MASTER NOTES: ToutWars AL Week-10 Assessment

On Wednesday, I checked the standings in my Tout Wars AL-only league. It’s a 12-team league. And as of Tuesday’s games, I was twelfth.

Now, I’m not claiming to be the world’s finest fantasy baseball owner, and the Tout-AL league is full of very tough competitors. But I finished a close second last year, and I thought I had a pretty successful auction this year.

Indeed, this year I had a terrific start and was even battling for the lead in the first few weeks. But then my hitters started making less contact than the nerd at the prom, while my pitchers compensated by giving up more contact than the Kardashians.

My points total fell faster than the Pirates of the Caribbean box-office. Even with early-season volatility, I was bouncing around between seventh and tenth.

But now, jeez Louise... twelfth? If I were in an egg carton, I'd be the last one fried? If I were in a box of Krispy Kremes, I'd be the plain? If I were in a bouquet of roses, (that's enough twelves - Ed.)

Fortunately for me, I still believe in Ron Shandler’s “excruciating patience” philosophy. And since it was time for me to do my usual 10-week appraisal, I decided to see if patience was indeed called for. And while my chances of waving a pennant look pretty remote, I still feel confident I can be competitive in the upper half of the standings.

Assessment

I do my team assessment like you do yours, only with more bourbon. I start with an attempt to understand not so much where my team is, but where it’s going. That means projecting the league to its end.

Again, you probably do something similar. The Tout Wars stats service, OnRoto.com, has a gizmo that projects the final standings using two different sets of player projections, one from BaseballHQ and another called “Davenport,” which I think has something to do with the fine analyst Clay Davenport, although I guess it might just have come from the county seat of Scott County in Iowa (and the largest of the Quad Cities).

In draft prep, I combine three or four different projection sets, averaging the numbers and looking for outliers. I wanted at least three projections for the assessment, so I added a third from a reputable online source.

A bit of number-crunching, data-naming and computer-cursing later, I had the projected composite results:

As you can see, the overall standings projections look like the league will be in five tiers:

  • The top four teams, led by Mike Podhorzer
  • Then the 5th- through 8th-place teams, led by me
  • Then a two-team race in 9th-10th
  • And finally two teams battling for the cellar.

The first question in standings assessment, as in getting a subway, is “How wide is the gap?” I have a nine-point gap to third place, 11.5 to second, and 14 to the leader. The second immediate question is, “Where’s that bourbon?” Then, “How likely am I to be able to close some or all of these gaps"

For that, I have to go to the projected category outcomes. And again, these outcomes are based on the averages from my three projection sources, and it’s here where some tactical considerations start to take shape.

Hitting

I start with the bats:

Home Runs: I don’t think I can catch Trachtman. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to deal away any power because I have Moyer and Liss right behind me, within the margin of error. I will keep in mind those two sub-200 HR teams at the bottom of the category, and I’ll be checking as I go to see if I will have a surplus somewhere that might interest them. Potential Gain: +0.0

RBI: I need only a net gain of about 1.5 RBI per week to pick up four points in the category, which seems doable, especially if Mike Napoli starts producing once he’s back from the DL. I don’t feel a ton of pressure from behind. Potential Gain: +4.0

SB: Looks like three points within easy grasp here, with me at 79 and the next guys 81-82-82. After that, the leaders are, well, running away from the rest of us. My worry on this one is that the projections might be overly generous. I’m last in the category now, because of slow to non-existent SB starts by Ian Kinsler, Danny Espinosa, Lonnie Chisenhall and Alex Gordon. Those four had 58 SB last season, and should be around 22 at this stage in 2017. They have six among them. If the projections are weighting on last year, and these players aren’t co-operating, there’s actually more downside here than up. Still, I have to look at the bright side: Potential Gain +3.0

Runs: Obviously Schechter’s 10th point is up for grabs, so it’s a potential gain for sure. I know Podhorzer is getting Trout back, but making up 17 runs in 16 weeks for that 11th point is not an unthinkable proposition. Potential Gain: +2.0

