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Don’t Bite on Bonifacio PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 05 April 2014 00:00

In the opening days of the 2014 season, the baseball world has been ablaze over the superhuman feats of Chicago Cubs infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio. There is a lot to talk about.

The 28-year-old collected a modern-day record nine hits in 12 at-bats through the Cubs’ first two contests. Bonifacio followed up with two more hits in game three, becoming the first major leaguer ever with 11 hits in his first three games with a new team and just the third by any player to open a season since 1900. Bonifacio reached base just once in four plate appearances on Friday.

As is always the case, events occurring at the start of any season draw unusual levels of attention – whether for unpleasant reasons like say, B.J. Upton’s 1-for-16 start with nine strikeouts – or an extraordinary one, like Bonifacio is enjoying. Let’s face it, a few good (or bad) games in June or July might receive passing notice at best, but because it is April, the magnifying lenses are out.

Now on his sixth major league roster in his eight big league seasons after being cast aside by the Royals earlier this year, the switch-hitting Bonifacio was an afterthought at best to fantasy players in 2014. Taken late in most NL-only fantasy drafts for his speed alone, he was probably completely passed over in any respectable mixed league.

Perhaps to some, that is what contributes to his early allure. After all, Bonfacio’s career line coming into this season was a pedestrian .262/.322/.340/.662.  My simple question is this: Where do you think he will end up?

In my recollection of Bonifacio’s checkered past, this fast start song is a very familiar tune.

Having drafted Bonifacio previously, I have been sucked in by his good-looking sprints out of the blocks before. While I could rightfully be accused of a minor case of cherry-picking data in what follows, the major thought should not be lost.

Bonifacio is a fast starter, but much less so a strong finisher. The only exception might be his career year in 2011 while he was with the Marlins (.296/.360/.393/.753 with 40 stolen bases).

Look at these opening numbers from Bonifacio’s recent campaigns. They begin with 2009, the first year he began a season in the bigs (2013 is left out because it does not fit the storyline while 2010 was omitted because the Dominican native was injured and opened on the disabled list). I chose either his first four or five games of each season to illustrate his slash line high-water marks.

Bonifacio’s Fast Starts – first games of the season


Games At-bats Hits Steals BA OBP SLG OPS
2014 4 19 11 4 0.579 0.619 0.684 1.303
2012 5 19 8 4 0.421 0.500 0.421 0.921
2011 4 15 7 0 0.400 0.400 0.467 0.867
2009 5 24 14 4 0.583 0.600 0.833 1.433

The moral of the story? Do not fall for the early-April headlines. We are not talking about a Jose Fernandez discovery here. This is Emilio Bonifacio, for Pete’s sake.

After all, chances are good that by the time you could acquire him as a free agent and actually get him into your active lineup, he would cool down - and that would be that. Save your energies and FAAB for potential true difference-makers.

 

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 April 2014 08:28
 
Take on Tout Warriors in the “Doubt Wars” Competition PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 29 March 2014 00:00

Have you ever said, “I know I am a better fantasy player than these so-called ‘experts.’ If I could just get into Tout Wars, I would clean up.”?

Of course, you have. I have to admit that I once felt the same way. In 2009, I even turned out to be right!

For most, however, the opportunity would seem unrealistic – if for no other reasons than distance, lack of familiarity and not working in the fantasy industry.

Even if so, never fear. There is an outlet that fits the bill perfectly and anyone can particpate. “Doubt Wars” is easy and fun – and best of all, it is absolutely free!

 

doubtwarslogo420

The rules are simple. You put together a 23-man rotisserie team in whichever playing format you prefer – American League only, National League only or Mixed League. Your $260 budget is deployed based on the 2014 Tout Wars draft prices (plus $1) of the players you select to fill out your roster. That is all there is to it.

Doubt Wars is a draft and hold format, so rosters remain as they did on draft day. The folks at the excellent league management service onRoto.com will be running Doubt Wars so you can watch your daily progress all season long.

There will be cool prizes for the winners, donated by a number of the Tout warriors themselves.

Time is short, however, so act immediately.  To join, complete the form posted at toutwars.com. The last chance to register for the 2014 competition is this Saturday, March 29 with the deadline for choosing the members of your team being game time Sunday.

I asked one of the DW organizers, Peter Kreutzer, also known as Rotoman, how the idea for the competition first came about.

“Todd Zola and I ran contests like this for our customers back in the early Tout Wars days,” Kreutzer recalled. “It may well have been Todd's idea, or mine or someone else's. I don't recall without some deep research where the idea originated. I'm pretty sure I came up with the name.”

One key intent of the increased visibility of the Tout Wars drafts, which include live coverage on SiriusXM satellite radio and live chats as the drafts are underway, is to generate as broad a discussion as possible with fantasy aficionados. This can logically be extended to a simulated competition in which all comers can participate.

“The idea was to crowdsource information about the drafts, by having a contest like this one,” Rotoman said. “We all sit around after the auctions and say this or that is a steal, but it's pretty rare when everyone agrees with that and it actually happens. And even rarer to see actual choices be appropriately judged.”

