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Monday 20th Nov 2017

I am hardly the first or only writer to recommend working extra hard on your rosters early in the season. Last week, I discussed some of the differences between daily, weekly and monthly transaction leagues. Diligent roster management is a universal need, no matter the format.

The first two formats have already offered me some unique early-season opportunities and challenges here in 2011.

My weekly league is none other than National League Tout Wars. The constitution has always identified the initial transaction period to be the second Sunday night following the draft.

That has always been uneventful for me, until 2011, that is. The year’s draft was moved up a week earlier than in the past. That meant the second transaction period was scheduled three days prior to Major League Baseball’s March 31 Opening Day.

While Tout Wars allows MLB disabled list players to not count against one’s roster limit, it was still too early for that avenue to come into play. The rub was that almost no players had been officially placed on the disabled list at that point as MLB allows retroactive moves.

My team stumbled out of the gate, with Brad Lidge’s injury first in line. I thought Houston’s number new number two hitter Clint Barmes was primed for a decent season, but he, too, did not make it to Opening Day. In this very deep NL-only league, Jay Gibbons had value to me as he owned a regular job – before his eye injury, that is.

A lack of confidence in Ryan Theriot led me to pick up a reserve player I knew would be out for a month or two in Nick Punto. All that, coupled with the demotion of third baseman Matt Dominguez, meant I had go forego picking up replacements for one week - until after the official MLB DL announcements had been made.

It was not a big deal as I did not miss out on any players that I really wanted, but I suspect the suboptimal timing of this situation was not anticipated when the constitution was written. I will remember and recommend a change be made for 2012.

In my Yahoo daily league, I have already taken advantage of the quick early-season trigger fingers of several owners. The rules allow just four reserve positions and one disabled list spot, with the intention of discouraging stockpiling and driving roster turnover.

Sometimes strategies of others surprise me. During this mixed league draft, one owner used a late-round spot for injured Johan Santana. Left alone, not only would Santana sit on the waiver wire for most of the season, but that owner also ties up his DL spot when a new injury occurs.

Instead, I did not draft an injured player nor have any of my selected players yet gone down since the season began. Yet my non-use of the DL spot changed when one of my competitors dumped Chase Utley to pick up an extra catcher, Russell Martin. I was more than happy to grab the second baseman off the wire to stash him away until his status becomes clear.

Two others I have already nabbed off waivers in this same league are Adam Lind and Logan Morrison. The common thread? Very good players that had slow starts to the season coupled with impatient fantasy owners.

In fact, when I went to the site just now to verify the Utley-Martin transaction, I see that amazingly, Kevin Youkilis has hit the waiver wire.

OK, I know that in his last game prior being dumped, Youkilis went hitless in four at-bats and stranded four. Further, his Boston team is struggling mightily, but c’mon. Youk has considerable value in any format at any time.

Remember that you wanted these players when you selected them not many days ago, so give them a chance to produce before you panic no matter where you currently sit in the standings. A tiny sample of 15-20 at-bats is not what I am talking about.

On the other hand, if quality players drop into your lap, move quickly and decisively to improve your team. If Youkilis somehow makes it to me through the waiver priority, he will be joining my roster, no questions asked.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 13-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC that season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.


As our drafts are now complete and we move into regular-season mode with our fantasy rosters, the grind begins. We must continue to refresh our player pipeline while ensuring our rosters are set properly each and every transaction period.

Finding a compatible set of mates is often a primary decision factor in selecting a league. That makes sense, but there are a couple of almost as important considerations that are often not deeply considered, sometimes until it is too late.

The process to acquire players and the duration of each transaction period are important for a fantasy player in evaluating which leagues to join. These decisions will have a lot to do with the comfort level one may achieve from your fantasy baseball experience.

There are no right and wrong answers, nor is there a one-size-fits-all approach.

