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Tuesday 23rd Jan 2018

I wasn’t going to write again this week about the National League Tout Wars race between the USA Today’s Steve Gardner and me until I was asked to do so by the Tout league leaders.

It isn’t as if I had been reluctant to cover the subject in the past, but there is only so much that can be said. My intent to remain quiet was certainly not superstition-related, either – it was based on cold, hard reality. Despite the appearance of a close race, it would take a collapse more monumental than that which the 2011 Boston Red Sox or Atlanta Braves are currently risking for Steve to slip up.

With six games to go, Gardner’s lead is six points. Most impressively, down the stretch, his club is performing like a champion. In this week only, our teams are also first and second in the league, respectively. It indicates the fine managing job Steve has done, turning a huge deficit into a decent lead.

As Steve noted earlier this week in his "Fantasy Windup" column (always a must-read for fantasy aficionados), there are three pitching categories in which he leads me, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. Frankly, I don’t see major risk in K’s, as Steve has a cushion of 29 heading into Friday. On the other hand, another owner is just five behind me.

With starters like Zack Greinke and Madison Bumgarner, a blowout outing that could seriously tank Steve’s WHIP and ERA isn’t likely, either. Even so, I would still need three points from other categories. All I could hope for in wins is one more point. Enough help to close the remainder of the gap does not seem to be on the way.

The painful reality is that where I have felt the best while watching games in recent days doesn’t matter much anymore – offensive counting stats.

The other night, I reveled in St. Louis Cardinals’ third baseman David Freese’s five RBI and was further enthused by his teammate Albert Pujols and Pittsburgh’s Derrek Lee both going deep.

It was wasted excitement. Despite a double-digit RBI total, as I checked the live league standings, I was crushed. Not only did I not make up ground, I learned that I had lost a half-point to Steve during that 24-hour period.

Heading into the weekend, here are the facts. I am 23 runs behind Gardner and nine home runs back. There is another owner between us in RBI. I am 27 behind him and 50 short of Steve. Five more stolen bases out of the ether would garner me just one more point. I am more likely to be passed in batting average than passing anyone myself.

Given that, it is time to look at the big picture. Though I have written about it earlier, it is worth noting once again my “wasted” saves.

Though I bought only one sure closer on draft day, it was wasted money on Brad Lidge. I focused on possible emerging closers and hit on two of them – Fernando Salas of St. Louis and Ryan Madson of Philadelphia. I also paid a single-digit price for all-World closer Craig Kimbrel of Atlanta.

I was able to deal away Salas in return for help elsewhere, but I still have a cushion of 16 saves on a base of 104. In other words, 15 of those saves are useless.

While all those save outings also helped my ERA and WHIP, who’s to say another solid starting pitcher, a base stealer or a power bat would not have provided a greater return?

In the rich-get-richer, but have no place to spend it department, you have probably read about Florida Marlins closer Leo Nunez – or should I say Juan Carlos Oviedo? Whoever he is and however old he is, he won’t be saving any more games for the Fish this season.

Good news and bad. His heir apparent, Edward Mujica, is on my roster. I could perhaps secure some more meaningless saves over the weekend if it wasn’t for the fact I benched him when adding Marlins’ pitcher Alejandro Sanabia on Monday.

I bid $10 FAAB on the 23-year-old in a final hope of getting one more quality start. My luck, Sanabia’s outing is going to be on Saturday - against the Milwaukee Brewers and Gardner’s pitcher Greinke.

In case you thought that the Brew Crew might be mailing it in because they have locked up the NL Central, you can forget about that. They are in an important battle with Arizona to avoid powerhouse Philadelphia in the National League Division Series. I mean, Milwaukee is trying to secure the second-best record in the league to establish NLDS home field advantage.

Sure, anything can happen over the last six games, both in MLB and in fantasy. On the other hand, I don’t think we will see a “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline when reporting the NL Tout result this season. I’d put higher odds on the Rays or Cardinals returning from the early grave.

As the Cardinals equipment manager told me this past Monday, “I’ve seen a lot of champagne in my time that never gets used (for its intended purpose).” I imagine that applies to Yoo-Hoo, as well. My coolers remain empty. 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 13-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC that season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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