Fantasy Baseball Roundtable: Tout Wars rules change

by Todd Zola, on February 20, 2012 @ 07:13:16 PDT


We are going to start what we hope is a new feature with Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Roundtable, and that is invite a guest, pertinent to the topic each week. Playing the inaugural role of Sir Paul McCartney is industry luminary Peter Kreutzer, aka Ask Rotoman. Peter is the publisher of The Fantasy Baseball Guide, released last week and available at fine retail establishments everywhere. The magazine features a bevy of your esteemed knights including Lawr Michaels, Brian Walton, Rob Leibowitz and Nick Minnix. Peter is also a member of the quartet that forms the LLC that oversees Tout Wars, which along with LABR are the two most respected public industry leagues.

Peter is here to help us discuss the following questions:

Tout Wars has added a new rule for the 2012 season, changing the OF5 spot to be UT/P, eligible to be filled by either a hitter or pitcher. This spot is available to be managed in season like any other spot. One week a hitter can be active, the next a pitcher. First off, what do you think of this change? Secondly, in a more general sense, from your individual perspectives as a participant or interested observer, what do you feel the role of Tout Wars should be within the industry with respect to trying out new rules and formats?

Fasten your seat belts; it is going to be a long ride.

Brian Walton, former NL Tout Wars Champion begins:

I think the addition of the swing player has the potential of keeping league races more exciting for a longer period as owners move to shift scoring from offense to pitching or vice-versa based on their greatest perceived need. It injects some unpredictability into a very stable, perhaps too staid, format.

I applaud having Tout serve as a test bed for new initiatives. In fact, with many of the Tout warriors being long-time participants in the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL), I am a bit surprised on base percentage (OBP) hasn't been brought along to Tout. The substitution of OBP for batting average (BA) has been a successful part of the XFL for as long as I have participated and increasingly accepted outside of fantasy as a more representative offensive measurement. In fact, in some ways, it seems like the industry has fallen a bit behind, gotten a bit stale. Originally, roto was known for pushing stats on a general audience that was not always ready for them while today, there are many newer saber stats that have been generally ignored by the core of the industry.

Peter Kreutzer, long time NL Tout Warrior, introduces himself to the Roundtable:

I hope we've all seen George Romero's wonderful Knightriders. I know I'm contributing in that spirit.

I have to admit I have no idea why Tout Wars hasn't adopted OBP. I think it is so commonsensical it needn't even be discussed. Maybe that's why we haven't discussed it. But I agree with Brian, we should use OBP instead of BA. It makes for a better game.

Perry Van Hook, LABR and Tout Wars veteran, counters:

Chicago White Sox OF Dayan Viciedo
Swingman: Outfielder?

On the other hand, if TOUT is to be a high level representation of roto with the TOUTS performing so their readers can see if they practice what they preach - and how well they do it, there is something to be said for continuing to use BA as that is what most players use and are familiar with. If they wanted to show that OBP is a better measurement, why not introduce it in one league so the "audience" could see the improvement versus the more understood category?

Lawr Michaels, also on the LLC with Peter and two-time AL Tout Champion, opines:

I like to think of Tout as willing to try new things.

We are - or should be - at the forefront of the fantasy world, trying new things and using the swing position mentioned does indeed push that envelope.

And, it opens a lot of strategies I can think of. In fact i wrote about it at the KFFL site on my Tumbling Dice column.

So, I am excited about the change.

As for OBP, it is true it is a better barometer of an offensive player's worth in my view, but that is sort of a separate issue as to whether or not it should be a category over batting average.

Ultimately, that category selection is arbitrary to what the makeup of the league wants to track, be they strikeouts or extra base hits, or whether the league is head-to-head, and so on.

And, well, while being at the forefront is fun and exciting; baseball is also traditional in so many ways.

Truth is to me it does matter what the categories are as long as I know which they are.

Nick Minnix, 2011 runner-up in Mixed Tout, joins the fray:

I'm not a big fan of that change because I think too much flexibility - too many choices - for team managers can lead to more chaos or unrest. I think it creates the opportunity for a wider dispersion of counting statistics - hitting or pitching - which could make it more difficult to make up ground in those cats and easier to run away with those cats. This particular change may have a minimal effect on that, I don't know, but I think the door is open. If that happens, some owners might lose interest a little sooner. In Tout, there are incentives to dig oneself out of a hole, but perhaps the task also becomes more daunting.

