Tuesday, May 27, 2008

C'mon Baby, Let's Do the Splits

By: Ben Distler

For many fantasy baseball owners, splits are something best left to ballerinas or, perhaps, Patrick Swayze. However, by digging deeper inside your player’s numbers, you can find that they excel in certain situation, while falling flat in others. Using this information, you can either maximize their potential for your own team, or use them to trade them away for full value. Here are some of the more glaring split stats in fantasy baseball:

Erik Bedard LHP SEA – 2008 stats: 3-3, 4.70 ERA 1.30 WHIP

At first glance, Bedard’s debut season in Seattle seems to be a dud. There’s a key phrase in the previous sentence: "in Seattle." While pitching at home, Bedard happens to have a stellar 1.69 ERA and miniscule 0.98 WHIP in four starts. His road stats were already awful, even before a 9 run shelling at Yankee Stadium on May 23rd. He currently sports an 8.84 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in his four road starts. Bedard must have one of those fancy memory foam mattresses at home, and spends all night twisting and turning during road trips. Also, he sports a 2.14 WHIP against left handed hitters. So, if you see Bedard starting at home, put him in your lineup with no fear. If you see him starting on the road against a lineup with a lot of lefties, be sure to bench him for that outing.

Mark Reynolds 3B ARI – 2008 stats: .225 BA, 33 R, 8 HR, 29 RBI

Reynolds is making a great case for winning the statuette for the “Adam Dunn award for most frustrating fantasy line.” His power numbers are enticing, and he plays in Arizona, which is underrated as a launching pad for homers. However his 61 strikeouts in just 169 at bats this season puts him in the rarified air of Dunn and Ryan Howard (well, at least in terms of strikeouts…) But all is not lost for Reynolds. Turns out that he bats a healthy .289 at home, while shattering the Mendoza line at .151 on the road. Due to his .369 OBP at home, he’s scored 21 of his 33 runs in Arizona, and 18 of his RBI have come there as well. The HRs are split evenly, but if you have a second option at 3B, it may be worth starting Reynolds at home and subbing in the backup when he is away.

Brian Bannister RHP KCR – 2008 stats: 4-6 4.94 ERA 1.27 WHIP

Bannister has gone through great lengths to embrace sabermetric stats this past off season in order to improve his game. His basic conclusion was to issue less walks. I could have told him that one. Either way, I’m sure Bannister himself is staring at his split stats with just as much confusion as I am. Despite issuing only 6 walks on the road, Bannister is sporting a ridiculous 8.44 ERA and ugly 1.61 WHIP, en route to a 1-4 record. Back home in Kansas City, he has issued 9 walks but has just a 2.29 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Perhaps Bannister should consider issuing more walks? Another interesting tidbit, Bannister has almost the exact same ERA and WHIP splits in day and night games. While Bannister is on the cusp of completely unownable with his overall numbers, if you see him sitting there in the player pool, and he has a home, day game start coming up, you want to grab him.

Dan Uggla 2B FLA – 2008 stats: .318 AVG, 39 R, 16 HR, 37 RBI

As many owners in fantasy baseball have noticed, Uggla started out the season slow, batting .255 in April with just four homers. Thanks to a power surge, Uggla has crushed 12 homers so far in May to the tune of a .403 batting average. So, should you lucky Uggla owners hold onto him, thinking he’ll continue to play this way? Absolutely not. Sell Uggla right now for his top value. As it turns out, May just so happens to be Uggla's hottest month. He batted .307 in May last year and didn’t bat above .248 in any other month. For his career, he’s a .350 hitter in May, and doesn’t crack .267 in any other month (excluding 3 measly October at bats). The inevitable slide that brings Uggla back to the .260 range is coming, and when it does, don’t be the owner left holding the bag.

