Posts tagged ‘Trading’

Thursday: 06.30.2011

The Hail Mary Team, Part 1

As of right now 13 others are at 82 games, 11 teams are at the exact halfway point (81 games) and the remaining six are very close.  By Monday, every team will be at or beyond the halfway point so it’s safe to say the fantasy baseball season is also at the midpoint.  By now you should have a pretty strong feel for your team one way or another.  Unfortunately for some of us, that way might be “another” meaning lower end of the standings seemingly without a prayer.

You might not be like me, a guy who plays multiple leagues, meaning your summer could essentially be ruined before the fourth of July and with football (and with it fantasy football) in limbo, things look bleak.  But fear not, I am here to help.  While things may seem hopeless, they aren’t always as they seem and there may still be some hope or at the very least you can put in every last bit of effort and buy yourself at least another month to six weeks of fun trying climb back into the race.  Remember, while it best to win the league, many leagues still have a strong incentive to finish second, third or fourth (and sometimes fifth depending on league format) assuming there is a prize pool on the line (or a minor league draft which is often the reward for that first spot out of the money).

With that, I present to you the Hail Mary Team.  This team is for the owners who are down deep in the standings and for whom it looks like nothing short of a miracle will save them.  The Hail Mary Team is a list of currently underperforming (and thus almost certainly undervalued) assets who can reasonably be believed to be in for a major upturn in the second half of the season as they regress toward their career mean (regression to the mean isn’t always negative).  Whether they are dealing with a rash of bad luck, injury, flat out poor play or all three, their track record says they are way better than this and thus why not invest, especially at a discounted rate?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula to determine if a team is a candidate for this method, so you will have to base it on your league and the standings are stratified (though feel free to contact me in the comments or on Twitter if you want my opinion on the matter).  Ideally, you would want to have the most points to gain the counting categories (HR, R, RBI, W, SV, K) as opposed to the rate stats (AVG or OBP, ERA & WHIP) because the rate stats will be much harder to move at this point and going forward.  As you pile up innings and at-bats, great performances, even the best of the best, have less impact on those three categories.  That doesn’t mean you want to be dead last in the counting stats, but ideally a few (if not all) would be nicely clumped to where a surge could earn you several points instead of needing 6 HR for 1 pt but then another 20 for the next pt and still 10 more the third point, etc… you get the point.

The guys on the HMT should be available via trade at less than full price in your league (and some may even be waiver wire assets).  What you might do is trade one of your decent guys (not stars) for two or even three (depending on the players involved) of these players so the end result is still a net gain (assuming the Hail Marys [Maries?] connect, of course).  You may already have some of these guys which has led to your issues in the first place.  Hang onto them, add more and hope to catch lightning in a bottle.  The really fun part here will be the building of this team since actually winning is a longshot.  So if you team is on the ropes and you love trading, then this is a strategy for you.

Don’t be afraid to trade your stars in this strategy, but make sure you get a mint and that the extra assets are filling for zeroes or close to it.  Also make sure to get the upper echelon Hail Mary Teamers for your stars.  Don’t trade off your solid Hunter Pence for two “Also Keep In Mind” guys.  That will make more sense when you see the players, but the main point is that if you are getting several assets to plug some of the many holes that buried you in the first place, then don’t trade your star asset or at least don’t trade him to the owner who won’t pay.  Ideally you would like to keep your two or three best assets while adding a handful of the HMT’ers to the equation.  As always, I am available on Twitter (@sporer) clarification or for advice on potential offers.

One other thing before we get to the team of players, this is best executed in redraft leagues for obvious reasons.  If you are toast or near toast in a keeper league, you should be building for 2012 (and reading my Keeper Building Block series to help you with that) as opposed to taking a flier on winning the league or pushing your way into a money spot.

I will break this up a bit, but the entire team will be out by Monday so you can spend your fourth of July day off working the trade wires (or hanging out by the pool with some cold ones… either or).