OBP: Yoiks. I have five hitters over .335 OBP, and two more well over .300. But their combined buoyancy is being anchored—in the bad sense of the term—by Alex Gordon, who only recently climbed above .300, and four hitters wayyyy under .300, led—if that’s the word—by Espinosa at .244 and JJ Hardy at .223. I mean .223? How does he even get to play in a major-league uniform? More to the point, how come he’s wearing my uniform? Barring some sudden outstanding resurgence... Potential Gain: +0.0

Adding up my potential hitting gains, I see the potential for +9.0 points, with gains coming from three of the four guys ahead of me in the overall: two points each from Trachtman and Podhorzer, one point from Liss. So if everything were to fall perfectly, the top five would be:

  • POD 81.0
  • TRA 78.5
  • COL 78.0
  • ME  78.0
  • LIS 77.0

The race is on!

Pitching

The assessment continues with the pitching side:

Wins: I’m clearly able to grab the 10th and 11th points, and while I’m not sure if Liss’ eight-win advantage is surmountable, it’s only net one win every two weeks, and his rotation includes Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman, so why not? With any kind of run support and bullpen perfromance, I could/should already have had 10 more wins. I should add Danny Duffy back around the All-Star break, and Drew Smyly around the trade deadline. I will have a lot of starting pitchers, and maybe enough of a lead in Wins and Ks that I could arrange a tactically helpful deal. Potential Gain: +3.0

Saves: Not much reason for optimism here. I’m holding out hope that the Royals manage to ship Kelvin Herrera out in trade-rebuilding, and that my Joakim Soria grabs the 7-8 saves it will take to nose me past Colton-Wolf. Potential Gain: +1.0

ERA: Podhorzer will be tough to catch, as he is running only three starters (with Felix on the DL) and some good LIMA-type relievers. But I feel like I have a reasonable shot at snabbing two points here just on the projections' error bars. Potential Gain: +2.0

WHIP: Much the same story with WHIP. It looks like Podhorzer has the category nailed, but after Podz and probably Lawr Michaels, it’s a dogfight. I can see three points here, again just on the normal error in the projections. Potential Gain: +3.0

K: I project to win the category. Adding Duffy and (maybe) Smyly will cement that. I like my chances even if I deal a few starters. I have to hope that Jason Collette and Schechter can push past Podhorzer down in the category a couple of points. Potential Gain: +0.0

That’s a potential gain of +8.0 points, again with the added benefits of passing some overall competitors in some of the categories. I would get by Trachtman three times, and Liss once.

If everything goes according to Hoyle in both hitting and pitching, the final tally is:

  • ME  86.0
  • POD 81.0
  • TRA 75.5
  • COL 78.0
  • LIS 76.0

Davitt wins! Davitt wins! Thuh-uh-uh-uh Davitt WINS!

Conclusion

I know, I know: This kind of analysis has a lot of problems.

The error bars. I try to ameliorate the composite error by averaging several sources, but I’ve been around rotisserie-style fantasy baseball to know that projections like these are inherently unreliable. I also know that the individual small errors could very well compound to make aggregate big errors. And I know that those big errors could work against me.

But I can see a few ways to get into the mid-80s, which usually means a top result in Tout-AL. I see 14 points for the asking in RBI, SB, Runs, Wins, ERA and WHIP. I can see a few other points here and there with a couple of breaks. I can see categories where the other top teams could lose a point or three. And I don't need all those points.

As well, it’s always hard to know how to include currently DLed players, and how much to discount active players who will lose spots to DLed players returning. I have a terrible example in our league in Podhorzer, our current and projected overall leader, who has Mike Trout on the DL. Podz could easily gain about 10 points just from the effect of Trout returning to service, perhaps starting before the All-Star break. My plan to deal with that is to close my eyes, put my fingers in my ears, and go “NA-NA-NA-NA-NA” very loudly.

But all in all, where there's life, and a projections spreadsheet, there's hope. There’s an axiom in bridge that goes something like, “If the only way to make your contract is for the King of Spades to be in West’s hand, then you have play as though the King of Spades is in West’s hand.” In other words, you have to figure out your path to success and then grab your metaphorical machete and start hacking through whatever brush is blocking that path.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.