San Diego pitching in general

I’ve gone on and on about how spacious Petco Park is. Petco is bigger than Jim Belushi at the all you can eat buffet. Petco is bigger than Miley Cyrus’ ticket sales. I’m hoping these split stats will nail down the point once and for all. San Diego pitching as an entire unit has a 3.35 ERA at home, with a paltry 5.42 away ERA. Greg Maddux is pitching so well in Petco (1.84 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) that it makes him look like, well, Greg Maddux. (circa 1995). Jake Peavy, though currently on the DL, was putting up a 1.46 ERA and 0.86 WHIP at home versus 5.40 and 1.66, respectively, on away starts. Chris Young (at least before becoming a baseball magnet) is an ace at home, and a train wreck grease fire away. Even Randy Wolf, yes that Randy Wolf, has a 3.00 ERA and 0.96 WHIP at home. His ERA nearly doubles on away games. If only San Diego could score any runs to support these pitchers, they’d be better than 11-14 at home. Then again, this overly spacious park hurt offense just as much as helps pitching. Adrian Gonzalez bats a superb .324 and has hit 9 of his 14 home runs away from this black hole death trap for offense. He plods along at just .237 inside it. If the stats you need to improve are ERA and WHIP though, make sure to dial up some San Diego pitching. Just don’t expect much in terms of wins.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

FBAs: Week 5

By: Russell Sandman

This past week in the National League, the changes atop the leader board were sweeping. While reigning NL fantasy MVP Hanley Ramirez continues to hold the top spot, new entries Lance Berkman has thrown his hat into the mix, ending the week with a whopping 16 long-balls. As the Major League’s only 8 game winner, Brandon Webb continues to out-pitch not only opponent batters, but other competitors for NL fantasy Cy Young. For the first time, Juston Upton was relegated to the bench in favor of projected NL fantasy Rookie of the Year finalist Joey Votto, whose 8 homers (3 of which came in the same game) top all major league rookies. Surprisingly, NL fantasy Relief Man of the Year candidate Brandon Lyon was catapulted from relative obscurity among stoppers to top contender, ousting Milwaukee’s on-again, off-again closer Eric Gagne from the top-spot.

In the American League, former Red turned Ranger Josh Hamilton went on a tear this past week to claim the top spot among AL contenders for fantasy MVP. Hard to believe that this is the same Josh Hamilton who was released by Tampa after numerous battles with substance abuse, but it appears Hamilton is for real, and his 10 homers and major league best 49 RBI certainly testify to his legitimacy. Matsuzaka continued his sophomore dominance among all AL starters, while Mo nudged aside Joe Nathan and all other AL closers to take the top spot among relief men. AL Rookie of the Year still remains wide open, so we expect more flip-flopping here than most other categories, but stay tuned for more as the season unfolds. Here’s how the leader board is shaping up so far:

National League
1. Fantasy MVP in 2008: Hanley Ramirez
i. Runners-up: Chipper Jones, Chase Utley, Lance Berkman, Derek Lee, Pat Burrell, David Wright
2. Fantasy Cy Young in 2008 – Brandon Webb
i. Runners-up: Edinson Volquez, Jake Peavy, Ben Sheets, Dan Haren, and Johan Santana
3. Fantasy Rookie of the Year – Joey Votto
i. Runners-up: Justin Upton, Johnny Cueto, Max Scherzer, Kosuke Fukudome, Hiroki Kuroda
4. Fantasy Relief Man of the Year – Brandon Lyon
i. Runners-up: Brian Wilson, Matt Capps, Billy Wagner, and Kerry Wood

American League
1. Fantasy MVP in 2008: Josh Hamilton
i. Runners-up: Carlos Quentin, Kevin Youkilis, Nick Markakis, B.J. Upton, and Alexis Rios
2. Fantasy Cy Young in 2008 – Daisuke Matsuzaka
i. Runners-up: Cliff Lee, Ervin Santana, Zack Greinke, Joe Saunders, and Javier Vazquez
3. Fantasy Rookie of the Year – David Murphy
i. Runners-up: Evan Longoria, Joba Chamberlain, and Clay Buchholz
4. Fantasy Relief Man of the Year – Mariano Rivera
i. Runners-up: Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez, George Sherrill, Joakim Soria, Troy Percival

Monday, May 12, 2008

Closer? I hardly even knew her!