CATCHER:

Carlos Santana (CLE) – Right or wrong, fantasy managers still pay a lot of attention to batting average and let that be the primary indicator as to whether or not a guy is playing well.  Santana’s batting average is .226 meaning he could be discounted.  However, some owners may realize he has 11 home runs already and he’s on pace for 23 with 74 runs scored and batted in along with an unexpected six stolen bases which is damn good from catcher even with a bad batting average.  If your league’s Santana manager is one of those realizing his full value, just move along, I have another name for you to fall back on.

Mike Napoli (TEX) – He is coming off of a busted month where he only played eight games before getting hurt.  He is slated to started his rehab assignment soon so now is the time to pounce.  His owner might look at the .221 average and think, “Man, I knew he wouldn’t be a batting average asset, but I wanted better than this, plus he only has 10 homers, dude’s weak.”  Dude’s not weak.  He’s toting an .836 OPS and .365 wOBA despite that garbage average because he’s walking at a near-career high clip (15%) and smashing a bomb every 14 at-bats.

Also keep in mind: Joe Mauer.  I can’t imagine he is anywhere near full price.  Some people never discount big names, though.  But check in on his team’s manager, you never know.  He won’t offer the power potential of the other two, though, and his primary asset (batting average) is the toughest category to fix.

FIRST BASE:

Coincidentally, both Santana and Napoli qualify at first base so you could use one of them or go with the obvious name…

Adam Dunn (CHW) – Do I really need to enlighten you on why he’s on this team?  Seven seasons of 38+ home runs including five with 40+, he didn’t just forget how to play.  He’s never been great against lefties, but a career mark of .234 with an .800 OPS is a helluva better than the 1-for-53 superslump he is current mired in against southpaws.  He might suck the rest of the year, there’s a real chance of that when you see him play.  That’s why it is a Hail Mary Team, because he might also smash 20+ home runs and getting some BABIP fortune to push his current .262 BABIP closer to his .294 career mark.

Also keep in mind: Aubrey Huff.  Should be dirt cheap and he was great as recently as last year.

SECOND BASE:

Dan Uggla (ATL) – Going with the obvious name here again, but it’s the best fit so there’s no reason not to put him on this “team”.  He does have 12 home runs so he isn’t terribly far off the pace of the 31 average he has set the over the last five years, but it comes with a .178 average and modest RBI and runs scored paces of 55 and 69, respectively, so he certainly shouldn’t be untouchable.  He is basically on pace for Aaron Hill’s 2010 season at this point right down to the absurdly low .189 BABIP so there is a precedent for this kind of season out of a proven player, but his power upside is worth the gamble for this experiment.

Ryan Raburn (DET) – He has become the second half surge posterboy over the last two years.  Last year he ended the first half with a .637 OPS and just two home runs.  He went on to rip 13 home runs, drive in 46, hit .305 and post a .900 OPS in the second half.  In 2009, it wasn’t so much that he languished through the first half, he was solid (.842 OPS, 6 HR in 50 G), but he took it to another level in the second half.  From the trade deadline to season’s end, he hit .350 (in 55 games) with 10 home runs.  Something about the dog days of summer puts a spring in Raburn’s bat.  He has the added benefit of dual-eligibility at second base and in the outfield.

Also keep in mind: Kelly Johnson & Hill.  Johnson is another guy who might draw a discount because of his .210 batting average, but a more savvy owner (or just one paying attention) realizes that his 26 HR/16 SB pace takes a lot of the sting out of that batting average.  You won’t know if you don’t inquire.  Hill’s comically low 3.2% HR/FB can’t  stick all year can it?  Not after years of 15% and 11%, right?  Although he did go a full season with a 4% rate back in 2004 plus he loves being the outlier of bad luck in metrics (see also: his 2010 BABIP mentioned above).  He can be a last resort at this position.

 

Next: Shortstops & Third Basemen

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Tuesday: 06.21.2011

Keeper Building Blocks: Second Base

Second base is a position that has some sneaky depth.  To wit, on ESPN’s player rater the 3rd and 12th ranked second basemen are split by just 0.86 points on the scale.  Conversely, it’s a 3.35 point split at first base at least 2.72 at every other position except for relief pitcher (but that’s not too surprising giving how little variance there is between RPs).

