ALTERNATIVE: Davitt wins! Davitt wins! The-uh-uh-uh Davitt WINS!

In most circumstances, the 12th run in a 12-1 blowout win is the essence of “meaningless.”

But for me in Friday night’s Tout Daily Championship final, a blowout 12th run was the difference between winning silver and gold.

In case you didn’t see the Extra edition of the New York Times announcing the news, I won the second annual Tout Daily contest with a heart-pounding, come-from-behind, down-to-the-wire, one-point, heavily-hyphenated win over Tristan Cockroft of ESPN, a pre-game favorite.

The final score was 84.66-83.66. Eno Sarris finished third at 80.66 and Brian Walton was fourth at 79.00.

It was really thrilling to win the competition over Tristan and so many other great players. And doubly thrilling to win it the way it all happened. More on that later.

Roster Construction Zone

First, a few words—okay, more than a few—on how I assembled my roster for the event. Building a roster for a one-game final was a little different than when I was gunning for a spot in the final. To get a “golden ticket,” you had to finish in the top-three during one of five four-week tournaments, in which each player’s points were totaled.

In that part of the process, I almost always took at least one longshot pitcher, using the HQ Pitcher Matchups tool to find mid-priced pitchers I thought would be unpopular, but who had decent-to-good matchup scores.

By saving salary on pitching, I could load up on hitting. I combined hitters’ wOBA against the handedness of their opposing pitchers and each pitcher's wOBA against the handedness of the hitter, added in an element for fantasy points per $1000 of salary, boiled it all together and came up with a list of hitter targets.

I did well enough with that approach to win Period 3, setting some kind of record by finishing Top-10 in each of the four weeks.

In the one-night final, however, I changed tack. With only 15 entrants, I suspected more owners might take a tournament approach and gamble on some low-cost pitching.

After perusing the HQ Matchup ratings, I decided to pass on obvious top pick Chris Sale because of his $9,400 salary ($50,000 cap), and instead anchored my two-man staff with DET RHP Justin Verlander at $7800. Verlander was a “Strong Start” on BHQ, with a rating of 1.00 facing the weak-hitting Angels. He was also BHQ analyst Sam Grant’s “top choice” in his Friday preview.

Verlander came through, scoring 17.66 points with 8 Ks in 7.2 innings, the win and only two ER allowed.

As his wingman, I passed on Corey Kluber (again too rich at $8700) and grabbed another top-rated BHQ guy, WAS LHP Gio Gonzalez at $7000, rated 0.47 facing Colorado away from Coors Field. Gio pitched just six innings, but got the win, earning 13 points.

My surmise that other owners would take more long-shot pitchers turned out to have been a good assessment, and was critical to the outcome. Nine of the 15 Tout entrants, including Cockroft and Sarris, rostered MIA RHP David Phelps, a widely touted $4400 pick facing the punchless Padres.

Phelps did have six punchouts, but the Padres counterpunched above their weight and TKOed Phelps after 3.2 innings. He allowed 3 ER and provided a diabolical 6.66 total.

That left hitters, and after running my hitter-evaluation model and doing the usual mixing and matching on price, I took:

C: Gary Sanchez seemed obvious at $2600, which seemed like a mis-price. Sanchez continued his blazing streak with a HR and 14 points, my top hitter.

1B: I originally took Justin Smoak against weak MIN lefty Pat Dean, but later switched to Mike Napoli ($5000) of CLE, a lefty-masher facing TEX lefty Martin Perez. Smoak had a better night but Napoli provided 5 points.

2B: I tried like hell to fit Jose Altuve onto the team, but he was well over $6K and I had committed to Josh Donaldson as my big salary bat. I couldn’t ignore Daniel Murphy of WAS ($5000) facing a rookie LHP. Altuve went 0-for-4 and earned two points, Murphy stayed hot and bagged 9 points including another HR.

3B: $6800 is a lot to spend on one guy, but Donaldson against Dean at Rogers Centre looked good. He was, hitting another HR and bagging 11 points, my second-highest hitter total.

SS: Looking for low-cost options, I tried Brad Miller of TAM at $4000. 0-for-4 with three Ks and zero points against Kluber. Dumb move by me.

OF: I thought Robbie Grossman at $3300 was a nice gamble considering his .426 wOBA against LHPs like TOR starter Francisco Liriano. Grossman came up with 5 points.

OF: Stephen Piscotty was a very popular pick, with six of the 15 Touts rostering him at $4600. He was 0-3 but did steal a base, worth two points, and scored a run. Total of 3 points wasn’t great.

OF: Brandon Guyer of CLE looked like he was in a good position. He’s a lefty masher at .449 wOBA this year (.377 career) and he was facing the Rangers’ Perez, who was allowing .343 wOBA versus RHH. Guyer chipped in 7 big points, including the most critical, as we shall see.

