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Not NL All-Stars, but Not Snubbed, Either PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 26 July 2014 00:00

Last week, I looked at the 2014 National League All-Stars as aligned by their ownership in the NL Tout Wars League. I was unable to draw a firm correlation between the industry fantasy league’s standings and the quantity of All-Stars for several reasons.

For one, All-Stars are not created equal. In the most extreme case, my Tony Watson is clearly less valuable than Steve Gardner’s Clayton Kershaw. Yet the two were considered two peas in the same pod in my quick and dirty initial analysis.

Even more important is the reality that the rules and processes surrounding the Midsummer Classic do not always ensure the best players from the first half of the season are representing their leagues in the All-Star Game.

Sure, the players and managers can smooth out some of the rough edges created by fan voting, but there are still limitations beyond the raw roster size. For example, having one representative per team could keep a more deserving player out of the game. So could an All-Star manager taking one of his own players over a more talented opponent.

I am violently against the use and abuse of the word “snub,” however. More often than not, there are simply more deserving players for All-Star consideration than slots to be filled. That should not be considered a slight on those not chosen, but instead a realization that the current process is imperfect. Likely any adjustments would never end the arguments.

Anyway, this time around, I am looking at 13 of the best NL players not chosen for the All-Star team. I will also check how they align to the NL Tout standings, though I am not expecting to receive much of any insight from that.

Position Players Tout owner
C: Buster Posey, Giants Tristan H. Cockcroft
His off-year better than others' good years. 10 HR, 46 RBI.


1B: Matt Adams, Cardinals Seth Trachtman
Outplaying ex-All-Star teammates Holliday and Craig.


1B: Justin Morneau, Rockies Lenny Melnick
Not as bad as Papi, but again why did Twins dump him?


2B: Scooter Gennett, Brewers Brian Walton
Rickie who? Batted .309 pre-break for first-place club.


SS: Ian Desmond, Nationals Tristan H. Cockcroft
16 HR, 57 RBI nice production from middle infield.


3B: Anthony Rendon, Nationals Mike Gianella
Left side of the infield is all-Nats. Also plays 2B.


OF: Justin Upton, Braves Mike Gianella
17 HR, 55 RBI before the break. Only 7 steals.


OF: Ryan Braun, Brewers Scott Wilderman
Yes, he's injured often, but still plated 52 and hit .298.


OF: Jayson Werth, Nationals Steve Gardner
Quietly drove in 54 with 12 HR and played every day.


Pitchers Tout owner
Henderson Alvarez, Marlins Seth Trachtman
2.27 ERA covers nicely for Jose Fernandez injury.


Jake Arrieta, Cubs Peter Kreutzer
My luck; I had him in Tout a year too early.


Kenley Jansen, Dodgers Scott Wilderman
What heart condition? Automatic in ninth.


Huston Street, Padres Seth Trachtman
First half was good enough to fetch value in trade.


NL Tout warrior All-Stars Not All-Stars Total Standings
Seth Trachtman 7 3 10 3
Steve Gardner 6 1 7 1
Tristan H. Cockcroft 3 2 5 2
Peter Kreutzer 4 1 5 5
Lenny Melnick 4 1 5 T8
Mike Gianella 2 2 4 6
Todd Zola 4 0 4 T8
Scott Wilderman 2 2 4 12
Gene McCaffrey 3 0 3 10
Brian Walton 2 1 3 11
Derek Carty 2 0 2 4
Phil Hertz 2 0 2 7

As noted above, the rich get richer. Or should I say, the best teams are reaffirmed. Not only did Seth Trachtman of Sporting News have the most regular All-Stars, he also had the most members of my “not All-Star team.” Impressive.

At the other end of the spectrum is Derek Carty, who was just behind Trachtman in the standings in fourth place despite only two real All-Stars and none from my group of 13. Carty has a very balanced roster – the polar opposite of stars and scrubs.

If he wasn’t my competitor, I would root for Carty for that very reason.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 July 2014 08:05
 
Drafting All-Stars is Not a Sure Winning Ticket PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 19 July 2014 00:00

During this last week, among my baseball-related activities were to assess how I could improve my under-performing team in National League Tout Wars and of course, watching the 2014 All-Star Game from Minneapolis Tuesday night.

When encountering a friend recently with whom I had not spoken for several months, he queried me how my Tout team is doing. Surprised that I am deep in the second division, he asked me why.

My answer may have seemed a bit trite, but it was accurate. “I picked the right players in the wrong season,” was my conclusion.

That got me thinking.

