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Sunday 28th Aug 2016

In last week’s column, I highlighted a major difference when FAAB reclaims are allowed for players won via auction on draft day who are later deemed out for the season, in two key industry leagues – LABR and Tout Wars.

The latter provides 100 percent rebate prior to the All-Star break and 50 percent afterward, while the former goes from all to nothing at the time of the Midsummer Classic.

In fact, Tout rules are significantly less restrictive. Tout allows FAAB reclaim for ANY injured player who was taken on draft day, even ones just out for a short time, on the 15-day disabled list, for example. The protection against funny business is that if the original owner decides later that he or she wants that player back, the new price must be greater than or equal to the draft-day value.

One way is not right and the other wrong – but they are very different.

A second variation is that zero dollar bids are legal for major league players in Tout, but all players acquired in LABR require at least one dollar to be spent.

Also, FAAB can be traded in Tout, but not in LABR. These last two rules combined means that there is no way a LABR team with a zero balance can acquire any additional players via FAAB bidding in the second half of the season. Needless to say, great care must be taken when balances are low.

Yet another difference is in the speculative acquisition of top prospects. One of my favorite features of Tout is that minor leaguers can be acquired via FAAB at any time. The only stipulations are that no zero-dollar bids are allowed and all players must be active for at least the first week.

One rule change made in Tout to help dial this back a bit was the reduction of the size of the reserve rosters from six players to four. That made it more challenging to hold onto a youngster all season long. LABR remains at six.

(I should note that perhaps the most important reason for the change was that in single-league formats, the list of available hitters each week had been short and ugly. Even afterward, the waiver wire candidates are still short and ugly – just a little bit less so.)

On the other hand, if you don’t pick up your prospects on draft day in LABR, you are precluded for bidding until after they actually reach the Majors.

As a result, on draft day this spring in LABR, I acquired pitchers Lucas Giolito and Jake Thompson and I also added shortstop Dansby Swanson after losing out on the bidding for Orlando Arcia and J.P. Crawford.

Theoretically, these differences could mean less FAAB money is remaining in LABR team coffers. Less generous FAAB rebates and more potential bidding wars for callups could be the factors.

Wondering if in fact this may be the case, I looked at the FAAB balances of my two single-league competitions – NL LABR vs. NL Tout – as of August 21.

One other factor has to be taken into account. Tout handicaps teams that finished below 60 points in the standings with a prorated reduction in FAAB the next season. The glass-half-full explanation is to encourage teams to fight for every point until the end. The more prevalent view is that it is being used as a stick.

Seems to me that a better approach would be that if owners stop competing, they would be asked to play elsewhere, but that is a topic for another day.

The relevant point here is to reflect that withheld money for an apples to apples comparison. One other important point is that LABR uses a $100 FAAB base while Tout moved to a $1000 base for 2016.

Here are the relative numbers.

  Budget Dock Original Reclaim Available Spent Current % Remain
NL Tout $12,000 ($330) $11,670 $977 $12,647 $11,363 $1,284 10.2%
NL LABR $1,200 0 $1,200 $39 $1,239 $1,032 $207 16.7%
NL LABR - Rich Hill @$68 $1,200 0 $1,200 $39 $1,239 $1,100 $139 11.2%

We will take them a line at a time.

12 Tout teams x $1000 = $12,000 - $330 taken away from three teams based on their 2015 finishes. Just under $1000, $977 to be exact, has been returned to owners for FAAB reclaims. That increased the total money available to spend this season to $12,647. $1284 or 10.2 percent of that total remained as of August 21.

The math is simpler for LABR with no penalties and just two FAAB reclaims during the entire first half – Devin Mesoraco at $15 and Kyle Schwarber at $24. That total of $39 is just 40 percent of the comparable amount returned in Tout. As a result, 16.7 percent of the available total to spend remains.