By: Ben Distler

What is happening in the 9th inning lately? Can somebody please close out a game? It seems every time we turn around this season, another formerly reliable closer is giving up a late inning lead. If I wasn’t such a trusting soul, I’d say the steroid policies were finally starting to kick in, preventing pitchers from pitching with so little rest in between appearances. However, I’m a very naïve and trusting soul, so I know that has nothing to do with it. Regardless, the job of closer has never been more tenuous than it is now. This means we have to keep a close eye on not only the closers who are struggling, but their likely replacements. Let’s take a look at some of the struggling closers, and see who may be taking their place.

Jason Isringhausen – 5 blown saves
From 2001-2007, Izzy posted an ERA over 3.00 only once (a decent 3.55 in 2006), and usually was comfortably in the 2.50 area. So what in the world is causing his cartoonish 7.47 ERA this year? He actually removed himself from the closer’s role, because he was so disgusted with his performance. This doesn’t bode well for a mid-season rebound. It sounds more like the Izzy train may be derailed for good. Ryan Franklin is the guy who will get the lion’s share of the save opportunities, though Russ Springer may siphon a few off.
Verdict: Pick up Franklin if you need the saves, and don’t look back.

Eric Gagne – 5 blown saves
I personally blame Gagne’s 6.89 ERA and outrageous 1.85 WHIP on his terrible, haggard, ghastly, Dustin Diamond-esque beard. Seriously, how can you expect to handle major league hitters when you roll in looking like “Screech: The Later Years?” In hindsight, we should have all seen this coming when he single handedly tried to ruin the 2007 playoff run of the Boston Red Sox. And, not too surprisingly, he failed at that too. Just like with Izzy, Gagne may have run his course as a viable closer. Expect him to be more effective at starring in Celebrity Fit Club on VH1 rather than closing games. At the moment, it seems Guillermo Mota has the inside track to get most of the save chances, but he has a checkered past as a closer as well. Salomon Torres actually has the most experience and success as a closer, and I expect him to eventually take the job.
Verdict: Pick up Torres and dump Gagne for good.

Trevor Hoffman – 2 blown saves
With 530 career saves, it is hard to doubt Mr. Hell’s Bells himself. Similar to Izzy, Hoffman hasn’t posted an ERA above 3 from 2002-2007. Could it be that the 40 year old longtime closer is finally breaking down? While it is true that his K numbers are on the decline, his save totals are not, having posted save totals in the 40s the past 4 years. Also, his current 5.91 ERA is mostly the result of one bad outing April 2nd. He’s only given up 3 earned runs since then. Couple this with his home park, the ultra spacious Petco, and I think this point to at least one more useful, if not spectacular, season by the Hoff.
Verdict: If he were to fail, pounce on Heath Bell. Otherwise, hold tight.

Kerry Wood – 3 blown saves
Wood is a very interesting case. As we’ve learned in the past, Wood can be a real gamble. I think our best bet is to make a pros and cons list. Pro: He closes for a first place team, so he should have a lost of opportunity. Con: He’s injury prone. Pro: He has 17 Ks in 18 innings. Con: He has an ERA of 4.00. Pro: He has a WHIP of 0.78. An ERA/WHIP differential like that suggests one of two things: either he has had a run of bad luck, or he tends to leave a stick straight fastball right over of the middle of the plate. Seeing as he’s only given up one HR this year, I’m going to pronounce Wood’s closing job to be secure. With a WHIP that low (he’s only walked one batter all season), odds are that his ERA will gradually end up in at least the low 3 range. That being said, this IS Kerry Wood, who has practically made a career of getting injured, so make sure you have your eye on Carlos Marmol, who would most likely replace Wood
Verdict: Wood will get the ERA down and be a top 10 closer, provided he is healthy.

