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Depending on how long you have been a Baseball Prospectus reader, 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: “Home is where I want to be/Pick me up and turn me around.” –The Talking Heads, This Must Be The Place

LABR Mixed

Adam Conley $3. Player released: Ben Paulsen.
Corey Seager $3.
Other bid: $2. Player released: Brandon Guyer.
Finally, after a week where 10 teams inexplicably took a pass, someone picked up Seager! He was an obvious pickup in all but shallow mixed leagues, and Steve Gardner of USA Today took the plunge with a $3 bid, beating out Keith Hernandez of Fantasy Score. I’m still surprised that most of the teams that could have bid on Seager did not, but I am also over it. It’s a two-team race now, and we are out of FAAB and Fred Zinkie only had two dollars left entering the week. But even if we both had a war chest full of imaginary FAAB dollars, the league is far more likely to swing on pitching (see below).

Alex Rios $1. Player released: Rajai Davis.
Marcus Stroman $1.
Other bids: $1, $1. Player released: Danny Duffy.
Matt Shoemaker $1. Player released: Edward Mujica.
Rich Hill $1. Player released: Chris Bassit.

Zinkie tried bidding on Stroman, but was bested by Hernandez, who was aggressive this week with his FAAB. Hernandez is in seventh place and out of the running, but if he throws eight starting pitchers in there he can play spoiler for both us and Zinkie in strikeouts, and maybe Zinkie in ERA. It is commendable in a redraft expert league that he is making the effort. This left Zinkie with Hill as his consolation prize, which, as consolation prizes go, isn’t bad at all.

For about a day-and-a-half, Bret and I were behind Zinkie. We finished the week ahead of him, but I’m not going to lie and say that we feel good about it.

Table 1: LABR Mixed 2015, Through Games of Sunday, September 20

Team

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

W

ERA

SV

K

WHIP

Total

+/-

Baseball Prospectus

15

15

12

13

3

15

15

9

14

15

126

-1.0

MLB.com

14

13

15

15

12

11

6

14

11

12

123

+1.5

Bold = points gained
Italics = points lost

As Table 1 illustrates, Zinkie has far more volatility overall than we do, and this has played out the last two weeks in particular. We have almost nowhere to go but down. A 10-RBI swing would nab us two points while a three steal swing would net us a point. Batting average is a depressing sinkhole of suck that is almost entirely gone now. We could pick up a point, but it is looking like a longshot. We are probably maxed out on pitching barring a strikeout miracle and are all but certain to lose a saves point. In the other direction, there is plenty of danger; we could lose a steals point and a wins point but the larger concern is in strikeouts. We are at the top of a four-team clump separated by 10 strikeouts and it is likely that Hernandez is going to roll with eight or possibly nine starters this week. Losing a Jacob deGrom start could be the sad clown who haunts our offseason nightmares all winter. We thought about reserving him, but decided to keep him in the lineup and hope he gets a start against the Reds at the end of the week. The only lineup move we made this week or was benching Derek Norris and putting Chase Headley into our lineup. Headley has seven games in hitters’ parks versus six games in Petco for Norris.

Zinkie’s offense looks set in both directions with the possible exception of two points he could lose in batting average. It is all going to come down the pitching for him, and in all likelihood this is where the league will be won and lost. For Week 25 at least, Zinkie has decided to protect his ratios and possibly sacrifice wins and strikeouts, rolling a four-SP and five-RP tandem out there. None of his starting pitchers has a two-start week on tap, so it is possible that he loses enough ground in strikeouts that he will lose a point (to Hernandez) and be unable to catch anyone else. On the other hand, he is protecting a slim WHIP lead and could leapfrog three teams in ERA quite easily, so even if Zinkie is conceding that strikeout point there are many more points in play. He is also at the top of a saves clump and in the middle of a wins clump. He could lose ground in those categories, but it is extremely unlikely in saves and wins is always a random category that gets even weirder in September.

In another week, we should have a better idea of how this will all play out but it is all but certain that the race will go down to the final week, at a minimum. An RBI barrage for Team Baseball Prospectus would give us a little breathing room but would guarantee nothing.

