Al Melchior’s 2018 Tout Wars Team Review: The Hitters

It’s always more fun to do a review of one’s fantasy team when the squad wins the league or at least seriously contends for the title. That was not the case with my team in this year’s Tout Wars 15-team mixed auction league. However, my seventh-place finish offers an opportunity to take away plenty of positive and negative lessons to consider before draft day next year.

I spent only $142 of my $260 budget — or 54.6 percent — on hitters, and this was something that concerned me almost from the get-go this season. I don’t recall ever having such a pitching-heavy auction, and only Baseball Prospectus’ Bret Sayre spent less ($136). Yet in looking back, I don’t think that’s where I can lay the blame for not being a contender. I made moves throughout the season to try to address the imbalance and wound up ranking among the top five teams in home runs and RBIs. Lackluster performances in the other categories led to a ninth-place finish in the hitting categories as a whole, but as I will discuss below, those weaknesses could have been shored up by targeting different types of hitters, cutting bait sooner on underperformers and making some timely FAAB purchases.

Final Standings in 2018 Tout Wars Mixed Auction Hitting Categories
Team Name R HR RBI SB OBP Hitting Overall
Tim Heaney 15 14 15 14 4 62
Fred Zinkie 12 11 13 8 13 57
Brent Hershey 14 5 6 15 14 54
Derek VanRiper 5 15 14 7 12 53
Zach Steinhorn 13 7 10 12 11 53
Jeff Zimmerman 10 9 9 5 15 48
Joe Pisapia 9 8 7 9 10 43
Ray Flowers 7 5 8 10 8 38
Al Melchior 2 13 11 3.5 6 35.5
Scott Engel 11 2 5 13 3 34
Scott Swanay 4 10 12 2 5 33
Scott Pianowski 8 1 1 11 9 30
Bret Sayre 3 5 4 6 7 25
Ron Shandler 1 12 3 1 1 18
Tim McLeod 6 3 2 3.5 2 16.5

In the spirit of learning from the good and the bad, let’s break down how my team performed in each hitting category. I will take a look at the pitching categories in a subsequent column.

Runs

With a total of 924 runs and a 14th-place finish, this was my worst category. This is one of several categories that was dominated by league champ Tim Heaney of RotoWire. While Tim had all-around producers like J.D. Martinez and Javier Baez to pad his run total, he also had players like Michael Brantley, Brian Dozier, Chris Taylor and Yoan Moncada, who benefited from frequently hitting in one of the top two spots in the order.

Until I acquired Nick Martini for the season’s final two weeks, I did not have a plate appearance compiler in the mold of Brantley or Moncada. Instead, I dedicated too many roster spots to players who hit lower in their respective batting orders, such as Gleyber Torres, Johan Camargo, Kyle Seager and Yuli Gurriel. It also didn’t help that one of my key players, Manny Machado, was a little light on runs (84) for an elite heart-of-the-order hitter.

Home Runs

For all of the money I spent on pitching, I was still in good shape for homers, finishing in third with 297, just 11 behind leader Derek Van Riper of RotoWire. On draft day, I spent $29 or more apiece on Aaron Judge, Machado and Rhys Hoskins, so I began with a solid core of power hitters. Getting Torres for $2 and C.J. Cron in the reserve rounds also bolstered my home run total, but midseason acquisitions of Khris Davis (with $40 FAAB for Cron and Lance McCullers), Juan Soto (with Kendrys Morales for Corey Kluber) and Adalberto Mondesi (purchased for $11 FAAB, $1000 budget) were also critical.

RBIs

Home run hitters tend to produce RBIs, so it’s not too surprising that I was competitive in this category, finishing fifth with a total of 971. Even so, I may have overperformed slightly, thanks to Gurriel and Camargo batting .403 and .342, respectively, with runners in scoring position.

Stolen Bases

In 2017, I finished two stolen bases off the lead, and I had not spent much on draft day for a large chunk of my steals. Domingo Santana, Howie Kendrick, Tommy Pham and Cesar Hernandez were either acquired for $5 or less in the auction or purchased with FAAB. Figuring I didn’t need to spend big on steals, I essentially punted on them at the auction, and the only player I won that day who wound up with more than six steals was Machado.

In picking up Mondesi just after the All-Star break, I avoided landing in the cellar in the steals category, but even his 32 stolen bases couldn’t lift my team higher than 12th. He accounted for nearly one-third of my steals, so I needed to add more of them, both through the auction and FAAB bidding. While I benefited from my cheap steals sources a year ago, I wasn’t totally reliant on them, as Mike Trout, Byron Buxton and Jean Segura built a foundation for the others to add to.

OBP

While a 10th-place finish in OBP (.3282) makes it look like I was weak in this category, an additional .004 would have lifted me into fifth place. Those four measly points proved costly, as a fifth-place finish in OBP would have enabled me to place fifth in the overall standings.

My Big Three of Judge, Machado and Hoskins all posted OBPs of .355 or higher, but of my six other hitters who logged at least 300 plate appearances on my active roster, only Camargo had a mark of at least .340. Two of these hitters — Seager and Max Kepler — posted an OBP below .290. I waited far too long for Seager to come around, but at least he helped to boost my HR (17) and RBI (65) totals. Kepler’s only notable contribution was the 42 runs he scored while activated, and at some point, I should have realized I would be better off allocating resources to other categories. I could have, for example, replaced him with Renato Nunez (shifting Hoskins from CI to OF), who would have given me a .335 OBP over the final eight scoring periods. Nunez went unowned for the entire season, so he could have been added for a $0 FAAB bid.

I was able to target sluggers who could hit homers and drive in runs, but a neglect of top-of-the-order hitters and speedsters hurt my chances to contend. It’s not always easy or cheap to find these players, but for the most part, I did not even attempt to fill these needs with my endgame bids and reserve round picks. I was more attentive to OBP on draft day, but I missed out on opportunities to bolster my position in the category during the season.



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Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.

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rhdx
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rhdx

Heaney’s team must be interesting. It isn’t easy to score a lot and steal a lot with players who rarely get on base.