However, you may recall that last week, I outlined the trouble NL LABR league leader Derek Carty experienced when trying to acquire new Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill. Had the lefty been available instead of being on the DL, Carty would have spent $68 for him. With that amount added to the LABR total, the difference in FAAB remaining would be within one percent.

So it seems that the respective owners across the two leagues are consistent in their spending, even with different FAAB totals and variances in the rules governing FAAB use.

The moral of the story? Be ready to compete no matter what rules are in place. That is what these industry leaders seem to be doing.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-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.

This is one of those times of the year when understanding your league rules is especially important. Further, if one or more of those regulations don’t make complete sense and could benefit from adjustment, use your current situation to illustrate the problem, then bring it to your league commissioner.

In each of the last two weeks, differences in league rules between two leading industry leagues, Tout Wars and LABR, have crossed up two owners – including yours truly.

Example 1 occurred in the first transaction period following MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline. The rule in question is whether or not players currently on their MLB team’s disabled list are eligible to be acquired in weekly FAAB bidding.

I have to admit that in my first year in the LABR, I did not know that such a move is prohibited there. I assumed the rule was the same in both leagues – that DLed players can be picked up - as did league leader Derek Carty of ESPN.

After all, there is a penalty built into the Tout Wars implementation. All players added via free agency must spend the first week on the active roster. Seven days of having to take zero stats keeping an injured player active leads to an appropriate level of reservation in some situations.

Carty, with the second-most amount in his kitty, $86, passed on new Dodgers outfielder Josh Reddick, instead going after Reddick’s new-old teammate Rich Hill. Carty thought he used $68 to secure the services of the lefty. The move made a lot of sense, as he earlier lost L.A. ace Clayton Kershaw to injury, so Carty was likely looking for Hill to help fill some of the slack.

Despite MLB rules allowing a player on the disabled list to be traded from one team to another, Hill is ineligible to be selected in LABR until activated by the Dodgers. A finger blister that has kept Hill on the shelf also still keeps him on the league’s untouchable list.

Apparently because his high FAAB balance assured him of getting Hill, Carty did not make any contingent bids. It was a bad break for Carty, who successfully added Hill in National League Tout during the same transaction period.

You have to decide which approach you like, but if your league does not follow the process you prefer, perhaps you can help your case with a Carty-like example.

The second example of a rules “gotcha” occurred to me in this same time frame. The cornerstone of my draft-day strategy and the center of my offense in both leagues – Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton – went down with a season-ending injury.

The FAAB reclaim rules in both leagues – which I have always thought are too liberal – allow full FAAB reclaim for players out for the season - if the request is made prior to the All-Star break. 100 percent seems too much in the case of a player injured in early July, for example. After all, the original owner does not have to give back a half-season’s worth of results.

Anyway, where the two league rules differ is after the break. Tout allows a 50 percent rebate until the end of the season, but if an injury occurs one second after the mid-season deadline, the LABR owner is totally out of luck. In my opinion, the razor’s edge difference between feast and famine in LABR is far too extreme.

If I was starting with a fresh sheet of paper, I might consider a rule that allowed 75 percent return for a player out for the season before the break and 25 percent after, or something like that.

Anyway, the current difference between the two leagues’ implementation is considerable. For cashing out Stanton in Tout, I received a welcome sum of $195 – half of my original purchase price of $39 divided by two, times 10. The latter calculation is required since Tout has moved from a FAAB base of $100 to $1000. The $195 represents almost 20 percent of one’s full-season FAAB bankroll.

Knowing that money was coming to help me over the final five to six weeks also enabled me to use my last $7 in the most recent bidding period to acquire Stanton’s replacement, since crediting of FAAB return money always lags a week behind. (I wonder who benefits from the float?!?)

All I could do in LABR is shift Stanton to the disabled list. With an unlimited DL in size, there is no reason to release him. In the highly unlikely event of a miraculous recovery, at least I would still be able to salvage something from Stanton to close the season.

Adding insult to injury, I had to dip into my dwindling FAAB to roster a replacement outfielder.

