Thursday, April 14, 2011

Do Some Touts Have An Unfair Advantage?

Shoresie wonders if some of the touts in Tout Wars have an unfair advantage.
Has anyone ever raised a concern about the use of inside information or inequality of access to information in these expert leagues?

Is it fair to think that the Jason Grey's and Cory Schwarz's of the world have, at least, more access to inside information than your everyday blogger who is invited to participate?

If you were in a league with someone who you knew had Ruben Amaro's phone number plugged in to his cell, wouldn't you watch him closely when the bidding on Chase Utley came up? Should your readers, as laypersons, give any more weight to the players that they target vs the players targeted by non-insiders? 
 There are a few questions here, and clearly my answers are going to be based more on opinion than on fact. I suppose I could always ask Cory what he thinks if I wanted a direct answer.

First, I don't think anyone has ever objected to one owner having more information than another owner. One of the premises of Sam Walker's Fantasyland was that  - as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal - that he would have more inside access than the fantasy baseball experts and be able to use that access to his advantage. The results were mixed in my opinion. Walker certainly did benefit somewhat from his relationships in baseball, but I also think that he got too personally involved with "his" players and thus made some decisions from his gut that he wouldn't have made if he hadn't had a relationship with someone like Bill Mueller.

There's no doubt that some owners access to more information than others in Tout Wars. After the auctions on Saturday, I was at dinner with a few of the Touts, and Jason Collette noted that Jason Gray bid more on Brandon Webb than Collette would have expected. Collette also noted that Gray was one of the few owners who spent extensive time in Florida and Arizona scouting players during spring training. Collette suspected that Gray perhaps knew something the rest of us didn't know about Webb. Undoubtedly, having more information can work to one's advantage. However, this information must be applied properly.

The Tout Wars auctions move too fast for an owner who has Ruben Amaro on speed dial to call him and get an opinion on Chase Utley. Even if Schwartz did make that call, keep in mind that it isn't to Amaro's benefit to tell any reporter what's going on with Utley. During the auction, Schwartz and Gray are making educated guesses like the rest of us are. The difference is that their guesses are probably somewhat more educated based on their level of access, though this shouldn't be overstated.

For the most part, I wouldn't put extra stock into Gray or Schwartz's picks as "insiders" unless they are specifically giving a recommendation based on "inside" information. 

Two hundred and ninety-nine players were purchased at the National League Tout Wars auction, along with 52 reserve list players. While someone with inside information might have some bid prejudices based on scouting reports for a few players, it seems like a stretch to think that they are going to have a juicy tidbit on all 351 players who will be taken during the auction. Valuation still holds sway over this type of information for the vast majority of players purchased during the auction.

1 comment:

rotoman said...

Any advantage is hardly unfair. Jason used to be a blogger. He moved to Phoenix and met a lot of scouts. Then he went to scout school, and now he hangs with scouts and talks to inside baseball people for ESPN. That's why we value his opinion.

There are lots of ways to suss information out of the game, by talking to insiders, analyzing data, deriving new ways to get more accurate values, synthesizing public information, cultivating a network of informers who follow other news more closely than any individual could. Us Touts do some or all of these things to gain an edge.

And we play Tout Wars to show how much an edge it is.