As I studied the player introductions for the Mid-Summer Classic, I did not recall seeing even one member of my Tout squad. That was not a good feeling to say the least. After all, with all the injury and Sunday pitching replacements, 41 players ended up being named to the NL roster. With 12 Tout teams, my “fair share” should be close to 3 1/2.

On the broader point, I wondered if there might be any correlation between NL Tout standings and the number of National League All-Stars on each of our rosters.

In reality, I did have two All-Stars, both reserves from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Neither was part of my master plan for the 2014 season and one of them is about as tenuous as a selection could be.

I grabbed Josh Harrison as a free agent when he first came up and he has not only delivered solid stats, but also offers significant positional versatility. On the other hand, setup man Tony Watson has been sitting there unclaimed on the waiver wire almost all season long. The lefty just joined my Tout team a few weeks ago and has been on the bench all but the first week. In other words, Watson's impact on my results has been very, very small.

The league-wide details follow with a summary afterward.

Starters Tout owner
C: Jonathan Lucroy ^, Brewers Steve Gardner
1B: Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs Seth Trachtman
2B: Chase Utley, Phillies Todd Zola
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies Peter Kreutzer
3B: Aramis Ramirez, Brewers Phil Hertz
OF: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates Peter Kreutzer
OF: Carlos Gomez, Brewers Lenny Melnick
OF: Yasiel Puig, Dodgers Seth Trachtman


Pitchers Tout owner
RHP: Henderson Alvarez @, Marlins Seth Trachtman
LHP: Madison Bumgarner ^, Giants Peter Kreutzer
LHP: Aroldis Chapman ^, Reds Steve Gardner
RHP: Tyler Clippard %, Nationals Mike Gianella
RHP: Johnny Cueto ^, Reds Gene McCaffrey
RHP: Zack Greinke *, Dodgers Seth Trachtman
RHP Tim Hudson %, Giants Phil Hertz
LHP: Clayton Kershaw ^, Dodgers Steve Gardner
RHP: Craig Kimbrel ^, Braves Todd Zola
RHP: Pat Neshek *, Cardinals Gene McCaffrey
RHP: Francisco Rodriguez ^, Brewers Scott Wilderman
RHP: Tyson Ross *, Padres Mike Gianella
RHP: Jeff Samardzija ^$, Cubs/A's Lenny Melnick
RHP: Alfredo Simon %, Reds Peter Kreutzer
RHP Huston Street %, Padres Seth Trachtman
RHP: Julio Teheran *, Braves Steve Gardner
RHP: Adam Wainwright ^, Cardinals Tristan H. Cockcroft
LHP: Tony Watson *, Pirates Brian Walton
RHP: Jordan Zimmermann ^, Nationals Todd Zola


Reserves Tout owner
C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals Seth Trachtman
C: Miguel Montero @, D-backs Seth Trachtman
C: Devin Mesoraco *, Reds Tristan H. Cockcroft
1B: Freddie Freeman ^, Braves Gene McCaffrey
1B: Anthony Rizzo #, Cubs Derek Carty
2B: Dee Gordon ^, Dodgers Todd Zola
2B: Daniel Murphy *, Mets Scott Wilderman
SS: Starlin Castro ^, Cubs Tristan H. Cockcroft
3B: Matt Carpenter *, Cardinals Steve Gardner
3B: Todd Frazier ^, Reds Steve Gardner
OF: Charlie Blackmon ^, Rockies Lenny Melnick
OF: Josh Harrison *, Pirates Brian Walton
OF: Hunter Pence ^, Giants Lenny Melnick
OF: Giancarlo Stanton ^, Marlins Derek Carty


Notes
^ Player ballot-elected
* Choice of manager/MLB
# Final Vote winner
@ Injury replacement
% Replaced Sunday pitcher
$ Inactive


NL Tout warrior All-Stars Standings
Seth Trachtman 7 3
Steve Gardner 6 1
Peter Kreutzer 4 5
Lenny Melnick 4 T8
Todd Zola 4 T8
Tristan H. Cockcroft 3 2
Gene McCaffrey 3 10
Derek Carty 2 4
Mike Gianella 2 6
Phil Hertz 2 7
Brian Walton 2 11
Scott Wilderman 2 12

Not surprisingly, the two teams with the most NL All-Stars sit first and third in the standings. Seth Trachtman of The Sporting News is in third place, but leads the way with seven All-Stars. USA TODAY’s Steve Gardner is leading the league currently and is second with six All-Stars.

Yet, in between them is the second-place team, managed by two-time champion Tristan H. Cockcroft of ESPN. He is doing very well despite sporting just a trio of All-Stars, as his track record indicates he knows how to win.

