GM's OFFICE: Tout Wars H2H reflections

Bias up front: I’m a guy who likes process. 

So even though I’ve never played in a Head-to-Head league, I have always been intrigued with the recent contributions of writer David Martin on the format. This is the fourth year that Martin has explored and developed the Homogenous Plan for H2H play. The Cliff Notes version is to target players on offense who do similar things well, thus giving a H2H team a “base” to work from each week. Drafting similar types of players, along with using Quality Consistency (QC) scores based on weekly skills metrics, seemed like a good starting point for side-stepping the hot and cold streaks that can wreak havoc on a H2H season. 

So when given the chance to join the new Tout Wars Head-to-Head league, I felt that, armed with at least an outline of a plan that helped to narrow the prospective player pool bit, I could give this format a run. 

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The Format
A few words about the format which made my first in-person Tout Wars draft especially interesting. 

First, it's a shallow league 12-team mixed. As one who plays mostly in deep only leagues, or in a few 15-team mixers, I would need to adjust from a player pool perspective. So many of the deep sleepers we try to identify at this time of year are just not worth a roster spot, at least to start, in a league like this. It would take some restraint to not end up with a rotation that included Daniel Norris, Jose Berrios AND Vince Velasquez. 

Second, this was a $260-auction format. Though I’m not the curmudgeon that I used to be with drafts, I definitely prefer the added element that an auction brings to player acquisition. Everyone is tasked with allocating of the same amount of resources (auction dollars), and you decide on each player that is nominated what to bid, what your limit is, or whether to just pass. You really want Mike Trout? Unlike in a straight draft, you get your shot in an auction format.

Third, the categories. There are a couple small but significant twists in this league. Categories are OBP, R, HR, RBI, NetSB on the offensive side; W+QS, ERA, WHIP, K/9, NetSv on the pitching side. While OBP change is not new (especially in Tout Wars leagues), the W+QS and K/9 (and yes, there are IP minimums) add some considerations. 

Fourth, the scoring. While six "wins" are at play each week against one single opponent (two for winning the most hitting categories, two for pitching, and two for overall), traditional roto scoring (all 12 teams) is in place for three separate longer periods: the two halves of the season broken up by the All-Star break, and the full season. Each team is assigned wins and losses depending on placement in those three periods. Confused yet? You wouldn't be the only one—several of us participants debated the specifics of the scoring on Saturday afternoon of the weekend, nearly 24 hours after we selected our teams.

While the format could be a control freak's nightmare—there didn't seem to be any precedents for a league format like this—it also adds another element to the already-wide gap of approaching the draft, player evaluation, and trying to anticipate in-season moves. And heck, we're all experienced players to some extent. We can handle some unknowns. 

The Plan
Going in, I decided I was willing to pay for couple big hitters up front; even up to value for those players with consistent success. I ran the categories through our Custom Draft Guide, then went back and highlighted hitters with QC scores in two tiers: 75 and above; and 50-75. I also aimed for a 70/30 split of the $260, but knew that I’d likely end up passing on the big starters. Part of that decision was that I felt that hitting more reliable, and also, there were mid-level pitchers whom graded out well historically in QC (which is based largely on PQS-DOM/DIS figures). So likely, my staff would end up as a spread-the-risk endeavor.

I had no idea how this group would value closers. On the one hand, several of the top guys have huge k/9 numbers. On the other hand, I wasn’t convinced that the blown saves portion would really affect the saves category that much on a week-to-week basis. In 2015, for instance, there were only 13 relievers who had more than five blown saves, and no one individual pitcher had more than seven. So even for the worst of these relievers, they had less than one blown save every three weeks. Via the Custom Draft Guide, only Kenley Jansen was in the $20 range, with most of the other guys with jobs (heavily leaned towards the AL, obviously) in the $15ish cell.

So enough background. How did it go? All the ToutWars rosters are here; use the H2H tab for this specific auction (other Opening-Day Tout rosters are on the other tabs).

Things went OK — Votto ($38) and Betts ($31) were my first two buys; Votto was valued via my sheet in the 40s; Betts right around 30. Betts had an excellent QC score in 2016; Votto has been consistent in the past and is obviously an OBP anchor. Ortiz, Zobrist, Tiexiera, Conforto and Panik (reserve pick) all registered QC scores of 75 or above; Cano, Andrus, Moustakas and Solarte (also reserve) had QC scores in the 50-75 range.

Lucroy, Martin, Kemp, Fowler and Gordon ranged from at least a couple dollars underneath CDG value, to quite a bit below (the outfield trio especially, due to auction dynamics) for this format.

On the pitching side, I nominated Jansen early in an attempt to test out the closer market. His $25 set the closer bar high, at least for a short time. Shortly after, Wade Davis went for $20, but then subsequent closers went for significantly less (including single digits for the likes of Giles, Allen and Britton), especially as money had been drained from the room. I felt I scored some profit with Familia $10 early on, but probably easily could have waited for the likes of the names above. Later on, added Andrew Miller and A.J. Ramos $7 to help with both saves and, in Miller's case, k/9.

As I thought, the big SPs were bringing more than what CDG valued them. I restrained on SP—though letting both Strasburg and Syndergaard go at $26 were especially difficult. Instead, since I hadn't rostered a $20+ starter and outside of Votto/Betts, I had passed on most other hitters, I had the cash to go value-hunting in the middle of the draft with specific second-tier starting pitching targets in mind. Stroman $12, Hamels and Smyly $9, Iglesias $7 were all part of that effort. In retrospect, I do have more injury risk in the rotation than I would prefer, with Smyly, McCullers and Tanaka especially—but also know that playing the SP FAAB wire will be necessary anyway, and was happy to that started by selecting Velasquez and Joe Ross for my reserve list. 

As with any live auction, hindsight is 20/20, and draft dynamics play such a big role in what look like skewed prices on a spreadsheet. But leaving $6 on the table means that I wasn’t aggressive enough on a few guys in the early and middle portions of the draft. Posey $25, Arenado $28, Kyle Seager $17 are all elite players via QC scores that I could have easily pushed few dollars higher. On the other hand, with a full wallet in the middle and end game, I was able to acquire the players I wanted to at that point in the draft.

Will that be enough? That's always the question. Looking forward to getting the games started soon, to see just how the idiosyncrasies of this league play out in-season. If you have feedback or questions on the league itself, or my team in particular, please leave your comments below.


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