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On Tuesday, I wrote about how I did in my NL-only Tout Wars auction. Today, I will take a broader look at what happened in both of the mono leagues.

Before I get started, it is worth sharing a few caveats. The goal of this article is not to delve into individual team strategies or examine each and every purchase in depth. This is difficult to do, particularly since the timing of when a player comes up in an auction can often skew his value. Still, it is worth noting a few trends in the hopes that it can help you with your auctions in the next few weekends.

Tout Wars is the third and final major expert-league auction; it is preceded by LABR in early March and CBS in late February. I wrote about LABR’s AL and NL auctions earlier this spring and identified a few possible auction trends. If those trends held in Tout Wars, it’s likely that you may see similar results in your home league auctions this coming weekend. If not, they might be insignificant blips on the radar.

Let’s get right to it.

American League
At first, I had to kind of scratch my head to figure out what the most significant differences were between LABR and Tout Wars. On the whole, the hitters only cost $18 more than they did in LABR, which hardly constitutes a significant move in one direction or the other. The most significant change it seems wasn’t between LABR and Tout but rather the difference between Tout in 2014 and 2015. In 2014, 10 AL hitters cracked the $30 barrier; in 2015 only eight hitters did. Twenty-three hitters cost $25 or more in 2014; in 2015 that number dropped to 20. These changes sound miniscule, but when the league is spending more than $18 on the entire hitter pool and spending less on the top hitters, this means that the money is being pushed more toward the middle or the bottom.

Table 1: Hitter Dollar Distribution, AL LABR versus AL Tout, 2015

Group

LABR Cost

Tout Cost

Tout +

1-12

$397

$393

-4

13-24

$326

$311

-15

25-37

$269

$266

-3

36-48

$238

$229

-9

49-60

$209

$205

-4

61-72

$178

$185

7

73-84

$141

$161

20

85-96

$114

$129

15

97-108

$97

$103

6

109-120

$81

$78

-3

121-132

$50

$54

4

133-144

$30

$36

6

145-156

$19

$18

-1

157-168

$12

$11

-1

Totals

$2161

$2179

+18

The price difference at the top of the food chain looks boring, but given the differences in the OBP and batting average formats, the Tout Warriors were particularly conservative this year. The top 12 hitters in AVG formats earned $403 in 2014 AL-only 5×5; in OBP formats they earned $413. In 2014, the Tout Wars AL owners paid the full freight for the most expensive hitters; in 2015 they scaled back considerably. Rather than push their chips all in on the biggest OBP guys, instead the experts moved their money toward the middle.

Table 2: Biggest Hitter Price Differences, AL Tout Wars More Than AL LABR

Hitter

LABR

Tout

Diff

2014 $ AVG

2014 $ OBP

Luis Valbuena

4

12

8

$13

$16

Micah Johnson

2

9

7

Shin-Soo Choo

18

24

6

$11

$15

Coco Crisp

11

17

6

$17

$20

Brad Miller

4

10

6

$7

$8

Alex Avila

2

8

6

$7

$11

Chris Iannetta

9

14

5

$9

$14

Jose Bautista

33

37

4

$32

$40

Russell Martin

15

19

4

$16

$21

Mike Napoli

13

17

4

$13

$19

Joe Mauer

11

15

4

$14

$16

David Freese

6

10

4

$12

$12

Didi Gregorius

3

7

4

$5

$5

In 2014, Shin-Soo Choo was exhibit A as to why it was a bad idea to pay the full freight for the OBP adjustment in Tout Wars. He cost $35 in Tout Wars last year; while it certainly was a fair price based on earnings potential, it was also his ceiling. While there may be less OBP variability than AVG variability, the variability still exists. I warned about this last year, and the baseball gods seemed to support my thesis by striking down Choo and Joey Votto. The market—as it often does—reacted, pushing its money toward the hitters in the middle instead of the hitters at the top. In some cases, the earnings/cost columns are nearly linear.

I still maintain that it is a bad idea to pay the full price difference for BA and OBP, but at least by taking the middle ground you avoid having someone like Choo crash and burn at a $35 price (instead of a $25 price in BA leagues). Historically speaking, there is danger in the profiles of second-tier hitters, and while adding OBP adds value to these hitters, the risk is still high in their overall earnings profile.

One thing that people thought would happen in AL Tout is that the pitching prices would jump for the top pitchers because of the injuries to Yu Darvish, Marcus Stroman, and Alex Cobb, as well as some other uncertain situations in other rotations. However, this isn’t what happened.

