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Sunday 20th Aug 2017

Last November, at First Pitch Arizona, Jeff Erickson, Peter Kreutzer, Ron Shandler, and I got together for our annual Tout Review from the previous season, and planning for the coming year.

The four of us--who drive the LLC--only get to see one another in person at the AFL, and then again at Tout itself in late March, and though we have pretty regular conference calls, face-to-face just makes everything that much better.

Sitting in the Marriott this past October, Jeff mentioned an idea--that he said Peter originally posed--of instituting a new league in addition to the four currently enjoying success. This league would be dynamic: the rules, participants, and format would all change from year-to-year, and the four of us would rotate driving the league each season.

This league would be known as "ToutX."

Since Ron is the original Tout, we deferred to him, saying he could employ any format he wanted, and we would work rules and fill the league accordingly.

Ron asked if using a variation of his monthly Shandler Park game that runs monthly cycles, instead of daily or yearly or H2H was ok, and we agreed, it was dealer's choice, and this season Ron was the dealer.

Shandler Park's four-week cycles do differentiate from other formats, but the league is also 4x4, using more esoteric and team oriented numbers, such as saves + holds and runs produced. There is a 32-man roster (23 active) with a $300 salary cap. The format allows for Friday roster changes, so pitcher streaming and platooning can be exploited during the busiest days of the ballplayer's week: the weekend.

However, to add a wrinkle--as well as get the ToutX participants into the New York festivities, which are fun and if you are drafting, some hard work--Ron posed that the initial rosters would be drafted as a snake format, but using the Shandler Park pre-assigned salaries.

What that meant was that for the first month of the season only, if you drafted Chris Sale, you had exclusive rights to the White Sox pitcher for the month, as opposed to the remainder of the season, when new four-week rosters would be drafted via the website utilizing the standard rules the Shandler Parkees now use.

With rules and format set, the dogged Peter set about the screening process of getting ten participants who were in the industry with requisite experience and reputation, but not yet involved with Tout Wars. Nominations were gathered, and invitations sent, from within came another great change: the addition of Stephania Bell and Andrea Lamont as the first women (yay) to participate, becoming part of the "X" factor.

This all seemed like good stuff, but with the swirl of activity that precedes each Tout, I did not give the game that much more thought, for there were logistics, as well as the addition of a Tout Daily game, that took focus.

However, last Friday, as Ron and I walked through the first traces of some Manhattan spring snow to breakfast, I told the Shandler Park brain that I felt pretty sure that the ToutX hybrid draft/auction was going to be the most interesting activity of the weekend.

If all the participants checked the rules and scoring, they would see that Mike Trout was not necessarily the most prudent allocation of resources, and sure enough, the top two players selected were Bryce Harper ($15) and Adam Jones ($13).

But, prior to the draft, as I anticipated to Ron over grits and eggs and toast, reasoning all this out might not be as simple as it seems.

It was true. The whole spectacle--which took just over a couiple of hours, which is not bad for 320 players--was just a fascinating and completely different spin on how to value and exploit player skills.

Had you coveted Sale, he would have been yours. Knowing the Southpaw might miss a few starts was not worth the $26 price tag, so Sale, along with Michael Brantley ($30), and Craig Kimbrel ($16) went undrafted by the ToutX'ers. Add in that Jon Lester ($22), Jason Kipnis ($17) and Jordan Zimmermann ($20) all went as reserve selections, and you can see how all the traditional barometers of skill and potential sort of went out like a wild pitch.

So, the participants, like Jake Ciely and Jeff Boggis had to battle out for normal end-game targets like Dan Otero and Garrett Jones right smack in the middle of each round, while tasty prospects like Kris Bryant sat on the sidelines, waiting for a punched dancecard that never happened (Bryant is surely hot, but the combo of his $15 price tag, and potentially missing the first two weeks of the season caused the particpants to eschew his services this cycle).

In fact, the whole draft dynamic became as interesting a piece of 10-way on-the-fly chess strategies as I have seen in awhile.

I do think ToutX will be a lot of fun to follow through, and equally important, I think that Ron's new format might well be the seeds of a fantastic new variation of a game we already love far more than we probably should.

And, if this year isn't good enough, wait till next year, when Peter, or Jeff, or even I get to conjure the playing field.

Look here for all the particulars about ToutX

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