On Saturday, I bought our AL Tout Wars squad in a 12-team, 5 x 5 auction with 23 lineup spots and $260 budget. There are two wrinkles: (1) one of the OF spots is removed for a swingman which can be any position including pitcher; and (2) on-base-percentage (OBP) replaces batting average as a hitting category.
Here are the full results:
My strategy in most auctions is to buy a few expensive players for roughly full value (I’ll take a discount if there is one, but I’m not expecting or hoping for it) and then value-shop the rest of the way. Often that means keeping my mouth shut until the end of the auction, but sometimes the bargains come as you go along. Like Jeff Erickson, I also bid on almost every player, at a minimum to move the auction along, but also to price enforce and make it harder for people to know when I’m willing to go to the mat. So if someone brings up Nelson Cruz (in whom I had no interest) at $5, I’ll go to $17 because I’m positive he’ll sell for more than that, and why waste everyone’s time with $7, $9, $12, etc.? And if I’m in at $17 on Cruz, maybe someone will think I want him, or won’t able tell I want someone else on whom I’m bidding. Ideally, you want to price enforce and extract every last dollar out of your competitors while having them fear pricing enforcing on your players lest they get stuck with someone they don’t want/can’t afford.
Of course, every time you price enforce, you take a risk of getting stuck, so make sure one of two things obtain before you do it: (1) While you don’t love the player, you don’t mind getting stuck with him at the price you’ve bid; or (2) you’re almost positive your opponent will go the extra dollar anyway. I pushed up quite a few players I didn’t necessarily want at the time they came up like Yordano Ventura who was too cheap at $10 (I went to $11, and Colton and Wolf topped me at $12), Taijuan Walker (exact same scenario except Jason Collette went to $12) and a number of other players I can’t remember. Walker and Ventura were players I liked, and if I were stuck with too much pitching, so be it if I got a good deal and prevented my competition from doing the same. (The ultimate price enforce of the draft was Erickson who bid Colton and Wolf up to $46 on Mike Trout, only to see them go $47. Price enforcing with 18 percent of your budget is no joke, though there are worse fates than overpaying for Trout.)
As last year’s defending champ, I had the first nomination and tried to steal an ace for a couple dollars under value. Often people wait around to find out the prices for which the top players go and value subsequent players relative to them, i.e., they try hone in on the market’s baseline before jumping in. Consequently, there are often bargains right away because only half the room is prepared to bid before acquiring this information, and that means only five or six people need to pass on your player for you to get a good price. Moreover, because the entire pool of players is still available, people are more reluctant to settle for their second or third choice at a position when their first is still out there.
So I threw out Dallas Keuchel for $23 (I paid $26 for him in LABR), hoping to get crickets. Unfortunately, Larry Schechter went to $24 right away and eventually bought him for $26. The nomination-timing trick does not work if the spread-sheet driven value-takers have the player at a significantly higher number. Apparently, Larry wasn’t buying into Steamer’s regression for Keuchel.
Plan B was to get another ace, maybe Chris Archer or Carlos Carrasco, but they went for $27 and $26, respectively, and I had to choose between overpaying or Plan C.
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Plan C was to buy all three elite Yankees relievers (Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman), thereby ensuring I got all their saves and most likely 250-300 Ks and 230 innings of peak Pedro Martinez ratios along with 12-15 wins. While they’d be taking up three roster spots instead of one, it’s not a big deal because your last two pitching spots in an AL-only aren’t worth that much and can sometimes have negative value. Unfortunately, when someone tossed Betances out, Colton and Wolf (having the same idea) bid him to nine, and I had to pay $10. (He went for only $7 in LABR.) When Chapman ($15 in LABR came up), I was dismayed to pay $18, but I was all in at that point, having already secured Betances for $1-2 too much as a standalone player. Finally when Miller came up, everyone knew what I was doing, and Colton and Wolf smartly bid him up to $9, forcing me to go $10. Had they gone to $11, I’m not sure what I would have done. On the one hand, I had to get all three for the plan to work. On the other, you have to send the message you’re willing to stick someone with a player if he pushes you too far. My instinct is I would have let them keep him and gone to Plan D, but I don’t know what Plan D was, and I can’t say for sure. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.