Whoever the heck the Braves closer is
The Braves haven’t actually blown that many saves this year. This could be because nobody can seem to stay in the role longer than a week or so. The Braves started with Rafael Soriano, whom they traded for last season, as their closer, thinking they had the position locked up. Well, of course he has been on the DL since April 7th with elbow problems, so they then turned to Peter Moylan. Moylan responded by throwing some seriously hard fastballs… and then tearing a ligament in his elbow and had to visit the dreaded Dr. James Andrews. Currently, the shoulder shrug that is Manny Acosta (and his headed for trouble 1.44 WHIP) occupies the role. He’s only keeping the seat warm until John Smoltz comes off the DL. Smoltz was a dominant closer in the past, but is only offering up his services to close again because his elbow is in such pain that he can’t take the rigors of starting any more. Can you feel the excitement? Considering the merry go round of injuries and ineffectiveness, not to mention the fact that the Braves are barely above .500 anyway, you probably have a better way to get some saves.
Verdict: Ride Smoltz if you can, but be prepared to see him break down at any moment.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

First Rotisserie Baseball League

There is an interesting article in Sports Illustrated's Vault about the formation of the first Rotisserie Baseball league. http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1122055/index.htm?eref=sihp


On the Shelf: Jackpot!!!

By: Dan King

The fantasy baseball writing gods are good to me. Honestly. I could quit my day job, hole up in my house for a week and rattle off like 53 articles on injuries that occurred in the last week and a half in the MLB. Problem is, if I wanted my day job back, I’d never get it back, and eventually end up homeless without a computer to write fantasy baseball injury articles. So I suppose I’ll be sticking to the once-a-week deal.

Before we get to the injuries, your FB101 update: as of Wednesday, we had a seven point lead over the rest of the pack… that’s right, first place Baby! I can honestly say that Lance Berkman, Dan Uggla, and Kevin Youkilis’ Sunday didn’t hurt – a combined 10-for-13 with three dingers, seven runs scored, and eleven RBI. Yeah, I know, Berkman is on fire, rated the number one fantasy player in Yahoo! mixed league formats. Also doesn’t hurt to have two of the top five fantasy pitchers either in Jonathan Papelbon and Carlos Zambrano. The demotion to Triple-A Iowa for Cubs pitcher Rich Hill doesn’t help my starting cause, but I was at least cautious and didn’t activate him for his last few starts. So let’s keep our fingers crossed for another string of good outings for the FB101 team….

Injury time!

John Smoltz: It was revealed via text message, TEXT MESSAGE, that the Braves starter is going to become the Braves closer when he returns from the DL from an inflamed biceps tendon and rotator cuff. No surgery is in the near future for Smoltz, but it may be speculated that with Smoltz’ return to the ‘pen for Atlanta, Rafael Soriano’s right elbow tendonitis may be worse that previously expected. Soriano cut short a bullpen session on Tuesday and had an MRI and other diagnostic tests planned for Wednesday. For those who bought high on Soriano in their drafts and then scrambled for either Peter Moylan or Manny Acosta, you may be out of luck. And speaking of Moylan, he is scheduled for surgery with Dr. James Andrews (uh, oh) to remove a bone spur in his pitching elbow, but Dr. Andrews may, in all likelihood elect to perform Tommy John surgery (read: “No Peter Moylan for 2008 or 2009.”)

Jimmy Rollins: Rollins is about just about ready to return to the Phillies lineup. He has shown no ill effects in his rehab starts and his ankle should be good to go this weekend.

Chone Figgins: Figgins strained his hamstring and has been working on a stationary bike to keep it loose. He hasn’t been running much and this may prove to be a big problem for a player who relies greatly on his speed. Monitor his progress before panicking, however.

Rich Harden: Harden, who was suffering from a strain below his throwing shoulder, threw six innings in a rehab start should be ready to go on Sunday. Might not be a bad idea starting him then, as the A’s have the Rangers for their weekend series this week. Justin Duchscherer pitched well in Harden’s place in the rotation and may be worth keeping on a few rosters if he continues to pitch well as a starter.