The change certainly is a test of our ability to plan and adjust in an auction, but I think the result is that luck can play a bigger part in the outcome. More diverse strategies would enhance the possibility of the wider range of outcomes and perhaps reduce the competitiveness of the game. Studies have shown that, from a psychological standpoint, the more choices people have, in general, the more indecisive they become. It's not really what people want to hear, but, there's a benefit to structure and limitations. I don't want to get all Orwellian here, and we're just talking about fantasy baseball, but I think there's a fine line here that cuts both ways.

I think one of the points about the implementation was that big-league teams have the flexibility to carry an extra pitcher or two or an extra bat or two, so it seems logical that we'd have similar flexibility. That's true, they do, but we have that same flexibility. We have the option of carrying more batters than pitchers, and vice versa, on our reserve lists, just as major league teams do. Major league teams can't put them anywhere else, though - there are nine spots on a diamond, and only one for a pitcher, which never changes.

Regardless, I'm not sure whether the effect will be drastic, if there's an effect at all, and I don't mean to sound so adamantly against it. It'll be interesting, and it's good to experiment, and I could be totally wrong about how it affects the standings. I think that Tout doesn't have a duty to experiment, but that it takes on the role to test hypotheses about rules and structure and whatnot is noble. As games become more popular, variations of them emerge, and some people are always seeking a new challenge. It's exciting to be at the forefront of possibility, and I think the organizers of Tout do a fantastic job of being open-minded and argumentative. It's fun.

And I concur - I think OBP makes plenty of sense.

Todd interrupts his knights for the first time ever, because, well, his name is on the column and he can do what he wants, he's Lord Zola:

Nick - is that perspective primarily from a Mixed League viewpoint or AL and NL only as well, because in the single leagues, it is not a matter of choice, but availability. There are times you have an injury at a position and there are no eligible players to even bid on that week, forcing you to carry a zero, not because you were lazy and did not submit bids, not because you were outbid, but because there was no one to even bid on.

Nick responds:

Sorry, that's from a mixed league POV. I haven't even considered the effect on AL or NL leagues, and you can add my POV of ignorance to my response, haha. Perhaps in those leagues, Houston's switch to the AL in 2013 will help the leagues to assimilate, and then it just comes down to elimination of one spot. AL and NL is a tough proposition. In mixed, it's unnecessary, but my assumption was that the change was also taking place there as well.

Lawr's point is awesome - as long as we know which categories they are, the categories don't matter a great deal. I think, regarding what Perry said about OBP, it's true that the vast majority of the audience uses BA and they may find it beneficial to follow a league with stats they know more so than don't, but they may follow for many other reasons. If they're in search of new ideas, too, and if the oligarch thinks OBP is a more useful stat, I don't see a harm in introducing it to demonstrate its usefulness.

Brian channels Billy Beane:

Perry touches on the old question of leading versus following. Maybe is it time to champion a transition of what most players use. In this day and age, does OBP being a better measurement than BA need to be proven to anyone? BA to OBP wouldn't exactly be a revolutionary change - certainly not compared to implementing the use of a swing player, for example. In fact, a number of us in this discussion (along with other Touts) already have years of experience with OBP in the XFL.

Nick continues on the OBP theme:

Definitely a good point. Sometimes you have to show people who don't see a reason to alter it. It doesn't NEED to change, but it may improve the experience.

Lawr, aka the Zen Master:

Yeah, like Copernicus convincing the masses the earth rotated around the sun (he was nearly burned at the stake) or that Pasteur guy suggesting disease came from micro organisms (he was just vilified and deemed a fool)?

Peter checks back in:

Copernicus? Pasteur? I think of it more like the introduction of clear blue gel shaving cream.

Ryan Carey, avid Tout Wars follower, offers the view of a non-participant:

Pittsburgh Pirates SP James McDonald
Starting pitcher?

Well I will start off by saying my initial reaction to the "swingman" rule was that I didn't really like it and that it felt kind of "gimmicky" to me. Rather than respond right away, I let it marinate over-night, and today I can say that while I think the experiment has merit, part of me doesn't really like the change. Part of me takes this as you all saying traditional AL/NL only leagues don't work anymore. Now, I don't play in these leagues, and it seems clear that the change comes partly from those participating in the AL/NL only versions trying to add something to those leagues. If that's the case, then I get in. But if you are asking the average fantasy player to care or pay attention, my question(s) would be: Why should I have interest in these leagues now? Should I even pay attention to draft day values if they no longer apply to any of the leagues I am playing in?

