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Will the Sherpa again find his way? PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 12 April 2014 00:00

In 2014, due to the early major league games in Australia, a decision was made by the Tout Wars governing board to move the National League draft to the leadoff spot for the three-draft weekend. That was on Saturday morning, March 22nd. I was among the participants.

Once that draft was completed, the mixed league was next up. Able to relax a bit after a very hectic four or five hours, it was a great pleasure for me to catch up with friends and colleagues, many of whom I see in person just a couple of times each year. We discussed and debated a number of topics, including ideas for potential rules changes that may be the subject of a future column.

During the second of two breaks during the mixed league festivities, word from the draft room was that the Fantasy Sherpa, Scott Swanay, was in serious trouble. While the others at the table had $20-$30 remaining, Swanay still held nearly $100. Clearly, there were no longer enough quality players remaining on the board for him to secure full value for his remaining money.

As a group of us were discussing this, our own Lord Zola pointed out the only partial solution to a very bad situation would be for Swanay to use his remaining bankroll to purchase a player out for the season.

You might be asking yourself why that would help.

Tout has a very interesting rule that essentially provides an insurance policy against a season-ending injury. Any player’s original full purchase price can be reclaimed in FAAB dollars once he is placed on the disabled list.

Originally, this rule only applied to players “out for the season.” However, that is a nebulous term and if fact, conditions can change. Later, it was changed to the 60-day disabled list. That was not fool-proof, either, as clubs cannot use the 60-day DL unless their 40-man roster is full. So a player clearly out for the year might still not be eligible for FAAB reclaim.

The current rule drops the FAAB reclaim amount to 50 percent following the All-Star break.

One of the SiriusXM producers was within earshot of our hallway conversation. He liked the FAAB reclaim idea so much that he took it into the on-air hosts immediately. As coincidence would have it, Swanay was being interviewed at the time.

Whether or not it was his plan coming into that break, as the draft concluded, Scott spent $61 on Brandon Beachy. Of course, the Braves right-hander underwent Tommy John ligament replacement surgery and will not return until 2015.

Swanay readily admitted that he simply stuck with his too-low values too long without adapting to the table conditions.

Again, the Beachy purchase was no better than making the best of a bad situation. I could find no one who felt that the value of $1 of in-season FAAB is worth as much as $1 at the draft table.

If you are skeptical, look at it this way. If you were given $360 for the season and could deploy it in any way you would like, wouldn’t you be far more likely to spend more than $260 on draft day, not less?

Of course, you would.

The uncertainties of the free agent market add considerable risk to in-season buying.

Further, in a mixed league, the interleague trade deadline, a key source of in-season talent in mono leagues, is irrelevant. Instead, Swanay’s best hope may be that a squad of Jose Fernandezes emerge from the minor leagues in a hurry. Of course, he also has to identify them and outbid the rest of the league in the process.

The Vickrey system used in Tout could be Swanay’s friend. The approach helps stretch FAAB dollars to the maximum by lowering the winning bid for any large acquisition to $1 more than the second-highest bid. That could allow Swanay to bid more aggressively.

This raises a potential competitive balance issue. Is it fair to the rest of the league for one owner to hold 60 percent more FAAB than anyone else? (Actually, the gap is greater for part of the league because those owners who finish below a pre-defined point threshold each season are docked FAAB the next year.)

One could argue that everyone at the draft table received a benefit in the lower prices achieved, given that Swanay did not utilize his full stipend. Then again, did others recognize that and were the benefits spread evenly on draft day? I don’t know how I could measure that.

Another potential twist is that Tout allows trading of FAAB. In the process of trying to improve his team, Swanay could clearly affect others’ ability to acquire available players based on how he uses his money – either through his own bidding or by giving “the hammer” to another.

After a lot of thought about this matter from these and other angles, my take is that because this situation sits within the current league rules, it should be allowed to continue down whatever path it follows.

Others feel differently – that the entire process represents a loophole that should be closed by a rules change. Though it seems unlikely that anyone would actually implement such a bidding approach purposely, that isn’t the point. They ask why this escape hatch should be allowed?

Another line of thinking is that in an industry showcase league such as Tout, such a rule should not be required. A precedent has already been established that if participants do not demonstrate sufficient playing proficiency, they may not be asked back. After all, this situation is based on a mistake, not an intent to circumvent the rules.

As much as I almost always advocate constitutional changes to clarify any gray situations, I tend to come down on the side of letting this play out before making any decisions. In this case, it is not a rules issue, per se.