As play began, I checked over all the rosters was heartened to see that Cockroft had six of the eight hitters I had: Sanchez, Napoli, Murphy, Donaldson, Grossman and Piscotty. Tristan is a very skilled fantasy baseball player, so the fact that we were sympatico was reassuring. That cohort produced 47 points.

What a race!

Tristan and I were in a horserace almost the entire night. At around 9:15, I hit the 55-point mark in the lead, and sent an e-mail to the league asking for a time-out. Tristan’s SultanofStat squad was then fifth, about eight points back.

We jockeyed back and forth for a couple of hours as the 7 PM ET games started wrapping. We were now a point or two apart, and it was too close to call. I was starting to worry because of our two different hitters—he had Bryce Harper against my Guyer.

With the finish line in sight, Tristan had edged in front by a single point, 83.66-82.66. He had paid for Sale, who had lost but gone the route with a massive 14 Ks, for 20 points. Harper had eight points to Guyer’s five.

I was down to two active batters, Napoli and Guyer, playing in Arlington in a blowout over Texas. Unfortunately, as noted, Cockroft also owned Napoli, so there would be no gain there.

I thought I was finished. Guyer had batted in the top of the eighth, so he seemed highly unlikely to hit again.

But Cleveland kept the “meaningless” eighth-inning rally going, and Guyer was due third in the top of the ninth. I had a sliver of hope.

But the Rangers had replaced LHP Dario Alvarez with RHP Keone Kela in the eighth, and Guyer’s wOBA against RHP suggested a poor PA at best and a pinch-hitter at worst (probably not, given the one-sided score).

Then, mirabile dictu, the Rangers replaced Kela with another lefty! I was hoping that maybe one of the first two hitters would reach scoring position, and that Guyer could get me one point with a single and another point for an RBI. Oddly, the thought of an extra-base hit never crossed my mind, though it was a simpler way to win.

Carlos Santana walked and got pushed to second on a hit by Jose Ramirez. When Guyer came up, he probably thought there was absolutely nothing on the line. Little did he know.

He fell behind 0-2, but then lined a single to right to tie me with Tristan. I actually thought I had won, with Santana having been in scoring position.

Nope. They held him at third! I nearly fainted from the stress.

Now I was depending on Guyer himself to score—from first, with the bottom of the order due. I actually thought, “Hey, a tie might be a fitting way for this to finish.”

As if reading my thoughts, Abraham Almonte grounded out, third to first, scoring Santana—now there’s a meaningless run—and pushing Ramirez to third. Critically for my chances, Guyer had moved up to scoring position at second.

Next up was the nine-hole hitter, catcher Roberto Perez, who had come into the game batting .104, although better vs LHP.

I was following the game on the Gameday system. And all it said was “Ball in play, run.” That’s “run,” singular. While I waited for the refresh, I didn’t know what had happened to Guyer. Perez might even had scored Ramirez with an error on a DP that killed Guyer.

Then the refresh came, saying Perez had singled—and Guyer had scored! I was leading the championship by a single point. And with only the shared Napoli left for Cockroft, he couldn’t catch me.

But the win was still in doubt until the last inning of the last west-coast game.

First, Sarris had Jeff Samardzija pitching at home against the anemic Braves. Eno needed 22 points to climb into top spot, and a high-inning Shark win, with no runs and double-digit strikeouts, could have done the job.

But Samardzija came up short, winning the game with no runs, but leaving after seven innings with just six Ks, a 17-point performance that left Eno five points light.

I was still leading.

The last threat was from Brian Walton, another excellent player who had won two "Golden Tickets” in the preliminary rounds.

He could have won by 1/3 of a point with a late HR by Addison Russell at LA. Russell had been the third out in the eighth, and with LA leading 4-3 and handing the ball to closer Kenley Jansen for the top of the ninth, Russell was unlikely to see another AB.

But while I was composing my victory speech, Jansen threw a wild pitch that tied the game. No Dodger heroics in the bottom of the ninth, so off we went to extra innings. Kris Bryant hit a two-run jack. Then, after a flyout and a single who should come to the dish but…

Addison Russell.

He battled, but flew out. The Cubs scored no more, And Aroldis Chapman came in for the bottom of the tenth. Of course the first batter singled, but Chapman rebounded to get a groundout and two Ks, and the last threat was vanquished.

And I was the 2016 winner of Tout Daily Championship.


As champion, I get a cash prize TBD, and will get to name a dish after myself at Foley’s NY Pub and Grill at Tout time next March. I’m going with the excellent Foley’s Warm Turkey Sandwich, which I want to rename for the occasion the Davitt Fowl Sandwich. I’m hoping people order it by saying “I’ll have a DFS.”

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.