Alex Rodriguez: As a Red Sox fan, you could say that I’m a bit happy about this one. A-Rod claims that his strained quadriceps is good to go, but is not eligible to come off the DL for another week. It’s too bad though that he missed the birth of his second daughter… on second thought, maybe it’s good he did – saves the nurses extra work waking up the fainted guy.

Curt Schilling: The Big Schill actually threw this week. That’s a good thing for him. But like I said before, even if he comes back, I’m not picking him up, and neither should you.

Pedro Martinez: Speaking of aging pitchers, Pedro is getting ready to throw to live batters soon. Don’t get your hopes up too soon, but he may be back late May to early June.

Just a quick interlude here… did anyone else watch the Celtics/Cavaliers Game One Tuesday night? If Bron-Bron doesn’t turn things around, Cleveland’s not sticking around too long.
Alright… back to the injuries… that’s what you people don’t pay me for anyway…

Orlando Hudson: For all you people who picked up Hudson later on in your NL-only drafts (I’m raising my hand here), you may have to wait a bit for his steals to come around. The two-time Gold Glover had an MRI on his right hamstring and may be making a visit to the DL retroactive to some date earlier this week.

Noah Lowry: Dr. James Andrews (uh, oh) has instructed Lowry not to touch a baseball for four weeks. OK… nuff said.

Aramis Ramirez: Aramis missed three games before returning to the Cubs lineup on Tuesday with a sore wrist. Normally I wouldn’t worry about a sore wrist, but Ramirez is a power hitter, if his wrist doesn’t work properly, the power numbers dip accordingly.

Ryan Zimmerman: Zimmerman’s “Iron Man” streak of 205 games was broken when he asked for the day off on Sunday. Not really injured here, but is anyone ever going to get close to Cal Jr.’s record?

Josh Willingham: Willingham has been benched since the end of April with a lower back ailment. According to Willingham, “There's usually no rhyme or reason to when or where” which would indicate that he has no clue as to the cause or remedy of his back problem. He’s averaged 143 games over the past two years, so he should be back soon – if you’re in a pinch, Luis Gonzalez will be picking up Willingham’s extra AB’s.

Joe Borowski: The Indians closer is still nursing a triceps injury, but is getting closer to closing for Cleveland. Gotta say I’m thrilled though with Rafael Betancourt as a replacement.

J.J. Putz: Putz is back, but not in save situations quite yet for the Mariners. He has struggled finding the plate with his fastball, but with his ribs no longer being a problem, feel free to insert him back into your active lineups.

Jorge Posada: Told ya so folks. Posada’s earliest estimation for his return puts him about six weeks out. That’s a real long time for someone who has never been on the DL before in their career to regain their timing. As a Sox fan, I hate to say this, but if anyone is going to make it back quick, it’s going to be Posada, but Posada owners are going to have to be patient with his return.

That’ll do it for this week guys and gals. Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there!

Monday, May 5, 2008

“I’m coming up, so you better get this party started”

By: Ben Distler

Every year it seems a rookie call up decides the World Series. Last year, rookies Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury contributed just as much to the Boston Red Sox triumph as anything that Man-Ram and Big Papi did. In previous seasons this was a theme was well, with players such as the 2002 K-Rod, 2003 Dontrelle Willis, and the 2006 Adam Wainwright. The same can hold true for your fantasy team. In fantasy football, you can draft LaDainian Tomlinson and pretty much pencil yourself in for a playoff spot. In fantasy baseball, you can draft A-Rod with your first pick and it means absolutely nothing. If you can’t scan the waiver wire for the next big thing, you might as well not be playing. As an added bonus, you’ll always have an affinity for the midseason pickup who propelled you to the top. I still get misty eyes when I think of the Eric Gagne of old, and the mega rookies Liriano, Papelbon, and Braun. In order to help your fantasy team, you may want to write down the following names. (Stats as of 05/04/08)

Jeff Clement (SEA) – In the majors now
Clement was called up from the minors about a week before the team could have delayed his future entry into free agency. Not only that, but they cut Brad Wilkerson and his 3 million dollar guaranteed contract just to get Clement on the roster. All this points to Clement getting plenty of opportunity. With Jose Vidro batting the Mendoza line (.200), Clement should supplant him as DH sooner rather than later. As an added bonus, Clement may spell the struggling Kenji Johjima (batting a sub-Mendoza .190) at catcher. If Clement even produces slightly above average, he’ll be a great option at catcher. If he begins to fulfill his true potential, he could push your squad to a fantasy title.