Despite this depth at the position, there aren’t a ton of building blocks at the position as the best are in their late 20s and already high-priced assets and the next cut is also filled with mid-20s guys with solid production, but nothing overwhelming that you would want as a primary keeper.  Let’s take a look at the ones I did come up with, though.

Danny Espinosa (WAS, 24) – He just barely crossed the 100-game plateau for his career so there is a lack of track record, but it’s hard to argue with the across the board production even at the cost of batting average.  He has a career .250 BABIP so far, though, so we could even see some growth there.  I have been saying it since last year, but the Nats are really building something there in Washington and Espinosa will be a key part of the success.

Howard Kendrick (LAA, 27) – See what I mean?  There’s nothing wrong with the actual depth of the position, but it’s thin on burgeoning talent.  Even though he is atop of this list, if you combined the catchers, first basemen and second basemen, he’d be near the bottom.  He is on pace for .308-16 HR-11 SB, but just 52 RBI (thanks to an inept supporting cast) and decent 81 runs scored, again because of his teammates.  His price will vary from league to league, but considering that last year was his first full season and he already blew his shot at a second in a row this year, I doubt he’s too expensive anywhere.

Kelly Johnson (ARI, 29) – I have Johnson and Kendrick neck & neck here (along w/the next guy, to be honest).  Johnson’s .215 batting average is no doubt ugly, but I am more focused on the 27 HR-18 SB-71 RBI-87 R pace and since we are focused on 2012, his batting average this year doesn’t mean much.  He can be a .260ish or better hitter just as he was last year (.284) and in his two other full seasons (.287, .276).  However, like Kendrick, even with an average at his career .264 he isn’t a prime building block.

Ben Zobrist (TB, 30) – Rinse and repeat from the first two guys.  Zobrist has been an inconsistent, yet ultimately productive player the last two years and he is on pace for a season closer to his 2009 breakout when he was one of baseball’s best overall.  While many believe 2008 to be his career year, his current pace is just 6 HR, 9 RBI and 1 SB behind.  His runs are ahead by seven.  The biggest difference is his batting average which by just over 3% (.297 to .265), but the counting stats production across four categories is more important than the average.

Neil Walker (PIT, 25) – A younger option than the last three, but I still have him as the lowest because he doesn’t produce across the board like the others and his power lags a bit, at least right now.  He is doing his best work with runners on which has led to his gaudy RBI total, but we know it is hard to bank on that year-to-year and since that is his biggest category at this point I am reticent to rate too highly.

Friday: 04.22.2011

Trading Tips

As we approach May 1st, trading will start to become a bigger part of league activity.  A month isn’t necessarily enough time to assess your team’s strengths and flaws, but injuries and more than anything else, impatience often fuel trade talks.  With that in mind, I wanted to offer up some tips to hopefully improve your trading experience whether you start firing up talks in a week or in mid-June.

  • Don’t tell the league to make you offers for your guys – If you are serious about improving your team via the trade, then sending a mass email with guys you’re willing to part with followed by a call to action for other owners to engage you for those players isn’t the way to go.  It is the rare occasion when those emails announce a team’s best players being available and as such they barely register on the radar let alone making such an impact that other owners will be compelled to do the legwork to acquire those guys.

    • There is one exception – If you are engaged in talks to trade either your blue chip prospect (as you are contending and playing for now) or moving your stud(s) to build for the following year, it behooves you and the rest of the league to announce your intentions in a leaguewide email so that you give everyone a fair shot at the guy(s) in question and also get yourself the best deal possible.  Now, you don’t have to do this, but there’s zero downside for you.  You can let the initial trade partner know at the outset, “hey, I’m going to give everyone a crack here, but I like the deal we’re discussing” and he/she should be totally cool with that.  Meanwhile you let the league know, “hey, there is a leader in the clubhouse for the services of player x, if you’re interested please let me know, otherwise I’ll be moving forward.  I just wanted to give everyone an equal shot at this high quality asset.”  Again, there is just no downside for you to do this.

  • Don’t downplay the guys you’re getting in an attempt to advance the negotiation – The minute you start sending me emails telling me how bad my players that you want are or will be in the future is the minute I know you’re a) lying to get the deal you want or b) stupid because you’re purposely taking on bad assets.  I highly doubt it’s ever b, so can the negativity and just play it straight up.

