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Informal Rules Can be Confusing in Fantasy, too PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 16 August 2014 00:00

With more and more of our baseball time taken up in preparation for the upcoming NFL season, some of the differences between the unwritten rules between the two sports have been recently brought into the forefront of my thinking.

I am not talking about such “rules” in the real sports – moves viewed with universal disdain that virtually no one would defend them. For example, in football, going for a two-point conversion when already up by 40 points in the fourth quarter or calling for a double-steal when up by nine runs in the ninth inning. Tony La Russa was fond of calling it “respecting the game.”

In the fantasy world, those problems do not exist – nor do the avenues of direct retaliation – such as a fastball drilled into the hip of the first batter of the next inning. That was also a common La Russa team reaction.

Some of these unwritten rules in our games are less clear and can be most perplexing.

Here as we reach mid-August, with 4 ½ of the six-month MLB schedule complete, we can pretty clearly see which teams in our fantasy leagues have a realistic title shot and which do not.

In keeper baseball leagues, many owners of non-competitive teams in 2014 made this assessment long ago and executed trades more with the future than the present in mind. Assuming the deals are fair, they are rarely controversial, as the ebbs and flows over time are understood and generally accepted.

However, in any league, owners are expected to compete until the end – or are they?

In National League Tout Wars, a prominent industry league, penalties were enacted to incent owners to fight through game 162. Finishing below a pre-defined point threshold leads to an owner being taxed one dollar of FAAB the next season for each point below the line.

In an industry keeper league, the Xperts Fantasy League, or XFL, the next season’s draft used to be in the inverse order of the prior year’s standings. That actually led to certain teams trying to lose points late in the season to improve their draft position – sort of like when NBA teams are accused of tanking to help their lottery chances. Certain owners were benching starters, keeping injured players active and the like in a legal, but ethically questionable attempt to alter fate.

As a result, the XFL rules in this area had to be flipped to almost the opposite of the prior implementation. The following year draft order was changed to 2, 3, 4, etc, 14, 15, 1. In other words, only the league winner was disadvantaged the next season and in the process, there became a clear reason to want to finish second instead of third, for example.

But here comes some of that inconsistency. In FAAB leagues, I have experienced some team owners in contention expressing concern about teams out of the hunt continuing to aggressively bid on players as the season nears its end.

I guess they feel it is more chivalrous for the losers to step aside for the winners. I don’t buy it.

I am in the also-ran group in NL Tout this year, with considerable money remaining. I will continue to compete to the best of my ability, whether in first or 11th place. For the life of me, I cannot imagine why any reasonable person would expect otherwise, but they are out there.

Fantasy football can be just the opposite.

Because of the head-to-head nature of the pigskin game and the relatively limited number of matchups each season, teams that quit trying are invariably attacked violently by their peers.

After all, if I had to play the eventual weak sisters early in the season when they were still interested in their teams, but my main competitors did not draw the quitters until later in the year, I would be upset. Picking up an easy late-season win over a team with a blank roster or a crew of injured players active could decide the title.

So, fantasy football’s unwritten rule is to “compete to the end,” while the answer in some corners of the fantasy baseball world is “maybe not.” That is not the case where I play, however.


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, 16 August 2014 07:55
 
When Fourth Place is First Loser PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 09 August 2014 11:13

Coming into Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline, my FAAB total in National League Tout Wars left me in a tenuous position.

Of the 12 league competitors, I had the third-most money. It was not necessarily my plan. I just hadn’t won enough bids this season to spend more. The fact that Joe Panik at $18 is my biggest buy to date says it better than I can.

Of my original $100, I had used $54, but received $6 in reclaim for an injured, dropped player, leaving me with $52. I said that was third-most, but in reality, I was tied with Seth Trachtman at that amount. Since he is higher in the standings, I would win any tiebreakers between us.

That was clearly not the problem, or should I say, problems.

First of all, there is Mike Gianella. In early June, my friend from Baseball Prospectus engineered a trade in which he acquired $50 in FAAB. The beauty of the deal was that Mike gave up Kris Bryant, a player he had earlier acquired as a free agent for just $1. As you know, two months later, Bryant is still in the Minors and Tout is a re-draft league.