Now that the leagues will be run online by onRoto.com, results will be updated instantaneously all season long.

“One of the problems was that data entry was hard, so in last year's Doubt, Todd and I did not update the stats very often,” Kreutzer recalled. “People still loved it, I think because they saw how their preseason picks performed.”

Last year, the Doubters did not do badly at all. Rotoman’s National League recap of 2013 can be read here: http://www.toutwars.com/?p=2284.

Remember, if you want to take on the fantasy industry’s best, join Doubt Wars 2014 today!

 

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, 29 March 2014 08:31
 
Be Like Mike… and Larry… or Better, Yourself PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 22 March 2014 00:00

When I first joined the National League Tout Wars fantasy baseball league with a group of industry peers 10 years ago, I chose my place at the draft table carefully. Mike Lombardo wasn’t necessarily one of the biggest names in the business, but before he was done, he won three NL titles in four years, a record that still stands.

I decided I wanted to be like Mike, so naturally, I took the chair to his right. Much to my surprise, he sat down with a yellow pad with a list of players’ names written in pencil. That was pretty much it – or at least, all I could see.

Needless to say, I couldn’t replicate Mike’s success. My fortunes improved when I realized I could not beat another at his own game.

Another very successful industry player is Larry Schechter. The five-time Mixed and American League Tout Wars champion also has a draft table placement strategy, which he shares in his new book, “Winning Fantasy Baseball.”

Larry works to position himself next to the competitor with the first pick, traditionally granted to the defending winner, so he can make the second nomination. It was typical modesty from Larry. Since he wins more often than not, he is usually the one with the first throw.

This reminds me of my early days in the business world. I was a member of a group of young turks who all reported to a veteran executive. In our staff meetings, I noticed one of my peers always positioned himself at the right elbow of the boss.

The next week, I arrived early and sat in that chair – just to see what happened next. Even though half the table was empty, my rival moved in another chair to try to squeeze in between me and the big cheese.

Where am I going with this, you ask?

I am intrigued about how my Tout Wars peers may modify their behaviors based on Schechter’s book.

You don’t know if they have read it? Of course, they have. After all, Larry is the winningest fantasy player going. It is given that most industry folks already have their tried and true methods, but even so, how much time and effort will they expend looking for behavior changes in their peers?

As mentioned, I am in NL Tout, drafting Saturday morning. I can only imagine the table antics among Schechter and his 11 AL Tout mates on Sunday morning.

For example:

On draft day, will everyone jostle for seating position next to two-time defending champion Tristan H. Cockcroft in NL or Schechter himself in the AL?

Schechter preaches having a plan for every pick. From the bidding, there is information that can be gleaned about the dynamics of the draft one is in - assuming you are paying attention.

Will people only nominate players they want to buy?

The book advises the fantasy player to always nominate players you actually want – rather than just throw out names to burn money.

Will jump bids become extinct?

I have to agree with Larry that an uneven bidding approach is not going to throw experienced drafters off their game. The primary basis of his concern, however, is to avoid overpaying for any player, even by a dollar. Speaking of which…

Will everyone come to the table with player values calculated to decimal point level?

Schechter notes that unless one takes their projections to the decimal level, suboptimal bids could be made and precious dollars frittered away. After all, $16.5 and $17.4 would appear the same to most of us.

While I certainly agree from a mathematical perspective, I am not sure that I have that precise a level of confidence in my projections. At the other end of the spectrum, using broad categories such as tiers in an auction would likely be far too generic.

As in most things in this world, moderation may be the best answer.

I encourage those of you who have not read Larry’s book to do so. You will definitely find additional tools to incorporate into your game – but just remember, always be yourself.

 

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, 22 March 2014 07:05
 
Why Can’t Bourjos Stand for Bases on Balls and Bunting? PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 15 March 2014 00:00

It is the time of year, having reviewed stats of players over and over, when certain items stick out. Some that seem to have the right raw materials to become a more complete player either do not recognize what they have or for some reason do not fully deploy them. This is my assessment of one such player.

Especially on a Sunday afternoon when the St. Louis Cardinals announced the signing of Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz, the club’s Grapefruit League road game was not drawing exceptional attention. After all, only three Cardinals starters rode the bus to Viera.

One was centerfielder Peter Bourjos, back after having sat out seven spring games with a hamstring injury.

Leading off against Washington Nationals’ ace Stephen Strasburg, Bourjos coaxed a walk. In addition to it being his first free pass as a Cardinal, it was a relatively unusual appearance over his four-year MLB career.

I find that to be both surprising and disappointing, as it seems that the 26-year-old is not fully utilizing his talents.

At the team’s Winter Warm-Up fan festival in January, Bourjos disclosed that one of his goals for his first season with his new club is to steal 40 bases. That drew a lot of media attention. After all, as a team, the 2013 Cards were dead last in the National League by a considerable margin with just 45 swipes. Just this week, the outfielder reaffirmed his intent, suggesting a .280 batting average should enable his steals target.

What about being more creative in getting to first, Peter?

