Tout Wars H2H: Trust Your Instincts
Howard Bender walked into his first Tout Wars auction with a patient, calculated and methodical approach to his bidding. He suppressed every urge to make it rain bid dollars at Club Tout. Was he right to do so?
By now you’ve been super-saturated with Tout Wars coverage, but you’re going to have to endure at least one more piece here as I share with you my experience as a first-timer in the legendary industry experts’ league. Allow me to forgo the typical “it’s an honor to be invited” and “happy to compete with the best of the best.” You as a reader already know how esteemed the league is and the guys who own/run Tout already know how psyched I am to open up a can of whup-ass on the industry’s finest. This is actually more of a lesson in choosing the right strategy for an auction draft.
When Ray Flowers asked me to write the “How to Prepare for an Auction Draft,” for the 2016 Fantasy Alarm MLB Draft Guide, I laughed. Ray has a tendency to be patient and methodical with regard to his auction bidding. His auction values are relatively conservative and he keeps a very level head. Me? I’m more of a “poppin’ bottles, make it rain at Club Auction” type guy. Many will refer to my strategy as “stars and scrubs,” but deep down we all know that it’s because I have the attention span of a gnat and the patience of an untrained dog staring at a plate of meatballs. Assuming the Oracle wanted the piece to be both sensible and educational, I took my auction experiences and turned the piece into more of a “How NOT to Do an Auction Draft.”
So now here I was walking into my first Tout auction and squaring off against some of the best fantasy baseball minds in the business. I sat between Joe “El Libro Negro” Pisapia (drafting for an under-the-weather Jeff Mans) and statistical mastermind Jeff Zimmerman of FanGraphs. Scanning the room, I saw Tout Wars founding father Peter Kreutzer, Paul Sporer, Jeff Boggis, Brent Hershey and a host of other big brains from the fantasy world. I knew that if I was going to back up my incessant smack-talk I was going to have to fight my instincts to overspend early and walk the path of patience.
I got involved a little early with winning bids for Trevor Story ($9) and Sonny Gray ($13) but tried to maintain a conservative approach in the early goings. While most of the room seemed to have a similar approach, I noticed that Kreutzer was sitting in the VIP lounge of Club Tout, throwing around his money like he had an endless supply of bid dollars. The champagne was barely chilled when he grabbed Mike Trout for $49 and Paul Goldschmidt for $47 and before I knew it, he added a $37 Manny Machado, a $22 Dee Gordon and a $28 Jake Arrieta. What was going on here? Sure, there were other owners out there spending some big bucks (I had to go to $47 for Anthony Rizzo – a must-have of mine), but it was more on two, maybe three, players before we started to pull back. Kreutzer was moving forward fast and spent just over 70-percent of his budget on five players. This, I was not expecting.
Once the early whirlwind settled down and Kreutzer fell into silent mode (he was still price enforcing, but not buying), the rest of the room continued on a course more like what I was expecting. There were some clear overbids within the first hour of the draft, but nothing where you thought people were losing their minds. I had to spend a little more than I had planned for Gerrit Cole ($27) and Justin Upton ($30), but still found plenty of bargains, particularly in the outfield and pitching, to offset the costs. With quality starts plus wins as a category, the pitching pool gets a little diluted, in my opinion. And so, to spend a little less for some veteran innings-eaters with decent K-rates like John Lackey ($2) and Jeff Samardzija ($4) to complement my higher-tiered starters was part of the plan.
But the real eye-opener was seeing just how many bargains were available late in the game. After the rest of us ate up most of our budgets, Kreutzer went back to work again and pulled down a few nice low-cost grabs such as Chris Carter ($2), Brad Miller ($3), Jay Bruce ($4), Taijuan Walker ($3) and K/9 specialist Brandon Finnegan ($1). He spent some mid-level money on Yasmani Grandal ($12) and David Robertson ($11), but for the most part, he was able to do a lot of bargain shopping late and come down with some real nice players. It was a testament to the depth of the player pool, something which should always be noted.
This was a 12-team, mixed-league draft, so while many were hung up on the head-to-head with a splash of roto rules, the vast number of players available should always be taken into account when planning your auction strategy. You can make it rain all you want for some of the bigger names and still have plenty of options left after the rest of the owners exhaust much of their budget. I’m not really sure at what point of the draft I really had that enter my conscious thought. Maybe it wasn’t even until the end. Maybe it wasn’t even until I was sitting at the broadcast table during the 15-team mixed auction the following day when Rotowire’s Derek Van Riper did the same thing as Kreutzer. Whenever it was, it is now something ingrained in my mind.
Perhaps I wasn’t being haphazard with my early-draft bidding in the past. I always felt the stars and scrubs approach was appropriate for me based on my overall lack of patience and knowledge of the player pool, and now I see that, in certain leagues, it is more than just appropriate. It’s actually a bit of a necessity. It’s certainly not the same in an AL or NL-only format, but for mixed leagues of 15-teams or fewer, I don’t really see the need to be patient and/or methodical. In retrospect, I probably should have just trusted my draft instincts and gone bananacakes on some of the other upper-tier talent.
I’m still extremely happy with my team here in the Tout Wars inaugural H2H league, so don’t take this sudden revelation as regret or even disappointment. I’ve got a fantastic mix of power and speed while also having solid pitching, given the scoring categories. I’ll need some savvy FAAB bidding throughout the year to solidify my relievers, but there is no reason to believe that this team can’t cash the checks that my mouth continues to write.
Bring it on, Tout! You’ve got the RotobuzzGuy here and he’s looking to take down some big game on this fantasy safari.