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If I manage to win Tout Wars this year, I owe my colleague Jeff Quinton an adult beverage. Or perhaps a tasty submarine sandwich from his favorite convenience store food chain.

If you don’t read Quinton’s work here at Baseball Prospectus (and if you don’t, you’re doing yourself a great disservice), he talks at great length about allowing past results to create the framework for bad decision-making. And while I liked to think I wasn’t doing this when it comes to Tout Wars this is exactly what I have been doing up until this year.

My two most successful years in Tout Wars were 2010 and 2013, when I finished third and second, respectively. The reason I did as well as I did—relatively speaking—is because I did what I always do in auction formats, which is to follow the value where it takes me. Both teams were unconventionally built, but both teams did well because I took advantage of the conditions in the auction.

However, instead of realizing this and simply trying to pack more value onto my team in subsequent auctions, I looked at the categories where I missed and tried to overcompensate by rigging the numbers to the point that I was turning my greatest strength into less of a strength. Predictably, the result in 2014 was a team that was slightly above average. Quinton’s message made me realize I had to go back to relying on my strengths.

Instead of trying to determine what the structure of my team would be because of last year’s trends, I ignored all of that and made two simple and practical adjustments to my bid prices:

  • Changes based on OBP: Tout Wars is an OBP league, so I had to move certain hitters up and certain hitters down based on the BA/OBP valuation difference.
  • Adjust the hitter/pitcher split: LABR spent a mere $892 on pitching across the board. While I assumed Tout Wars would spend more that on pitching, my public bids at Baseball Prospectus allotted $993 to pitchers. I moved this down to $960 and added $33 to the hitters. I didn’t want to destroy my valuations but I didn’t want to back into a team where I spent $120 on pitching.

Otherwise, I was going to roll with what the room gave me and attempt to get value on every player. If the room didn’t spend money early, I was going to load on and go with a Stars and Scrubs team. If the room spent indiscriminately early, I would go for balance. This is what I do in every auction and it has led to a great deal of success in other leagues. Tout Wars is tougher than any of my other leagues, but abandoning this formula in the past has pushed me further away from winning, not closer to it. Jeff, if you’re reading this, once again a big thank you for helping to clarify my perspective.

Below are the results of my auction from a player-by-player perspective, in the order in which I purchased them.

Clayton Kershaw $37
The rules in Tout Wars give the defending champion the first nomination, but after that it doesn’t go by finish from last year but clockwise around the auction table. Tristan Cockcroft, who has been champion since George W. Bush was President (ha ha. I’m only kidding, but just barely), had the first nomination so I deliberately sat to his left. In some years, I don’t care who I buy or don’t buy early, but this year I had a specific plan of attack based on my valuations (see above). I either wanted Clayton Kershaw or I wanted to make someone else pay $40 for him. I wanted to know right away how I would be building the rest of my team.

Cockcroft started the auction with “Max Scherzer, $30” and froze the room. I then called out Kershaw at $30. I can’t read minds, but I suspect that if Scherzer had been called out at a lower price and bid up the bidding on Kershaw (and on subsequent players; I’ll get to that next) would have been more robust. I was elated to get Kershaw at $37. He earned $41 in 27 starts last year; a full, healthy season in 2015 could easily be worth more. No pitcher in the NL has a better chance of earning $50, even in the current, hyped-up pitching context.

Paul Goldschmidt $37.
At the Tout Wars event at Foley’s on Saturday night, I had talked to Bret Sayre about how I would manage my auction if I bought Kershaw. My hope was to go with a balanced offense since I didn’t want to get trapped in a Stars and Scrubs game early. However, this didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to push the top players if the prices were good. Goldschmidt came out a couple of players after Kershaw. He went for $38 in LABR. Tout Wars typically spends more liberally than LABR and Goldschmidt is more valuable in OBP formats so I thought for sure my $37 bid would be trumped. It wasn’t, and I got Goldschmidt. Goldy earned $46 in OBP formats in 2013 and with health will be an easy $35 earner. First base is thin this year (Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Zimmerman will play the position, but aren’t eligible yet), and one of my goals at this auction was not to have three weak corners like I did in CBS. No matter what else happened later in the day, mission accomplished.

Devin Mesoraco $17.
Mesoraco was the first catcher called out, and I expected position scarcity would have pushed him up to a higher price. Instead, he fell to $17, or a full $5 below my bid limit. He was a $20 earner in AVG leagues but a $22 player in OBP formats in 2014. Even if the AVG regresses, the OBP is less likely to take a hit.

Ben Revere $18
After buying three players for $91, I sat back for a little while (I did have the last bid on James Shields, who went for $18). I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to get speed, but after Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon each went for $25, Revere fell into my lap at $18. The OBP format hurts Revere a lot, but he was still a $23 player in 2014 in OBP leagues and Goldy gave me some flexibility to take a hit.

