ROTISSERIE: NL Tout Wars—Trying something different

About 30 minutes into last Saturday’s NL Tout Wars draft, a couple of people commenting on the draft's chat board noted that some of the participants appeared to be trying the same strategies that had failed in the past. That prompted the chat moderator, BaseballHQ.com contributor Jason Collette, to quote Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” I'm not sure about a lot of the things that happened during the auction, but I’m relatively certain the chatterers were not talking about me.

Background and Options Considered

My modus operandi in Tout Wars has been to spend under $60, and sometimes under $50, on pitching and hope that through trades, good fortune and skill-based selections, hitting would lead to a championship. I took that track in the last two seasons, both of which were years I “contended,” finishing a distant second in 2012 and being in second place on Labor Day last season. Each season, my team was in dire straits by mid-May because the two most expensive starting pitchers I drafted each year were essentially rendered worthless by injury. As a result, in both years, I eventually resorted to trading virtually every starter, meaning I all but conceded both strikeouts and wins in an effort to maximize points in the other pitching categories and on offense. Such a strategy is rarely going to succeed, notwithstanding  the second-place finish in 2012. (That was a product of good fortune—a dozen wins from relief pitchers over the last five weeks—and the fact that aside from the first place team, every other team had weaknesses.)

The travails with putting together a pitching staff on a shoestring caused me to spend most of this offseason re-evaluating my Tout Wars strategy.  I considered using the Santana plan; i.e., one stud ace with a number of solid relievers, but rejected it because of minimum innings and injury concerns.  If your one ace misses time, you’re doomed. I also considered conceding wins and strikeouts from the get go, but I rejected this idea, too. Some of the same issues: minimum innings requirements mean you still need to get some starters, and unless you get lucky, they’re either not very good or not very cheap. Finally, I considered going the opposite path, one taken frequently by BaseballHQ.com’s Doug Dennis, and spend even less on pitching. I found that strategy very appealing, but rejected it for a couple of reasons, mostly because I’m not as comfortable as Doug is evaluating pitching, particularly relief pitching, and I believed such knowledge to be imperative in picking the right pitchers and making the best trades, especially in a league full of the best in fantasy baseball.

The Path Taken

After due consideration and basically by a process of elimination, I decided that I would have to spend more on pitching than I had spent previously. That led to the following other decisions:

I needed to draft:

  • At least four solid starters, including at least one ace
  • A couple of pitchers who had the potential to start effectively before the year was out
  • And at least one closer

The reasoning for these decisions was simply if I was going to compete in all 5x5 pitching categories in a deep single league competition, I'd need a cadre of starters and at least one closer. As we have seen this spring, injuries—particularly pitching injuries—are all but inevitable, meaning that starting pitching depth is essential. My calculations were that rostering the pitchers I needed was going to cost at least $75—$25 for an ace; $15 for a second tier closer; $25 for three more starters, and $10 to fill out the pitching slots.

If I was going to spend $75 on pitching, then of course I was not going to have my usual $210 to spend on hitting.

With that in mind, I decided to limit my spending on the so-called scarce positions; i.e, middle infield and catchers. Rightly or wrongly, it has been my perception that players at those positions more often than not have gone significantly above value, while corner infielders and outfielders have been at least available at par. For example, in 2013 Tout Wars, Marco Scutaro went for $13; Neal Walker for $22, and Jimmy Rollins for $20, and the respective returns were $11, $16 and $14. Thus, I decided I’d go for the unsexy players who would play most days and contribute to counting stats, but would not excel in anything. In other words, guys like Brandon Crawford and Adeiny Hechavarria.

WHAT HAPPENED

Nothing goes precisely as one would like, but as things go, I pretty much obtained what I set out to obtain. Here’s the roster:

C1 - Martin      14
C2 - Lobaton      1
1B - G. Jones    10
3B - A. Ramirez  21
CI - Arenado     17
2B - Mercer      10
SS - Crawford     5
MI - Hechavarria  4
OF - Harper      33
OF - Holliday    27
OF - Bruce       28
OF - C. Young    11
UT - Marisnick    1
SW - Drew         2
P1 - Strasburg   26
P2-  Papelbon     14 
P3 - Estrada     12
P4 - T. Hudson    8
P5 - Lohse        7
P6 - Clippard     3
P7 - Benoit       4
P8 - Collmenter   1
P9 - Billingsley  1

Reserve: Petit, LeCure, A. Torres, Wisler

All of the rosters can be found at http://www.toutwars.com

As you can see, I got my ace: Strasburg; I got my other three starters: Estrada, Hudson and Lohse—all three of whom I targeted; I got three possible starter options down the road: Billingsley, Petit and Wisler; and I got Papelbon to close.

On the hitting side, I did in fact get the unsexy middle infielders, but arguably the best outfield of any team coming out of the draft. In addition, two of my corners are every day players with upside and the third is in the left half of a platoon at worst. In other words, plenty of production should come from the trio. 

Of course, just because the plan seemed to work doesn’t guarantee success. That’s what the next six months are all about. 


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