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2014 Mixed Tout Wars Recap

The best-laid schemes o' Mice an' Men

Gang aft agley,

- Robert Burns

I wrote about my plan for Tout Wars after the auction in March.

Even with a foundation that I was very happy with, I expected to make a push for saves through the waiver wire, or by making trades over the course of the year.

I didn't.

Plenty of saves were purchased in the league – K-Rod ($34) and Sean Dolittle ($16) were available in April, while Zach Britton ($22) was picked up in May – and other sources passed through FAAB throughout the year. My shares of Darren O'Day and eventually Joaquin Benoit ($1 FAAB) failed to yield significant value as I was already buried in the category once Benoit took over the ninth inning in San Diego following the trade of Huston Street.

Not having closers enabled me to use eight, and eventually nine starters during the final months of the season. With the flexibility to max out innings in the pursuit of wins and strikeouts, my team pushed from the back of the top-third, into the lead for the final week-plus of the season. My team also broke the league's all-time strikeouts record (1,439).

Fortunately in a 15-team mixed league, there are enough two-start pitchers available on the wavier wire each week to employ this strategy. Punting saves in a deeper league is more risky (see my NL LABR squad) because there is significantly less starting pitching available, but it's certainly an option worth exploring.

Fred Zinkie has an outstanding record in Mixed Tout over his four years competing in the league, winning championships in 2011 and 2013, finishing fourth in 2012 and finishing second this season.

In addition to building a very strong foundation in the auction, I would argue that Fred's greatest strength as a player comes from his ability to make a lot of trades. Over the course of the 2014 season, Fred acquired 35 players via trade. By comparison, I acquired three.

It's also of some interest that he purchased three closers on auction day (Greg Holland - $18, Trevor Rosenthal - $16 and Steve Cishek - $12), while I did not buy any. Two completely different approaches to roster construction and maintenance, two teams at the top of the board in October.

So where did the value come from? How profitable were the players I built my roster with on auction day?

(Note: Tout Wars uses OBP instead of AVG)

Hitters Purchased

Player$ spent$ earnedNet
Victor Martinez53934
Adam LaRoche32623
Jose Bautista314211
Alex Gordon14239
Nick Markakis5138
Adam Dunn5116
Chris Iannetta154
Omar Infante132
Billy Hamilton20200
Buster Posey2423-1
Mike Trout4645-1
Derek Jeter30-3
Yunel Escobar1-2-3
Miguel Cabrera4733-14

Alex Gordon was traded for Rajai Davis on July 7th. Gordon had a much better second half than Davis (.270/.358/.444, 10 HR, 32 RBI, 41 R), but it was a categorical need at that point in the season with Trout's lower than expected stolen-base total. After the trade, Davis hit .286/.319/.386 with two homers, 22 RBI, 31 R and 14 SB. Although I was expecting closer to 20 SB, the extra six wouldn't have changed the final standings for me at all.

Jeter was released in May, back for a three-week stretch at the end of June, and eventually replaced entirely by Danny Santana. Escobar was around my lineup for more than three months, but Rougned Odor also worked into the mix.

Otherwise, 11 of the 14 hitters I purchased were mainstays in my lineup from Opening Day through Game 162.

Two things stand out:

1. Victor Martinez and Adam LaRoche returned $65 in value for $8 in auction money.

2. Limited losses and break-even players in the middle tier went along way toward preserving the profits from Martinez, LaRoche, Bautista, Gordon and Markakis.

Pitchers Purchased

Henderson Alvarez088
Kyle Lohse396
Darren O'Day143
Jordan Zimmermann17192
Tim Hudson220
Matt Garza52-3
Francisco Liriano82-6
Tyler Skaggs2-6-8
Gerrit Cole144-10

Alvarez returned only a small share of that profit on my roster, as he was a first-half drop from my team.

Cole's time on the disabled list ruined his chances of returning a $2-3 profit, but the main reason I was able to survive mediocre returns from this group comes from a couple of valuable in-season additions.

In-Season FAAB Pickups

9.22KLobsteinDet13
9.22NMartinezTex4
9.15REliasSea17
8.25REliasSea1
8.18CCarrascoCle10
8.11BNorrisBal1
8.11EVolquezPit1
7.28VWorleyPit2
7.21JKellyBos1
6.3DJeterNYY1
6.3MGonzalesStL1
6.23CMartinezStL13
6.16JHahnSD1
6.09KGausmanBal3
6.02JBenoitSD1
6.02DSantanaMin1
5.26DHollandTex1
5.26NTepeschTex1
5.26ELucasMia1
5.19EJacksonChC1
5.19ROdorTex1
5.19JDeGromNYM1
5.12CCronLAA1
5.05JArrietaChC1
5.05GFloydAtl1
4.21DCarpenterAtl1
4.14ABassHou1
4.07DEspinosaWas1

Jake Arrieta earned $15 – only 15 pitchers returned more value. In addition to Arrieta, landing Jacob deGrom was worth $8 in this league, but his ratios and strikeout rate were elite. There were several secondary buys that panned out, including Derek Holland down the stretch after he was stashed on my DL, Jesse Hahn, Kevin Gausman (used carefully) and Bud Norris ($7 earn value). Carlos Carrasco was completely dominant after I picked him up (and in two starts before that, following his move out of the bullpen), compiling a 1.58 ERA and 69:11 K:BB in 57 innings. His entire season was worth $11, but most of that came in August and September.

Closing Thoughts

Will I use a similar strategy to build my roster in 2015?

Maybe.

If enough teams in the league opt to pass on closers, there will be value for the owners who invest, which will translate to cheap standings points. Whether I start with two top-end bats again, or go with a more balanced offense may ultimately determine if I have enough budget available to pursue relievers, but the decision could also hinge on the cost of the first few relievers nominated.

A huge part of winning a championship in any league is having a team that stays healthy, and my team certainly had good fortune in that regard.

Is durability undervalued?

My biggest takeaway looking back at how this season unfolded is that a league this size offers plenty of quality players on the waiver wire over the course of the year. That puts a nice safety net below a stars-and-scrubs approach, but I feel as though a large share of those players are going to be pitchers, making an auction day emphasis on offense more desirable.

Step 1, will be identifying this year's undervalued bottom-half roster pieces – trying to unearth the next Victor Martinez, Adam LaRoche, Jake Arrieta and Jacob deGrom.