Lucas Duda $21
I’m an unabashed Duda fan, but was a little nervous that Mastersball’s Brian Walton would snag him from me, since Walton is the only person who has snagged Duda from me in any auction or draft, real or mock, this winter. Sure enough, Walton had the last bid but I trumped him at $21. Duda is another nice 20-25 homer guy who offers more value in OBP (see a pattern here?), earning $26 in OBP leagues compared to $22 in the AVG format in 2014.

Carlos Gonzalez $27
For years I have been reluctant to pay the full freight on Cargo due to the health profile, but now the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. It was a close call, though, as Gene McCaffrey of Wise Guy Baseball jumped the bid from the high teens to $26. If McCaffrey had jumped the bid to $27, I might have walked away. Everyone obsesses over the missed playing time, Gonzalez was a $30 player in OBP leagues in 2013 in only 391 at-bats. I get the downside better than most, but Gonzalez can earn this amount even in two-thirds of a season.

Yasmany Tomas $12
One of the better opportunities for surplus auction value is when a player makes a negative impression during spring training. Tomas’s poor spring pushed down his price from the $16 he went for in LABR, and I was happy to take the discount. He could go to the minors for a month (which is looking like a potential scenario as I write this) and still return this value easily. He is getting maligned in the press for his third base defense, but I don’t need his glove, just his bat.

Jhonny Peralta $15
With only a catcher, first basemen, and outfielders purchased on offense I was getting a little nervous about my infield. I figured this was going to turn into a Stars and Scrubs team but I didn’t want too many scrubs in the infield. Peralta at what I considered a fair price mitigated this concern.

Addison Reed $10
This buy was kind of a surprise, as I thought I’d wind up dumping saves. I don’t love Reed, but the magic of Kershaw is that you can take a bit of an ERA and/or WHIP hit elsewhere and worry later. The best part about Reed was that I was now in the game in all 10 categories, something I have had difficulty with in Tout Wars in the past.

Doug Fister $13
I thought about waiting until the end game to back up Kershaw with some starting pitchers. However, too many owners had too much money floating around to get too cute. Remember, the theme of my auction was value where I could get it. I didn’t want to get into a money fight with the three or four owners who were still sitting on piles of cash.

Andrew Cashner $11
I’m not as high on Cashner this year as I was in 2014 and thought for sure he’d sail past my $14 bid limit. Instead, he fell to me at $11. He earned $12 last year despite pitching a mere 123 1/3 innings and winning only five games. This is a pretty high ceiling/high floor selection.

Michael Taylor $4
Taylor slots in as the fourth outfielder in Washington but with Denard Span’s current injury and Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper’s injury track record, Taylor could easily get 350 plate appearances. Taylor was the first of my “scrubs,” and if he hits even a little bit, I’m expecting some pretty decent profits.

Wilin Rosario $12
I think I’m Rosario’s last friend left in the fantasy baseball world. There are concerns that he won’t start behind the dish, but he’ll play enough between catcher and first base to earn this easily, and in Colorado there is always a chance of a slight power bounce back. It would be a bummer if he’s traded, but in Tout Wars you keep players traded to the AL so it wouldn’t be a total loss.

Hyun-Jin Ryu $11
Here was my big mistake in the auction, and not because of the bad news on the shoulder (which came later in the day, after encouraging news had been reported earlier that morning). Where earlier during the auction there had been too much money on the table to get cute with pitchers, now would have been the time to redistribute a little more money to offense. It won’t destroy my team if Ryu’s injury turns out to be a season-ender, but I should have allocated my dollars differently. This gambit left me with $15 for nine players and a $7 maximum bid.

LaTroy Hawkins $3
Hawkins is an iffy closer but an iffy closer for $3 is still a bargain. Even so, I probably would have shied away if I didn’t already have Reed, but having two closers at $13 entering the season was too much to pass up.

Adeiny Hechavarria $2
With $12 to spend on eight players—including five position players—I needed to find at least two everyday players. In mono leagues, you’re not looking for upside sleepers in the endgame, but for stats. Hechavarria fits the bill. His defense will keep him in the Marlins lineup, and even in OBP leagues his ugly line earned him $7 in 2014. That kind of profit will be nice, but even if he only earns $3-5, it is still profit.

Yangervis Solarte $3
Solarte at $3 sounds meh, but the remaining options out there were bad and I needed a second baseman and a third baseman. If the Padres don’t sign Hector Olivera this week, there is a good chance Solarte wins the third-base job, but even if he doesn’t, he’s probably still on the good side of the platoon with Middlebrooks and/or plays the super sub. Solarte should bat near the top of the lineup and the improved offense should at the very least lead to more runs. He is what he is, but at three bucks, he is another potential bargain.