Even with normal spending during the season, Gianella came into the deadline period with a huge hammer - $122. In what seemed unusual to me, no other owner hung around the $90-$100 range.

In fact, the next largest total was just $66, held by Steve Gardner of USA TODAY.

You can quickly do the math. Gianella was in a position that he could bid $67 to win one player and $55 on another. That would be enough to take the first- and third-best free agent – assuming maximum bids are made.

That means in reality that I was in fourth, not third, in the league FAAB pecking order.

Here is where it gets really ugly for me.

Despite the flurry of trade activity across MLB, only three prime players came over to the Senior Circuit this past week.

In fact, one could argue there were only two. No one will dispute the pedigrees of pitcher John Lackey, now a St. Louis Cardinal, and Asdrubal Cabrera, a new member of the Washington Nationals.

The third is possibly damaged goods – a 2013 American League All-Star followed by a disappointing first half and most recently, coming off a disabled list stint due to a knee problem. Oh yes, and Justin Masterson’s velocity is down this season, too.

So the question is whether the other new member of the Cardinals rotation was worth my maximum bid. Normally, I would say, “probably not.” But the reality is that if I somehow managed to escape the Gianella-Gardner gauntlet, not only does Trachtman also hold $52, Phil Hertz was right behind at $51.

Speaking of Hertz, I have to digress for a moment.

Phil is the master of the “sweetener,” a process in which he asks for a few dollars of FAAB ostensibly to balance out a trade. Of the four league deals this season in which FAAB has changed hands, Phil was the cash recipient in three. (The other was the aforementioned Gianella windfall.)

To top it off, Hertz made a trade on Sunday afternoon, eight hours before the deadline. He dumped Chris Young for $3 FAAB. My spirits dropped upon reading the deal was done.

I have been conditioned to receive a note from Phil every weekend, offering the guys he plans to drop that night in trade. In this case, he got a bite.

I feared the $3 would allow Hertz to leap ahead of me in the FAAB queue this week, but alas, the money cannot be used in the same week in which it changes hands.

If Gianella, Gardner and Gianella nab Lackey, Cabrera and Masterson, Phil would have the hammer next week – or would he?

There is another factor that would give me the edge going forward for any waiver wire trades into the NL, or so I thought. With Cliff Lee apparently out for the season, I decided to put in a Sunday night FAAB reclaim.

Had Lee cratered before the All-Star Game, I could have recovered all $27 I spent on draft day. Unfortunately, in the second half, I get back only half, rounded down, or $13. (To be honest, half of the money back in the second half is more than fair. I think the league policy is too liberal, but right now, I will take the cash.)

Even if I would spend $52 on Masterson, $13 would give me enough pocket money for minor acquisitions for the remainder of the season. Otherwise, I might carry the FAAB hammer myself.

So I bid $52 for all three players: Lackey, then Cabrera, then Masterson. I got none of them, with all going for exactly $53 each. Cabrera went to Gardner with the other two joining Gianella, just as I expected.

Even my FAAB reclaim gambit fell short. While I now have $65, it still isn’t the maximum amount. Turns out that Trachtman pulled his own Cliff Lee move with a more costly player out for the year, Paul Goldschmidt. As a result, Trachtman added $19 to his war chest and currently has me outflanked by $4.

In other words, I have to hope for at least two waiver trades of decent players from the American League into the National League during the same week. Otherwise, I will have wasted a boatload of cash by not having bid aggressively enough during the first two-thirds of the season – or holding more money for the non-waiver deadline.

The worst place to be is caught in between, where I currently reside. No one put me there, however. I did it to myself. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes better than I can. I sure hope so.

 

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 Sunday, 10 August 2014 02:00
 
Less-Prominent Beneficiaries of the Trade Deadline PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 02 August 2014 00:00

As the non-waiver trade deadline across Major League Baseball approached, the rumor mill was extremely active with scores of names potentially in play. With at least two dozen deals actually becoming reality, much of the focus since has been on the headliners changing teams.

This is rightfully so, with big names including David Price, Austin Jackson, Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Chase Headley - not to mention three-fifths of the Red Sox rotation in Jon Lester, Jake Peavy and John Lackey - changing teams.

Yet there are some less prominent players who should benefit as a result of the trades, as well, whether directly or indirectly. I will note a handful of them here, as they are more likely available in your leagues.

