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Even the Least Important Position Can Be Important PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 01 June 2013 00:00

What is the least important roster spot on a fantasy baseball team? While I have no definitive proof at hand, my guess is the second catcher in two-catcher leagues.

That is especially the case in single-league formats. With 15 teams now in the American and National Leagues, in a 12-team fantasy league, nine owners on the average would possess only one catcher who starts for his MLB club.

Not willing to pay for two starter-class catchers in National League Tout Wars this year, I chose to buy the two backstops from the same NL team. It wasn’t any club, however. I selected the one with the best record in the NL last season, the Washington Nationals. Of course, the Nats’ catching personnel made my decision clearer.

Washington’s catching situation coming into the season looked somewhat favorable to the possibility of the second catcher being given a decent quantity of at-bats. With Jesus Flores out of the picture after being non-tendered during the off-season, former Twins prospect Wilson Ramos and ex-A’s starting backstop Kurt Suzuki were expected to be the starter and reserve, respectively.

Having started for much of six seasons in Oakland, Suzuki seemed a step above the standard NL catcher reserve. A career average at .260 and three double-digit home run seasons in the past - with Suzuki still just 29 years of age - gave me enough confidence to post a winning bid of $2.

I paired Suzuki with Ramos, whom I had drafted earlier for the premium price of $10. Back in March, I felt Ramos had the potential of becoming a breakthrough player this season. Two Ramos disabled stints later, I am less confident.

After playing in just 14 games, Ramos’ second injury timeout may drag through June. Given the source is his hamstrings, the problem might be back. Last season, he was limited to 25 games due to a knee injury. At age 25, it is too early to label Ramos as injury-prone, yet one has to be concerned about his inability to remain healthy.

Needing a new Tout lineup partner for Suzuki was the starting point for my string of misfortunes.

The first week, I selected Tim Federowicz of the Dodgers, not knowing he was sent down to Triple-A earlier that day. As a result, I received no stats that week.

The following Sunday, I dumped Federowicz and made three $0 bids. First was Jeff Mathis, back from the Marlins’ DL. He hasn’t been much of a hitter in his MLB career, but I thought Mathis might see a few stray at-bats for a terrible Miami club.

My second and third options were Wil Nieves of Arizona and Dioner Navarro of the Cubs.

I had no competition, getting my first choice. With the benefit of five days of hindsight, I now know that was unfortunate. I should have reversed my priority order.

My mistake was that I did not look into the reserve catchers’ stats in enough detail. If I had, I would have noticed that Navarro had three home runs in just 55 at-bats this season as of last weekend.

Instead, I just threw three names down without enough investigation. As a result, I paid dearly.

On Wednesday, Navarro blasted three home runs, connecting from both sides of the plate for the Cubs against the White Sox. It was his first multiple home run game in his 10 years in the Majors. Further, Navarro drove in a career-high six runs and scored four times.

It isn’t like Navarro has been a desirable commodity this season. Even after the big home run day, he is rostered in just one percent of Yahoo leagues. It has been a long time since the 29-year-old was a highly-touted Yankees prospect.

Despite Navarro’s big day, regular Cubs catcher Welington Castillo need not fear for his job. Chances are pretty good that Navarro experienced his 15 minutes of 2013 fame on Wednesday - and I missed it. At least Navarro had his 15 minutes. Mathis is 0-for-6 this week.

I’ll stop there before I get into Friday’s news. In the same game Stephen Strasburg had to leave, Suzuki was stung when he took a foul ball off his collarbone.

Most every fantasy owner I know obsesses about decisions made that he wishes he could reverse, or in this case, one he should not have made.

Don’t be like me and pay too little attention to even what may be the least important spot on your fantasy roster. On any given day, it could end up being the most significant. If you miss the opportunity, it will be gone forever.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 01 June 2013 09:49
 
The Downside of Not Paying Attention PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 25 May 2013 00:00

Paying full attention in fantasy baseball can be easy at times and difficult at others.

At what point does having conviction about a player you drafted become blind foolishness after weeks of inconsistent or sub-par results – only to see a dropped player prosper after letting him go?

How dangerous can it be to not check the very latest news prior to weekly transaction deadlines?

With varying first-game starting times across Major League Baseball each week, how easy is it to miss roster-setting deadlines?

While the three points above may seem obvious, sadly I have been tripped up on each this past week. As such, I hope my fresh examples of blunders will help you avoid similar pitfalls.