I guess that one way to look at these examples together is that one of them hurt the first-place team in LABR in Carty and the other inconvenienced my second-place squad. Still, the penalty to the latter is far more severe.

Whenever Hill is finally ready to be activated by the Dodgers, Carty still has his money. With a current FAAB balance over three times that of the next-closest competitor, Carty is assured of eventually getting his man if he so desires. No such relief is coming for my doubly-painful loss of Stanton – no stats and no FAAB reclaim.

When I have the opportunity, I will definitely discuss this rule with the commissioner. Being new to the league, however, I need to understand more about the history and background. How long has this approach been followed? Has a change been considered or tried in the past? And if so, what was learned? But when it gets right down to it, I will get my point across that a change for a more even-handed FAAB rebate process would be welcomed.

If a rule has bothered you, it probably has irritated others as well. If you have an open-minded league leader, he or she will hopefully share that information and be willing to discuss alternatives.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-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.

Just as Major League Baseball teams have been taking stock of their position in the standings and assessing their championship potential leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline and beyond, so should you with your fantasy teams.

I am doing that in my two non-mixed leagues where I am in contention – National League Tout Wars and NL LABR. However, while at first blush, the situations may appear similar, in reality, they are very different.

One thing is the same – the leader in both leagues is Derek Carty of ESPN. Despite owning the injured Clayton Kershaw in both settings, Carty has maintained his scoring edge.

In Tout, I am in fourth place, but 20 points out of first. My club leads in just one of the 10 categories, a slim edge in on-base percentage. At the other end of the spectrum, due to a flawed draft strategy and some bad luck rather than a decision to punt the category, I will finish either last or second-to-last in saves. Essentially, that means I have just eight categories in which to make up 20 points, while passing three other teams. The feat is not impossible, but the hill is steep.

In LABR, my position is more admirable. My squad, drafted three weeks earlier in March than Tout and while I was battling the flu, led the league for the first two months before sliding into second. Still, it remains my best shot for overtaking first. Team Mastersball is just nine points away from a share of the lead.

Equally important is the fact that my roster has a nice lead in both home runs and RBI. That provides an opportunity to deal from my strength to improve my weaknesses. A simple analysis of the standings shows 10 points of low-hanging fruit, ready to be plucked.

With just a bit of help, my squad can easily pick up one point in runs and two in steals. The pitching side is where the leverage resides, with two points each in ERA, WHIP and saves plus one point in strikeouts close at hand.

So, how could I pull that off?

I began by sizing up my competitors with the ideal partner being a team willing to trade steals, a closer and an ace starter. Realistically, I was going to have to make multiple deals.

I am very much against the broadcast e-mail approach of trading. Yes, it saves time. However, not only is it lazy, but it tips off the competition to your plans. I am not just being paranoid here. Like I said above, Carty may be looking for a top starter as well, having lost the best there is in Kershaw.

Fortunately, one of my peers doesn’t mind sending general trade solicitations. In my e-mail one morning was a note from Doug Dennis of BaseballHQ, offering to deal NL steals leader Jonathan Villar and Seung-hwan Oh and wanting power. Though Dennis was in third place, his squad was a full 10 points behind me. Last in saves with no realistic chance of picking up points in the category, Dennis had little use for St. Louis’ tentative new closer. He also had a 20-steal lead over his next-closest rival, which is why Villar was available.

As a result, our teams appeared to match up very well as prospective trade partners.

With a balanced roster position-wise, I decided to offer Dennis a shortstop-for-shortstop swap, putting up Oh’s teammate Aledmys Diaz. The rookie All-Star had 13 home runs and 60 RBI at that point. Dennis countered, wanting Pirates outfielder Matt Joyce along with Diaz for Villar and Oh.

I had two worries. First, would the Cardinals acquire a new closer via trade and/or could the unproven Oh fail? The second concern was an oddity caused by LABR rules. Joyce had special value only to my roster. As one of my six reserves taken on draft day, Joyce carried the privilege of being able to be moved back and forth between the active roster and the reserves at will. Other players cannot be demoted – they must be released.