I could, however, be convinced to get behind lowering the FAAB reclaim percentage to something less than 100 percent. That has always seemed too rich for my tastes – an opinion I held long before the Sherpa took his wrong turn.

In reality, Swanay may be doomed no matter how this plays out. The prevailing wisdom is that his year is likely ruined based on starting with a $200 team. If, however, he is able to salvage his season somehow, the collateral damage to the remainder of the league could lead to discord among its members.

To that end, post-draft I asked several of the other mixed Tout participants their view of the FAAB imbalance. One mixed league warrior was especially succinct. “If I wasn’t so happy with the team I drafted, then yes, I would definitely be concerned about it,” he said.

History would tend to suggest that well before the season concludes, at least 10 of the league participants are going to feel a lot less confident about their rosters than they did on draft weekend. Rightly or wrongly, how many of them perceive that FAAB bids lost to Swanay will be a negative contributor to their title chances?

Clearly, Swanay has no choice. His only recourse is to compete like hell and not worry about anyone else. We will all be watching how this season plays out.


Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
Last Updated on Saturday, 12 April 2014 08:25
 
Don’t Bite on Bonifacio PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 05 April 2014 00:00

In the opening days of the 2014 season, the baseball world has been ablaze over the superhuman feats of Chicago Cubs infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio. There is a lot to talk about.

The 28-year-old collected a modern-day record nine hits in 12 at-bats through the Cubs’ first two contests. Bonifacio followed up with two more hits in game three, becoming the first major leaguer ever with 11 hits in his first three games with a new team and just the third by any player to open a season since 1900. Bonifacio reached base just once in four plate appearances on Friday.

As is always the case, events occurring at the start of any season draw unusual levels of attention – whether for unpleasant reasons like say, B.J. Upton’s 1-for-16 start with nine strikeouts – or an extraordinary one, like Bonifacio is enjoying. Let’s face it, a few good (or bad) games in June or July might receive passing notice at best, but because it is April, the magnifying lenses are out.

Now on his sixth major league roster in his eight big league seasons after being cast aside by the Royals earlier this year, the switch-hitting Bonifacio was an afterthought at best to fantasy players in 2014. Taken late in most NL-only fantasy drafts for his speed alone, he was probably completely passed over in any respectable mixed league.

Perhaps to some, that is what contributes to his early allure. After all, Bonfacio’s career line coming into this season was a pedestrian .262/.322/.340/.662.  My simple question is this: Where do you think he will end up?

In my recollection of Bonifacio’s checkered past, this fast start song is a very familiar tune.

Having drafted Bonifacio previously, I have been sucked in by his good-looking sprints out of the blocks before. While I could rightfully be accused of a minor case of cherry-picking data in what follows, the major thought should not be lost.

Bonifacio is a fast starter, but much less so a strong finisher. The only exception might be his career year in 2011 while he was with the Marlins (.296/.360/.393/.753 with 40 stolen bases).

Look at these opening numbers from Bonifacio’s recent campaigns. They begin with 2009, the first year he began a season in the bigs (2013 is left out because it does not fit the storyline while 2010 was omitted because the Dominican native was injured and opened on the disabled list). I chose either his first four or five games of each season to illustrate his slash line high-water marks.

Bonifacio’s Fast Starts – first games of the season


Games At-bats Hits Steals BA OBP SLG OPS
2014 4 19 11 4 0.579 0.619 0.684 1.303
2012 5 19 8 4 0.421 0.500 0.421 0.921
2011 4 15 7 0 0.400 0.400 0.467 0.867
2009 5 24 14 4 0.583 0.600 0.833 1.433

The moral of the story? Do not fall for the early-April headlines. We are not talking about a Jose Fernandez discovery here. This is Emilio Bonifacio, for Pete’s sake.

After all, chances are good that by the time you could acquire him as a free agent and actually get him into your active lineup, he would cool down - and that would be that. Save your energies and FAAB for potential true difference-makers.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 05 April 2014 08:28
 
Take on Tout Warriors in the “Doubt Wars” Competition PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 29 March 2014 00:00

Have you ever said, “I know I am a better fantasy player than these so-called ‘experts.’ If I could just get into Tout Wars, I would clean up.”?

Of course, you have. I have to admit that I once felt the same way. In 2009, I even turned out to be right!

For most, however, the opportunity would seem unrealistic – if for no other reasons than distance, lack of familiarity and not working in the fantasy industry.

Even if so, never fear. There is an outlet that fits the bill perfectly and anyone can particpate. “Doubt Wars” is easy and fun – and best of all, it is absolutely free!

