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Depending on how long you have been a Baseball Prospectus subscriber, welcome or welcome back to the Expert FAAB Review. Every week, I’m going to take a look at the players and the process behind the expert bidding in LABR mixed, Tout Wars NL, and Tout Wars AL. Bret Sayre and I participate in LABR mixed while I have a team in Tout Wars NL, so I will provide insights behind the reasoning on some the bids. Budgets in all three leagues start at $100 at the beginning of the season.

Tout Wars uses a Vickrey Auction system. A basic description of the Vickrey bidding system can be found here.

Random Quote of the Week: “It takes a lot to make a stew. I couldn’t face these streets without you. A dash of crime to add some spice. This city’s like a pressure cooker turned up to high.” – “Too Many Cooks” –Casper Kelly.

LABR Mixed

Dustin Garneau $11. Other bid: $2 Player dropped: Nick Hundley.
Hundley’s season-ending injury makes Garneau a natural selection for Razzball’s Rudy Gamble. It’s really a shame that Garneau’s first name isn’t Darwin, because then this would have been a much better pun, one for which I perhaps could win a major fantasy baseball writing award (are you listening, FSWA?). Some are fascinated by Justin Morneau and Dustin Garneau being on the same team, but I feel that this soil was tilled 20 years ago when David Letterman did his “Uma/Oprah bit” during the Oscars. Did this really happen 20 years ago? My, where does the time go?

Garneau and Tom Murphy are slated to split catching duties for Colorado for the last three weeks of the season. Both have some power potential, are likely to damage your team’s batting average, and will have their value limited if they split time evenly down the middle. However, Rockies catchers with even 3-4 starts a week are worth a modest FAAB bid in any two-catcher format, and Gamble needed the replacement. If you are in a keeper league, Murphy is the (slightly) better spec play.

Logan Verrett $6: Player dropped: David DeJesus
Michael Conforto $2. Player dropped: None
J.P. Arencibia $2. Player dropped: Chris Iannetta.
Michael Bolsinger $2. Player dropped: Domonic Brown.
Roenis Elias $1. Player dropped: Aaron Sanchez.

I have some commentary on the players picked up here, but I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the non-pickup of Corey Seager. Five teams (including Baseball Prospectus) are out of FAAB—and you cannot bid zero in LABR—but it is shocking that not one of the 10 teams with FAAB remaining decided to bid at least a dollar. Granted, nearly every team in the league is out of the running, but if our team was out of it and had FAAB left, Bret Sayre and I would have bid something on Seager just for the pleasure of having him on our fantasy team for the last three weeks, as well as for the privilege of telling our grandchildren that we had Corey Seager on our fantasy teams in his first taste of major-league ball.

Gamble decided to use most of his FAAB this week, grabbing Verrett and Bolsinger in addition to Garneau and spending $19 of his $23 in remaining FAAB. Gamble is playing the wins angle with Verrett facing the Marlins this week and Bolsinger up against the Pirates. In the scheme of the league, this helps the Baseball Prospectus team in wins (Gamble is close to Fred Zinkie of MLB but too far behind us) but could make things difficult for both us and Zinkie in strikeouts (we entered the week two strikeouts ahead of Zinkie and six ahead of Gamble).

Conforto is a nice pickup by Craig Glaser of BSports. As I mentioned last week in the Free Agent Watch, the Mets should play him quite a bit as they try to sort out whether or not he will face some lefties in the postseason. Arencibia is a batting-average risk, but he is a streaky power hitter who could help some lucky fantasy team in a tight home run race.

Bret and I finally picked up some points overall in LABR, but Zinkie just won’t stop charging.

Table 1: LABR Mixed 2015 Top Five, Through Games of Sunday, September 13

Team

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

W

ERA

SV

K

WHIP

Total

+/-

Baseball Prospectus

15

15

12

14

3

15

15

9

14

15

127.0

+2.5

MLB.com

14

13

15

15

11

11.5

6

12

13

11

121.5

+2.5

USA Today Sports

10.5

8

9

12

8

10

9

8

15

12

101.5

+2.5

FNTSY

7.5

14

14

6.5

15

5

11

4

2

13

92.0

-2.0

Razzball

10.5

4

10

6.5

9

6.5

8

10

12

10

86.5

-10.5

We picked up 2.5 points this week but so did Zinkie, so the lead stays at 5.5 points. Early in the week, Zinkie was behind us by a mere half-point, so the opportunity is certainly there for him to win. Our biggest problem is that we have very little upward mobility left. We can gain two points in RBI and there is a good chance we will lose a point in saves regardless of what we do. There is an outside chance we could gain a point in strikeouts. We have lost a lot of ground in batting average the last few weeks, and while we could theoretically pick up four points in batting average, it would take a crazy push to gain even one of those points. Without batting average, our realistic ceiling is 129 points.