In the end, I did largely what I wanted even if some of my targets (Miguel Cabrera, Keuchel and Aaron Hicks) got pushed beyond what I was willing to pay for them. A few price-enforcing bids where I got caught were Avisail Garcia for $9 early in the auction, Carlos Rodon for $9 and Marcus Stroman for $17. When Garrett Richards went for $20, I felt sure Stroman would go for at least $19, but that wasn’t the case. All three were perfectly good values, though so I don’t regret it. The Stroman buy caused me to spend $23 on him and Ian Kennedy ($6) combined rather than $12 on a pitcher like Walker or Ventura and $11 on a Luis Severino type, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing
Overall, this team should have more than enough pop (Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Michael Brantley and Kendrys Morales) with plenty of 10-15 homer types, speed (Byron Buxton, Brantley, Starlin Castro, Jimmy Rollins, Jose Ramirez, Cam Maybin and Austin Jackson) and saves (Yankees and Drew Storen.) I could have OBP problems as I don’t have any superstars in that category, and Rollins, Maybin, Castro, Jackson, Buxton and Garcia all have significant downside. And while I bought enough starting pitching, I don’t have a true ace. Pitchers like Smyly, Stroman and Rodon have ace upside, but none has anything approaching ace reliability, and that kind of staff can fall apart easily.
Finally, because I do AL for both LABR and Tout, I like to compare what I paid my LABR team (drafted March 7) with this one (drafted March 19) and see how much Tout money my LABR one cost and vice-versa:
|Pos||LABR Player||LABR $||Tout $||Diff||Tout Player||Tout $||LABR $||Diff|
|C||Hank Conger||4||1||-3||Matt Wieters||13||17||4|
|C||Chris Gimenez||1||0||-1||Dioner Navarro||2||7||5|
|1B||Miguel Cabrera||36||38||2||Chris Davis||33||31||-2|
|2B||Johnny Giavotella||1||2||1||Jose Ramirez||6||6||0|
|3B||Luis Valbuena||9||7||-2||Adrian Beltre||21||20||-1|
|SS||Eduardo Escobar||8||7||-1||Starlin Castro||10||17||7|
|CI||Chris Davis||31||33||2||Joey Gallo||2||3||1|
|MI||Christian Colon||1||0||-1||Jimmy Rollins||1||9||8|
|OF||Byron Buxton||17||16||-1||Avisail Garcia||9||15||6|
|OF||Michael Brantley||20||22||2||Byron Buxton||16||17||1|
|OF||Carlos Beltran||10||12||2||Michael Brantley||22||20||-2|
|OF||Aaron Hicks||7||11||4||Austin Jackson||10||0||-10|
|OF||Cameron Maybin||7||5||-2||Cameron Maybin||5||7||2|
|U||Prince Fielder||20||27||7||Kendrys Morales||14||14||0|
|P||Dallas Keuchel||26||26||0||Carlos Rodon||9||14||5|
|P||Chris Archer||24||27||3||Dellin Betances||10||7||-3|
|P||Francisco Rodriguez||12||17||5||Aroldis Chapman||18||15||-3|
|P||Daniel Norris||4||0||-4||Drew Smyly||13||15||2|
|P||Henry Owens||2||0||-2||Marcus Stroman||17||16||-1|
|P||Rich Hill||6||3||-3||Drew Storen||9||8||-1|
|P||Eduardo Rodriguez||8||2||-6||Andrew Miller||10||7||-3|
|P||Blake Snell||5||4||-1||Blake Snell||4||5||1|
|P||Matt Shoemaker||1||1||0||Ian Kennedy||6||9||3|
|R||Matt Duffy||0||0||0||J. Hamilton||0||0||0|
One caveat is in order here. My Tout team cost 286 LABR dollars, but my weakness in OBP probably drove $5-$10 in discounts. But that’s probably offset by buying Jackson for $10 after he went for $0 in the reserve round as an unsigned free agent in LABR. In other words, had Jackson signed in February, my Tout team would likely be 296 LABR dollars. And while I have five players in common (Brantley, Buxton, Maybin, Davis and Snell), potentially affecting the bargains I got, it turns out I paid $80 total in both auctions. Finally, I managed the $26 “profit” despite paying $9 extra for the Yankee relievers.
My LABR team, on the other hand, made only a small profit in Tout Dollars, but my biggest loser was Eduardo Rodriguez ($-6) who got hurt. Oddly, I have a lot of good OBP guys in LABR – Cabrera, Fielder, Hicks – so it’s possible that $3 is more than offset by not benefitting from them in that category – though Cabrera’s batting average is probably more valuable than his OBP.