 

doubtwarslogo420

The rules are simple. You put together a 23-man rotisserie team in whichever playing format you prefer – American League only, National League only or Mixed League. Your $260 budget is deployed based on the 2014 Tout Wars draft prices (plus $1) of the players you select to fill out your roster. That is all there is to it.

Doubt Wars is a draft and hold format, so rosters remain as they did on draft day. The folks at the excellent league management service onRoto.com will be running Doubt Wars so you can watch your daily progress all season long.

There will be cool prizes for the winners, donated by a number of the Tout warriors themselves.

Time is short, however, so act immediately.  To join, complete the form posted at toutwars.com. The last chance to register for the 2014 competition is this Saturday, March 29 with the deadline for choosing the members of your team being game time Sunday.

I asked one of the DW organizers, Peter Kreutzer, also known as Rotoman, how the idea for the competition first came about.

“Todd Zola and I ran contests like this for our customers back in the early Tout Wars days,” Kreutzer recalled. “It may well have been Todd's idea, or mine or someone else's. I don't recall without some deep research where the idea originated. I'm pretty sure I came up with the name.”

One key intent of the increased visibility of the Tout Wars drafts, which include live coverage on SiriusXM satellite radio and live chats as the drafts are underway, is to generate as broad a discussion as possible with fantasy aficionados. This can logically be extended to a simulated competition in which all comers can participate.

“The idea was to crowdsource information about the drafts, by having a contest like this one,” Rotoman said. “We all sit around after the auctions and say this or that is a steal, but it's pretty rare when everyone agrees with that and it actually happens. And even rarer to see actual choices be appropriately judged.”

Now that the leagues will be run online by onRoto.com, results will be updated instantaneously all season long.

“One of the problems was that data entry was hard, so in last year's Doubt, Todd and I did not update the stats very often,” Kreutzer recalled. “People still loved it, I think because they saw how their preseason picks performed.”

Last year, the Doubters did not do badly at all. Rotoman’s National League recap of 2013 can be read here: http://www.toutwars.com/?p=2284.

Remember, if you want to take on the fantasy industry’s best, join Doubt Wars 2014 today!

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 March 2014 08:31
 
Be Like Mike… and Larry… or Better, Yourself PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 22 March 2014 00:00

When I first joined the National League Tout Wars fantasy baseball league with a group of industry peers 10 years ago, I chose my place at the draft table carefully. Mike Lombardo wasn’t necessarily one of the biggest names in the business, but before he was done, he won three NL titles in four years, a record that still stands.

I decided I wanted to be like Mike, so naturally, I took the chair to his right. Much to my surprise, he sat down with a yellow pad with a list of players’ names written in pencil. That was pretty much it – or at least, all I could see.

Needless to say, I couldn’t replicate Mike’s success. My fortunes improved when I realized I could not beat another at his own game.

Another very successful industry player is Larry Schechter. The five-time Mixed and American League Tout Wars champion also has a draft table placement strategy, which he shares in his new book, “Winning Fantasy Baseball.”

Larry works to position himself next to the competitor with the first pick, traditionally granted to the defending winner, so he can make the second nomination. It was typical modesty from Larry. Since he wins more often than not, he is usually the one with the first throw.

This reminds me of my early days in the business world. I was a member of a group of young turks who all reported to a veteran executive. In our staff meetings, I noticed one of my peers always positioned himself at the right elbow of the boss.

The next week, I arrived early and sat in that chair – just to see what happened next. Even though half the table was empty, my rival moved in another chair to try to squeeze in between me and the big cheese.

Where am I going with this, you ask?

I am intrigued about how my Tout Wars peers may modify their behaviors based on Schechter’s book.

You don’t know if they have read it? Of course, they have. After all, Larry is the winningest fantasy player going. It is given that most industry folks already have their tried and true methods, but even so, how much time and effort will they expend looking for behavior changes in their peers?

As mentioned, I am in NL Tout, drafting Saturday morning. I can only imagine the table antics among Schechter and his 11 AL Tout mates on Sunday morning.

For example:

On draft day, will everyone jostle for seating position next to two-time defending champion Tristan H. Cockcroft in NL or Schechter himself in the AL?

Schechter preaches having a plan for every pick. From the bidding, there is information that can be gleaned about the dynamics of the draft one is in - assuming you are paying attention.

Will people only nominate players they want to buy?

The book advises the fantasy player to always nominate players you actually want – rather than just throw out names to burn money.

Will jump bids become extinct?