While I concede the experiment has value for AL/NL only, I just don't see what it adds to the 15 team mixed league. The only people who have any interest in this format are those who possibly aspire to play in the NFBC. Adding the swingman there I think should be re-examined. If anything, I would be more interested to see the mixed league adopt rules more in line with the 15 team industry standard, not try to re-invent it. I'd like to see the "touts" in that league not be allowed to make trades for instance. I think that would be just as worthy an experiment.

I think that Tout Wars should always push the envelope of trying new things, but I don't think it should necessarily come by such a wholesale change. You run the risk of making your big pre-season drafts less relevant to traditional drafters.

Nick clarifies:

And my response, kind of to Ryan, kind of to whoever:

I agree, I think its addition could prove to be beneficial in AL and NL leagues, but I don't see much value in it in mixed leagues. I probably should've considered those angles before I ran my mouth, because my initial (ignorant?) perspective was in relation to mixed leagues only. I still have reservations about that kind of adjustment being the fix, but it doesn't hurt to give it a shot.

Brian takes the swingman discussion a step further:

The more I thought about the swingman, the more I wondered if it isn't a half-way move. I would imagine folks have read about certain leagues that moved from the traditional 23 active players to 24, with the addition being a 10th pitcher. Tout stopped short of that, but certainly moved in that general direction. One way of looking at the swingman is that it makes the leagues a uniquely-defined by team 14-to-13 position players and 9-to-10 pitchers.

I hope the stats provider, the excellent, will be able to track and report after the season how the swingman was utilized by each Tout team during the year. Probably the easiest would be percentage of days or weeks spent in one mode or the other.

Todd, who is now writing in the third person:

I think something else to keep in mind is with Houston moving to the AL next season, the player pool inventory is going to be changed, so when the LLC looks at how things played out, depending if there are any other adjustments to accommodate the league change, the whole "there are no eligible players to even bid on" may be less relevant than the added strategy of choosing a hitter versus a pitcher.

Right now, to me, the primary benefit of the rule in AL/NL is so every team can field 23 active players that will actually be on the MLB 25-man roster and not so much for strategy purposes. In Mixed, it will be all about the strategy.

Peter, remember, he's on the LLC which implanted the rule:

The motivation for the change was twofold:

The player pool has changed dramatically since the start of roto. Teams used to carry nine or 10 pitchers, now they carry 12 or 13. The logical reaction would be to swap a pitcher slot in for a hitter slot, but the fact is that the number of relevant pitching jobs hasn't changed significantly. There are simply more pitchers. And fewer hitters. So the swingman in the NL/AL leagues was intended to open up the possibilities for strategies based on the scarcity of hitters that wasn't limited to simply reducing the number of hitters needed. We thought we were giving teams a choice between John McDonald and Jose Mijares. The decision was made before we knew about Houston switching leagues, but I think we liked the idea anyway, so while the Houston move (and our decision to reduce the size of the NL to 12 teams in 2013) will put more hitters into the pool relative to the roto slots to be filled, we think the Swingman is a worthwhile experiment anyway.

In the mixed leagues, the change is all strategic. But it is inseason strategic. Teams are still buying the same number of players for the same number of slots on draft day. So I don't expect prices are going to change very much. So I don't expect there will be any invalidation of the auction prices. I do think the possibilites for inseason play are really interesting, and maybe anticipating that will shift draft prices a bit. If so, we'll take a look at what's going on and review it.

As far as offering choices and flexibility in game play, I think the LLC members all feel that creativity is a big part of the fun of fantasy sports. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with current roto configurations, but in my experience people who play in AL or NL leagues are tinkerers. Every league has different rules, and no demonstration league can speak directly to any of them. So we see our mission as a way to try to improve the games by coming up with solutions that make play more fun and allow more strategy. For similar reasons we dropped the games played to qualify last year from 20 to 15. Many leagues still use 20, but I also play in leagues that use 10 games played. Reducing that number allowed teams a little more flexibility, and while limits are important (I wonder what would happen if you had an AL or NL auction with no positional requirements? what if you added a defensive category, I'm thinking "total chances?"), so is having a variety of approaches to skinning the cat

Lawr and Nick have their own little round table:

NM: In mixed leagues, it is purely strategic, but I think that's where a problem lies. I think it reduces strategy to something closer to guesswork (about how other teams will approach their rosters and lineups as the season nears its end), and it adds more luck to the equation. Chances are, near the end of the season, teams will have at least a few directions in which they can go - go for a pitching advantage, go for it in certain categories or one category, spread it out; batters, the same - and then you're just driving yourself mad. It's impossible to guess which way all contenders will go, because they all have options and don't think like you do. When you all have the same rosters, you all have the same requirements, it's purely about which style of player(s) you pursue to achieve that end. I think, with the swing player, all you can do is field a lineup and hope it was the right one. There is less countering involved. That may be exciting to some, but it wouldn't be as much to skilled players, I don't think. Again, this is just my impression, and the experiment could prove me wrong.