After all, these are factors that can and should be under our control. In that way, they are completely unlike injuries and playing time changes for which we have no choice but react.

In leagues with deep benches, holding onto an under-performing player is a lot easier than in a format like National League Tout Wars. There, the reserve section of the roster is just four players. That has to cover MLB-active and ready substitutes plus any speculative stashing of prospects deemed close to the Majors who could become difference-makers later on.

One such example of a late starter is Juan Nicasio of the Colorado Rockies. Through five April starts, the right-hander had logged 14 strikeouts and walked 13. He had gone beyond five innings just once and had an ERA of 4.62 to go with a WHIP of 1.50.

Not feeling comfortable I could trust Nicasio even away from Coors Field, I cut him. The next week, he joined the roster of Lenny Melnick of FantasyPros911 on a $5 bid (reduced to $4 by Vickrey Rule as the result of two lower bidders). Immediately, my thoughts were to ask myself why I let a valuable asset get away without even trying to get something in return.

Shortly after leaving my roster, Nicasio got his walks under control, lowering his WHIP to 1.095 in May while increasing his strikeout rate. On Sunday, versus the World Champion Giants no less, Nicasio tossed a three-hitter with no runs allowed over six innings. His bullpen did its job, protecting the victory. Needing wins badly, it was tough for me to watch.

Another example of my not paying attention closely enough occurred that same night.

I blame the Dodgers’ Ellises for confusing me. When second baseman Mark Ellis was activated from the 15-day disabled list, someone had to go. It was one of catcher A.J. Ellis' backups. Despite Ramon Hernandez’s terrible numbers (.045 batting average this season), it was backstop Tim Federowicz who drew the short straw since he could be optioned to Triple-A.

The problem was that I had just added Federowicz to my roster as a backfill for injured Wilson Ramos of Washington. Though I had checked the daily transactions earlier, the later Sunday game in Los Angeles eluded me. A week with no stats from one catching spot is my self-imposed penalty.

A better play would have been to grab Humberto Quintero of Philadelphia, called up when Carlos Ruiz was injured on Sunday. Another decent option could have been Jeff Mathis of Miami, just off the DL himself.

Speaking of injured, that same night, I bought the services of outfielder Scott Van Slyke of the Dodgers. Despite the club having no open job in the outfield, I spent $4 on Van Slyke, even though I knew his three home runs from the week before would not be replicated anytime soon. I convinced myself Van Slyke is a poor-man’s Rick Ankiel, who had just gone for $24.

Again, not seeing player news on Sunday night, I missed that Van Slyke left the game after fouling a pitch off his leg. Though the injury was not serious, the questionable roster move seemed right in line with my weekly theme.

There is no excuse for missing these, as information is abundantly available. For example, our excellent stats provider OnRoto has player capsules readily accessible. Many sites offer sorting capability as well to help one sift through the volume of material for what is most relevant to us in whatever formats we play.

Just a week earlier, I whiffed on the first of two consecutive noon Monday roster deadlines. Again, I cannot complain to anyone as league members were even warned in advance by e-mail. I just got busy and as a result, entered my weekly transactions a few minutes late on Monday.

As a result, in the XFL, Xperts Fantasy League, I was stuck carrying two dead spots for an entire week, despite having viable bench replacements. Tommy Hanson of the Angels was on the bereavement list and Rockies' outfielder Michael Cuddyer had been placed on the DL.

For a brief moment, I thought about asking our league SWAT, Lord Zola, to show me some mercy on the transaction time, but decided it would not be fair to even suggest starting down that potential slippery slope.

I’d rather just beat myself up for not paying enough attention. I need to get back into my Sunday night groove and I had better do it fast.

You should find the weekly routine that works best for you and above all, stick to it! In other words, please do as I say, not as I do.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Monday, 27 May 2013 08:24
 
Knowing “Too Much” Can Be Too Much PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 18 May 2013 00:00

While many of us compete in multiple leagues, we have our favorites as well as our mandatories and of course, our priorities.

For example, my favorite format is the XFL, Xperts Fantasy League. 40-man rosters including 15 keepers that can include any breathing individuals, a live auction draft at Halloween time and a snake draft at the end of spring training set up the league. A weekly transaction deadline and a once-a-month free agent period make a challenging and diverse format.