Further, tied with me and three others at the bottom of the heap with just a pair of All-Stars is the fourth-place team of Derek Carty. That clearly indicates that one does not need a heavy complement of All-Stars to field a competitive team.

I guess I will have to continue searching for another excuse.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 July 2014 08:32
 
Forget About Rickey and Remember Last Year PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 05 July 2014 00:00

It was Hall of Famer Branch Rickey who famously preached, “It is better to trade a man a year too early than a year too late.”

Having passed away in 1965, the Mahatma never played fantasy baseball.

If he had, perhaps his famous quote would have instead gone like this, “It is better to acquire a man a year too early than a year too late.”

In looking back to last season’s National League Tout Wars squad, that is sort of how I feel. Only because the Tout leagues are re-draft format, acquiring a player last year (or trading one, for that matter) has no relevance to this year.

That is the source of my pain.

Seeing players upon whom I took a chance in 2013 excel this season hurts, because they are not on my 2014 roster.

Many of my competitors expect me to have a soft spot in my heart for St. Louis Cardinals players because I cover the organization for a living.

That is definitely not the case. Like many others, I look for value on draft day over all and never want to overpay.

Therein lies the rub.

Players that delivered more than expected last year are more than likely going to carry a much higher place this year. That recent success also could mean more competition on draft day.

A review of my 2013 Tout roster reminds me of multiple players I wished I still owned today – but do not.

One Cardinal I did not acquire until after he left the club offers such an example.

Heading into 2013, Kyle Lohse was homeless, though the Scott Boras client was hardly destitute. Instead of playing golf in Phoenix with the likes of Mark Mulder, the right-hander wanted to be on a baseball diamond last spring.

However, his status as a free agent who had turned down a qualifying offer from his former team in St. Louis meant a signing team would have to forfeit an early draft pick that June.

On draft day, we had no idea when the former Cardinals right-hander would sign. Worst case, he would remain unsigned until mid-season as happened to his Boras stable-mate Stephen Drew this year.

Further, in a mono league like NL Tout, any buyer had only a 50 percent chance of getting any stats from Lohse. Joining an American League club would make him worthless in a National League format.

Others worried that being away from pitching guru Dave Duncan could lead to Lohse turning into a pumpkin at midnight. After all, prior to joining the Cardinals, he was an aggregate 11 games under .500 with an ERA over 4.50. With St. Louis, Lohse was a different pitcher, with a 55-35, 3.90 on his ledger.

I rolled the dice on draft day, raising the opening $1 bid to $2. The table went quiet, apparently surprised by my  bid.

Fortunately, Lohse quickly came to terms with the Milwaukee Brewers on a three-year contract and delivered.

After logging a 3.35 ERA in his Milwaukee debut and in a secure situation, Lohse went for $7 this spring. Baseball HQ’s Phil Hertz has to be delighted with the 9-2 record and 3.08 ERA he has received to date in return.

All I have is remorse.

As soon as Jake Arrieta was acquired by the Cubs from Baltimore on this same weekend one year ago, I grabbed the then-27-year-old right-hander for the non-descript price of one dollar. The only reason I did not bid zero was that Tout rules would not allow it. Arrieta was initially assigned to Triple-A Iowa and did not join the Chicago rotation until mid-August.

The former Orioles top prospect demonstrated some of the promise he had long teased fantasy owners with by going 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA over his nine starts.

As much as I would have like to have had Arrieta back on my 2014 roster, he went to Peter Kreutzer instead. While Arrieta’s 5-1, 1.88 mark is impressive, even more so is his 74 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings. It is the first time in his five-year career that he has fanned more than a batter per inning.

Oft-injured Chase Utley came into 2013 having played just 83 games the prior season, the fewest since his rookie year a decade earlier. The combination of bad knees and advancing age (now 35) playing on a declining Phillies team meant I scored the second baseman when others shied away.

Utley went on to bat .284, his highest mark since 2008. Playing in 131 games, the left-handed batter slammed 18 home runs and plated 69.

With the injury concerns diminished, Utley fetched $19 this season. Todd Zola has already received 81 games of production, a .287 average and enough RBI that Utley is on pace to top his 2013 total. He has been recognized by voters as the likely starter for the National League in the All-Star Game.

Seeing these players continue to excel helps remind me (and hopefully you after reading this) to forget about Rickey and not to be too hasty in leaving behind prior season players in a re-draft league the year after they had been a bargain.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 05 July 2014 09:03
 
Blame It on Byrnes PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 28 June 2014 00:00

I would like to blame Josh Byrnes, but it would not be fair to pile on a guy who has twice been fired from one of the 30 best jobs in Major League Baseball by the age of 44.