Max Scherzer (ARI) – In the majors now
Arizona brought up Scherzer and intended to use him as a long reliever so he could get his feet wet. Well, that lasted all of one outing when Scherzer went 4.1 perfect innings with 7 Ks. It became apparent very quickly that this kid belongs in the rotation. He’ll get his first start on Cinco de Mayo against strikeout prone Philly, and it’ll be worth finding it on your MLB TV package in between margaritas and tequila shots. He has the potential to be the next Liriano, who as we all know, tore the league up in 2006. Drop your worst pitcher and go get Mad Max as soon as possible. Now if Arizona would just rename their stadium “Thunderdome”…

Jay Bruce (CIN) – ETA June
I have a theory that Corey Patterson has photos of manager Dusty Baker in compromising positions. This is probably how he managed to start in Chicago all those years, and now has a starting gig in the Queen City. Patterson is actually somehow managing to perform worse than his standard mediocrity, batting .202 with a .265 OBP. Sure, he can run, but as the old adage goes, you can’t steal first base. It is time to admit that he just isn’t that good, isn’t getting any better, and will always be the same Patterson he’s always been. Bruce however, is all upside. He’s batting .284 with 5 HRs in the minors. In the high school sized park that is Great American, he could end up with 25 or more home runs in an abbreviated season. Expect the Reds to be completely out of it by June, give up on Patterson, and call up “Bruce Almighty.” Pick up him the last week of May and make the other owners in your league angry.

Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – ETA mid-June
You have to love the NL West. Arizona (for as good as they are) is prone to strikeouts, Colorado is banged up, the Giants have a sub par offense, and the Padres play in a black hole of offense. With all the young pitching talent the Dodgers possess, it’d be crazy to continue to run guys like Hiroki Kuroda or Hong-Chih Kuo out there all season. They’re decent players, but they’re nothing compared to the potential of Kershaw. He’s a huge lefty at 6’3’’ and 220, and pushes the ball in the mid to high 90’s. He has a tiny 1.11 ERA in Double A (ignore the 0-3 record) and has a 36:11 K:BB ratio. He’s one of those prospects so talented that he may bypass triple A altogether. If you notice the Dodgers 4th and 5th starters starting to falter a big, see if you can pick Kershaw up and reap the benefits.

Homer Bailey – (CIN) – ETA July
Before we discuss the important things like his 2.29 ERA, how awful would it be to be named “Homer?” I’ve been watching the Simpsons for almost two decades now, and if there is any name more associated with ridicule and incompetence, I’d like to hear it. Besides George W. Bush, of course. However, Bailey is defying his namesake, and putting up incredible numbers in triple A. He currently has a 32:9 K:BB ratio, and his WHIP sits at a miniscule 0.99. Most relievers can’t muster a 0.99 WHIP, much less a starter like Bailey. He had a rough go at it in his September call up last year, but it seems it only served to season him more. As the Reds slip into their requisite mid-summer freefall, expect Homer “D’oh” Bailey to be called up and get an extended look.