After not being able to substitute another player to suit Dennis, I decided to walk away from the deal, telling him to see what else he could find.

In parallel, I set out to locate an ace. The fifth-place team, 25 points behind me, is pitching-heavy, but needs power. Derek Van Riper of Rotowire had four good starters, with Jose Fernandez my preference and Adam Wainwright the fallback.

My initial probe was met with encouragement, but with DVR in the process of moving his residence, I was going to have to do the heavy lifting in our trade talks. He seemed most interested in Cardinals infielder/outfielder Brandon Moss, but I was having trouble coming up with a package to pry Fernandez loose. Another player he wanted was Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera, but I was reluctant to deal away steals.

When I saw I could get a Wainwright for Herrera trade done with Van Riper, I went back to Dennis and pulled the trigger on the four-player deal outlined above. With the addition of Villar, I felt I could give up Herrera.

In the pair of deals, I picked up the ace and closer from a contending team plus the league’s best basestealer, giving up a power-hitting shortstop and two outfielders – a good steals source and a reserve. I received Wainwright + Oh + Villar for Diaz + Herrera + Joyce.

I felt great. It took a lot of work, but I feel like I have set my team up for a strong push over the final two months.

As a postscript, I dodged a bullet when Diaz suffered a fractured thumb when hit by a pitch last Sunday. Dennis lost his new shortstop a day before he could even be activated on his new NL LABR team. I felt badly for Doug, but considered it may be the break I need to go all the way. We shall see.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-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.

Finding the proper balance is crucial in pretty much everything we do, in all walks of life. Of course that applies to managing one’s fantasy baseball rosters, as well, or as I will explain below, the risk of overmanaging.

I readily admit that I really want to win National League LABR in my first year of competition. Of all the industry leagues in which I play, I came into August with the best chance of winning here, currently in second place, 8 ½ points back. Certainly seeing a good chance of taking it all leads to higher levels of interest and attention.

In my early assessment, I may have overdone it, however.

Last time in this column, I crowed a bit about a pair of trades I had recently made, picking up shortstop Jonathan Villar, starting pitcher Adam Wainwright and closer Seung-hwan Oh. In return, I gave up shortstop Aledmys Diaz and outfielders Odubel Herrera and Matt Joyce.

I was looking to move power and add speed, a top starter and some saves.

I clearly dodged a bullet when Diaz suffered a fractured thumb just a few days after the deal was done, but I have taken another round to the head in acquiring Wainwright. I accepted the Cardinal veteran as a fallback when I could not shake loose Jose Fernandez from his current owner.

Up until then, I had avoided Wainwright in all leagues this year as I could see his always-thin edge was eroding with the inevitable increasing age and injury. An early-July improvement by the right-hander on the mound, the encouragement of a close friend and the desire to get any deal done led to temporary insanity on my part.

Fast forward to the present. It is not pretty. Over his last three starts, Wainwright has been gored for 12 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings, for a 6.11 ERA. The Cardinal has been amazingly hittable, with 25 hits allowed plus six walks issued during that time.

Even though I was unsure of Oh’s tenure as the Cardinals’ ninth-inning man, I was willing to take a chance on him. That has turned out to be a reasonable decision with Trevor Rosenthal’s mounting health problems (shoulder and forearm). Yet in his first game on my new roster, the Korean blew the save, against the last-place Reds no less.

The reason I felt I could use help in saves was that I did not trust my draft day strategy.

Way back in March, I went cheap on closers, spending $7 on Arodys Vizcaino and $4 on Fernando Rodney. The former had yet to take over in the ninth for Atlanta, but it seemed inevitable given his stuff and the competition. The latter, no matter where he pitched, always seemed on thin ice, but both ended up providing a good half-season, before injury and trade, respectively.

