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With a light week of free-agent bids in LABR and no free-agent bids in Tout Wars until Thursday at midnight thanks to the All-Star Break, I decided to glimpse at the top of the standings in the three LABR leagues. Today, it is Tout Wars’ turn. This analysis is not designed to be a top-to-bottom review of all five Tout Wars expert leagues, but rather a brief look at what has gone right for some of the teams at the top of the standings to date. Can it help you in your leagues going forward? Let’s find out!

Table 1: Tout Mixed Auction Top Four with Categories

Affiliation

Manager

R

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

SO

Total

FanGraphs

Jeff Zimmerman

15

14

12

14

15

5

13.5

12

12

15

127.5

FanRag Sports

Al Melchior

8.5

4.5

5

13

13

11

10

14

14

9

102

MLB.com

Zach Steinhorn

11.5

15

15

9.5

6

13

2

5

3

11

91

MLB.com

Fred Zinkie

10

10

11

5.5

12

8.5

1

7

10

14

89

There are still 2 ½ months of MLB to be played but barring a catastrophic fall, Zimmerman looks like he is poised to win his second title in two seasons (he won the Tout H2H league in 2016). Zimmerman’s auction didn’t go according to plan. Zimmerman wanted to buy anchors in Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw, but when they went for more than he wanted to pay he changed course and went for balance, a strategy in mixed leagues that only works if your non-elite purchases perform at an elite level. Mission accomplished, as Zimmerman’s offense is anchored by Jose Ramirez (purchased for $19 at auction), Anthony Rendon ($15), Jake Lamb ($14), and Elvis Andrus ($13). In a two-catcher league, Buster Posey ($28) has been a big help as well. The biggest boost to Zimmerman’s offense was a reserve pick. Cody Bellinger was taken in the third round of the reserve phase of the draft.

On the pitching side, Zimmerman went against mixed-league auction orthodoxy and spent $90 on his pitching staff. He was subpar in April, but Corey Kluber ($26) has turned into a fine anchor, although the key has been Robbie Ray as a $4 buy. Ken Giles and A.J. Ramos gave Zimmerman a stable base in saves, and while an early $359 FAAB bid on Blake Treinen did not work out, a later FAAB bid on Justin Wilson gave Zimmerman the third closer you typically need to finish at the top of the category in mixed leagues.

Table 2: Tout Mixed Draft Top Four with Categories

Affiliation

Manager

R

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

SO

Total

Razzball

Rudy Gamble

7

15

4

12

5

14

14

14

15

13

113

Rotoworld

D.J. Short

15

8.5

14

10.5

15

2

15

11

11

7

109

Baseball HQ

Ray Murphy

11

4

11.5

15

12

8.5

11.5

15

13

5.5

107

CDM Sports

Charlie Wiegert

13

11

15

9

9

6

11.5

10

5

8

97.5

It is a much better race in Tout Mixed, with the top-three teams separated by a mere six points. Gamble sits at the top of the heap. His outlined strategy in March was to:

· Value hitters with slight premiums on HR/SB over R/RBI/OBP due to market inefficiencies (OBP) and greater differences of opinion (R/RBI).

· Aim for balance across categories. Avoid coming up short on SB or Saves.

· As I said in my LABR draft review, pitching feels more uncertain than last year. Unless there is a great deal, make this the year where you invest closer to 67-70% on hitters vs 60-65%. Best way to do that is limit to two pitchers in the first nine picks.

Gamble’s offense is somewhat soft, in part due to injuries but also due to some picks at the tail end of his draft that did not work out. Mike Moustakas in Round 12 was a big win, but many of the mid-tier and back-end picks on offense have been slightly undervalued. However, Bryce Harper has carried his squad and Gamble’s strategy of competing across all offensive categories has worked thanks to Eduardo Nuñez and an early June trade for Dee Gordon. On the pitching side, Gamble abandoned his strategy of avoiding a pitching heavy team when he got Chris Sale in the third round and Carlos Carrasco in the fifth. I won’t spend more virtual ink talking about the power of Craig Kimbrel in nearly every format (this isn’t true, as Kimbrel is listed in nearly every one of the recaps in this article). Dan Straily in the 28th round was huge, but Gamble’s pitching is also fueled by his willingness to use good relievers as opposed to simply filling in with mediocre starters.