We all have our local leagues. My brother-in-law, who is not a good commissioner and almost never wins, still counts me among his league-mates. Family considerations are important and besides, I owe him. He is the one who get me into playing fantasy ball two decades ago. I check this league only about once per week to set my lineups and still usually finish in the top three or four primarily based off the strength of my draft. It was also the ideal format to work my oldest son into playing for the first time. Knowing he can now beat my brother-in-law regularly is more than enough for me.

In terms of leagues most important, Tout Wars is on top. Winning an industry league with the visibility of Tout in 2009 was huge for me. Of course, now the goal is to repeat.

One challenge as I see it is finding the winning formula and adjusting it each year to reflect changing environments. All things equal, we return to where we have been most comfortable.

In the XFL, one could technically have as many as 17 farm players, though that is impractical. Still, when I invest in the future, about half the time in recent years, I go where I know – the St. Louis Cardinals. In my full-time job, that system is where I spend my time. In fact, as I am typing this, I am on an airplane returning from the organization’s extended spring training camp in Florida.

Though my Mastersball cohort Don Drooker loves to jab me that he owns Shelby Miller and not me, I have contended in the XFL for years with Cardinal Adam Wainwright joining Justin Verlander at the front of my rotation. I added both players as minor leaguers.

I foolishly waited a year too long to nab Oscar Taveras coming off his Midwest League Most Valuable Player season, but did draft his then-Class-A teammate in Trevor Rosenthal.

Last year, when he was still in High-A, I added another Cardinals fireballer in Carlos Martinez, now in the majors. I am still not sure how the two will end up, but my best guess right now is that Rosenthal will eventually be in the rotation with Martinez closing. Incumbent ninth-inning man Jason Motte will be free agent-eligible following the 2014 season.

I drafted another Cardinals prospect, second baseman Kolten Wong, a year ago. With Matt Carpenter playing well for St. Louis, the urgency to get Wong to the majors is lessened. If David Freese’s shaky start to the season at third continues, however, the door might still open for Wong, who is doing well in his Triple-A introduction.

There, among his teammates is 2012 first-rounder Michael Wacha. I selected the talk of Cardinals camp this spring in the first round of our XFL spring draft. While the big right-hander has an ERA right at two in his Pacific Coast League introduction, his FIP is over 4.25. His strikeouts are low and walks up in comparison to his rookie 2012.

As a result, when the Cardinals needed major league bullpen help, they added Martinez (and soft-tossing control artist Seth Maness). When they needed a starter, they called up lefty John Gast. Wacha’s time should come later in the season, perhaps similar to how Shelby Miller debuted last September.

In Tout, it is just the opposite. In my self-defined most important league, an NL-only format, I did not own a single Cardinal until a $1 flyer on injured Chris Carpenter taken last week.

Taveras ($6), Wong (reserve) and Wacha (reserve) were taken on draft day, but not by me. Others were content to use one of four bench spots on speculation for when these prospects would be called up. I would have drafted Rosenthal, but his value was artificially high on draft day due to the then-recent news of Motte’s injury.

I had my eye on Martinez with a feeling the Cardinals would promote him from Double-A. Unfortunately, it happened before the next Sunday night Tout transaction deadline. Assuming Martinez would log good strikeout totals, but would not close or even see heavy bullpen work led me to make a small bid only that was trumped by another.

At the time of his call-up, I wrote on my Cardinals site about Gast, the organization’s minor league Pitcher of the Month in April. His 32 consecutive scoreless innings streak set a Memphis Redbirds team record. Still, his fastball velocity is only average and I suspect his eventual long-term home is in the bullpen.

Yet, I overlooked the here and now. Gast’s first start was to be in the most ideal of conditions – at home against a weak offense in the New York Mets. One of my fantasy-playing compadres here at Mastersball was surprised I did not grab Gast for a buck for that start alone.

Given I am second-to-last in NL Tout in wins, a Gast play would have been a good idea. Yet, I let my “insiders” view of his ultimate destination affect my immediate actions this week. Not smart.

In all fairness, it was not a great win, though. Gast threw five shutout innings before he ran out of gas and his defense let him down. Four earned in six frames makes for an easy-to-calculate 6.00 ERA for the night.

Still, while Gast is unlikely to be a league breaker, it is indicative of a broader matter that I need to address.

It is not the first time I felt that I have been guilty of “knowing too much” about these players – strengths and weaknesses – and perhaps make too many assumptions about playing time and future performance. Now, I need to take corrective action.