I also spent a dollar on Brandon Maurer in the end game on draft day, believing that if Rodney lost his job, Maurer would be the one to get the call for the Padres.

My problems began when I grew tired of Maurer’s high ERA and WHIP. With LABR’s rules not allowing players to be moved to the reserves unless injured or demoted, I finally released Maurer – the week before Rodney was surprisingly traded to Miami.

Though Rodney had lost most of his value in his new job setting up A.J. Ramos, I had no reason to panic. After all, I still had Vizcaino – until Atlanta’s closer went on the disabled list. Fortunately, I had already grabbed veteran Jim Johnson.

Despite my shaky closing situation, I could see two points just ahead in saves, but also had three points at risk. So getting Oh to hopefully stabilize matters seemed to make sense.

In hindsight, one of my failings was to take on two pitchers without trading any away. As a result of my trades, I had the two Cardinals hurlers coming in – Wainwright and Oh – but no place to put them on my roster.

I had tried to move several of my lower-end starters, decent pitchers with ERAs under 4.00, yet could not come up with a match. As a result, I had no choice but to drop two of three relievers I had been holding, waiting for them to potentially become closers.

That quickly eroded into a Maurer situation times two.

Earlier, I had picked up Pittsburgh’s second in command, Neftali Feliz, but more for the ratios than any thought he might secure ninth-inning duties. When the surprise trade of Mark Melancon to Washington occurred, I became excited at the potential he might be named the new Bucs closer.

Not yet knowing that Tony Watson would apparently seize the job, and with a roster deadline looming, I decided to keep Feliz over Rodney and Johnson.

Rodney seemed locked into setting up behind Ramos and while his ratios were excellent, so are the ratios of other relievers on the waiver wire. Further, I had convinced myself that Johnson would be traded to a contender by the constantly-rebuilding Braves, ruining his value as it had Rodney’s. Further, his ratios were far worse than Feliz’.

Sure enough, the week I dropped the two, each logged two saves. Oh also had two, but with an ERA of 8.10. In the meantime, Johnson was still the Atlanta closer - with the icing on the cake Tuesday’s news that Ramos’ finger injury was more serious that anyone knew.

Johnson had quickly been snapped up off the waiver wire this past transaction period, going to the last place team. However, that club is one of the group just ahead of me in saves, making my first-place hill just one more step tougher to climb. Needless to say, I am rooting for Vizcaino’s speedy recovery and/or Johnson to become a waiver trade.

While Rodney remains a free agent in NL LABR, now that he of the crooked cap will be closing for the Fish until further notice, his price this coming weekend will surely be out of my range. Plus, to be honest, it greatly irritates me to have to overspend to try to correct one of my own missteps.

This turn of events does not signal the end of the line for my title chances, but if my team falls short, I will forever wonder if I had been better off to just stand pat.

The lesson to be learned? You had a strategy coming in. Don’t abandon it along the way without fully considering the consequences.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-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.

This title will not be understood by any reader under 35, but that is ok, as this isn’t about Wrigley’s gum, or even the Cubs, for that matter. It is about two baseball games played in one day.

Sometimes, the good can come from the bad. Monday afternoon in New York brought heavy rain and thunderstorms, which ultimately postponed the St. Louis Cardinals at Mets game scheduled for that evening.

To their credit, the New Yorkers made a quick decision to bag the game – instead of letting it drag on for hours as some clubs have been known to do. It was a pleasant surprise.

That meant a better night’s sleep for everyone on Monday into Tuesday, especially welcome to a Cardinals team that had travel difficulties after a poorly-scheduled Sunday night ESPN game, not reaching their hotel until after sunrise.

The Mets’ decision to schedule a twin bill the next day was an absolute delight for many reasons. Not only had the bad weather passed, but the club made a call that was not financially-driven, essentially giving up the ticket revenue from a home date.

The Tuesday doubleheader would be a single-admission event – one ticket good for 18 innings of Major League Baseball with a late afternoon start. Those who held Monday tickets would receive a refund, so there were nothing but winners. Even better, there was just 35 minutes between the two contests.