LM: Would not the default always be to go for the most points possible?

NM: Of course. I'm just saying that the swing position muddies the ways you can go about it, because other teams affect your ability to rack up points, and how they go about it is never certain, but I think with the swing spot, it could become virtually ambiguous. No?

LM: Exactly...that is what I see is the beauty. For example, going into the draft, can you try to aggressively plan for the swing spot? Should you? I do think the path becomes clearer as the season progresses, because logically you want to exploit areas where you can actually pick up points. But, this certainly allows for that flexibility, as I see it.

NM: Yes, but other teams will be doing the same, and some will not. It may require you to put very little effort into hitting categories because someone's strategy changed also. And vice versa. I agree that it can be interesting, I just think it makes luck a bigger factor.

LM: Well, yes, but trying to anticipate and zig where others might zag is part of what should make the strategies tough and interesting and ideally fun? Is that not why we play games?

NM: Sure. Perhaps I take it too seriously.

LM: Well, it is a fine line ... but, my experience of you Nick is that you are pretty level headed about all this. I mean, I know you have a life in addition to baseball.

(Todd here - I say we call it a draw and take a 5-minute break, I warned you to buckle up.)

Peter questions Nick on the luck element:

I don't follow how giving teams other options to gain points increases luck. Your skill is in seeing your opponents' strategies develop and then countering with the assets you've accumulated. This is what you do now and will do with the swingman, and the fact is that in the current game some teams use their assets to build strong pitching and others use theirs to build strong hitting. The 23rd man, the swingman, is another way to build strong hitting or pitching, always looking for the easiest path for points. I don't see how this changes things from a luck perspective.

I do see how, in a mixed league, it allows a team that opens a big lead in hitting, to stock up on pitchers to try and make a move. Or vice versa. And the effect is amplified because a team will be one hitter/one pitcher up or down. That amplification will certainly sometimes increase the luck effect of a random play, but if we think skillful play is more important than luck generally, I don't see how you can conclude other than that more tangible decisions lead to better outcomes for skilled players.

The teams that are best able to manage their assets and take advantage of their categories will open up leads. Teams that fail will end up on the bottom, and plenty of teams in the middle will find themselves trading hitting points to gain pitching points and vice versa, just as they do now.

The same applies to injury mitigation. A run of injuries can cripple your offense, but you may still be able to deal your remaining hitting for steals and pitching and more pitching. The swingman will amplify the effect, and not cost you anything because your hitting is dead anyway. That won't get you to first place, but it might help a team that would otherwise be doomed to the bottom four to climb into the middle. If it's skillful enough and a little lucky.

Atlanta Braves RP Jonny Venters
Relief pitcher? Your choice.

One place I can a negative effect from the rule would be on verisimilitude to real baseball. In mixed leagues the deep talent pool will enable fantasy owners to pursue unbaseball-like strategies, like going with 10 starters or four third basemen. But is this really that much different than the way the game lines up now? Mixed league teams don't resemble major league teams in any way anyway.

Nick answers:

It doesn't definitely increase the role of luck in a mixed league, but I think that it can. Whatever strategies each of us uses - we each use a batter in the swing, keeping things as they were, or we each use a pitcher, or some mix of batters and pitchers, that will probably affect the spread in categories, slightly.

Any team that aims to have a dominant offense and then switch strategies, or vice versa, may certainly aim to do so, and whether it works won't matter, but whether it works will affect their decisions about which kind of player to use in the swing.

