I guess the good news about Tout Wars is that with each season the league gets more legitimacy, and with that more exposure. However, with that comes a lot more scrutiny in the eyes of the world, and this year, I have seen more public assessments with readers and followers of the various Tout participants than ever before (which is a good thing).
The truth is, turnabout is fair play, for, surely as we are asked to comment - and sometimes do this gratis without being asked - regularly analyzing the rosters of those readers and followers, the least we can do is allow reciprocation.
That said, there are a couple of things that are worth noting based upon now my 12 years of participating in "experts" competitions that might not only enlighten our process, but serve as strategy thoughts to some of those same readers and followers.
Bedard: big 2011 reward
First, I would venture to guess we all hate the moniker "expert." We do play well, I suppose, but generally write better. And, we know there are loads of guys out there who play as well as we do. We just got lucky in that sense, landing, or fashioning for ourselves, what many would consider a dream job (of course, for most of us that dream also includes maybe three columns a week, and daily updates, so if you don't like to write, maybe it is not such a dream).
Certainly, though, all of us started playing in some kind of local or Yahoo! league. And if your experience is anything like ours, then you know that hometown leagues always contain some stiff competition. But, there are also always a couple of guys in the league who simply love baseball and like to draft and hope they do well, but never really manage their teams or play "seriously," meaning a 15-team mixed league really becomes a 12-or 13-team mixed league without some of the stars.
Well, I can say leagues like Tout and LABR are never like that. Everyone comes to the draft table with wisecracks on their lips and a death stare in their eyes. And, no one ever bails. In fact sometimes the weaker players in hometown leagues can be filched for players to help win a pennant. That would not happen in LABR or Tout. Trust me, and not because of anything other than none of us would want our reputations associated with a trade like CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay for Madison Bumgarner. No matter what a good looking prospect Bumgarner is.
Part of the reason for this is really my final point: that Tout and LABR are throwback leagues.
Meaning we draft from scratch every year. So, there are no salary considerations, no future trade considerations, or other considerations aside from "Just win baby."
Now, as an extra consideration of this, for the most part the core players in these leagues have been doing so for a while. I personally have been in Tout Wars since 2000, and LABR since 2007, so we essentially know the style and approach of our league mates, just as you know which guys in your league will do anything to get Albert Pujols, and which will do anything to get Jurickson Profar.
And, because of this odd combination - throwback of players and familiarity shy of contempt - to win Tout or LABR you have to try things.
Sometimes things that are counterintuitive.
For example, in 2000, my first year in Tout, the league went to 5x5, and as a result, it was broadly announced that saves had become devalued due to the addition of strikeouts.
That year I purchased Keith Foulke and Derek Lowe - closers both - as my first two players thinking if the rest of the league is shutting out saves, I will go after them. For, points are points.
In fact after that draft I was told the guys were disappointed in my draft.
And, the end result is I won that year.
Or, three years ago, in the same Tout competition, Jason Grey went after guys coming off down years (something I have always like as well). Jason has enough of a rep in the industry that no one really questioned him. And, when he finished, he looked at us and said, "Either I win or finish last."
The following year I worked on a variation of that strategy, going after A.J. Burnett, Erik Bedard, Justin Morneau, Josh Hamilton and a bunch of oft-injured, oft-great players. Over the SiriusXM analysis that took place last year, no one liked what I was trying, even though a variation worked for Jason the previous year.
At the All-Star break I was in fourth place and climbing. When the season ended, I was in last place.
This year, Chris Liss - who took Jason's spot, for Jason is now a scout with Tampa - tried his own variation (we have talked, and he too likes those undervalued good players coming off down years), drafting Morneau, Chone Figgins, Adam Dunn, and their ilk, and subsequently getting comments that he had a poor draft.
Well, maybe Chris will emulate Jason with his 2012 team, and maybe me, but the reality is to win a league like this, where we do know one another, and where we must toss all the players back at year's end, you simply have to try things that defy logic.
Because, well, there is not much to be said in regularly finishing fourth or sixth in such a league (in fact for me, there is not much pride in doing that in any league - even a keeper format - on a regular basis).
At least not by my reckoning, and I will bet if you ask Jason and Chris and the rest of the Touts and LABRites, they would say the same.
By the way, should you want to take a look at some of our own assessments of our teams, along with some of those reader comments, the bulk are available via the Tout Wars site.
Hey, now you can get me on Twitter @lawrmichaels!
You can also subscribe now to the Mastersball Platinum Package, and get the edge that has led to three Tout Wars titles, eight NFBC crowns, two Scoresheet Championship teams, a KFFL title, and a Fantasy Pro 911 title over the last three years.
Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.
Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.