As it happens, this is also Zinkie’s ceiling, as he has much more upward mobility at the moment than we do. He could gain a point in batting average, one and a half points in wins, two points in saves, two points in WHIP, and two points in ERA. However, one challenge Zinkie has at this late juncture is attempting to protect points in strikeouts. He ran five starting pitchers out there last week and lost a point to us and lost ground to Gamble and Mike Podhorzer of Fangraphs as a result. The ERA gain is a long shot to begin with, but the risk for Zinkie if he loads up with starting pitching is that he could lose ground in ERA in the other direction. A bad pitching week would sink Zinkie and likely knock him out of the race.

Unfortunately, we lost Troy Tulowitzki to injury this week. Since we are out of FAAB, our meager choices at middle infield are Scooter Gennett and Aaron Hill. We went with Gennett and just hope he drives in a couple of runs and is batting average neutral. We swapped Chase Headley out of our lineup for Wil Myers. Both hitters have six games on tap but Myers gets three games at Coors this week. Zinkie was more active than we were. On the hitting side, he benched Victor Martinez for Angel Pagan. His pitching move was more intriguing, as he put Justin Nicolino on the bench for Kevin Gausman. Both have two-start weeks, but Zinkie is likely hoping that Gausman’s matchups against Boston and at Tampa Bay increase his opportunities for wins more than Nicolino’s matchups at Washington and at the Mets. Kris Medlen at Cleveland may have been the guy to bench, but only time will tell.

Tout Wars

Justin Ruggiano $6. Other bid: $5. Player released: Cole Gillespie
Ruggiano is hitting the snot out of the ball and getting a decent amount of playing time for the Dodgers down the stretch while Gillespie has disappeared, so this is a solid move for Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman). What is notable about this move though is that Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN was the $5 bidder. He attempted to reserve Travis Jankowski, which is a likely sign that Cockcroft is giving up on the stolen-base game (see below).

Tanner Roark $5 ($21). Other bids $4, $3, $0. Player reserved Shelby Miller.
This was my move. With $23 in FAAB left, I decided to plunk down nearly all of my money on a pitcher who may not be that great down the stretch but who has a soft schedule (outside of the last series of the season against the Mets) and should at least get a chance at 2-3 wins the rest of the way. I am not committed to him beyond this week’s start against the Marlins, and will likely insert Miller back into my rotation for a two-start week next week. Miller gets the Blue Jays this week. I am mostly pushing for wins and this is a poor win opportunity, but even if wins didn’t matter, I have a slight ERA/WHIP risk, and running Miller out there against the Blue Jays didn’t seem like the best idea.

Greg Garcia $3 ($5). Other bid: $2. Player released: Aaron Hill.
“Isn’t Greg Garcia a television writer?” my mind asked when Garcia’s name popped up in Tout Wars’ transaction page, so I scampered over to Google. Sure enough, Garcia has been involved with a bunch of shows, including Raising Hope, The Millers, Yes, Dear, and—most notably for me—My Name is Earl. “Isn’t it funny that there is also a major league baseball player with the same name?” my mind also asked. It really isn’t funny and my mind is confusing a random happenstance with a humorous event because my mind is tired.

The baseball Garcia is a backup middle infielder for the Cardinals who could be pressed into additional time down the stretch if Kolten Wong’s injury worsens or gets re-aggravated. If the Cardinals were not slumping and had a larger lead on the Pirates and Cubs, it is possible that Garcia could play a lot more second base and shortstop in order to give Wong and Jhonny Peralta a breather. Garcia stole 16 bases in the minors this year, so he could provide a little cheap speed for NL-only owners up the middle.

Adam Duvall $1 ($8). Player released: Yonder Alonso.
Ariel Pena $1 ($3). Player reserved: Joaquin Benoit.
Tom Murphy $1 ($3). Player released: Nick Hundley.
Keyvius Sampson $1 ($3). Player reserved: Colin Rea.
Mike Bolsinger $1 ($2). Player released: Tyler Lyons.
Martin Maldonado $1. Player released: Andrew Susac.
Rafael Ynoa $0. Player reserved: Troy Tulowitzki.
Ryan Weber $0. Player reserved: Randall Delgado.

As I have (probably) mentioned before in this space, one of the best features about Tout Wars is that there is a penalty that offers some incentive for teams to not simply give up and thus have a deleterious impact on the race (and reward mediocre teams that climb over their sorry carcasses in several categories). The result is a fairly lively week on the waiver wire. Murphy and Maldonado are both fairly solid adds in an NL-only league at catcher. There is a good deal of starting pitcher speculation, with Pena, Bolsinger, and Weber being snagged. I considered Bolsinger as a back up to Roark, but the Pirates are a stronger matchup than the Marlins and Bolsinger has looked rusty in his handful of starts since returning from the minors.