So, I will more appropriately take the blame myself, instead.

Last week, I wrote about a key element of my plan to improve my place in the standings of National League Tout Wars. In a nutshell, I want to acquire young prospects before they are promoted to the Majors.

While I have had some successes in my approach, two examples of pitching mistakes I made came to light this week. One involves Byrnes.

About a month ago, the then-general manager of the San Diego Padres was quoted as saying that he was impressed with the pitching of right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne and more than hinted that the 27-year-old Cuban expat could get a look in San Diego soon.

Granted, San Diego is not an offensive powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination, but any starter worth a darn who pitches half his games in Petco Park is worth having. (Or is it that anyone who pitches half his games in Petco has to be worth a darn?)

Now perhaps Byrnes was engaging in a bit of hype-building. After all, in early May, he had committed a million bucks of his team’s owners’ cash on the pitcher and things were probably already not going too well at the office.

No matter, as the praise seemed justified. At the time, Despaigne had dominated in his first two professional starts - in a known hitters’ circuit, the Double-A Texas League. He allowed just one run on four hits and struck out 12 in 7 2/3 innings. A promotion to Triple-A quickly followed.

That was good enough for me. I made an uncontested bid of $1 (zero dollar bids on minor leaguers are not allowed in Tout) and carried Despaigne for a week on my active roster generating no stats, as required by league rules.

I then parked Despaigne on my bench for the next three weeks while watching his results every fifth day at El Paso. It was not pretty to say the least.

Despaigne pitched beyond five innings just once in five Triple-A outings. Worse, he was battered for 20 runs in 23 2/3 innings for a 7.61 ERA. If that wasn’t bad enough, his supporter Byrnes was sacked in San Diego.

I dropped Despaigne 10 days ago, and in the process, added another speculation play, Atlanta catcher Christian Bethancourt (I guess that roster spot is dedicated to those with long names).

I should know by now that things in San Diego often do not go as expected, especially this season. To that end, the Padres soon encountered a run of pitching injuries. Specifically, the shoulder problems of Andrew Cashner created a rotation opening filled by none other than the aforementioned Despaigne.

Now sitting on NL Tout’s waiver wire, Despaigne’s impressive results in his major league debut were wasted. All he did was shut out the team with the best record in the National League at the time, the San Francisco Giants, on four hits over seven innings.

Needless to say, Despaigne should generate considerable bidding activity this coming weekend and surely will not go for $1 this time.

It is of little solace that some scouts suggest that Despaigne lacks swing and miss stuff and may have trouble once he becomes known around the league. I know I could have at least enjoyed his honeymoon period.

To be honest, I might not have written this article had the Despaigne situation been an isolated incident.

Instead, just a couple of days later, salt was rubbed in my wounds by the organization I cover for a living, the St. Louis Cardinals.

The club lost 40 percent of its starting rotation on Monday when shoulder ailments pushed Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia to the disabled list. While Carlos Martinez - who is on my Tout roster – took one spot, the Cards had no obvious choice for the other.

The club made a bold move, promoting the 19th overall selection in the 2013 draft, left-hander Marco Gonzales, straight from Double-A to a major league starting berth. It had been over two decades since a similar move occurred in the organization.

Gonzales lost two major recognition opportunities in the process. He had to give up his starting assignment in the Texas League All-Star Game as well as his invitation to the MLB All-Star Futures Game, to be held in Minneapolis on July 13. Somehow, I don’t think he minded.

Though Gonzales yielded five runs in five innings in his MLB debut, I liked what I saw from the 22-year-old. He had a 2:1 groundball advantage and three strikeouts, including a very impressive punchout of the hottest hitter in baseball in Troy Tulowitzki. Gonzales should also receive a mulligan since his debut was in Coors Field, a tough assignment for even a seasoned veteran.

Perhaps I am being too hard on myself for not having anticipated Gonzales’ arrival. I have been very aware of his talents, but did not expect the Cardinals to bring him up until September at best. Those plans clearly changed in one day – the day after our most recent free agent period ended.

As in the case of Despaigne, I expect aggressive bidding from my Tout peers will result in Gonzales landing on a competitor’s roster.

Can I somehow blame that on Byrnes, too?

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 June 2014 07:28
 
Re-Setting Realistic Goals PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 21 June 2014 00:00

By the time a baseball season is nearing the completion of its third month, the realistic title chances of any team is pretty well understood. I am not suggesting any league race is over this soon nor that I have perfect predictive powers. Yet when you are good, you know it by now and when it just isn’t your year, well, that is painfully obvious.