Table 3:10 Most Expensive Starting Pitchers, Tout Wars

Pitcher

LABR

Tout

Diff

Felix Hernandez

32

32

0

David Price

27

28

1

Chris Sale

25

27

2

Corey Kluber

25

24

-1

Jeff Samardzija

18

22

4

Sonny Gray

19

19

0

Hisashi Iwakuma

20

19

-1

Carlos Carrasco

20

17

-3

Chris Archer

15

17

2

Yordano Ventura

13

16

3

There were a couple of prices that jumped in the AL, but 13 AL starters cost $16 or more in LABR compared to only 10 in Tout. And while a few pitchers jumped up, a few non-injured pitchers slipped who did not make it to this table. Garrett Richards dropped from $17 to $14, Jose Quintana from $16 to $13, and Kevin Gausman from $14 to $10. There was a sweet spot in AL Tout on the non-elite, second tier pitchers, so while it may have been tempting to push for the top arms, the play here was to be patient and wait to fill out your staff with balance. You couldn’t wait too long, though, because the bidding wars at the end on a few of this year’s sleepers pushed pitchers like Nate Eovaldi to $9. I like Eovaldi, but at some point you are approaching his ceiling.

Instead of pushing for starters, the expert market went for relievers instead.

Table 4: AL Expert Closer Prices 2015

Pitcher

CBS

LABR

Tout Wars

Greg Holland

21

21

22

Cody Allen

24

17

20

David Robertson

22

17

20

Dellin Betances

22

19

19

Zach Britton

17

14

19

Huston Street

18

16

17

Fernando Rodney

15

16

16

Glen Perkins

15

17

16

Koji Uehara

15

17

15

Neftali Feliz

15

14

11

Brett Cecil

14

6

10

Luke Gregerson

12

6

10

Tyler Clippard

9

10

10

Brad Boxberger

2

7

9

Joe Nathan

8

8

9

Total

229

205

223

Some of the reason I suspect that the prices in Tout went up on the closers is because there is more stability in AL bullpens than there was last year. Cecil wasn’t a certainty as the closer in Toronto when LABR convened; he seems to be at the moment. Sean Doolittle and Jacob McGee were actually the more expensive bullpen options in CBS and/or LABR over Clippard and Boxberger, but otherwise there haven’t been too many emerging situations in Spring Training. Closer prices are generally too conservative in expert leagues, so reacting to uncertainty in the starting pitcher market by pushing money to relievers isn’t a bad play.

On the whole, AL Tout was fairly predictable, and probably didn’t offer any great eureka moments for home league auctions. I moderated a live chat for a few hours on Saturday during the AL auction, and there weren’t too many crazy reactions to the prices or to what was happening on the whole, besides a strange argument over a fairly reasonably priced Alex Gordon at $21. I suspect I would have been pushing Larry Schechter’s bids the most had I participated in this auction, which makes some sense since Schechter builds the kind of teams that I usually do in my home league auctions.

National League
Unlike in the AL, it was quite obvious what the big difference was in the National League. Where NL LABR went kind of crazy on hitting, in Tout Wars, the NL experts scaled back.

Table 5: Hitter Dollar Distribution, NL LABR versus NL Tout, 2015

Group

LABR Cost

Tout Cost

Tout +

1-12

$384

$385

1

13-24

$311

$317

6

25-37

$279

$275

-4

36-48

$246

$238

-8

49-60

$217

$212

-5

61-72

$195

$179

-16

73-84

$165

$151

-14

85-96

$128

$127

-1

97-108

$104

$91

-13

109-120

$82

$68

-14

121-132

$54

$48

-6

133-144

$34

$29

-5

145-156

$17

$18

1

157-168

$12

$11

-1

Totals

$2,228

$2,149

-79

An $18 difference between AL LABR and AL Tout is a yawner. A $79 gap between the NL LABR and NL Tout hitters is a huge headline.

To be sure, some of this has more to do with what happened in LABR rather than what happened in Tout. Doug Dennis’s $30 pitching strategy in LABR threw off the entire room and created artificial bargains all over the place on the pitching side. But this doesn’t explain it entirely. There was definitely a reticence to spend money on the top hitters in Tout Wars. This is particularly true when you factor in OBP.

Anthony Rizzo got a mere $1 pay raise from LABR. Andrew McCutchen was paid the same price as he was in LABR. Paul Goldschmidt received a $1 pay cut. This happened despite the fact that all three of these players have significantly more valuation potential in OBP leagues. While I don’t advocate paying the full freight for the value wrapped up in OBP players, it does seem like there should have been more of an adjustment made in the National League than there was.