I have to agree with Larry that an uneven bidding approach is not going to throw experienced drafters off their game. The primary basis of his concern, however, is to avoid overpaying for any player, even by a dollar. Speaking of which…

Will everyone come to the table with player values calculated to decimal point level?

Schechter notes that unless one takes their projections to the decimal level, suboptimal bids could be made and precious dollars frittered away. After all, $16.5 and $17.4 would appear the same to most of us.

While I certainly agree from a mathematical perspective, I am not sure that I have that precise a level of confidence in my projections. At the other end of the spectrum, using broad categories such as tiers in an auction would likely be far too generic.

As in most things in this world, moderation may be the best answer.

I encourage those of you who have not read Larry’s book to do so. You will definitely find additional tools to incorporate into your game – but just remember, always be yourself.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 22 March 2014 07:05
 
Why Can’t Bourjos Stand for Bases on Balls and Bunting? PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 15 March 2014 00:00

It is the time of year, having reviewed stats of players over and over, when certain items stick out. Some that seem to have the right raw materials to become a more complete player either do not recognize what they have or for some reason do not fully deploy them. This is my assessment of one such player.

Especially on a Sunday afternoon when the St. Louis Cardinals announced the signing of Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz, the club’s Grapefruit League road game was not drawing exceptional attention. After all, only three Cardinals starters rode the bus to Viera.

One was centerfielder Peter Bourjos, back after having sat out seven spring games with a hamstring injury.

Leading off against Washington Nationals’ ace Stephen Strasburg, Bourjos coaxed a walk. In addition to it being his first free pass as a Cardinal, it was a relatively unusual appearance over his four-year MLB career.

I find that to be both surprising and disappointing, as it seems that the 26-year-old is not fully utilizing his talents.

At the team’s Winter Warm-Up fan festival in January, Bourjos disclosed that one of his goals for his first season with his new club is to steal 40 bases. That drew a lot of media attention. After all, as a team, the 2013 Cards were dead last in the National League by a considerable margin with just 45 swipes. Just this week, the outfielder reaffirmed his intent, suggesting a .280 batting average should enable his steals target.

What about being more creative in getting to first, Peter?

Bourjos explains that his approach at the plate is basically to aggressively hit his way onto base. He makes it clear that working deep into counts and drawing walks are not major elements of his game. Too bad, as that signals his likely destination to be the bottom third of the batting order instead of the top.

To put this into perspective, in 1,136 major league plate appearances, the right-handed hitter has drawn just 63 walks, or a rate of 5.5 percent. His career on-base percentage is .306, to go with a batting average of .251.

In comparison, last season, fellow outfielder Matt Holliday had a walk rate of 11.5 percent, over double Bourjos’ career mark. Matt Carpenter walked 10 percent of the time, which explains why he and Holliday are likely to again appear in two of the first three spots in the Cardinals lineup. Even the man whose job Bourjos is trying to take, free-swinging Jon Jay, drew a free pass 8.3 percent of the time in 2013.

So, why isn’t Bourjos drawing more bases on balls?

He lacks patience. Last season, Bourjos saw an average of just 3.70 pitches per at-bat. That would have been the lowest among 2013 Cardinals regulars but is comparable to the team’s two most aggressive hitters last season in Holliday (3.71) and Jay (3.75). As noted above, the results for the latter two were very different, however.

The game-breaking speed that Bourjos possesses in centerfield is one of the major reasons he was a target of the Cardinals in their trade with the Angels. He has deployed that to his advantage on the basepaths with 41 steals in 54 attempts for a success rate of 76 percent.

Yet, it seems Bourjos is reluctant to use that speed in the act of laying down a bunt to reach base. Of those 1,136 career plate appearances, just 76 were bunts. 20 were successful sacrifices, intended to move runners over.

In the remaining 56 official at-bats, Bourjos enjoyed tremendous success. He collected 32 hits and made just 24 outs for an amazing bunting batting average of .571. Bourjos clearly has the ability to execute the play successfully.

So, why isn’t Bourjos bunting his way onto base more often?

Granted, if he tried to bunt more frequently, his success rate would almost surely drop. Still, there is a long way from .571 to .233. The latter is Bourjos’ career batting average in his non-bunting situations. In other words, that 32-for-56 success bunting has contributed 28 points to his career batting average of .251 and of course, to his OBP, as well.

Here is hoping that Bourjos is seeking out the advice of experts including former Cardinals stars Lou Brock, Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith in camp this spring and focusing more of his attention on reaching base than on swiping bags once he gets there.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
Last Updated on Monday, 17 March 2014 08:31
 
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