Battling the Triangle – Jeff Erickson’s AL Tout Wars Team

Troy Tulowitzki

The 19th annual Tout Wars series of drafts happened this weekend, and once again I did the AL-only draft. Last year I finished fourth, losing to Liss. I’ve won Tout Wars just once, the AL league in 2007. Since then I haven’t won, but I’ve finished second twice, third once, fourth four times and fifth once. We won’t discuss the pre-title era for me – nothing good happened there. I’d like to hope that I’m older and perhaps wiser, or at least haven’t lost too many brain cells since then.

Recently my approach at the auction has been to target a handful of players I like at their presumed market rates, assuming that they cost about that rate in Tout, value-seek where I can, and try to adjust categorical needs where it’s reasonable to do so. As opposed to the NFBC, it’s not vital to come out of the auction with a balanced roster. There’s no overall contest, plus trading is allowed.

You can see the full draft results here, and we’ll take a look at my roster after the jump.

Steve Moyer made the biggest splash in the auction, spending most of his money early in the draft, virtually all of it on hitting, with just one pitcher going for more than $1. As a consequence, it became more expensive to buy an offense, though I didn’t feel a tremendous amount of pressure in filling my offensive slots, though stolen bases were hard for me to chase. That’s because the rest of the room didn’t really chase in response to Steve spending just $12 on hitting – overall, $917 was spent on pitching, or 29% of the total budget.

Here is my squad, in the order that I purchased each player:

1. Manny Machado, 3B, $33
2. Wade Davis, CL, $23.
3. George Springer, OF, $33
4. Hisashi Iwakuma, SP, $15
5. Chris Archer, SP, $27
6. Prince Fielder, 1B/DH, $27
7. Alex Colome, RP, $6
8. Evan Longoria, 3B, $19
9. Luis Severino, SP, $11
10. Aaron Hicks, OF, $11
11. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, $20
12. Robinson Chirinos, C, $9
13. Joaquin Benoit, RP, $4
14. Rajai Davis, OF, $10
15. Johnny Giavotella, 2B, $2
16. Omar Infante, 2B, $2
17. Marlon Byrd, OF, $2
18. Jurickson Profar, UT, $1
19. Chris Colabello, 1B/OF, $1
20. Josh Tomlin, SP, $1
21. Doug Fister, SP, $1
22. Carlos Perez, C, $1
23. Matt Shoemaker, SP, $1

Reserves: Tyler Saladino, Jake Marisnick, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Nolan Reimold

By position:

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C – Chirinos, C. Perez
1B/3B/CR – Fielder, Machado, Longoria
2B/SS/MI – Giavotella, Tulowitzki, Infante
OF – Springer, Hicks, R. Davis, Byrd
UT/SW – Colabello, Profar
SP – Archer, Iwakuma, Severino, Tomlin, Fister, ShoemakerRP – W. Davis, Benoit, Colome

H/P split: $171/89. Typically I spend more than 70% on hitting, often as much as 75%, but see above with Steve Moyer. I was a little below average in hitting expenditures in the room, but not at an extreme. I thought that Iwakuma, Severino and Benoit came at discounts, so I took them. I really believe that Benoit will supplant Steve Cishek as the Mariners’ closer, and it won’t take very long – Cishek already has biceps tendinitis.

Tout Wars has three rules that make it different than most leagues. Instead of batting average, we use on-base percentage. Instead of needing 20 games to qualify at a position, a player needs just 15 games the previous season, thus I can use Prince Fielder at first base. Finally, instead of five outfielders we’re only required to roster four, and the extra spot is a “Swingman” that can either be a hitter or a pitcher. Every single team used their SW to roster a hitter, though many will change that up at various points in the season.

I have some explaining to do. Actually, the explanation for my purchase of Troy Tulowitzki isn’t that interesting. There were no other players worth near my projected value for him in the draft, and I needed a big bat somewhere else on my team. In a league where shortstops were generally over-priced (Elvis Andrus $19, Brad Miller $17, Alcides Escobar $14 – remember, it’s an OBP league), I overcame my general concerns to take Tulo at $20.

Frequently I’m an active bidder in the auction. I like to be involved in nearly every player in the first 50-60 percent of the draft. For one, I think it helps disguise when I’m truly interested in a player, compared to when I want to advance the draft. Two, bargains (again, perceived bargains using my values) are more often to come when I’m involved and when it gets to a price where competitors are uncertain quicker than they’d like. Unfortunately, Chris Liss and Jason Collette also behave similarly in auctions, so some of the advantages to that style don’t apply as often in this room. Worse, I don’t have many secrets (though secret players are mostly a fiction – of the players purchased in the auction Saturday, only one, Mike McKenry, did not have a projection), so most everyone knows who I like. But Jason and Chris are probably more acutely aware of who I like, and vice-versa, so we engaged in frequent triangle bidding wars. This explains how I didn’t get my precious Byung-Ho Park, who went to Jason for $21.

I’m more likely to overpay at the top than in the middle, increasingly so, and realize that I did so both with Archer and with Wade Davis. The latter overpay was a tactical error, however. He was nominated for $17, and I did a jump-bid to $23, which stuck. I immediately knew it was a $2 mistake, as he went for $21 in AL LABR. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten him for $21, but it made no sense not to try that first. Most of my jump bids work out pretty well, but I’ve made this mistake before, most notably with Joe Mauer in the year immediately following his one breakout power season.

As (almost) always, the RotoWire Draft Tool (on the iPad – I prefer that version over the software, mostly because I never have to sweat battery life on a tablet vs. a laptop) likes my draft – my goodness, I hope so, it uses my projections! But the one area where I’m certainly light is in stolen bases. I could have not spent on Tulowitzki, instead spending that slot (maybe!) on Kevin Pillar, as an example, who went for $18. But speed was consistently expensive, and I’m not convinced that batting leadoff will help Pillar run more, nor am I totally sold that his growth as a hitter will continue, or even that he’ll maintain last year’s level. He’s just one example, but there wasn’t much speed remaining at that point. But … I can always trade for speed, and some speed usually is available on the waiver wire.

It’s been nine long years since I won Tout, hopefully this provides the foundation to end the drought. Let me know what you think of the results on my Twitter page.