We are in an environment in which the information available to us is virtually unlimited. Sometimes, it will undoubtedly be better to just trust one’s instincts and take prudent risk.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 May 2013 18:46
 
When the End of the Line Draws Near PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 11 May 2013 00:00

It is common among baseball fans to remember where they were when significant contests are played. For example, I had the pleasure of being in the Citi Field press box last June 1st when Johan Santana threw his no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Yet that gem was not the best pitched game I have ever seen. That had to be the winner-take-all Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.

Well, that is not completely accurate. Though I had fully intended to be at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park that night, major surgery trumped my trip. Instead, still a bit woozy, I watched aces Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals and Roy Halladay of the Phillies on the small television in my hospital room.

The two pitchers came up together in the Blue Jays system years ago and remain close friends.

On that night, October 7, 2011, they were on top of their respective games, taking no prisoners. 17 months later, they are each at a career crossroads as injury and high mileage are taking their toll.

In the 2011 NLDS Game 5, St. Louis got to Doc for a single run in the top of the first as leadoff man Rafael Furcal tripled and scored on a Skip Schumaker double. Halladay scattered just four singles and a free pass for the next 7 2/3 while fanning seven Cardinals.

Carpenter was even better, though, throwing a complete game shutout on three hits and no walks. With co-ace Adam Wainwright out that season, the then-36-year-old Carpenter was ridden hard by future Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa.

In the regular season, the oft-injured Carpenter threw a career-high 237 1/3 innings followed by another 36 in October as he helped pitch the Cardinals to his and their second World Championship in six years.

Once the parade was over, the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner was unable to pitch in 2012, sidelined by thoracic outlet syndrome. The right-hander unexpectedly returned in September after surgery that removed a rib and rerouted nerves. He made three starts to close the regular season and three more in the playoffs, but was not himself.

Carpenter’s symptoms returned during 2013 spring training. Unwilling to consider additional surgery and equally unwilling to formally retire, the warrior was in self-defined limbo.

After two rough outings to begin this season, Halladay’s prospects were looking up. The right-hander settled in, allowing just four earned runs over his next 21 innings before ending April with another clunker.

The two players’ trajectories changed dramatically this week when it was disclosed that Carpenter is again throwing, with the goal of returning to active duty in late-June or early-July. He threw 75 pitches in a Friday bullpen session, including his full repertoire of offerings, with no discomfort.

On the other hand, Halladay is scheduled for Wednesday surgery and is expected to be out for at least three months. Like Carpenter, he met with the media on Friday. Doc’s message was more an apology to the Phillies fans while Carpenter was optimistic.

Perhaps as a bit of an emotional reaction, I had placed a minimum $1 bid for Carpenter in NL Tout Wars last weekend. I can stash him on my disabled list indefinitely, but did have to absorb a week of no stats from that active roster spot.

Even if he can return, Carpenter’s probable role would be as a reliever. Yet any innings he could give the Cardinals would be a huge lift to a club that has dealt with uneven bullpen work – and a boon to my Tout bid.

Ironically, as the week opened, Carpenter became the second disabled pitcher on my active Tout roster. There, he joined his pal Halladay.

To be honest, I did not sit down at the table on draft day with a plan to take Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner. I knew about the reports of decreased velocity, yet remembering his past glory, I ended up bidding $15 on the 35-year-old and won. After all, one aspect of my 2013 draft strategy had been to go after past injury risks, but perhaps in this case, I took the risk-reward equation too far.

Following his 2011 NLDS defeat to Carpenter, Doc was able to make 25 starts last season but missed a month and a half with a strained muscle in his upper back. His 4.49 ERA was his worst in over a decade.

Halladay lugging an 8.79 ERA through seven starts in 2013 caused early-season suffering for many a fantasy owner, including myself. An admission of shoulder soreness led to a trip to the DL on Monday. Arthroscopic surgery is next to remove a bone spur and repair a partially torn rotator cuff.

Though he hopes to return in August and is speaking like his career could be extended by two or three more years, there are more questions than answers at this point.

Of course, you already know my message to you – draft and spend with your head and not your heart. My $1 bet on Carpenter is trivial compared to the $15 spent on coupled with the poor return from Halladay to date.

If you are in a FAAB reclaim league and must make a decision now, getting your Halladay investment back is probably the best move. Then your problems shift to trying to find comparable value in the free agent market.