Indirectly – Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals

St. Louis manager Mike Matheny was in a tough spot. Allen Craig, a proven player with over $30 million remaining on his contract, had been struggling all season long. Top prospect Oscar Taveras had shown he was ready for the Majors, but his only route to playing time would be at Craig’s expense.

By shipping Craig to the Red Sox in the Lackey trade, Cards GM John Mozeliak eliminated Matheny’s decision-making on this matter. Taveras will be the Cardinals' everyday right fielder going forward. While the left-handed hitter may bat seventh initially, he should move up in the order once he gets his feet firmly planted.

Directly – Jake Marisnick, OF, Astros

Despite a tantalizing combination of power and speed, the former Marlins top prospect could not establish any traction in two earlier trials with Miami, batting just .175. Dealt to Houston in the Jarred Cosart trade, Marisnick should receive everyday playing time in centerfield the rest of the way.

Directly – Zach Walters, SS, Indians

Though the Tribe has dispatched the former Nationals infielder to Triple-A initially upon his acquisition for Asdrubal Cabrera, Walters should displace journeyman Mike Aviles up the middle very soon. After he does, he should hold down the job for a long time. The 24-year-old switch-hitter has already mastered Triple-A.

Indirectly – Stephen Vogt, UT, A’s

No one player is going to replace Cespedes in the Oakland lineup, but the versatile Vogt should be at the front of the line to receive additional playing time. Eligible at catcher, first base and outfield in many leagues, the left-handed hitter is batting .351 with 23 RBI in just 151 at-bats. This is qualified support until we see how Sam Fuld and Jonny Gomes play in the new Oakland mix, but my suspicion is that both will be reserves.

Directly – Tommy Milone, SP, Twins

Though Billy Beane scores heavily in many corners due to his trade wizardry, the move of Milone to the Twins in return for a player he let go not too many weeks ago in Fuld is curious to say the least. Milone was squeezed out of the A’s rotation a month ago despite good numbers – a 3.55 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 61 strikeouts and 26 walks in 96 1/3 innings. The left-hander was initially assigned to Triple-A Rochester, but I cannot see that lasting very long.

Directly – Joe Kelly, SP, Red Sox

Despite good numbers in each of the past two seasons, Kelly had to come to camp and re-earn his rotation spot in both of the subsequent springs. Though he allows a lot of runners, the right-hander doesn’t let too many come home and can throw 95 mph. With the young arms at the top of the Cardinals system, Kelly’s long-term future in St. Louis was cloudy, but the current Red Sox offer nothing but opportunity.

Directly – Nick Franklin, SS, Rays

Because Ben Zobrist was not moved at the deadline, Franklin was sent to Triple-A upon his acquisition from Seattle. Though Franklin continues to rake against minor league pitching, he could manage just a .214 average in two partial seasons in the Majors. The switch-hitter should receive a chance with Tampa soon.

Indirectly – Joaquin Benoit, RP, Padres

When Huston Street was sent to the Angels, Benoit was considered to be the next to go in the Padres’ fire sale. It did not happen, at least yet. In the meantime, Benoit is continuing his exceptional pitching for San Diego. All he needs is more opportunities for saves, though that seems unlikely.

 

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, 02 August 2014 09:44
 
Not NL All-Stars, but Not Snubbed, Either PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 26 July 2014 00:00

Last week, I looked at the 2014 National League All-Stars as aligned by their ownership in the NL Tout Wars League. I was unable to draw a firm correlation between the industry fantasy league’s standings and the quantity of All-Stars for several reasons.

For one, All-Stars are not created equal. In the most extreme case, my Tony Watson is clearly less valuable than Steve Gardner’s Clayton Kershaw. Yet the two were considered two peas in the same pod in my quick and dirty initial analysis.

Even more important is the reality that the rules and processes surrounding the Midsummer Classic do not always ensure the best players from the first half of the season are representing their leagues in the All-Star Game.

Sure, the players and managers can smooth out some of the rough edges created by fan voting, but there are still limitations beyond the raw roster size. For example, having one representative per team could keep a more deserving player out of the game. So could an All-Star manager taking one of his own players over a more talented opponent.

