The Death of “Buying Low”, Part 2

Continuing on the Death of Buying “Low” theme from Tuesday, today I will look at a group of pitchers I think you should buy in on, even if you aren’t able to get a discount for their early season struggles.  For those who didn’t read the first piece, what I am looking at is some of the better players (guys owned in just about all formats) who are currently struggling.

When talks of their struggles come up, you will invariably hear the phrase “buy low” thrown out as if you can just bamboozle an owner into selling him for 50 cents on the dollar.  I don’t really believe this is possible, at least not very often.  Sure, there will be the one off trade where you can get someone to send you an established player who is struggling at least than 1:1 value, but by and large owners aren’t going to give up on their top picks without getting fair value in return.

So instead I am recommending guys to buy in on at market value despite their slow starts.  Don’t overreact to six weeks of baseball just because they run counter to years of proven performance or counter to the expectations you had when you paid a significant price for the player back in March.

If I had done this piece right when I was thinking of the idea a few weeks back, my #1 pitching candidate would have been Daniel Hudson.  His ERA was near 6.00 on April 21st, but he had struck out 26 in 24 innings and his stuff still looked sharp in the two starts of his (out of four) that I watched.

Now he’s completely dialed in and a shining example of what I am talking about.  He has allowed just six runs in his last three starts totaling 20 innings and he’s allowed just a run through six of his current start against San Francisco which is in progress.  He isn’t necessarily a star, but his cost was significant in most leagues so dumping him would have been taking a loss early in the season.

Some guys you can still buy in on and get their goodness going forward include:

Ryan Dempster (1-4, 7.20 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 38 K, 18 BB in 45 IP) – He is being obliterated by home runs (2.0 HR/9) having allowed 10 so far and doing a fair amount of the damage on his ERA which is 2nd-worst among qualified starters in all of baseball (John Lackey, 8.01).  But looking at the composite profile, his 7.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 aren’t too far removed from his marks over the last three years during which he has become a reliable 200-inning workhorse (8.2 K/9, 3.3 BB/9).  Also throw in that Dempster is starting to turn the corner already allowing just three runs in his last 14 innings striking out nine, but walking just two.  Invest with confidence.

Yovani Gallardo (3-2, 5.11 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 36 K, 21 BB in 49 IP) – The strikeout rate is down three per game which can be alarming, but it’s tied heavily to three of his eight starts where he went nine and struck out two, went five and struck out three and then again went five and struck out two.  In the other starts, he has 29 strikeouts in 30 innings.  It is selective to sift through things start by start, but I think it’s warranted here as it shows that there isn’t an epidemic with Gallardo’s strikeouts.  Another reason not to be concerned is that his velocity remains essentially intact.  His fastball is 92.1 against 92.6 last year.  He’s going to be fine.

Brandon Morrow (1-2, 4.71 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 29 K, 10 BB in 21 IP) – One of my favorites coming into the year, Morrow didn’t even get started until April 23rd as the Blue Jays tend to play it very cautiously with him when it comes to potential injuries.  He was actually off to a nice start in his first three outings toting a 3.06 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 18 innings, but then he ran into the Tigers who knocked him around for five earned in three and a third innings pushing his ERA to 4.71.  See how one outing can skew things in a small sample.  His strikeout rate has been dynamite which is the main reason you got him.  His high ceiling is merely a benefit to having him on your team.  There is no reason to look at that ERA and think you should be concerned.  If anything, his missing the first couple of weeks could prove beneficial as he now might avoid being shutdown and help you down the stretch.

Ted Lilly (3-3, 4.67 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 29 K, 9 BB in 44 IP) – The strikeouts are down a bit from 7.7 K/9 last year to 5.9, but in the grand scheme that is hardly alarming.  Meanwhile his skills actually portend a stronger ERA than last year with his FIP down from 4.27 last year to 4.14 this year.  He is suffering from the worst BABIP of his career at .326 and while that will come down, it might not plummet all the way to his .273 career mark or to the .259 average from the last three years and that is because he is generating groundballs at a 37% clip, his highest mark since 2006.  If you need a stable, but not game-changing, pitcher with some strikeout upside, target Lilly.

John Danks (0-6, 4.50 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 40 K, 16 BB in 52 IP) – The 0-6 W-L record makes him look much worse than he has been, but he is someone I would target without fear.  Like Lilly, he is being punished by an abnormal BABIP (.327 as opposed to .267 and .274 marks the last two years), but unlike Lilly there is no discernible skill change to explain the difference meaning there is reason to believe it will regress.  Meanwhile, three year bests in his strikeout and walk rates also suggest positive things for Danks in the near future.  Buy.

Chris Carpenter (1-2, 4.32 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 37 K, 15 BB in 50 IP) – I asked the Cardinals’ beat reporter, Matthew Leach (@MatthewHLeach) about Carpenter yesterday as I was preparing a trade for him and he said, “iffy command worries me a lot less than iffy stuff would; more fixable.”  There’s no positive way to spin three straight double-digit hits allowed games by Carp (10-10-13), but some of it is no doubt a concern I expressed about the Cards this preseason which is that they downgraded their SS defense significantly moving from Brendan Ryan to Ryan Theriot.  Carpenter’s spike in BABIP to .327, his worst mark since 1999, show the effects early on.  But going back to Leach’s comment, the stuff is fine and he is just missing some spots allowing more balls in play for a lesser defense to try and field.  He’s a savvy vet who can and I’m betting will make adjustments to improve.

There are no doubt more examples for batters and pitchers, I’ve just highlighted a handful of each for you.  The main point to take away is that you shouldn’t balk on acquiring a struggling guy you believe in just because the owner your trading with might not give you a discount based on six weeks of play.

You probably wouldn’t sell at a discount based on six weeks, so don’t expect others to do it.  Or at least don’t be surprised if they don’t and be prepared to up your offer to something more suitable. Be careful too that if you lowball too far down the ladder, you might put off your trade partner completely.

Remember, interest in a player alone is enough to tell your trade partner that you think he can help your team.  Why else would you trade for someone?  So if they know someone else believes the player could be an asset, why would they give him away for a discount?  Good luck and happy trading.


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