Table 6: Biggest 2014 OBP Differentials and 2015 Auction Prices

Hitter

LABR

Tout

Diff

2014 $ AVG

2014 $ OBP

Giancarlo Stanton

36

38

2

$34

$40

Matt Carpenter

20

21

1

$18

$24

Jayson Werth

18

20

2

$25

$30

Freddie Freeman

30

28

-2

$24

$29

Matt Holliday

23

22

-1

$23

$27

Anthony Rizzo

30

31

1

$28

$32

Andrew McCutchen

39

39

0

$34

$39

A.J. Ellis

1

2

1

$0

$4

Curtis Granderson

11

19

8

$15

$19

Joey Votto

23

29

6

$6

$10

This table doesn’t even include Goldschmidt, who finished 14th in NL 5×5 OBP despite missing a significant chunk of time due to injury in 2014. After the auction, some of the experts on Sirius XM were going on and on about how much of a bargain Kris Bryant was at $18. But in this format, Carpenter at $21 is the guy I’m kicking myself about after the fact. With the exception of Curtis Granderson, the market didn’t pay for OBP for the hitters on this table.

Granderson wasn’t a pure OBP buy, either. The three-time defending champion—Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN—wound up with a significant amount of money to spend and was wise enough to try and spend it somewhere. I had Granderson ranked a little lower, but if Cockcroft’s OBP adjustment was more aggressive than mine, then the price was only a touch high and not significantly so.

It wasn’t just Cockcroft. A good chunk of the teams in the league spend a good portion of their cash early while another portion of the teams in the league waited and waited, buying a handful of players early but then sitting back. The money had to go somewhere, and for the most part it was siphoned off in a couple of key areas:

Table 7: $3 or Greater Differentials in Tout/LABR (Tout Higher Spend)

Range

#

LABR

Tout

Total Difference

Hitter/Pitcher

$30+

1

32

37

5

1/0

$25-29

8

180

213

33

6/2

$20-25

2

40

46

6

2/0

$15-19

11

131

183

52

2/9

$10-14

5

43

61

18

4/1

$5-9

6

16

39

23

4/2

$1-4

4

2

15

13

1/3

You would expect there to be some greater differentials at the bottom of the pile, but most of those price shifts are usually due to playing time or role changes, and there were very few changes between LABR and Tout. The big pricing differentials came mostly in two buckets: the $25-29 hitters and the $15-19 pitchers.

If you’re not going to pay for the big hitters, the next tier is where the money is often going to get spent. This group of six hitters was Matt Kemp ($29), Joey Votto ($29), Carlos Gonzalez ($27), Buster Posey ($27), Jason Heyward ($26), and David Wright ($25). Some of this is the OBP bump with Votto, but most of these hitters are fairly expensive given past injury concerns in the cases of Kemp, Cargo, and Wright and limited ceilings in the cases of Posey and Heyward. One thing the expert market is good at is spending its money. Dollar allocation is where the experts (including me) sometimes tend to have issues, overcompensating for not spending in one area by overspending elsewhere.

This leads directly to starting pitching. In this case, the expert market didn’t overspend but rather made a course correction based on what happened in LABR earlier this month.

Table 8: Pitcher Dollar Distribution, NL LABR versus NL Tout, 2015

Group

LABR Cost

Tout Cost

Tout +

1-12

$292

$290

-2

13-24

$188

$206

18

25-37

$146

$166

20

36-48

$108

$116

8

49-60

$69

$82

13

61-72

$42

$47

5

73-84

$23

$28

5

85-96

$12

$19

7

97-108

$12

$13

1

Totals

$892

$967

75

It doesn’t look like much from one tier to the next, but it adds up. And it adds up in particular in the second and third tiers.

My instincts tell me that the prices in the second and third tiers are better in Tout Wars, but based on past results I suspect that my instincts in this instance are garbage. Pitchers in this price range typically incur bigger losses than pitchers in any other tier do.

So while we all gushed over the second tier pitching prices in Tout Wars, historically speaking it is more likely that Matt Harvey at $19 and Jon Lester at $19 are going to fail than it is that Johnny Cueto or Jordan Zimmermann at $21 are going to fail. It is probably the pitchers in the $16-19 tier in Tout who are going to cause the most trouble. These pitchers include Jake Arrieta at $19 ($16 in LABR), James Shields at $18 ($15), Jacob deGrom at $17 ($12), and Lance Lynn at $16 ($8). The LABR prices do look too low, without a doubt. But—like the ball—history doesn’t lie. The likelihood of the pitchers in this price range failing are great.

Something that gets lost in the hitting/pitching splits is that when two separate leagues have such a disparity like NL LABR and NL Tout do, it’s more than just a three dollar split with a pitcher like Clayton Kershaw you should be looking at. Kershaw’s $40 took up 4.5 percent of the entire pitching pie in LABR. In Tout Wars, the $37 I spent “only” took up 3.8 percent of the pitching spent at auction. This makes a big difference. The low spending in LABR on pitching chews up the advantage of owning Kershaw, since the bargains elsewhere will be better (or, at the very least, the losses will be less prevalent). In Tout Wars, the more “traditional” hitting/pitching split combined with Kershaw’s lower price means that this isn’t quite the case.