This season, I play in daily, weekly and monthly transaction leagues. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

By default, the daily league, more than any other format, requires an investment of time. It is all about getting at-bats for one’s position players and innings for pitchers. One has to be prepared to deal with the six-month grind, much as the players themselves.

In the case of pitching, as in all leagues, studying the matchups is important. Getting the starters in there for the more likely wins on their schedule is the name of the game. I carry a group of relievers in reserve and swap them in during days when I don’t have starters going and move them out on days when starters have favorable matchups.

On the position player side, because bench spots are limited, acquiring at least a handful of players with multi-position eligibility is crucial. It is something I specifically target on draft day. With a limited bench, every spot is critical to maximize at-bats.

While one can look at the schedule in advance and try to set lineups for the week ahead in daily leagues, there is enough volatility with pitching changes and position players being given days off that if you decide to play in a daily transaction league and want to compete, you need to show up each day.

In fact, many daily leagues have immediate waiver claims, which means the first owner to learn of a closer injury, for example, will also be the first to grab his replacement. Again, these daily leagues require daily attention.

Weekly leagues offer a nice balance for those into fantasy baseball, but desiring a bit less of a time commitment. It also more mirrors the popular fantasy football format, with which many prospective fantasy baseball players are already familiar.

Here, finding favorable two-start pitchers for the upcoming week and having position players with six or seven games in the next period is important. So are favorable opponents and home parks.

Free agent acquisition is often managed either via a reverse-standings priority sequence or bidding for players using free agent allocation budget dollars or FAAB. While the FAAB process takes more time, it also allows a greater deployment of strategy. One must decide how much and when to spend the cash.

A monthly transaction league may sound extreme, yet it can work. Rosters can generally still be adjusted weekly, but the key is setting up the league with large rosters in the first place. That way, one can have enough depth on the bench such that players can be swapped out mid-month if injury or ineffectiveness hit.

Here, building a roster with at least one viable backup per position and in the case of pitching, having two or three ready reserves is key. Once again, the multi-position eligible position player can make your life a lot easier.

As in weekly leagues, free agents can be acquired in a standings-priority or FAAB process. Either can be used efficiently and effectively.

That was a quick summary of daily, weekly and monthly transaction leagues. Keep these differences in mind as you compete this season and propose changes for next year as appropriate to keep your leagues fresh and enjoyable.

If that fails, consider a move to a format that better meets your needs in 2012. After all, one of the benefits of playing fantasy baseball is that just about any kind of league should be readily available to join. If not, consider starting your own.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 13-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC that season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

It has been a tough stretch for National League aces. Two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana of the New York Mets is recovering from surgery to correct a shoulder capsule  torn last September. An All-Star break activation seems the most optimistic case but a return to past success following a shoulder problem is not guaranteed.

A basketball game-induced pair of rib injuries to 2009 American League Cy Young winner Zack Greinke has put the new Milwaukee Brewers star on the shelf for four to six weeks. Given he was booed at the team’s winter fan festival for announcing his backing of the Steelers over the Packers in the Super Bowl, one has to wonder if fate was involved. 

In both of those cases, the fantasy impact was quickly understood. Santana’s value is depressed to the low single digits in redraft leagues this year, and while one should knock a few bucks off your bid for Greinke, his problem appears to be the least serious by far. 

The most painful new injury to an NL pitching star is clearly St. Louis Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright’s shredded elbow ligament and resultant Tommy John surgery. One thing is for sure. Wainwright’s 2011 value is zero as he is out for the year. 

What to do with Wainwright in the future in keeper leagues aligns with a big decision facing the Cardinals in the real world. 

St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak made a wise move back in the spring of 2008, signing Wainwright to a long-term contract just as the right-hander was entering the first of his three arbitration-eligible years. 

The Georgia native agreed to terms on a four-year contract with a club option for two additional seasons. In return for the security of a long-term deal, Wainwright could pocket as much as $36 million. Even if the options were exercised, he could become a free agent at the age of 32.