Freddy Galvis $1
Before you start yelling and screaming about how awful this pick is remember again that I was looking for playing time. The goal is 500 at-bats, plain and simple. The 10 home runs some of the projection systems are calling for would be nice, but I don’t even need that. All I need is a non-OBP sinkhole. He’s also a $1 player, which means Galvis is the first player booted off of the island if he does stink.

Tim Lincecum $1
The goal with the back end starting pitchers is to stream them into favorable matchups. Lincecum will start for me when he’s home and sit on my bench in non-Petco road games.

Noah Syndergaard $2
I didn’t expect Syndergaard to fall into my lap at $2, but I also thought he’d get called out a lot earlier. If he gives me 50 quality innings at this price this is a big win. If not, I only paid $2.

Travis Wood $1
Kelly Johnson $1
Peter Bourjos $1

The moderator of the chat left before the auction was over, so I can’t remember the order of my last three players. Wood fits in with the Lincecum description of a streamer. Johnson is an NRI but is having a terrific spring and the Braves have plenty of holes. Bourjos is having a terrible spring but is coming off of hip surgery and could be a great cheap steals play.

The Reserves: Addison Russell, Tyler Matzek, Matt Reynolds, Neil Ramirez
I thought Russell would go in the auction. He doesn’t have a place to play but talent often finds a way. Matzek showed significant improvement down the stretch based on increased slider usage, and is another useful starting pitcher (road) streamer. Reynolds gets popped into my lineup if the Daniel Murphy injury is serious, he gets cut if the injury isn’t. Ramirez—not Jason Motte—is the guy you should be getting if you want a Hector Rondon handcuff.

The Team
Here is the team on the whole.

C – Devin Mesoraco $17
C – Wilin Rosario $12
1B – Paul Goldschmidt $37
2B – Yangervis Solarte $3
SS – Jhonny Peralta $15
3B – Kelly Johnson $1
CO – Lucas Duda $21
MI – Adeiny Hechavarria $1
OF – Carlos Gonzalez $27
OF – Ben Revere $18
OF – Yasmany Tomas $12
OF – Michael Taylor $4
SW – Peter Bourjos $1
UT – Freddie Galvis $1
SP – Clayton Kershaw $37
SP – Doug Fister $13
SP – Andrew Cashner $11
SP – Hyun-Jin Ryu $11
SP – Noah Syndergaard $2
SP – Tim Lincecum $1
SP – Travis Wood $1
CL – Addison Reed $10
CL – LaTroy Hawkins $3
R – Addison Russell
R – Tyler Matzek
R – Matt Reynolds
R – Neil Ramirez

There is a good amount of value packed onto the team, particularly on the back end of the roster. I’m pleased that I managed to squeeze enough at bats onto the back end of the roster to get profit from those positions, and the upside from the top end of the roster thanks to OBP means that I could get profit out of my offense even without a balanced squad. The Ryu injury is an early concern, but Kershaw allows me much more flexibility to pick up free agents and plug and play.

I do have a few concerns, but such is life in an NL-only. It’s impossible to get a team with 14 everyday players or six quality starting pitchers and two high-end closers. I was able to put together a team that could compete in 10 categories without worrying about how to fill in slots as I went along. I think this may have been one of my strongest auctions in Tout yet.

Thank you for reading

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Great team Mike; no problem with the two cheap closers. SP looks good in a NL-only, and your hitting is solid. I like the team.
You are very welcome Mike! I am very honored. Twitter can confirm my fondness for your team before the praise in this article. Good luck.
Love the Cashner pick at $11, that will definitely make money, and Syndergaard and Russell for $2 between them could be boom time come July, like the team much, definite top five with a lot of upside for more.
Overall, this is a pretty solid team, and I agree with your Ryu assessment. He wasn't needed and the money would have been better spent on 2B or OF.

But I can't let Freddy Galvis slide, especially when you say this:

"All I need is a non-OBP sinkhole."

Galvis has a lifetime .259 OBP in the majors, and a lifetime .291 OBP in the minors. He's the very definition of an OBP sinkhole. Those few homers he might give aren't worth it.

If I was stuck with Galvis, I'd be rooting for 350 at-bats of playing time rather than 500 at-bats to minimize the OBP damage.

And yes, he is definitely the first guy cut!
I agree on Galvis but since he will almost certainly bat 8th, it may not be as horrible this year. Unless he was batting 8th with previous results.
Am I,the only one who kinda likes the value on Middlebrooks at $5? I mean he'll at least mash lefties, but Solarte isn't a big roadblock to get some shots vs RHP.
There are others who are high on Middlebrooks, yes
Is there a link to the entire auction?
Go on the . You'll find a link to a google doc and click the NL tab.