Simple example: Say in the final week, two weeks, month you are within striking distance - you assume - of three teams in strikeouts, and three teams in stolen bases. You take stock of those six teams (or however many fewer it is, down to three if they all so happen to be the same team, which would be incredibly coincidental). (You obviously have other teams to worry about, so pretend they're out of it for now and then add that complication to the matter after this scenario.) First, you check to see what kind of players each of those teams has on its roster (high-K and -SB players, obviously, or perhaps they've dumped some in trades or on waivers - it helps to inventory). Then, what kind of player each uses in the swing - if it's a position player on one of the teams you trail in SB, especially one that allows the owner to keep another SB threat in his lineup, that factors in - or if it's NOT, he's strong in SB without the swing player. If it's a pitcher on one of the teams you trail in K, obviously it would seem to be tougher to catch that team. There are as many as six teams to consider this about. You make your decision to pursue one or the other by using the swing player. Whatever each of those teams does can greatly impact what you've decided - you may have chosen poorly, and you have no way of knowing. Those three to six teams all changed strategies, and players, in the swing. Or they didn't. It turns out that an extra position player won't help you, because now you'll be lucky to gain a point based on what they did. Or, you add the pitcher, and it turns out, your 9-pitcher staff would've been enough to catch all three teams easily because they all decided not to defend their points in K and shifted instead somewhere else. The dynamics have changed with the one spot, the possible scenarios are exponentially greater. There's nothing really to examine or try to anticipate. It's a guess.

Does that make sense? Without the swing, we can anticipate to a degree what our competition is attempting to do because their roster is governed by the exact same limitation that ours is. By introducing a category swinger, it makes anticipation null, which increases the say of Lady Luck. I think.

Lawr with more Zen:

Well, as I always say, a good play puts him/herself in a position to take advantage of luck.

Nick, bordering on TMI:

Indeed, indeed. And I am quite anal (or is it scarred? haha), so I immediately think about all the more complex scenarios (and the potential carnage). Perhaps that's why I had trouble sleeping for so many years.

Peter finds common ground:

Branch Rickey said that, too!

I think you're right to think it makes things more complicated, Nick but I suspect it will turn out to be a little more complicated, not a big deal. And since you can make moves every week, you can assess what's happening. If you make a mistake for a week you can fix it. And if you don't make mistakes, you win.

There is nothing common about Lawr:

Well, again I have a saying; "sometimes I have to walk around the block to get to the house next door."

Nick feels contrite:

I imagine you're right, Peter, it probably won't make a big difference. I hope I haven't offended the LLC, I can't help but think of ways to deconstruct things and conjure manners in which they may not work. I'm glad that it can be part of the banter, though, and I appreciate all the rhetoric from everyone. For me, this was a lot of fun.

And, whether Lawr walks all the way around the block or turns the other way to march a few steps to my door, I'll answer it.

Chris Kreush doesn't let a little “flu like symptoms” stop him from contributing:

I'm a little late to the party as well and my thoughts follow. Having dealt with a virus for the past few days I hope I haven't become totally incoherent.

Speaking as an observer and outsider to Tout, my impression of it (possibly incorrectly) wasn't that it was supposed to break new ground but that it was supposed to promote and spread interest in the game while providing a format for competition among the leaders in the industry. What I'm going to say now might be considered heresy, but, in fact, I don't think what's done in Tout is that widely known among the 32 million or so fantasy baseball players. Surely it is getting better each year due in large part to the growth of Sirius radio and the fantasy channel as the different expert contests' drafts are broadcast and talked about on the various shows and with their guests. But most people I have talked to in office and home leagues have not heard of Tout and I don't think the masses who play the game are aware of it or, at the very least, are familiar with the rules. At the very best, I think most who follow Tout outside of the insiders just want to see where their favorite site or writer happens to finish. Having said that, do I think Tout has failed? Not necessarily so. I don't think one entity by itself was going to grow or promote the game. It is going to take Tout, FSTA, Sirius, Mastersball, KFFL and all the other outlets to do so.

So if what I've said has some truth to it then I don't think Tout should engage as a ground breaker. While the swing position might be attractive to some hard core players, I don't think it serves to attract more people to the game. Rather, it might tend to confuse with the added strategy. Same goes for OBP. In my eyes, the problem we face with OBP as a category has to do mostly with the fact that there is a batting title, not an on base percentage title. MLB does not promote OBP and, as a result, it is mostly ignored by those we are trying to attract to the game.

Now, allowing that my initial impression of Tout was incorrect, the swing rule itself comes into question. I don't have a problem, per se, with the change but think that maybe moving it forward partially to see the effects of it would have been the best course of action. In my chewing this one over, I keep coming back to a rule Tout was going to institute a couple years ago whereby if an owner didn't reach a certain two year point total they would be banished for a different owner. At that time I thought of a league I was in where more people wanted to join than we had room for. A 'B' league (or minor league, if you will) was created. Each year the bottom two teams in the major league dropped down to the minor league and the top two teams in the minor league moved up. I thought that would be a good option for Tout. Looking at major rules changes, I think a 'B' league would serve to test these rules for general implementation.

