Gene McCaffrey (Tout NL): LET’S TALK ABOUT ME!

I can’t believe how big the whole thing is now. Back in the day we would huddle in the dank basement of some New York bar. One year we drafted in Steve Moyer’s basement, which I thought was great but later heard tell of other putative Warriors who did not. Now there are at least a hundred people there either drafting or media-involved. Even girls! Maybe three! TV cameras, live radio broadcasts, no question we’re big shots.

Gene McCaffrey, with Steve Gardner, Todd Zola and Lenny Melnick.
Gene McCaffrey, with Steve Gardner, Todd Zola and Lenny Melnick.

The best thing is that the people are terrific. The very few assholes who have passed through the expert ranks of fantasy baseball over the years all disappeared quickly. I mean, I’m the biggest asshole there and I’m only an asshole sometimes. But you want to know about my team.

I won the battle but I may have lost the war. Here’s The Conundrum: in NL- or AL-only leagues the bargains are going to come on the pitchers, but you can’t get too many or you won’t have enough money to buy an offense. Everyone is spending 30 percent or less on pitching and bragging about it, which ABSOLUTELY guarantees that 1) pitchers will be undervalued, and 2) hitters will be overvalued. (A corollary is that some team or teams who don’t spend on pitching are going to score some pitching bargains, making them instant contenders.) When it works it looks great, when it doesn’t—which is usually since everyone is doing it—it looks terrible, but no one cares because odds are that’s what the winner did. To me this state of affairs calls for a contrary strategy and hence the conundrum.

My thinking is that it should be possible to spend more on pitching, not a ton more but 60/40 rather than 70/30, and thereby dominate the 4 SP cats, and still get enough hitting to be above average. Also, in the NL 2015 there is one unique closer, who by himself will put me middle of the pack in Saves while striking out far more batters than any other reliever, and producing superb decimals. Aroldis Chapman is of course part of the 40 percent.

In addition to Chapman, I would buy eight quality starting pitchers—not the really big names, and obviously the question marks grow as the prices decline, but quality SPs. An advantage to this is that I can go lower on K rates with a few of them, and get the actual Ks from the extra innings.

The best way indeed the only way to buy enough offense spending 60 percent is to buy cheap At Bats, or in Tout Wars, Plate Appearances. Avoid the big stars unless they’re bargains, which is rare, but minimize the $1 hitters. No more than two and ideally none. For the Law of Roto is that paying for superstars will result in $1 players at the end.

So I threw out Chapman with my first nomination, and damn if they don’t bid him to $24. Thank you Peter Kruetzer the Rotoman. I have to say $25 or I blow my strategy. So I did, and that got him. I’m not thrilled about the price but yes there is still profit margin, and little downside—he said fatuously.

On Saturday night at the fantastic Foley’s party I was talking to the always-intriguing Michael Salfino about The Conundrum, and he had an idea. Since Tout is an OBP league, why not aim my dollars at those hitters who are devalued in that format? If they still get their hits, they will still produce the other cats. My question was, would the room let me do this?

iandesmondfieldsWe devised a test: Ian Desmond. If he went cheapish the other low-OBP guys would follow. He was my second nominee. Desmond did go cheapish, for $26, but I didn’t buy him. I should have, one of those rare hitter bargains and given the way the auction rolled. Away from me. My reticence was due to the fact that cheaper middle infielders who get hits abound in the low-OBP realm. I didn’t want to commit the money to the roster slot just yet.

But what happened was that the low-OBP guys did NOT go cheap after Desmond, indeed I kept trying to overpay for them and they wouldn’t let me. I had by far the most money at the first break since I only had four players—Chapman $25, Lucroy $20, Brett Anderson $4 and Charlie Morton $2. And most of the hitters—not the star hitters, I mean the hitters—were gone. I had to abandon being particular about my targets. Hell, I didn’t even have starting pitching, although plenty of them were left.

Matters grudgingly began to fall into place, still no bargains on the hitters but I picked up John Jay for $8, gritted my teeth and bid $17 for Joc Peterson, and followed up with a $15 Carl Crawford. Meanwhile came the inevitable SP bargains: DeGrom $17, Wacha $14, Tyson Ross $14, and Ian Kennedy $11. I finished off the staff with $8 each for Carlos Martinez and Henderson Alvarez. I’m delighted with that, I think I have by far the best pitching.
But the hitting, I don’t know. I scrambled and pushed and yet found few bargains. I should be fine in the production cats, I did get the ABs, but the power and speed and OBP are not good enough unless my guys exceed reasonable expectations.

Here’s the offense:
Lucroy $20
Miguel Montero 13

Matt Adams 21
Uribe 7
Darin Ruf 8

Panik 5
Owings 12
Simmons 10

Peterson 17
Crawford 15
Jay 8
Markakis 6

McGehee 13
Corey Hart 2

Not my dream team.

Catcher is a good place to pick up extra ABs on the field. Most teams will have one or even two $1 catchers, which also knocks several potential bidders out of the picture on just about every other name. Bargains should ensue. Lucroy at $20 and Montero at $13 should be regarded as fair prices, might be regarded as overpays since catchers do get hurt, but I rather believe that Lucroy can earn $26 as easily as he can $14. I would have gone to $22 at that point in the draft, since to me Lucroy was the last $20 hitter—although a few others subsequently did go that high and higher. Which suits me fine—they are the overpays.

In this desperate situation I regard the small Tout 4-man reserve squad as a vital component, and indeed I need at least one of Grichuk, Dietrich, Kyle Parker and Eury Perez to come through. It may sound ridiculous but I’m almost sure that at least one of them will. For once—I don’t think I’ve ever done this—I have no reserve pitchers. It doesn’t worry me, the FAAB wire is not barren yet and won’t be for a while, especially for Saves, and I’d like to pick up a closer right away to use for a while and then trade.

And speaking of trading, if my SPs stay on the mound (there’s a laugh) I can trade a pitcher from strength. I have won with this strategy before, when it was forced on me by the room, and I know this: much of what we think we know we don’t know at all.

I also know that the draft means a whole lot less than it used to, even in -only leagues.

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