Tout Wars

Tim Hudson $5 ($15). Other bids: $4, $3, $3, $0. Player reserved: Jorge De La Rosa.
With $18 of FAAB remaining, I decided to plunk most of my cash down on Hudson, who Ray Guilfoyle of Fake Teams released last week. Hudson has pitched well of late, but I’m less concerned about my ERA/WHIP than I am about trying to squeeze as many wins as possible as I can out of my team to keep Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN from passing me in the category. Hudson gets the Athletics in Oakland this week, and if the A’s do decide to put sentimental favorite Barry Zito on the hill for this game, I really like the matchup. My other options were De La Rosa and Aaron Nola. De La Rosa has pitched very well since August 1, but with the Pirates on tap this week I couldn’t talk myself into it. Nola is probably going to keep pitching, but a game against the Nationals is no sure win. My plan is to roll with five starting pitchers this week, with De La Rosa and Nola on my bench.

Jason Rogers $4 ($21). Other bid: $3. Player reserved: Carlos Gomez.
Rogers has been swinging a hot bat for the Brewers, and has been offering some solid power when he is playing. The rub is that he is in a strict platoon with Adam Lind, and the Brewers only are scheduled to face one left-handed pitcher this week. Something is always better than nothing, and with Gomez on the shelf since September 12, Todd Zola of Mastersball is hoping that Rogers can continue to produce and perhaps take a start or two away from Lind against a righty.

Brandon Finnegan $4 ($7). Other bids: $3, $3, $0. Player released: Tyler Cravy.
Finnegan gets a start this week at the Cardinals and if he stays on turn he will be a two-start option in Week 26 at the Nationals and then at the Pirates to close out the season. I considered Finnegan instead of Hudson but since I’m mostly pushing for wins I decided those matchups were bad. Gene McCaffrey of Wise Guy Baseball was the winning bidder. I think Finnegan is a fine play in general in an NL-only, although in McCaffrey’s specific case his pitching is fairly dominant and he is mostly protecting categories as opposed to attempting to gain points.

Christian Adames $1 ($17). Player reserved: Joe Panik.
Jeremy Jeffress $1 ($3).
Other bid: $0. Player reserved: Joe Blanton.
Phil Gosselin $1 ($3). Player released: Rafael Ynoa.
Addison Reed $1 ($3).
Other bid: $0. Player reserved: Raisel Iglesias.
Chris Heisey $1 ($3). Player reserved: Yasmany Tomas.
Chris Stewart $1. Player released: Austin Hedges.
Miguel Rojas $0. Player reserved: Tommy La Stella.
Pedro Strop $0.
Other bid: $0. Player reserved: Jonathan Gray.
Daniel Castro $0. Player reserved: Jimmy Rollins.
Josh Collmenter $0. Player reserved: Hunter Strickland.
Blake Treinen $0. Player reserved: Mike Foltynewicz.
Pedro Baez $0. Player reserved: Ryan Vogelsong.

In addition to Hudson, I also grabbed Heisey. Neither Tomas nor Kelly Johnson are playing very much and I am hoping that Heisey picks up some at bats in Colorado this week. Most of the other moves this week were either for middle relief grabs or hitters who haven’t done much in home runs or steals but who are generating at bats. Gosselin, Rojas, and Castro are all getting a decent amount of playing time and this should continue down the stretch. I’d never recommend these guys anywhere but an NL-only, but in this format playing time always plays.

Table 2: Tout Wars NL Only 2015, Through Games of Sunday, September 20

Team

R

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

Total

+/-

Mike Gianella (Baseball Prospectus)

11

12

12

7

8

7

9

7

8

9

90.0

+0.5

Tristan Cockcroft (ESPN)

7

11

11

2.5

3

6

11

9

10

10

80.5

-1.0

Bold = points gained
Italics = points lost

It was a boring week in Tout Wars NL, but when you are the team in first place, boring is good. A 9.5 point lead looks great, but there is still enough time for Cockcroft to rally, and my team has limped to the finish line this month. However, Cockcroft’s team has done the same, so with neither one of our teams having a particularly strong finish, the ball is in my court, to horribly mix sports metaphors and confuse everyone.

