since this is an auction), I decided it was worth pursuing the one with the better counting stats and worse OBP. The Joe Mauer/John Jaso/Ryan Hanigan types were hopefully not going to find their way onto my team.

The strategy worked on the offensive side, as I accumulated the second most hitting points. And oh yeah, I won the OBP category again, of course. But my counting stats were actually good for a change. And despite spending just $57 on pitching (just 21.9% of our budget), I managed to finish in the middle of the pack in terms of total pitching points.

But, I finished second. And I’m disappointed.

Let’s begin by providing you with a refresher course on my auctioned team and perhaps you might also be interested in my original comments from after the auction:

C – Russell Martin, $19
C – Alex Avila, 8
1B – Prince Fielder, 28
3B – Jose Iglesias, 1
CI – Ike Davis, 5
2B – Devon Travis, 1
SS – Hanley Ramirez, 28
MI – Josh Rutledge, 5
OF – Jose Bautista, 37
OF – Mookie Betts, 24
OF – Desmond Jennings, 16
OF – Steven Souza, 16
Util – Steve Pearce, 13
SW – David DeJesus, 1
P – R.A. Dickey, 10
P – Scott Kazmir, 9
P – Wade Miley, 7
P – CC Sabathia, 5
P – Nate Karns, 1
P – Adam Warren, 1
P – Koji Uehara, 15
P – Sean Doolittle, 8
P – Kevin Jepsen, 1
B – Brandon Guyer
B – Logan Forsythe
B – A.J. Griffin
B – Colby Lewis

Though I feared I would have to scramble for a middle infielder to open the year when Rutledge lost the Angels’ starting second baseman competition, Nick Franklin’s injury in Tampa Bay allowed Forsythe to earn regular at-bats, en route to a breakout year. With a projected strong offense, hot starts from Travis, Hanley and even DeJesus (who I tried to trade hard, but nobody bit), along with expected play from the rest of the guys, I was leading every single hitting category early in the season for a while. I was feeling real good, especially because I figured to get back Doolittle to give me a second closer some time in May.

For the majority of the first half of the season, my team sat in first place thanks to a fantastic offense and a good enough pitching staff. Kazmir was proving that last year’s poor second half was just that and not a sign of things to come. Karns was making good on his sleeper status, as was Warren. Even with poor starts from Dickey, Miley and Sabathia, my pitching wasn’t terrible.

But then the wheels fell off. The injuries started to mount and seemingly every week another one of my hitters fell victim to something or other that required a DL stint. I won’t rehash them of course, nor do I want to make any excuses. But in a mono-league in which the free agent pool is slim to say the least, injuries could be devastating. So naturally, my lead in the offensive categories began to slip, and they continued their free fall. I was never able to recover.

I used the free agent pool very minimally. It’s not that I wasn’t aggressive in the FAAB bidding, but there was rarely a player available that I felt would make a significant impact and therefore warranted a hefty bid. That’s not to say there weren’t players who turned out to be pretty valuable, I just didn’t didn’t expect them to be and wasn’t aggressive bidding on them. I almost always got who I wanted, mostly players to be used as relatively short-term injury replacements. Ketel Marte was a nice pickup, helping when Travis dealt with shoulder issues during most of the second half. Tyler Collins performed respectably and was in my lineup for most of his MLB at-bats this year.

That’s it though, no other hitter that I did not draft collected more than 100 at-bats on my team…except Troy Tulowitzki. Since I didn’t spend a whole lot of FAAB heading into the trade deadline, I ranked fourth in total dollars at the time and knew I was going to get one of Carlos Gomez, Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels or Tulo. I was shocked to get Tulo, but aside from his 24 runs scored, he was nothing special. And of course, his last game in my lineup came on Sept 12th thanks to an I-shouldn’t-be-surprised injury. I didn’t intend to hoard FAAB to get a top trade deadline guy coming over, it just happened that way. I didn’t benefit as much as I had hoped.

On the pitching side of the ledger, I got solid work out of Erasmo Ramirez from the free agent pool and was helped by a nice run by Mike Fiers upon his trade to the Astros. The only other pitcher to provide me with meaningful innings from free agency was Martin Perez and his results weren’t any good.

I made one trade, swapping Kazmir for Cody Allen. At the time, Kazmir’s ERA sat in the low 2.00s and his SIERA was significantly higher. I knew the clock would strike midnight at any time and another closer had the potential of gaining me a bunch of saves points. I was right about Kazmir, as he provided my trade partner with a 5.60 ERA, 1.59 WHIP and just one win over 10 starts, while Allen saved 12 games. But it just was too little, too late.

It’s pretty amazing to me that with relatively little outside help, I essentially rode my auctioned team all year long and still managed to finish in second, many injuries after. I was really confident in my team heading into May and with several breakouts and solid play from my healthy veterans, I was dreaming of a win come October. Sadly, Chris Liss’ team enjoyed a roaring second half and his preemptive pickup of Carlos Correa was simply too much to overcome.

We hoped you liked reading On Finishing a Disappointing 2nd in AL Tout Wars by Mike Podhorzer!

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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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Jonathan Sher
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Jonathan Sher

Mike, could you please post a link to the tout wars A.L. site? Seeing the full context of decisions is a lot more illuminating.

I’m curious, for example, who picked up Lance McCullers in May and for how much. He might have gone a long way improving your pitching results. I employ a similar approach to yours in that I spend relatively little on pitching, $51 to be precise this year, though I had the advantage of being in a keepers league, so I had a $3 Sonny Grey (picked him up when he was still in the minors), a $10 Carlos Carrasco (picked up before his breakout last year) and Carlos Rodon on a reserve list since just before he was drafted in 2014.

Even with those keepers, when you spend sub-$60 on pitching, your staff tends to be shallow, and mine was, so when McCullers was promoted, I spent just over half my FAAB budget on him — I was convinced by scouting reports and minor league numbers that he would put up strong numbers — and I’m in a strikeout league.

I’d love to get some stiffer competition of the sort Tout leagues offer. Love the guys in my league but not everyone is as obsessed and you and me.

In any case, congrats on 2nd even if it stings for now. That’s two strong finished in three years against strong competition.