October 7, 2011
Interview with Tout Wars Mixed Champ Fred Zinkie
While we wait to hear the voting results for the American League and National League Rookie of the Year awards, we know who the Tout Wars Rookie of the Year is. Fred Zinkie of fantasybaseball.com won the 15-team Tout Wars Mixed League in his first year in the competition.
BP: How exactly does one win a 15-team mixed league while getting just two points in home runs? Better yet, how does one finish second in the RBI category with so few home runs?
FZ: Nothing seemed to work out with me in terms of homers. Several players I bought at auction had disappointing home runs totals, and I traded for some players with power who weren’t so powerful once they were with me. I collected a lot of RBIs by maximizing at-bats. I owned several players in the Melky Cabrera/Shane Victorino/Carlos Lee mold, who don’t hit a lot of homers but play every day, hit high in the order, and drive in runs.
BP: You spent $62 on the quartet of Buster Posey, Carlos Lee, Geovany Soto, and Aubrey Huff, who combined to produce much less than what you spent on them. To make matters worse, you lost Posey for the season early on. How does one compensate for making up for spending 24 percent of his draft day budget on four disappointing players like that?
FZ: I made some trades for depth, sacrificing my best players to get a pair of good ones. I picked up a couple hitters for Matt Holliday and a hitter and closer for Andrew McCutchen. When I lost Posey, I quickly made a trade for A.J. Pierzynski so that I wouldn’t have a big hole at catcher. And I spent some of the added funds from losing Posey on Vance Worley. In the end, I regretted spending so much at the catcher position, but I don’t regret Lee and Huff; Lee wasn’t that bad and Huff was just a pick that didn’t work out.
BP: Do you believe in having a hard framework for that part of your draft plan at the auction table or should owners be willing to be flexible as the dynamics of an auction play out?
FZ: I’m very flexible on draft day. I’ve made my own formula for valuing players, and I am willing to bid on virtually any player up to the maximum dollar value I have listed beside his name. When the bidding passes that number, I stop. I had a loose plan for total money spent on hitting and pitching, but that was it. I ended up spending a lot on my outfield, but I would have bought good infielders instead if that’s where I thought the value lied during the auction. I won’t get into a bidding war; there is no player that I have to own.
BP: Looking back at your draft day roster, it is hard to believe that you ended up placing no worse than fourth in any pitching category. What did you do within the season to supplement your draft day pitching staff?
FZ: I gambled on several two-start pitchers early in the season when the arms were fresh. Coming off “the year of the pitcher,” I felt that it was a good risk to take. That helped me to get more wins and strikeouts, and I didn’t damage my ERA and WHIP too much. Having Clayton Kershaw made up for some pitching mistakes on my roster. I picked up Vance Worley and Dillon Gee at just the right time. Using 2-3 closers most weeks also limited my use of weak starters and kept my ERA and WHIP reasonable.
BP: You drafted 3 closers—Heath Bell, Huston Street, and J.J. Putz—on draft day. In a 15-team mixed league, do you have to take three closers to stay competitive or can you afford to go after just two and take your chances within the season?
FZ: I felt that I had to take one closer at the auction, and I was expecting to take two. I had a list of closers that I believed could keep their jobs for most or all of the season. I was willing to spend $10-12 on any of them, up to a maximum of three. I spent more on Bell because of his high level of talent. Putz was the last closer I took last, and I felt like the value was right, rather than spending the same amount of money on another starter. I don’t like messing with the $5 closers on draft day. I’ll either take the ones I believe in or I’ll pass and work the trade route or waiver wire.
BP: There are varying schools of thought surrounding dollar days. Are you a believer in never letting others control your draft action by avoiding dollar days as long as possible, or do you have enough confidence in your end game skills to run the risk of ending up with five $1 players on your team?
FZ: I don’t mind $1 pitchers, but I don’t like to draft too many $1 hitters. The opinions on pitchers vary more so it’s more likely that no one else wants the $1 pitchers I target. For hitters, the $1 guys in a 15-team mixed league are usually the last remaining ones who get a lot of playing time.
BP: What is your strategy when it comes to the reserve rounds in drafts?
FZ: I like to get a couple starters I believe in. I always like to have a couple starters on my bench during the season, and that might as well start on draft day. Similar to $1 SPs, there are usually starters left in the reserve round that I want more than the other owners. Kyle McClellan was an example this season. I also look for hitters who could crack the starting lineup if one of several players sustained an injury on their team. Ty Wigginton was one that fit that description. He only needed a starting 3B, 1B, or OF to go down for him to get in the lineup more often.
BP: FAAB: Spend it early or hold it until the trade deadline?
FZ: I am cheap with my FAAB, but I shouldn’t be so much that way. Nick Minnix sold out for Eric Hosmer in the early season, and it paid off. I held a lot of money until the second half and then used it to fill holes with players like Vance Worley, David Hernandez, and Jesus Guzman.
BP: What was your best FAAB move of the season?
FZ: Vance Worley. But Daniel Murphy, Alejandro De Aza, and Joe Saunders were other good ones.
BP: Trades: What was the best deal you made within the season and what was the best deal you didn’t make either because you declined it or the other owner did?
FZ: My Best deal was likely Kevin Youkilis and Shane Victorino for Mark Teixeira and Melky Cabrera at the start of August. I didn’t have a good feeling about Youk, and that turned out to be right. I gambled that the bubble wouldn’t burst on Cabrera. Teixeira wasn’t great down the stretch, but he was much better than Youkilis.
BP: Auction Day: last three things you do before leaving your house or hotel?
FZ: Make sure I have my list. Check MLB.com and Rotoworld for the latest news. Make sure I don’t have to go to the bathroom!
BP: Auction table: Do you break out the laptop or the paper notes? Advantage to either?
FZ: I use paper notes only. I don’t care very much about what everyone else is doing. I don’t like to clutter my mind on draft day—it can’t handle too much! I focus on my values, my roster, and who’s left in the auction. On my sheet I have dollar values for each player, and I write down my team in the margin. That’s it. I don’t want to spend time typing and calculating when I could be planning my roster.
Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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