Although baseball does not have a clock, in fantasy baseball there is a point in the season when you are holding a lead where it feels like you are simply killing time, like a college basketball team in the pre-shot clock era.

Table 2: Tout Wars NL Only 2015 Top Four, Through Games of Sunday, September 13

Team

R

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

Total

+/-

Mike Gianella (Baseball Prospectus)

11

12

12

7

8

6.5

9

7

8

9

88.0

+1.5

Tristan Cockcroft (ESPN)

7

11

11

2

4

6.5

11

9

10

10

80.0

+1.5

Derek Carty (ESPN)

2

3

2

11

10

12

1

11

12

12

75.0

+1

Phil Hertz (Baseball HQ)

12

8

6

9

9

8

3.5

10

4

5

78.5

-4

In LABR Mixed, Bret and I are nervous not merely because of where Zinkie is in the standings but also because of his upward mobility. In Tout Wars NL, while it would be extremely foolish to discount the acumen and skill of five-time fantasy champion Tristan Cockcroft (ESPN), he has a tougher path to the top than Zinkie does. Some of this is because it is harder to accumulate counting stats quickly in a mono format than it is in a mixed league, but some of it is because Cockcroft has had terrible luck over the last few weeks in two categories where he could have made up a significant amount of ground: wins and stolen bases.

Since September 1, Cockcroft has had one steal—from Elian Herrera—on September 1st. He has only lost one point in steals, but more importantly his team has fallen further behind four teams in steals, depriving Cockcroft of an opportunity to pick up points in the category. He lost Denard Span for the season and the only players on his active roster with double-digit steals are Anthony Rizzo and Curtis Granderson. Picking up steals in an only league via free agency is difficult; over the last 30 days the only National League free agents with more than two stolen bases were Kelby Tomlinson (four) and Aaron Altherr (three). Even if Cockcroft had put a big bid on an unlikely player like Tomlinson, the impact would have been negligible.

In wins, Cockcroft has picked it up in the last week but the damage was done in the previous two scoring periods, when Cockcroft had just one win over a 13 day period. He has more upward mobility in wins than he does in stolen bases, but the slump has forced Cockcroft to push all of his starters out there regardless of the matchup. This has hurt his ERA and WHIP, and rather than pushing for more points in those categories it is likely that some gains there that once seemed certain are out of reach. Johnny Cueto’s recent slump in particular has really hurt.

My Roark move is a play I can make given the luxury of my current position. I could still lose a point each in ERA and WHIP but with an eight point overall lead have the luxury of playing matchups for wins. Cockcroft’s path to victory likely involves gaining 3-4 points in wins and getting some help elsewhere. The problem for Cockcroft is that I cannot lose points in runs, RBI, stolen bases, saves, and strikeouts barring some kind of catastrophe. I would need to lose both of those ERA/WHIP points and slump significantly in wins down the stretch. It is possible that this could happen (my staff has slumped significantly with the exception of Clayton Kershaw) but on the whole it is asking a lot. Cockcroft either needs to have a big week or I need to really fall off. With 21 days left in the regular season, the clock is running out for my opponent.

Tout Wars AL

Sean Nolin $7. Other bid $7. Player released: Nathan Eovaldi.
This is a pretty savvy pickup by Steve Moyer of Inside Edge. Nolin faces the White Sox this week, and they are dead last in the majors in 2015 against southpaws. This would be an even better matchup at home, but even in Chicago this is a pretty solid pickup in an AL-only.

Alex Rios $2 ($22). Other bid: $1. Player reserved: Daniel Nava.
After missing time due to the chicken pox epidemic that hit the Royals, Rios is back and is getting regular playing time for Kansas City. Rios has had a down year, but he has performed well since his return and offers the usual sneaky power/speed combination that he always has. Rios is a solid pickup in AL-only, and it is odd that only Mike Podhorzer of Fangraphs made such an aggressive bid. A number of teams had Rios listed as a secondary bid but wound up picking up other players instead. Rios may not make much of an impact, but he is one of the stronger free agent possibilities in an AL-only at this late juncture.

Rich Hill $1 ($5). Player released: Felix Doubront
Nolan Reimold $1 ($4). Player reserved: Colby Rasmus.
Cliff Pennington $1.
Other bids: $1, $0. Player reserved: Omar Infante.
J.B. Shuck $1. Player reserved: Dalton Pompey.
Mike Aviles $0. Player reserved: Johnny Giavotella.
Dixon Machado $0. Player reserved: Troy Tulowitzki.
Daniel Norris $0. Player reserved: Roenis Elias.

Hill had an amazing start over the weekend and not only is he a great story but the Red Sox are sure to give him regular work down the stretch to see if the veteran pitcher can contribute in 2016. Reimold had a terrific week and he should continue to play for the Orioles as long as the bat continues to sizzle.

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