When Wainwright’s elbow gave out in one of his first spring throwing sessions, the seemingly-automatic decision about his 2012 and 2013 options moved front and center.

Would the Cardinals commit $9 million next year and $12 million the year after for a pitcher coming off injury? Sure, Tommy John recovery rates are increasingly high, but fall far short of 100 percent.

SI.com’s Jon Heyman polled three competing team executives on that very question. All three predict the Cardinals will pick up the options despite the surgery. In fact, one called it a "no brainer.”

I am one of the many fortunate keeper league owners to have acquired Wainwright as a minor leaguer and have enjoyed his stats every year since. In the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL), I gladly and without question renewed Waino’s contract for 2011 at $16. That seemed a “no brainer” in late October.

I did this despite knowing that the Cardinal had late-season elbow discomfort. Even so, he finished second in the NL in wins (20), ERA (2.42) and complete games (five). Wainwright tied for second in shutouts, was third in innings pitched and fourth in strikeouts, while allowing the third-fewest walks per nine innings in the league.

Now, even before the season begins, I must decide if the remainder of my XFL roster is deep enough to compete without its strongest pitcher. Further, even if so, should I deal Wainwright away now in return for immediate help or like the Cardinals may do, wait it out and hope for the best in 2012 and 2013?

 Ultimately, my call is the same as the Cardinals’ will surely be. Waino is too good to let go but hopefully not so good that I can’t win without him.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 13-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC that season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.

It is that time of year - following the various expert league drafts - when we industry members invariably brag about our astute roster selections and our teams in their entirety (and sometimes gripe about the same). As there are lessons to be shared and learned through thoughtful analysis of both good moves and bad, this process can hold value - so I don’t mean to dismiss it out of hand.

On the other hand, I don’t find it particularly illustrative when folks proudly share their version of projected league standings based on a comparative view of rosters as drafted.

Guess what? Most of the time - though not always - the team drafted by the owner that originated the projections is expected to finish on top!

No kidding. If you can’t put together a team that maximizes the value inherent in your own projections, what does that say about your drafting preparation and execution?

On the flip side of the coin, if someone else’s stats identify your team as a sure bottom-dweller, so what?

Last year at this time, my honeymoon period as National League Tout Wars champion was abruptly truncated when one well-known industry report projected my then newly-drafted 2010 team to be solidly positioned in 13th – in other words, dead last.

Later, I gained some measure of satisfaction. When all was said and done, I finished in second place while that predictor was mired deep in the second division. It didn’t change my motivation, however, as I always play to win.

Whose projections are best is an ongoing and unanswerable debate which should provide fuel for everyone preparing them to never be satisfied. For you as the consumer, it is far less about the numbers themselves and much more about how you use them. In fact, I went into the National League Tout Wars draft last weekend with only tiers - no exact player dollar values - and felt I had more flexibility as a result.

As noted, the end game of who actually wins a league is what matters, but many variables water down the initial effect of the draft. Six months of considerable changes follow, spun by injury, ineffectiveness, emergence, promotion and the like.

Even on draft day, given the same base projections, different drafters may deploy wildly varied roster composition strategies. They will assess different levels of risk, make different spending decisions deployed at different rates and the like.

In other words, anyone taking solace from or being discouraged by preseason projections should immediately abandon this approach.

For reasons that will be explained below, I ran the NL Tout Wars rosters through our MastersDraft software using Mastersball standard projections dated March 17. In this view, our own Rob Leibowitz came out of the draft with the highest-scoring team. I am third. (I have to wonder if the projected second-place team owner is a Mastersball subscriber. He shall remain anonymous to protect his business.)

Having had lunch with Rob after last Sunday’s draft, I can assure you that neither of us is planning to take off the next six months.

Even if you believe you have the best team coming out of your draft, does that mean you still shouldn’t try to do everything possible to win? Overconfidence offers an almost sure recipe for failure.