Interestingly, it was the second twin bill for the Cardinals in just one week – coincidentally timed with each of Carlos Martinez’ last two outings. St. Louis handled its home doubleheader differently, adding a split day game with the tickets from the rained out Tuesday contest reused last Wednesday afternoon. As you might imagine, the stands were mostly empty for the newly-added 1 PM matinee contest.

To their credit, the Cardinals allowed all fans, regardless of where their assigned seats were located, to move down to the prime lower-deck seating behind home plate. Further, the club gave two future ticket vouchers to each fan with a ticket to the rained out game. Again, nothing but winners.

I basked in the Tuesday event, with the Citi Field pressbox windows wide open, offering the sights and sounds of being in the stands, backed by air conditioning, welcome in the 90-plus degree heat.

During the contest, as usual, I was monitoring Twitter, as that seems the best way to keep on top of any breaking news these days. I could not help but notice the many tweets from industry peers sharing results of their fantasy football mock drafts and debating player values.

To be honest, I did my very best to completely ignore it.

Some years ago now, our Lord Zola recruited me to join an existing football keeper league whose members are industry writers and analysts. As part of my introduction, Todd characterized me as “a baseball guy.” At the time that bothered me, as I preferred to be known as a baseball and football guy.

Now, I can admit that Todd was right. I was enjoying this unexpected doubleheader immensely, and could not care anything about all of that football talk. Perhaps when exhibition games get going, I will start paying attention.

As the day turned into evening, I left my laptop with all that football talk and my impending article deadlines within it behind and ventured out to sit in the little tiered balcony section in front of the pressbox. Since being at the Arizona Fall League last fall, it was the first time I sat in the stands in 2016 as if I was a fan.

It was great! I am so thankful that I am at a point in my life that I can watch baseball games any time I choose.

Though I admit I took my phone with me so I could monitor my e-mails, as I was working on a pair of trades at the time in National League LABR and was anxious to get them done. (Hopefully, I will have more on that next week.)

In the games, there were oddities, fitting for the rare occasion of the doubleheader. First of all, who would have thought the Cardinals could have chased Noah Syndergaard in the opener, yet be flummoxed by 43-year-old Bartolo Colon in the nightcap?

As they say, that is why they play the games.

Despite Colon’s mastery, one player had his way with both Mets starters. Infielder Jedd Gyorko homered in each of the two games. In doing so, he became the first St. Louis hitter to go deep in both ends of a doubleheader twice in one season – since Hall of Famer Stan Musial in 1949.

The other twin bill in which Gyorko starred? It was against his former San Diego teammates in St. Louis the very week before. Such wonderful symmetry!

The Mets media notes were chock full of interesting factoids about doubleheaders. The common thread was that most every record in such games was set a very long time ago. In a way, that is deceiving, since regularly-scheduled twin bills are a thing of the past. Ownership doesn’t like them for the gate revenue lost and pampered players don’t like them, either.

As one Cardinals regular told me before the doubleheader, “18 innings of baseball is no joke.” Even with having very little sleep the night before, this player would have preferred to play Monday night instead of two contests on Tuesday. But thankfully, it wasn’t his choice and he ended up in the lineup for only one of the two games, anyway.

As already noted, today’s schedules include no twin bills. For fun, I went back and looked at St. Louis’ 1949 game log. The odds were heavily weighted in Musial’s direction. The great one had 13 chances to hit his pair of doubleheader home runs that season, while Gyorko, who will never be confused for Musial, has gone a much more impressive 2-for-2 in his twin bill appearances so far here in 2016.

And in further recognition of his long ball prowess, Gyorko has an impressive 14 of them in just 194 at-bats to date in his first season with St. Louis.

If I was making up the schedule, which we all know will never, ever happen, Gyorko would get 13 chances to hit home runs in each game of a doubleheader every year – just like “The Man”.

Long live the twin bill!

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-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.

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