Another thought regarding the swing position, I think teams should be forced to pretty much go with the basic 14/9 players they originally drafted. In my mind a better version of the rule would be to draft an extra bench player and add a swing position that each team could use as a hitting or pitching spot each week. So active rosters during the season would be 14/9/1. The reason is if someone decides they want to be top heavy on hitting, they should be forced to use all 14 of them no matter how weak the bottom spot or spots are. The same goes for pitching.

Well, that's about all the energy I have for now as I feel the fever returning.

Tim Heaney gets the last word (FINALLY):

Hopefully I can contribute something useful while serving as the caboose to this thought-provoking train.

I'm pleased Tout Wars is making an effort to break the mold of the typical fantasy baseball lineup. I've heard of fleeting instances of leagues using a hitter/pitcher swingman; it's a novelty, but it's an opportunity whose potential warrants assessment. Sure, placing that experiment on a grand stage might seem drastic, but you can't discover how processes work unless there are tangible consequences and outcomes.

This is a bold step but hardly a Frankenstein-type alteration. Draft and inseason strategies will fluctuate by where owners can gain an advantage via hitting and pitching at the drop of a dime, but that already happens on some level under the traditional roster structures, regardless of universe. In theory, it'll be easier to target and come through on areas of improvement if you can divert your efforts in a bigger fashion.

The fun in this game will come in practice. Timing when to change directions and expect others to do so still requires sharp instincts, which will still speak to the efficient season-long management that we're trying to teach the audience. While it's not using the same textbook, per se, to teach readers how to play and who to value, it's reminding them to adapt to their league's settings and take every possible avenue to gain an advantage.

Using what can be called a quintessential utility spot is not the norm, but it's worth evaluating, even on such a significant platform. Looking forward to trying this in my second season in Tout mixed.

Lord Zola's Wrap-Up

Don't worry, I'll make it quick. First off, in the name of full disclosure, I first suggested this rule change to the LLC in 2007 and have either subtly or not so subtly brought it up every year since so I am obviously in favor. The reason being I felt Tout Wars needed to accommodate the means many MLB teams construct their squad, carrying 12 and sometimes 13 pitches on their 25-man roster. I just feel that the dedicated owner should be able to start 23 active players each week and not be held hostage by the lack of eligible players at a position of need and to me, the no-brainer solution was this swing-man. That said, I admit that if that is the impetus, then it is not necessary in the Mixed Leagues. However, as my knights discussed, it could introduce an interesting dynamic.

As for the duty of Tout Wars to be a showcase for new rules, etc., I feel the responsibility should be to be an ambassador for the hobby. That is, I feel Tout Wars should portray fantasy baseball in a positive fashion, as a means of increasing the hobby's interest and popularity, or perhaps even recognition as Chris suggests, though someone needs to send the guy a copy of Fantasyland, both the book and DVD.

To me, there is a fine line between being a model and being a trend setter. On one hand, the 40 Tout Warriors are industry leaders thus their tactics and philosophies are of interest so we should aim to sate as large an audience cross section as possible in terms of rules and format. On the other hand, who else is there to champion a change that could in part help the hobby to grow and prosper?

There is precedence for Tout Wars satisfying each of the above. In 2001, Tout Wars made the switch to 5x5 from 4x4, largely because the 5x5 format surpassed 4x4 in terms of popularity. In other words, the switch was made to appeal to a wider audience. The populace had already deemed it a more enjoyable means of playing the game, Tout Wars was reacting. But a couple of years ago, as a means to improve upon the use of a free agent acquisition budget (FAAB) to acquire non-rostered players, Tout Wars instituted the Vickrey System to award the winning bids. This mechanism was, and still is the exception and not the rule, but the Tout LLC and its membership felt it was incumbent upon the leagues to help spread the word so to speak, this time being proactive.

Whether or not we are accomplishing it or not, is up for debate, just ask Chris's friends. That said, the Tout brethren did in fact discuss amongst ourselves ways we should improve the means we publicize our endeavors, but that is a Roundtable for another day.

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to share your comments below and keep an eye out on KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by at @KFFL_Baseball for next week's discussion topic.

Todd is the Content Manager for the Mastersball Platinum Subscription product, featuring frequently updated player projections, values, rankings and profiles along with unique Excel tools, Minor League rankings and cutting edge strategy essays. Click HERE for details.

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About Todd Zola,

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at and, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums. Fantasy Baseball

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