Once your draft is over and the initial and expected excitement is past, don’t take your foot off the pedal. Spend a bit of time to evaluate your roster in a calm, detached manner. This process is important to help you set a course for the early months of the season.

Some will tell you to not take corrective action until Memorial Day, and I can understand that if the possible changes are drastic. On the other hand, even if your club appears sound out of the gate, why not anticipate potential problems and be ready to take pre-emptive action? Spending FAAB wisely early on will provide a better opportunity for return.

To be honest, the only reason I took the time to run the numbers for NL Tout was to assess in which categories my team may fall short. You can bet my early spending will be oriented toward correcting those potential weaknesses.

The nature of those particular areas on my specific roster is not going to be interesting to this audience. Your take-away is my advice to follow a similar thought process in your league, doing everything possible to get out ahead of the pack and remain there. After all, the draft, while an important first step, is only that.

Most importantly, may you be successful in your drafts and leagues in 2011!

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 13-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC that season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

A few weeks back, I discussed a couple of rules changes being implemented this year in Tout Wars, the impact of which will be felt starting in 2012. Rule changes--in the form of  behavior modification--is desirious to keep all league members “pushing for points all season long.” 

The first action is a penalty: the stick. FAAB dollars will be withheld from the next season’s budget if a team finishes below pre-defined thresholds, to the tune of one dollar off the season’s budget of $100 for each point short of the respective mark. 

The higher order thought idea here of altering FAAB totals is something I have advocated for some time. Now that the Tout Wars leaders have officially crossed that line, I think they should go further. 

My first proposal is to allow unused money on draft day to be added to one’s FAAB total for the upcoming season. I would not support taking this in the other direction, however, using any or all of the $100 full-season FAAB money to augment the draft-day total of $260. 

If an owner chooses to not spend his full allocation at the draft, instead preferring to hold off and save some of that cash to purchase free agents during the season, why should he not be allowed to do that?

I would imagine we have all been in situations where the draft left us with more money in the endgame than we wanted to spend. It isn’t necessarily an ideal or even a planned circumstance, but it does happen.

Especially in an expert league where others closely scrutinize values paid, it would be better to pay fair price for one’s last players instead of overpaying just to ensure we spend our total. After all, as we draft, we are helping to establish player values for our readers.

My other idea is related to the second Tout rules change to be implemented this coming season and next.

The new league action is a carrot. The sequence of picks in the reserve snake draft rounds is changing from a random draw to instead correspond to the order of finish in the previous season. This should provide an incentive to try to achieve as high a placement in the standings as possible. Even if that is only eighth place, it will now have value.

My suggestion is to take the reserve draft in an entirely different direction.

I would like to further accentuate one the main tenets of Tout, which is an auction format, by changing the four-man reserve rounds from snake to auction.

Again, I take seriously the number of fantasy players that look very closely at the market we help define though our player values paid. By having a simple snake draft as we do currently, we pass on the opportunity to place values on roughly 50 additional players each season.

I would implement this by requiring the early use of that season’s FAAB allocation for the reserve draft. One would begin with his full-season stipend of $100 if the current rules were followed or $100 plus whatever remained after the first 23 players were taken if my new rule proposal outlined above was accepted.

There would be little risk of overspending here, since every dollar spent in the reserve round would be one less dollar available for in-season free agent purchases.

In my last-article example, of trying, and failing to acquire Ike Davis in the first round of the reserve draft as a handcuff for Daniel Murphy, a better and fairer result would have ensued had this rule been in place. I could have (and would have) been provided the opportunity to pay a dollar more than someone else for Davis. Instead, under the current snake format, Davis was gone before my turn and I was helpless to react.

So there you have it. Two new ideas built upon existing rules, which in my opinion could help make a fun and innovative league even better.

If you have some unique and interesting league rules you’d like to share, drop me a note at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your thoughts. I might even decide to highlight it here!

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 13-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC that season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.

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