I am violently against the use and abuse of the word “snub,” however. More often than not, there are simply more deserving players for All-Star consideration than slots to be filled. That should not be considered a slight on those not chosen, but instead a realization that the current process is imperfect. Likely any adjustments would never end the arguments.

Anyway, this time around, I am looking at 13 of the best NL players not chosen for the All-Star team. I will also check how they align to the NL Tout standings, though I am not expecting to receive much of any insight from that.

Position Players Tout owner
C: Buster Posey, Giants Tristan H. Cockcroft
His off-year better than others' good years. 10 HR, 46 RBI.


1B: Matt Adams, Cardinals Seth Trachtman
Outplaying ex-All-Star teammates Holliday and Craig.


1B: Justin Morneau, Rockies Lenny Melnick
Not as bad as Papi, but again why did Twins dump him?


2B: Scooter Gennett, Brewers Brian Walton
Rickie who? Batted .309 pre-break for first-place club.


SS: Ian Desmond, Nationals Tristan H. Cockcroft
16 HR, 57 RBI nice production from middle infield.


3B: Anthony Rendon, Nationals Mike Gianella
Left side of the infield is all-Nats. Also plays 2B.


OF: Justin Upton, Braves Mike Gianella
17 HR, 55 RBI before the break. Only 7 steals.


OF: Ryan Braun, Brewers Scott Wilderman
Yes, he's injured often, but still plated 52 and hit .298.


OF: Jayson Werth, Nationals Steve Gardner
Quietly drove in 54 with 12 HR and played every day.


Pitchers Tout owner
Henderson Alvarez, Marlins Seth Trachtman
2.27 ERA covers nicely for Jose Fernandez injury.


Jake Arrieta, Cubs Peter Kreutzer
My luck; I had him in Tout a year too early.


Kenley Jansen, Dodgers Scott Wilderman
What heart condition? Automatic in ninth.


Huston Street, Padres Seth Trachtman
First half was good enough to fetch value in trade.


NL Tout warrior All-Stars Not All-Stars Total Standings
Seth Trachtman 7 3 10 3
Steve Gardner 6 1 7 1
Tristan H. Cockcroft 3 2 5 2
Peter Kreutzer 4 1 5 5
Lenny Melnick 4 1 5 T8
Mike Gianella 2 2 4 6
Todd Zola 4 0 4 T8
Scott Wilderman 2 2 4 12
Gene McCaffrey 3 0 3 10
Brian Walton 2 1 3 11
Derek Carty 2 0 2 4
Phil Hertz 2 0 2 7

As noted above, the rich get richer. Or should I say, the best teams are reaffirmed. Not only did Seth Trachtman of Sporting News have the most regular All-Stars, he also had the most members of my “not All-Star team.” Impressive.

At the other end of the spectrum is Derek Carty, who was just behind Trachtman in the standings in fourth place despite only two real All-Stars and none from my group of 13. Carty has a very balanced roster – the polar opposite of stars and scrubs.

If he wasn’t my competitor, I would root for Carty for that very reason.

 

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, 26 July 2014 08:05
 
Drafting All-Stars is Not a Sure Winning Ticket PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 19 July 2014 00:00

During this last week, among my baseball-related activities were to assess how I could improve my under-performing team in National League Tout Wars and of course, watching the 2014 All-Star Game from Minneapolis Tuesday night.

When encountering a friend recently with whom I had not spoken for several months, he queried me how my Tout team is doing. Surprised that I am deep in the second division, he asked me why.

My answer may have seemed a bit trite, but it was accurate. “I picked the right players in the wrong season,” was my conclusion.

That got me thinking.

As I studied the player introductions for the Mid-Summer Classic, I did not recall seeing even one member of my Tout squad. That was not a good feeling to say the least. After all, with all the injury and Sunday pitching replacements, 41 players ended up being named to the NL roster. With 12 Tout teams, my “fair share” should be close to 3 1/2.

On the broader point, I wondered if there might be any correlation between NL Tout standings and the number of National League All-Stars on each of our rosters.

In reality, I did have two All-Stars, both reserves from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Neither was part of my master plan for the 2014 season and one of them is about as tenuous as a selection could be.