The latter case is where I reside in National League Tout Wars for 2014. At some point down the line, I will revisit my fatal mistakes made on draft day, but not yet. I am still competing.

Saturday marked an important milestone for me as it marked the first day since April that my team was not in the league cellar. I am more than willing to celebrate any victory, even a small one.

The core of my roster remains the same - seriously underachieving veterans with solid prior track records. A few are starting to show life, but plenty continue to stink.

As recently as last week, I had eight players on the disabled list. I am grateful for the unlimited in size DL that is in place in Tout, but to be honest, most of my players on the shelf are not difference-makers.

Well, none of the members of my injured corps are difference-makers now, but I had hoped that the likes of Cliff Lee (older), Jedd Gyorko (younger) and Carl Crawford (injury-prone) would have been important contributors. It has not been $58 well spent on the trio.

Unlike some leagues, the inverse order of the standings has no relevance in Tout – other than to break ties in the weekly free agent allocation bidding process. Because trades are doubly-difficult to execute in industry leagues, the free agent market is my only hope of injecting fresh blood into a tired roster.

One major challenge is that most of the elite prospects likely to be called up this season across the National League are already rostered. Many have been since the start of the season, as I detailed in this earlier article.

What that means is that I have to dig deeper and search harder than my very knowledgeable competitors. That is far from an easy task, but I have few, if any, viable alternatives.

I need to digress for a moment and mention that Tout has an important feature that encourages players not to give up and to compete until the end. For the next season, FAAB money is docked from all finishers who end up below pre-defined point targets.

In my case, if the season ended today, I would be 10 points short of that minimum and therefore, would be penalized $10 from my $100 FAAB stipend for 2015.

I should mention that one of the Tout governing board insists that this feature is not a stick, but is instead a positive motivator. While I am fine with the feature and the reasons for its implementation, I strongly disagree with the happy-talk spin.

If FAAB rebalancing was really a benefit as he insists, the best teams would be given more money the next year instead of docking cash from the poorest-finishing ones.

At any rate, the rules are what they are.

They don’t encourage me to just walk away and sign up for second-half or monthly leagues. They don’t make me want to shift my attention to short-term gratification that can come from daily leagues.

Don’t get me wrong. If you favor those formats, go for it. In my case, I signed up for the marathon and I am going to finish it the best I can.

I am not just going to stop at getting 10 more points to protect my 2015 FAAB. I want to finish in the upper half of the league. That is my revised target for this season.

The way I will get there is by smart waiver wire acquisitions.

It was a small thing, really insignificant, except to me. A one-sentence e-mail from a competitor this Monday congratulated me. “Once again, you appear to be ahead of the curve,” he wrote. In this case, he was referring to my acquisition of Atlanta catcher Christian Bethancourt the night before.

The rumor originated from MLB.com’s Atlanta beat writer Mark Bowman on Sunday evening that the Braves are considering calling up their top prospect catcher.

If brought up, Bethancourt would not be nailed to the bench as are most MLB reserve catchers. He would need to play every day. To make that happen, the by-products of such a move would be the benching of a multi-million dollar player in B.J. Upton and the shift of incumbent backstop Evan Gattis to his spot in left field.

Though sitting the elder Upton would be dramatic, the Braves have stepped up to a similar underachiever by playing prospect Tommy La Stella ahead of expensive veteran Dan Uggla.

Further, the Braves have fallen behind the Washington Nationals in the National League East and if the season ended today, Atlanta would not be a Wild Card, either. So action may soon be warranted.

Though the Braves later denied Bowman’s story - an interesting set of circumstances since they all ultimately work for the same enterprise - when I read it on Sunday night, I decided to act.

While Tout allows $0 bids for major leaguers, any players still in the Minors cost a minimum of $1. This was intended to slow speculative bids for prospects. Another related penalty is that the claiming team has to absorb a week of no stats before the acquired minor leaguer can be moved to the bench.

Whether the reason was because I was the only one who heard the Bethancourt rumor or because no one else wanted to take the hit to acquire him, my $1 bid was uncontested.

I was willing to pay the price in hopes that Bethancourt can contribute in the second half at a position at which my team is especially weak.

I am not under the illusion that he is going to vault into consideration for the NL Rookie of the Year Award, but if I make enough small Bethancourt-like moves, I can still make something of this season.

As you look at your teams, I encourage you to do the same, not literally, but to assess what you can do to become competitive if you are not. And if you are in contention, identify and execute a plan to reach the top!

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 21 June 2014 10:26
 
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