  • Do try to make sure the deal is even for both sides – The definition of “even” is ambiguous without question, but the goal is to make sure that both owners come out of a deal feeling they made their team better.  Win-win trades are absolutely the way to go.  If you purposely try to rip someone off in a trade, you’re burning a bridge and possibly losing a trade partner for rest of his/her time in that league if not several.  Remember the old adage, a satisfied customer might tell 2-3 other friends, but a dissatisfied customer will definitely tell 10 or more.  If you become known as the ripoff artist in the league, you will have a hard time consistently winning unless you draft perfectly and then ace the waiver wire all season long.  Now, obviously some deals will work out much more in one team’s favor by the time you analyze it at season’s end, but that doesn’t mean it was a ripjob when it was consummated.  What I’m focusing on here is trading hurt assets, taking advantage of breaking news that everyone might not be privy to and things of that ilk.  I understand it is everyone owner’s responsibility to do their diligence before making a deal and they’d have no one to blame but themselves if they got hosed, but that doesn’t mean it won’t still hit your credibility.  If you make people afraid to trade with you, you may benefit in the short-term with that first ripoff trade, but you’ll do way more harm to your chances in the long-term.

  • Do put thought into your offers – When sending an offer, focus more on the guy you’re trading with than yourself.  You know how no one wants to hear about your fantasy team when you’re telling them about it at a party?  The same thing applies when you start off a proposal discussing the guys you want your trade partner to give up.  Begin by letting them know what they can get out of dealing with you.  “It looks like you need some stolen bases, which I can definitely supply.  I think you might be interested in Ichiro Suzuki.  Meanwhile, I was thinking a trade of Ichiro for _____ would work well for both of us.  You’re 12 steals away from four points and then another handful away from another group of points” or something to that affect.  In that scenario, you’ve made just a cursory mention of who you want while focusing the attention on how much they can benefit from talking trade with you.

  • Do respond to ALL offers – There’s nothing like sending out an offer and getting crickets.  Just respond, it doesn’t take long.  I’ll go so far as to say that even if the offer is utter garbage in your eyes, simply reply saying, “no thanks, that doesn’t improve my team and the offer would need A TON of work to get talks going.”  That’s direct without being entirely rude and it gets home the point that he’s nowhere near a trade with track he is on.

  • Don’t veto trades – OK, maybe I shouldn’t make a 100% blanket statement as there are some outlandish situations where it may be called for, but by & large vetoes are utter bullcrap.  Don’t impress your player values on the rest of the league.  What if at the end of April last year, someone was buying into Jose Bautista’s swing change from September of 2009 and seeing it lead to four more homers to start the season and decided to move Prince Fielder for him?  You may not like it and you may not have accepted the deal if you were the Fielder owner, but there isn’t something overly objectionable about that deal even before hindsight because we don’t know the reasoning behind the Fielder owner making the move.  Maybe he’s a better scout than you are and wants to roll the dice.  Who are you to say he can’t?  Maybe he thinks Fielder just isn’t going to put it together as the season goes forward (and 83 RBIs & .261 AVG would suggest that he kinda didn’t).  The point is, he paid his money and unless you can prove collusion (and good luck doing that), it’s a deal that has to pass.  That’s an extreme example, but few things about this game piss me off more than trade vetoing, especially in a cash league where adults have paid to manage their team however they damn desire.  Just because you might not make a move doesn’t mean it’s unequivocally wrong.  Unless you’ve got a collusion charge that will stick, stop vetoing trades.  It’s pathetic.  You don’t know the future any more than any other owner so stop pretending you do.

  • Don’t tell the league to make you offers on your guys – Yes, I’m repeating this one, but it’s important.  “Hey guys, I need power and I have Mediocre Guy A, Shlub B and Washout C available for trade.  Send me offers!  Thanks.”  Yeah, no.  And it’s not much better if it’s Star A, Stolen Base King B and Ace Arm C, either.  It’s just that it’s usually less than inspiring guys being made available AND the other owner now wants me to do the work for him.
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