I grabbed Josh Harrison as a free agent when he first came up and he has not only delivered solid stats, but also offers significant positional versatility. On the other hand, setup man Tony Watson has been sitting there unclaimed on the waiver wire almost all season long. The lefty just joined my Tout team a few weeks ago and has been on the bench all but the first week. In other words, Watson's impact on my results has been very, very small.

The league-wide details follow with a summary afterward.

Starters Tout owner
C: Jonathan Lucroy ^, Brewers Steve Gardner
1B: Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs Seth Trachtman
2B: Chase Utley, Phillies Todd Zola
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies Peter Kreutzer
3B: Aramis Ramirez, Brewers Phil Hertz
OF: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates Peter Kreutzer
OF: Carlos Gomez, Brewers Lenny Melnick
OF: Yasiel Puig, Dodgers Seth Trachtman


Pitchers Tout owner
RHP: Henderson Alvarez @, Marlins Seth Trachtman
LHP: Madison Bumgarner ^, Giants Peter Kreutzer
LHP: Aroldis Chapman ^, Reds Steve Gardner
RHP: Tyler Clippard %, Nationals Mike Gianella
RHP: Johnny Cueto ^, Reds Gene McCaffrey
RHP: Zack Greinke *, Dodgers Seth Trachtman
RHP Tim Hudson %, Giants Phil Hertz
LHP: Clayton Kershaw ^, Dodgers Steve Gardner
RHP: Craig Kimbrel ^, Braves Todd Zola
RHP: Pat Neshek *, Cardinals Gene McCaffrey
RHP: Francisco Rodriguez ^, Brewers Scott Wilderman
RHP: Tyson Ross *, Padres Mike Gianella
RHP: Jeff Samardzija ^$, Cubs/A's Lenny Melnick
RHP: Alfredo Simon %, Reds Peter Kreutzer
RHP Huston Street %, Padres Seth Trachtman
RHP: Julio Teheran *, Braves Steve Gardner
RHP: Adam Wainwright ^, Cardinals Tristan H. Cockcroft
LHP: Tony Watson *, Pirates Brian Walton
RHP: Jordan Zimmermann ^, Nationals Todd Zola


Reserves Tout owner
C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals Seth Trachtman
C: Miguel Montero @, D-backs Seth Trachtman
C: Devin Mesoraco *, Reds Tristan H. Cockcroft
1B: Freddie Freeman ^, Braves Gene McCaffrey
1B: Anthony Rizzo #, Cubs Derek Carty
2B: Dee Gordon ^, Dodgers Todd Zola
2B: Daniel Murphy *, Mets Scott Wilderman
SS: Starlin Castro ^, Cubs Tristan H. Cockcroft
3B: Matt Carpenter *, Cardinals Steve Gardner
3B: Todd Frazier ^, Reds Steve Gardner
OF: Charlie Blackmon ^, Rockies Lenny Melnick
OF: Josh Harrison *, Pirates Brian Walton
OF: Hunter Pence ^, Giants Lenny Melnick
OF: Giancarlo Stanton ^, Marlins Derek Carty


Notes
^ Player ballot-elected
* Choice of manager/MLB
# Final Vote winner
@ Injury replacement
% Replaced Sunday pitcher
$ Inactive


NL Tout warrior All-Stars Standings
Seth Trachtman 7 3
Steve Gardner 6 1
Peter Kreutzer 4 5
Lenny Melnick 4 T8
Todd Zola 4 T8
Tristan H. Cockcroft 3 2
Gene McCaffrey 3 10
Derek Carty 2 4
Mike Gianella 2 6
Phil Hertz 2 7
Brian Walton 2 11
Scott Wilderman 2 12

Not surprisingly, the two teams with the most NL All-Stars sit first and third in the standings. Seth Trachtman of The Sporting News is in third place, but leads the way with seven All-Stars. USA TODAY’s Steve Gardner is leading the league currently and is second with six All-Stars.

Yet, in between them is the second-place team, managed by two-time champion Tristan H. Cockcroft of ESPN. He is doing very well despite sporting just a trio of All-Stars, as his track record indicates he knows how to win.

Further, tied with me and three others at the bottom of the heap with just a pair of All-Stars is the fourth-place team of Derek Carty. That clearly indicates that one does not need a heavy complement of All-Stars to field a competitive team.

I guess I will have to continue searching for another excuse.

 

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, 19 July 2014 08:32
 
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