Josh Fields – (CWS) – ETA August
The White Sox had a spectacular start to the season, but are starting to fade back into the pack in the competitive AL Central. As they slide further and further, more attention will be paid to Joe Crede. Crede has some good power numbers (7 HR, 22 RBIs), but is leaving a lot to be desired with his batting average, clocking in at .255. Also, since he is in the last year of his contract, with Scott Boras as his agent. If Boras can get Barry Zito a $126 million dollar deal, you have to believe he can spin Crede’s season into a price well beyond what the White Sox are willing to pay. Therefore, I expect them to deal Crede away before the trading deadline to a team that needs a boost at the hot corner. As a result, Fields would be in line for some late season at bats. While he’s not exactly killing the ball in triple A, he still has a lot of time to correct himself and contribute near the end of the season. If you’re on the South Side of Chi-town and you start hearing the rumors of Crede getting traded, it’s a perfect time to get Fields out of the pool, and get yourself a much needed boost, while messing over the Crede owner in the process.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Trading Strategies for the Beginning of the Season

Strategy Session
Trading Strategies for the Beginning of the Season
By: Evan Rosen

One month into the season and I’m guessing you’re already dying to make a trade. After all, now that the draft is over, you need something to keep you off the streets and occupy your mind. Crafting deals and swindling opponents is half the fun of fantasy baseball. There is nothing better than addressing your team’s weakness through a well-timed trade. But when should you start trading? How should you go about it? I answer those questions and more in this week’s Strategy Session.

When to Start Trading
In last week’s article I stated that stats do not begin to matter until the first week of June. Therefore, as a general rule, I do not like making trades until June because it is difficult to truly evaluate your team’s strengths and weaknesses until then. For instance, if your team relies solely on Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes for steals, you’re probably at the bottom of the pack right now in that category. Does that mean you should trade for steals now? Hell no! With Rollins and Reyes on your team you’ll eventually be fine in steals.

But every general rule has its exceptions, and that applies here too. There are certain instances where trading, even as early as May 1, makes good sense. For example, if you know you are going to be weak in a category you should address it as soon as possible. If you have no closers (or backup closers) on your roster consider trading for one. It’s not like waiting until June is going to somehow magically transform a 1 in saves to a 6 or 7. Each day you wait allows your competitors to increase their lead in the category. Likewise, if you have a team full of power hitters and the only thing any of your players has stolen in the past 5 years was the heart of some unfortunate baseball groupie, you may want to trade for steals.

Know your team, address strengths and weaknesses, but do so with an eye toward how you expect your players to perform by seasons end – not how they are performing as of May 1. In other words, don’t do anything rash that you may regret later.

Buy Low, Sell High
The old adage about the stock market also applies to fantasy baseball. Take advantage of the skewed stats that appear in April. If you have Ryan Theriot, and can afford to give up his steals, now is a perfect time to trade him. He’s hitting .340, but last season his batting average was only .266. It is highly unlikely that he’ll finish the year at .290, let alone .340. Likewise, Ryan Dempster has 4 wins and a 3.16 ERA, but hasn’t had an ERA under 4.94 as a starting pitchers since the year 2000. You can capitalize on Theriot and Dempster’s great start by trading them now before their stats return to career norms.

Sometimes you don’t even need to wait for a few weeks accumulation of stats. Depending on the sophistication of your league members, if a player has one good game you can try trading him immediately. For example, in the early 1990’s, Lloyd McClendon was called up from the minors to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates and immediately hit a grand slam. I picked up McClendon, talked up his grand slam and his impressive minor league history (before the internet so my opponent could not verify) and traded him for Brett Butler, the early 90’s version of Juan Pierre. Similarly, if someone hits for the cycle, pitches a no-hitter, or hits three or more homers in a game, you may be able to parlay that one day of performance into a better player.

Addressing Strengths & Weaknesses
One theme of my forthcoming articles on trades will be to not only analyze what your team needs, but to also determine in what categories your potential trading partners are weak. This may sound obvious, but too many fantasy baseball owners fail to take their opponent’s weaknesses into account when crafting trades. Instead, they’ll offer Chone Figgins for Aramis Ramirez and justify it by saying, “it’s a fair trade.” But if the team you’re offering Figgins to already has Michael Bourne, Jose Reyes, and Brian Roberts, he won’t need Figgins’ steals.

