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March 31, 1998

Rotisserie Turns: ToutWars NL Auction Review

Never trust any player over 30?

by Keith Law

As some of you know, the ToutWars experts' rotisserie league held its NL auction on Saturday at New York's All-Star Cafe. The 14-team league completed its entire auction in a mere six hours, thanks to some speedy auctioneering by Mike Bikales, and by ignoring basic biological necessities for most of the proceedings. The auction produced a few interesting results worth reviewing for those who still have auctions to face, or who are pondering new strategies for next year. (For full rosters, see the ToutWars Web site.)
  • Top-heavy salaries

    The most significant trend, a continuation of one seen in the AL auction from earlier last week, was the high price tag put on marquee roto players. A number of $30-$40 prices seemed to exceed reasonable projections of the players' stats: Mike Piazza $41, Mark McGwire $40, Matt Williams $31, Sammy Sosa $37, and Curt Schilling $31. Even Ray Lankford will have a tough time meeting the $35 price tag.

    The inflation even trickled down to second-tier players: Ron Gant $27, Rick Reed and Ramon Martinez $19 each, JT Snow $22, and Willie Greene (on the BP team) $19. Ellis Burks' $27 price tag seems like irrational exuberance, as he's hardly a lock to play 120 games in any given season.

    The likely cause: the tight roto to real ratio (14 owners and 16 NL teams = (14*23)/(16*25) = 80.5%) caused people to value "guaranteed" statistics very highly, as everyone was going to have to fill the back ends of their rosters with "maybes" and "couldas."

  • The fight for playing time

    A second cause of the top-heavy salaries is the paucity of playing time. While a tight player pool makes stars more valuable, it also makes guys with guaranteed regular jobs valuable, driving up prices for Greene, John Jaha ($21 despite the injury risk), Derek Bell ($26), Rico Brogna ($16), and Devon White ($16). Given the market, these prices aren't as high as you might think.

    The ramification of the outlays for full-timers is that owners who went for playing time gave up on saves - and vice versa:

    			Starting
    Owner			hitters		Closers
    Moyer			11		0
    Zwilling/Melnick	11		0
    Chaby			10		0
    Shandler		9		1
    Faulkner		9		1
    Kulik			9		2
    Law			9		2
    Zipay			8		1
    Patton/Kreutzer		8		2
    Olkin			7		2
    Vogel/Carter		7		1
    Mayo			6		1
    McGee			6		1
    Coleman			6		2
    

    Obviously, the cost of getting those 10th and 11th hitters with playing time forced the owners in question to make a choice between punting wins or punting saves. Steve Moyer spent $82 on seven starters; Irwin Zwilling and Lenny Melnick spent $57 on seven starters, $48 on their front three (Ramon, Joey Hamilton, Bobby Jones); and Al Chaby spent $70 on eight starters, including $44 on his front three.

  • No "whole bullpen" strategies

    With all the NL closer situations that are up in the air, or threaten to be so during the season, I expected one or two owners to grab a closer plus the likely heir(s) to the job should their closer falter. I was wrong. The owners of Rod Beck, Jeff Brantley, Jay Powell, Antonio Osuna, Rich Loiselle, and Doug Jones each passed on Terry Adams, John Frascatore, Oscar Henriquez, Scott Radinsky, Ricardo Rincon, and Bob Wickman. The risk in the whole bullpen strategy is high, as one Hipolito Pichardo can put all your money down the toilet, and the fact that six roto experts all passed on the strategy tells me that it's probably not the best of moves.

  • Those damn catchers

    The following catchers went for more than $1: Kelly Stinnett, Tyler Houston, Greg Zaun, Bobby Hughes, Tim Spehr, Bobby Estalella, Greg Myers. Part of that is the 14-team effect, but part of it is panic over getting stuck with Matt Matheny (property of the New York Post's Jonathan Mayo, God bless him). I felt pleased that I managed to snag the 100 at bats Keith Osik will provide me, and that feeling was a little unnerving.

  • The ugly truth: The BP team

    The wacky player values early on cause me to deviate from my "never pay $30 for a player" strategy, as I jumped at Gary Sheffield at $30 and Ricky Bottalico for $31. I also wound up in the later scuffles for playing time, getting Lou Collier at a punitive $8 and Freddy Garcia at $7 in addition to Greene; buying early might have actually saved me more money. I also think I'll struggle to hit .270. Here's the squad; comments are welcome. I've marked the hitters I considered "starters" with an asterisk.

    c  Scott Servais*   $6
    c  Keith Osik       $1
    1b Ryan Klesko*     $21
    2b Quilvio Veras*   $24
    ss Lou Collier*     $8
    3b Willie Greene*   $19
    ci Freddy Garcia*   $7
    mi Wilton Guerrero  $4
    of Gary Sheffield*  $30
    of Andruw Jones*    $26
    of Bob Abreu*       $10
    of Carl Everett     $7
    of Brent Brede      $4
    ut Andy Fox         $2
    
    sp Chris Holt       $4
    sp Dustin Hermanson $4
    sp Jason Schmidt    $5
    sp Kent Mercker     $2
    sp Felix Heredia    $2
    rp Curt Leskanic    $2
    rp Ricardo Rincon   $3
    rp Ugueth Urbina    $27
    rp Ricky Bottalico  $31 
    
Oh yes - still wondering about the title of this column? I believe that I've only got two players on the old side of 30 - Kent Mercker and Scott Servais. That was hardly intentional, but as Irwin Zwilling mentioned afterwards, "You always do that." I guess it's just the BP way.
Related Content:  Ricky Rincon,  Rosters

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