Bourjos explains that his approach at the plate is basically to aggressively hit his way onto base. He makes it clear that working deep into counts and drawing walks are not major elements of his game. Too bad, as that signals his likely destination to be the bottom third of the batting order instead of the top.

To put this into perspective, in 1,136 major league plate appearances, the right-handed hitter has drawn just 63 walks, or a rate of 5.5 percent. His career on-base percentage is .306, to go with a batting average of .251.

In comparison, last season, fellow outfielder Matt Holliday had a walk rate of 11.5 percent, over double Bourjos’ career mark. Matt Carpenter walked 10 percent of the time, which explains why he and Holliday are likely to again appear in two of the first three spots in the Cardinals lineup. Even the man whose job Bourjos is trying to take, free-swinging Jon Jay, drew a free pass 8.3 percent of the time in 2013.

So, why isn’t Bourjos drawing more bases on balls?

He lacks patience. Last season, Bourjos saw an average of just 3.70 pitches per at-bat. That would have been the lowest among 2013 Cardinals regulars but is comparable to the team’s two most aggressive hitters last season in Holliday (3.71) and Jay (3.75). As noted above, the results for the latter two were very different, however.

The game-breaking speed that Bourjos possesses in centerfield is one of the major reasons he was a target of the Cardinals in their trade with the Angels. He has deployed that to his advantage on the basepaths with 41 steals in 54 attempts for a success rate of 76 percent.

Yet, it seems Bourjos is reluctant to use that speed in the act of laying down a bunt to reach base. Of those 1,136 career plate appearances, just 76 were bunts. 20 were successful sacrifices, intended to move runners over.

In the remaining 56 official at-bats, Bourjos enjoyed tremendous success. He collected 32 hits and made just 24 outs for an amazing bunting batting average of .571. Bourjos clearly has the ability to execute the play successfully.

So, why isn’t Bourjos bunting his way onto base more often?

Granted, if he tried to bunt more frequently, his success rate would almost surely drop. Still, there is a long way from .571 to .233. The latter is Bourjos’ career batting average in his non-bunting situations. In other words, that 32-for-56 success bunting has contributed 28 points to his career batting average of .251 and of course, to his OBP, as well.

Here is hoping that Bourjos is seeking out the advice of experts including former Cardinals stars Lou Brock, Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith in camp this spring and focusing more of his attention on reaching base than on swiping bags once he gets there.

 

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 Monday, 17 March 2014 08:31
 
Steroid Suspicions, Not Stats Hurting Bagwell’s Hall Chances PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 08 March 2014 00:00

Tony La Russa has been busy in recent months. The former manager of the Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals is now a senior executive with Major League Baseball and a recently-named Hall of Famer.

Handling the accolades that go along with his upcoming Cooperstown induction and preparing for the new instant replay rules to be implemented in MLB this season are two of his major activities.

In the latter role, La Russa and fellow MLB executive Joe Torre have been visiting Major League clubhouses this spring, briefing players on the upcoming changes brought on by the expansion of instant replay.

As one would expect, every stop along the way also includes a meeting with the local press covering the team of the day. At Kissimmee, La Russa was asked about the Hall candidacy of a pair of players that have not yet made it, former Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell and second baseman Craig Biggio.

La Russa’s response, as reported by MLB.com, was curious. He believes Biggio is going to get into Cooperstown, but casts blame for Bagwell’s state on the voters’ reliance on newfangled stats.

"The new metrics have a real important place, just don't exaggerate them, and I think they get exaggerated at times. Like with Jack Morris, and maybe Bagwell”, La Russa said.

The blame seems badly misplaced.

Let’s get real. The reason most people believe why Bagwell is not getting enough votes to get into the Hall is not sabermetrics – it is steroid suspicion. You know that, I know that and certainly La Russa, a very intelligent man, knows that. So why insult our intelligence?

Bill Baer of NBC Sports Hardball Talk did a thorough job of explaining how “the new metrics” actually bolster Bagwell’s Hall case, not hurt it. Providing examples, Baer instead attributes Bagwell’s current voting purgatory on a segment of “baseball moralists” among the voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America who have ruled Bagwell guilty of PED use despite any hard evidence.

One of the few blemishes on La Russa’s long, successful and celebrated career was his role as manager of two of baseball’s most prominent sluggers of the steroids era, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. The ex-manager angrily defended McGwire for years as not being a user up until the day Big Mac finally admitted what was obvious - to most everyone except his skipper. That is, if we actually believe what we have been told.

Sadly, when given a chance to cast light on the real issue with Bagwell, La Russa instead chose an easy scapegoat at which to misdirect blame, stats nerds. Here in the real world, MLB on the whole and La Russa specifically continue to duck one of the game’s ugliest issues – the legacy of players from the steroids era. It is easier to just leave it on the laps of the writers and then take potshots at imaginary targets when the going gets tough.

Instead of remaining in denial, it is a shame that La Russa does not use his prominent national platform to try to help undo the damage that period did to the game. Who better could help broker the creation of more specific and fair guidelines on how to treat players from this time than La Russa, now a senior executive with MLB?

Numbers aren’t the problem, Tony, but you knew that already.

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, 08 March 2014 09:16
 
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