The better approach is to find a team who needs help in a category in which your team is strong. In return, you should seek players that will address your weaknesses. If you are strong in homers and saves, but weak in wins and steals, you should look for a trading partner with the inverse of your own strengths and weaknesses. Trade your homers and saves to a team that needs help in those categories, and in return get wins and steals to address your areas of concern.

How to offer a trade
Many fantasy baseball owners make official trade offers on their league’s home page and wait to see if the other owner accepts it. No offense, but this is a terrible idea. What if you forget you have an official trade offer outstanding and a player’s status changes during that time? In other words, what if you made an offer for Rafael Soriano before he got injured and forgot to rescind the offer? The other team would be within his or her rights to accept the deal – especially since you offered it. You’d end up with a player who is on the disabled list! Likewise, Brian Fuentes was recently named the closer for the Rockies. If you offered Brian Fuentes to someone last week and did not rescind it quick enough, you’d be out a closer.

The better technique is to e-mail your fellow owners with proposals. Then, after they’ve agreed in principle to the deal, you officially propose it on the league website. This avoids the problem outlined above. It also gives you a chance to explain the trade, which is imperative.
Whenever making a deal be sure to provide a concise, bullet point, explanation highlighting the benefits for the owner. For example, let’s assume you’re offering Nate McLouth for Chipper Jones. You might say something like this:

“This deal will help both our teams. Even though McLouth is not as big a name as Chipper, he’ll end up helping you more from a fantasy perspective. Here’s why:

1. McLouth is a 5 category player – he’ll get you 20+ homers and 20+ steals.
2. In limited playing time last season (only 329 at-bats) McLouth hit 13 homers.
3. McLouth was a top prospect and dominated the minors. (30+ steals with developing power from 2003 - 2005)
4. Already this year, McLouth is off to a great start – .330-7-25-2
5. Chipper is a great player, but you need steals which he won’t provide. Plus, he gets injured every season and hasn’t reached 600 at-bats since 1998.
6. I hate giving up McClouth, especially for an injury prone player, but I need a third-basemen and have xyz outfielder on my bench to replace McLouth.”

This explanation increases the odds that the deal will get done. First, it highlights McLouth’s value, making the other owner more likely to want him. Second, it knocks Chipper’s value. It raises a chief concern inherent in owning Chipper – that he may get injured. Third, it explains why you are willing to do the deal. A normal person would say, if you think McLouth is so valuable and Chipper’s such a risk, why are you willing to do the deal? What trick do you have up your sleeve? Don’t wait for these questions – address them in your initial e-mail. Of course, the way McLouth is going he really could have a better season than Chipper!

Use these tips and you’ll improve your team in no time.

More Trade Analysis

Trade mediations (http://fantasybaseball101.com/Trade_Mediator.html) have been among our most popular offerings at fantasybaseball101.com in the early going. While the trade itself may not provide interest to the reader we hope for two things: 1) our analysis sheds light on aspects of a player that you may not have considered and 2) the response gives insight into how other leagues establish guidelines for proper trades.

Again, in blue is the trade request and in red is our response:

Team A would receive: Ryan Howard, Asdrubal Cabrera, Rafael Betancourt and Gil Meche

Team B would receive: Álex Ríos, Justin Upton, Tim Lincecum and Joe Nathan

We also offer this tidbit from the mediating requestor (Team A): "Tell me this is not one of the worst trade offers you have seen fora keepers league."

Well we let him know what he wanted to hear, and encouraged him not to make the trade:

Agreed, the person who offered you that trade would have a monster of a team in the upcoming years and pretty handily wins the trade for this season too. Seems to be that they are trying to get you to be swayed by Howard (the best player in the trade this year, and possibly the next 1 or 2) and the fact that Betancourt will be getting some saves in the near future.

Of course, reviewing this response again, one had to wonder: When, when will Howard resume being the Howard of '07? If someone gives up on Howard, then grab him cheaply... but don't take him as the centerpiece of a deal where you have to give up as much as team A is being asked to give up.

If you have any questions of your own... please find us at http://fantasybaseball101.com/Trade_Mediator.html.