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Tout Mixed: Scarcity rules

3/30/2007

I can't understand these mixed leagues.

Seriously, I don't know how you people do this.

Just looking over the spreadsheet from last weekend's Tout Wars mixed-league draft gave me hives. Then chills. Then warts. And finally an aggressive itching sensation on my feet.

It's not that I have a weak constitution or something (I have Sidney Ponson on my team in AL Tout Wars). It's just that something about mixed leagues bothers me to no end: The idea of watching so many good people spend their money so badly.

This is the thing about mixed leagues: The moment most people sit down at the draft table, their cash loses almost all of its value. It's as if they decide to replace every one of their dollar bills with a Zambian kwacha.

Not only do superstars like Albert Pujols ($47 to Dave Gonos of CBS Sportsline) and Johan Santana ($42 to Craig Leshen of Ask Rotoman) fetch more money in mixed leagues than they do elsewhere, the player pool is so deep in mixed formats that the incremental production these superstars give you over a $1 bargain scrub is appallingly low.

Take Mike Mussina. He sold for a pedestrian $5 in Mixed Tout. Last season he had 172 strikeouts, 15 wins, a 3.51 ERA and a 1.110 WHIP. So given these numbers, why is it that Chris Carpenter (184 strikeouts, 15 wins, 3.09 ERA, 1.069 WHIP) cost a full $25 in the same draft pool, or five times more than the Moose?

Is it because one guy was 37 last season and the other guy was 31? Is it the 12 extra punch-outs? Or did Carpenter break into J.P. Kastner's house, tie him up, steal his clothes and come to the draft disguised as the representative for Creativesports.com -- just so he could jack up his own value?

On the surface, Alex Rios and Nick Swisher seem like pretty comparable young players. What Swisher gives you in extra power and RBIs, Rios makes up for with batting average and steals. Both players had breakout seasons derailed by bizarre illnesses that aren't likely to happen again. But for some reason, the Mixed Touts valued Rios at $19 while Swisher sold for $10.

What makes me crazy is that so many people in mixed leagues seem to approach every pick or bid by asking themselves the same question: Do I have an embarrassing man-crush on this player? Is this guy's most attractive quality his raw potential? If the answers are yes and yes, then it's time to change your dollars to Pakistani rupees and start spending like it's Muhammad Iqbal's birthday.

Maybe that explains why for the collective cost of Greg Maddux ($4), Randy Johnson ($4), Ted Lilly ($3), Jose Contreras ($2) and Kenny Rogers (reserve round), you still would have been $1 short of being able to afford Philadelphia's Cole Hamels.

Best I can tell, most people in mixed leagues think that if their money isn't really worth much, they might as well use it to buy the shiniest object in their line of sight. And what's shinier than unrealized talent?

If I'm not mistaken, the fundamental tenet of good baseball analysis is that whenever possible, you should try not to base decisions on hunches and "intangibles," but on whatever aspects of a player's performance trends you can actually measure. This rule obviously doesn't apply to most mixed leagues -- at least not this one.

If you're looking for some takeaway value from these results, there's only one way to accomplish this: Take a look at the roster of the guy who won last year's competition, Larry Schechter of The Sandlot Shrink.

Immediately, the names Joe Mauer ($22) and Chase Utley ($30) jump out. They both happen to be the best players available at positions that are exceptionally shallow this year. Also on Mr. Schechter's roster: Carl Crawford, who is a reliable category killer in steals and is more valuable than ever in a year when the outfield talent pool is shallower than usual. It's also no accident that Schechter spent $38 for two closers, Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon, who will help him dominate saves -- yet another scarce category. When it comes to pitchers and corner guys, where there's a healthy and deep supply, he bid selectively and avoided paying top dollar for anyone. His most expensive starting pitcher was John Lackey for $16.

In a nutshell, the guy who dominated this league last year is the guy who spent his money on the only thing worth spending money on in a mixed league: scarce commodities. All of a sudden my hives have gone away.

Tout Wars AL | Tout Wars NL