Table 3: Tout AL Top Four with Categories

Affiliation

Manager

R

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

SO

Total

Rotowire

Jason Collette

12

11

12

12

11

9.5

9

9

5

7

97.5

FanGraphs

Mike Podhorzer

11

8

10

11

12

2

10

12

12

8.5

96.5

Rotoworld

Seth Trachtman

5

6.5

6

5

4

7

5

10

7

12

68.5

Rotowire

Jeff Erickson

7

10

5

7

10

7

12

2

2

6

68

A few weeks ago, it looked like Podhorzer was going to run away with this one. Now it appears to be a two-team dogfight. Collette followed a strategy akin to what I tried in Tout Wars NL, with a cheap pitching staff that would allow him to dominate offense. Collette’s offensive strategy was to allocate money to specific offensive positions, but he abandoned this and went with two $1 catchers. This flexibility in-auction allowed Collette to nab Robinson Chirinos at a buck. Jose Altuve ($45), Elvis Andrus ($23), and Corey Dickerson ($13) are the anchors to Collette’s offense, but the key is production from nearly every offensive position. With a $61 pitching staff, Collette didn’t need to dominate to be competitive. Lucking into Brad Brach as a closer certainly helped, but the real hero has been Chris Devenski. This has allowed Collette to accrue 36.5 pitching points without a true $25+ staff ace.

Podhorzer’s swoon is in large part due to Mike Trout’s injury, so if Trout is healthy Podhorzer’s squad should bounce back in the second half. Aaron Judge ($3) allowed for a large margin for error, but a big chunk of Podhorzer’s success was capitalizing on Tout’s OBP rule and getting bargain production from Shin-Soo Choo ($16), Joe Mauer ($12), and Chase Headley ($10). Where I’m extremely impressed is with Podhorzer’s pitching. A strategy centering around the injured David Price didn’t seem like a strong one, but Luis Severino ($2) more than made up for the absence of Price. As has been the case with most top expert teams this year, a strong bullpen has been key to strong pitching numbers overall. Craig Kimbrel ($18) seems to be on every competitor in all the expert leagues, but Matt Bush ($2) gave Podhorzer the second closer he needed at a non-closer price.

Table 4: Tout NL Top Four with Categories

Affiliation

Manager

R

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

SO

Total

Razzball

Grey Albright

12

12

12

11

8

11

8

7

11

12

104

ESPN

Tristan Cockcroft

11

11

10

4

12

7

5

12

12

8

93

On Roto

Scott Wilderman

8

8

9

10

11

8

7

9

10

5

85

ESPN

Derek Carty

5

4

4

7

6

12

1.5

11

9

11

70.5

It has been a great year for the Razzball boys in the expert circuit. Albright has gone from worst to first on the backs of a star-heavy strategy on offense. Paul Goldschmidt and Trea Turner have been well worth their combined $72 price tag, and even with the rare stumble of Maikel Franco ($22) and a few holes on offense, Albright crammed so much value on to his team that it didn’t matter. You do need “scrubs” to make Stars and Scrubs work, and Albright picked these players up on reserve in the form of Scooter Gennett and Tommy Pham.

Albright did not pay for an ace but with Robbie Ray’s emergence he didn’t need to. Ray and Jeff Samardzija gave Albright the strikeout base he needed to dominate in the category. Jim Johnson provided most of the saves, and Felipe Rivero gave Albright his second closer after Neftali Feliz faltered. Albright has not made any trades and has had virtually no success on the FAAB market, but with the team he purchased it doesn’t matter.

Sharper readers might have noticed that my team is not listed in the table above. This has been what we analysts call a “down year” or a “shit show.” A mess of injuries is the primary culprit. Seven of the 14 hitters who I purchased have spent time on the DL and this does not even include Starling Marte’s PED suspension. Mark Reynolds has been great, but he cannot make up for the injuries and the $10 bath I have taken on Dansby Swanson. The Johnny Cueto/Kyle Hendricks ace duo didn’t work, although Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill have partially made up for this and a staff dominated by relievers has helped the ERA/WHIP a great deal. Tony Watson turned out to be a bad pick and Jeurys Familia joined the injury parade. The injuries are mostly to blame but I could have made some better decisions during the auction as well.

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