Cockcroft jumped up in runs and put two points ahead of him in play there were not there before. He also had a big steals week and now can gain one and a half points. He can also gain two in OBP and jump past me in home runs (he’s eight behind me). On offense alone, that’s a 7.5-point swing that would leave me ahead 89-88. On the pitching side, Cockcroft could pass me and another team in wins, could get a point in saves, and a point in ERA. That is another four points and puts Cockcroft’s realistic ceiling at 91 points. So even if I don’t lose any points (besides the two I could lose to Cockcroft), he could win 91-88. So despite what anyone might tell you, it isn’t over. Why anyone is talking to you about NL Tout Wars is beyond me, and quite frankly I am more than a little concerned that you are discussing this with people in real life.

The biggest problem Cockcroft has—besides the fact that time is running out—is that every race in the National League is done or almost done and it is likely that teams are going to start cycling their regulars in and out, particularly once teams clinch and/or are eliminated. An eight home run gap doesn’t sound like a lot—and given the way my offense has sputtered of late it really isn’t—but even though 13-14 games are left on the slate, many regulars are only going to get 10-11 starts the rest of the way. A robust series of races would have helped Cockcroft far more than the limp NL playoff picture that we are seeing down the stretch. On the other hand, I would feel way better if my team had put together a better finishing kick. I feel better about my chances than I do about our chances in LABR, but I’m not taking anything for granted, as my moves for Heisey and Hudson illustrate.

Tout Wars AL

Robbie Ross $1 ($15). Player reserved: Nick Swisher.
Ryan Dull $1. Player reserved: Aaron Brooks.
Christian Colon $1. Player reserved: Marwin Gonzalez.
Alex Avila $1. Player reserved: Roberto Perez.
Justin Wilson $0. Player reserved: Zack McAllister.
Mychal Givens $0. Player reserved: Fernando Salas
Sam Fuld $0. Player reserved: J.B. Shuck

It was another extremely quiet week in AL Tout Wars on the transaction front, but in the race for first place, things tightened up between Chris Liss of Rotowire and Mike Podhorzer of Fangraphs.

Table 3: Tout Wars AL Only 2015, Through Games of Sunday, September 20

Team

R

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

Total

+/-

Chris Liss, Rotowire

7

11.5

10

6

9

4

12

10

11

8

88.5

-1.5

Mike Podhorzer, Fangraphs

10

9

7

8.5

12

7.5

4

7

9

10

84.0

3.0

Liss entered the week with a nine-point lead, but Podhorzer rallied to cut that lead in half. As has been the case for nearly the entire season, the AL side of Tout has been far more dynamic than the NL in terms of shifts in the standings even as Liss as at times held as large or an even larger lead than I have in Tout Wars NL. Below is a quick look at how dynamic the categories are at the moment.

Table 4: Tout Wars AL Possible Shifts By Category: Best Case Podhorzer

Team

R

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

Total

+/-

Liss

5

11

9

6

9

2

12

9

10

8

81.0

-7.5

Podhorzer

12

10

8

10

12

9

7

8

9

11

96.0

12.0

Unlike in the NL, many of these category targets are eminently achievable by Podhorzer. Categories in bold are where a team is unlikely to move down (in Liss’ case) or up (in Podhorzer’s case). It isn’t certain that Podhorzer will gain all of these points, but he does not have to do so. For example, if Cody Allen has a strong week or two in saves, Podhorzer could pick up two points in saves fairly quickly. It also helps Podhorzer that there is a somewhat robust race for the second wild card and to a lesser degree the AL West. This puts more players in a position where they will compete nearly every day down the stretch.

How does the other side of this coin look; that is to say, can Liss run away with the league?

Table 5: Tout Wars AL Possible Shifts By Category: Best Case Liss

Team

R

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

Total

+/-

Liss

9

12

11

9

10

5

12

11

11

8

98.0

+9.5

Podhorzer

10

7

6

6

12

6

2

5

8

10

72.0

-12.0

Perhaps I am overstating how much mobility Podhorzer has in either direction, but I have never seen a team with so much potential movement up or down this late in the season than Podhorzer seems to have right now. Some of this is roster dependent, obviously, but given that Podhorzer gained 4.5 points last week, another week or two of 3-4 point gains per week seems well within the realm of possibility.

Thank you for reading

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adrock
9/22
In Tout Wars AL, with that much volatility, is there no possibility that the current 3rd or 4th place teams contend for the title? Those scores seem very low for 1st and 2nd this late in the season.