From Twitter: To quote Larry Brown, Zola's team is "total, puke garbage."
To quote The Rock, "It doesn't matter what you think."
From the NL Tout Wars chat: "I’ve seen Zola hold back before… unsuccessfully, I might add. Don’t understand replaying failed strategies."
Too bad SiriusXM doesn't cover the NFBC NL-only auction championship, you know, the league I have won the last three times I have entered. #humblebrag
Also from the chat: "Zola’s team is a train wreck."
The 2014 National League Tout Wars auction was held last Saturday in New York City. As suggested by the lede, my team was not a favorite among the peanut gallery. But I'm fine with that. I accomplished what I set out to do, which was not pay more than what was dictated by my tiered rankings. I look at my bid values as dynamic, not a static go/stop number, so I'll exceed the number I have assigned to each, but I try not to exceed it such that the cost would push the player into the next tier. It goes without saying I really like paying the price assigned to the next tier down for players in the tier above, and I managed to do that for most of the team.
But here's the deal: When your most expensive player is a closer (somewhat controversial unto itself) and you only exceed $20 on one hitter, you're not going to own a team with any star power, so it's not going to attract the attention or be given the same early recognition as others.
And I'm fine with that. While I have yet to win Tout Wars, I have cracked the top-three on multiple occasions. It's not the strategy; it's the players. It's not why you pick them but who you pick.
Here's who I picked in the rough order in which I purchased them. Sorry, but I don't keep as meticulous notes as others.
Craig Kimbrel $25 - Closers contribute more than just saves and the difference between the top and bottom closers is larger than ever, so it follows the ancillary help is better than ever. While ultimately it depends on the distribution within the associated categories, on the average Kimbrel's normal ratios add 2 points in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts as compared to the average closer and an extra point when compared to a poor closer. This is very significant and in my mind worth paying for if you get it at a discount. My price for Kimbrel was $32. I entered the auction with the notion I would bid Kimbrel up to $25 and be thrilled if the bidding stopped there. Anything more and we're teetering on a price within his tier and I could likely wait and get a different closer at a nice price. Obviously, the room was not going to go above $25 for any closer, so Kimbrel is mine.
Jordan Zimmermann $18 - I was willing to pay in the 20's for a real ace but the price of Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, Stephen Strasburg, Cliff Lee, Madison Bumgarner and the like were too rich for my blood, especially with Kimbrel in the bank. So I went to Plan B and looked for a couple of guys from the next tier with Zimmermann being my hopeful acquisition. He gets discounted since he doesn't whiff as many as the others, but Kimbrel helps mitigate that.
Sergio Romo $15 - There are many that feel an ace starter is wasted if you don't surround him with more quality arms. I feel the same way about saves. There are those that are content with one closer and rolling the dice, hoping they finish on top of the pack of teams with just one closer. I prefer to have two and challenge for the league lead, then deal saves as dictated by standings gaps and needs. My third place finish last season could have been better had I not pulled the trigger in an overreaction to some early injuries and waited on dealing Kenley Jansen until he had officially claimed the closer job. This season, I plan on being more judicious in the event I shop around saves.
Aaron Hill and Chase Utley $19 - Good thing my friend Larry Schechter wasn't in the room or he would have scolded me. I won both guys with a jump bid to the nines. There's a psychological barrier to upping a bid ending in nine, thus jumping a bid to the nines could serve as a freeze bid and you often win a player at $19, $29 or $39. The idea is the faster it gets to that barrier, the less time you have to consider it and the less likely you are to top it. I'll only do it on players I have priced a little higher, and I had Hill and Utley both at 21, so I was happy to take them down at 19. I believe I took Hill from 16 to 19 and Utley from 17 to 19. Larry would have suggested I should have bid 17 and 18 and hoped the bidding ended there but it's my experience when the room is doing the slow +1 thing, the psychological influence of bidding to the nines is negated. That is, 16.....17......18......19.....is much more apt to see 20 than 16......17......19, etc.
Tony Cingrani $14 - Nothing special other than he came in under my number and I wasn't going to be picky here since this tier has been decimated by injuries (Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Patrick Corbin, not to mention Cole Hamels' and Doug Fister's woes).
Yonder Alonso $15 - I don't love this, it was a purchase within a tier and not below it but in order to exhaust your budget, you need buys like this.
Alex Wood $9 - Wasn't planning on this but I had the budget and I had him priced in the low double-digits.
Dee Gordon $7 - At this point, it was very apparent my shortsop and third baseman would be weak, so I decided to roll the dice on Gordon while trying to get Alexander Guerrero later, put him at utility or swingman then get a replacement in reserve. I actually didn't expect to get Guerrero since someone would be willing to chase him, and I was right.
Will Venable $21, Angel Pagan $17, Nate Schierholtz $12, Justin Ruggiano $11 - As is often the case, when you middle an auction, you will make a string of buys, mosty often in the outfield, and this was no exception. I got very lucky as none of these purchases were at prices above the tier. The room could have squeezed another buck or two from me on a couple of these hitters.
Dillon Gee $4 - My standard late purchase while someone was trying to fill those last couple pitching spots.
Carlos Quentin $10 - This could be my key as I needed help in both power and OBP and a healthy Quentin would be huge for me. Here's another guy I would have gone higher based on his intrinsic value to my team construct at that time.
Marcell Ozuna $4 - Sometimes you misread the room and I thought Ozuna would go for more, which left me with some extra budget. I know he doesn't have the job and could be sent down, but he'll earn me $4 and maybe more.
Charlie Morton $5 - I'm not a fan of parsing data into arbitrary splits, but there was something about Morton's second half that intrigues me. Well, the fact he was throwing harder and with more accuracy post TJS is the allure.
Jordan Pacheco $2, Hector Sanchez $1 - This was odd, as the room usually deflates the better receivers, but they all went for a premium, so I opted to go the end-game route. Pacheco should see some reserve games at catcher along with dabbling at the infield corners. Sanchez will pick up the slack when Buster Posey turns in his catcher's mitt for one of the first baseman's variety.
Juan Francisco - $1 - Chirp, chirp. It was chase Juan Uribe or just take the guy at $1 and put the extra elsewhere. With the release of Francisco, it looks like I was damned if I do or damned if I don't.
Taylor Jordan $2 - Tanner Roark went for a couple more bucks so I was a little worried, but at the time of the purchase, there was no mention of either winning the job yet, so I put my money on Jordan.
Sean Marshall $7 - Here I got the idea to buy a DL guy and if he isn't closing, I'd turn in his salary for 7 FAAB units.
Heading into reserve, I knew I needed to cover third and short and get two pitchers (one for Marshall and one for general matchup deployment). I was hoping for Maikel Franco with the third pick but he went second, so I threw a dart at Wilmer Flores. Flores is starting at Triple-A at shortstop and if he proves capable of handling the glove, he could be up sooner than later and can cover thrid or maybe shortstop if he sticks there.
Daniel Descalso wrapped things up with his trio of eligibility being the key as he can cover my weakness at third and shortstop.
There's nothing sexy about this squad, but other than having a pair of reserve catchers, everyone but Francisco is a starter and I could have a starter to cover third in Flores sooner than later. Deep leagues are all about not falling in a hole with pitching and getting counting stats from at-bats.
Or plate appearances. After all, it is an OBP league.