Only time will tell if either of the two warriors will make it back to anywhere near their past dominance in their final year under their current contracts. Yet somehow it seems fitting I own them both. I just wish above all that they end their distinguished careers on their own terms.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 May 2013 09:01
 
Top NL Tout Wars FAAB Acquisitions by Month: 2010-2012 PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 04 May 2013 00:00

In this year of FAAB (at least for my early-season columns), I have been thinking out loud about my concerns about the devaluation of free agent allocation dollars, using National League Tout Wars to help illustrate my points.

One factor I did not mention in earlier columns is what appeared to be a minor adjustment in the Tout Wars rules for 2013, but in reality is very significant. Driven by a majority of the league participants, the change is to remove the $10 minimum for all Vickrey bids over $10.

For example, in past years, had I bid $50 for Tony Cingrani and been the only bidder, I would have to pay $10 for him. If that same situation would have occurred in 2013, my cost would be just $1. (Had there been another bidder lower than me, I would pay $1 more than that offer.)

In other words, all things equal, Tout Wars FAAB will not be exhausted as quickly in 2013 as in prior years as the average dollar spent per player should decline.

In my last column, I looked at Tout spending by month in the NL-only league over the last three seasons. This time, we will dig into the top expenditures each month in 2010 through 2012.

Six months times three years means there were 18 top acquisitions. In reality, I will review just 14 of them here. The reason why is that twice in 2010 and 2011, there were multiple $10 players (reference the Vickrey discussion above).

In addition to the players and the amount of the winning bid, I looked up their maximum 5x5 statistical contribution to their new NL Tout teams that season. I say “maximum” since these players were not rostered the very day they entered into the NL pool. Further, they were not required to be in the active lineup other than for the first period after being acquired.

Top player acquisitions per month - National League Tout Wars, 2010-2012

NL Tout











2012 Top spend $ R HR RBI SB BA W ERA SV K WHIP
April Bryan Shaw $14




1 3.49 2 41 1.416
May Matt Adams $57 8 2 13 0 0.244




June Alex Presley $54 4 10 25 9 0.237




July Ryan Wheeler $30 11 1 10 1 0.239




August Travis Snider $83 17 1 9 2 0.250




Sept/Oct Brandon League $20




2 2.30 6 27 1.134













NL Tout











2011 Top spend $ R HR RBI SB BA W ERA SV K WHIP
Mar/April Jose Contreras $11




0 3.86 5 13 1.357
May Six players $10









June Dee Gordon $66 34 0 11 24 0.304




July Mark Ellis $41 34 6 25 7 0.274




August Edwin Jackson $83




5 3.58 0 51 1.462
Sept/Oct Seven players $10






















NL Tout











2010 Top spend $ R HR RBI SB BA W ERA SV K WHIP
Mar/April Six players $10









May Neil Walker $19 57 12 66 2 0.296




June Pat Burrell $13 41 18 51 0 0.266




July Alex Gonzalez $53 27 6 38 0 0.240




August Scott Podsednik $52 17 1 7 5 0.262




Sept/Oct Three players $10









A few observations by year.

2012 - Of the four hitters, only Alex Presley delivered much. Even in his case, the batting average left a lot to be desired. Matt Adams could have been a nice pickup had he remained healthy or if Tout was a keeper league (which it is not). $83 for continued disappointment from Travis Snider should have almost been expected. Brandon League’s six late saves after joining the Dodgers was a relatively good buy.

2011 - Dee Gordon’s 24 steals and .304 batting average over the final two-thirds of the season helped justify the $66 spent on him. Mark Ellis’ 25 RBI over three months was not terrible, but $41 was not cheap, either. $83 for Edwin Jackson brought five wins and 51 strikeouts during August and September. By then, there wasn’t much else around to spend money on.

2010 – Both Neil Walker and Pat Burrell’s last career hurrah provided good return. At the other end of the spectrum, $52 for five steals, 17 runs scored and an otherwise empty line from Scott Podsednik seemed no bargain.

Of course, these are not the only players acquired via FAAB during those seasons nor were they the most impactful ones – just the most costly each month.

My conclusion is that the best players added may not be the most expensive acquisitions, so keep plugging away in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle. Just don’t expect it to happen and perhaps you will not be disappointed.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 04 May 2013 09:33
 
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