Confessions of a fantasy baseball addict:  Panic time

As most hitters have accumulated over 100 plate appearances, many fantasy leaguers are beginning to see their players’ good and/or bad starts to the 2009 season as indicative of the 2009 full season performances. This is normally the point where all the patience exercised in the first 20 percent of the season will be spent, and it is the worst time to panic, no matter how bad Jhonny Peralta, David Ortiz, Troy Tulowitzki, Jimmy Rollins or Kevin Kouzmanoff look right now.

Of course, if you play in a mixed league, there is a lot less to worry about as you are likely (should be) sitting most of these players. Or have the option to do so thanks to a relatively deep pool of full-time players. Boo hoo, you have to start Christian Guzman until Jimmy Rollins begins to heat-up.

In AL- and NL-only leagues, want to sit Peralta? Assuming you even have the option to reserve an active player, who you sending in? Ronny Cedeno? Luis Hernandez? Good luck with that! This is why the option to sit any struggling player is close to nil, and the temptation to sell low is nearly impossible to resist.

Once a single league fantasy player capitulates on a Peralta, an even more detrimental situation persists. No matter how frequently the fantasy baseball punditry says you should “buy low,” no one wants to do it. As a matter of fact, those same people who won’t buy low and also won’t “selling high”. Are you dealing Michael Young for Jhonny Peralta?

Five weeks ago, you wouldn’t touch it thanks to the dearth of power amongst the American League shortstops. Now that Michael Young has hit eight home runs to Peralta’s one long ball, you’re terrified of acquiring Peralta despite his being younger and demonstrating 20 home run power more frequently over the past couple seasons than Young has.

So what happens? The panicking owner of Jhonny Peralta is compelled to settle for a sell-high player like Endy Chavez because Endy is likely to play every day, hit around .300, steal 30-plus bases and hit a handful of home runs, because that is what the 31-year-old career defensive replacement has done on a pro-rated basis this season and Peralta has caused too much agita for too long already.

Once the deal is consummated, it is quickly followed by Peralta hitting four homers in the next 10 games while Chavez justifies his career part-timer status with a 2-25 bender that ends in a couple days off from his manager “to clear his head.”

How can you avoid committing this too common mistake in an AL- or NL-only league? Look at the team willing to deal Endy Chavez (or any player who’s been hot for 100 at-bats) and ask yourself, “If Peralta had four home runs right now, who would I accept for him in a trade?” If the team doesn’t have enough to make you consider an offer, then hold Peralta and wait for the player the other team offered to cool. By then, you will have likely seen a flip in the standings.

Selling low in an AL/NL-only league means death especially if the player you acquired was sold high to you in the deal as you have locked in one players worst spell of the season while missing out on the other’s best.

Last Week Follow-up: I argued last week that mixed leaguers shouldn’t be rushing out and picking-up the hot prospect. While this is general advice, the Cleveland Indians’ recalled one of the top power prospects in the minor leagues in OF Matt LaPorta. He certainly fits the bill and went 2-for-13 with a home run.

Double follow-up: Two weeks ago, I identified RHP Jamey Wright as a speculative pick in AL-only leagues for saves . On Saturday, Royals manager Trey Hillman said Juan Cruz and Wright would lead a committee of closers while Joakim Soria deals with his recurrence of shoulder discomfort.

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  1. Phil said...

    totally agree JCP, really good response.  You could add Longoria last season to the Howards and Brauns.  LaPorta has that kind of skill, now if Cleveland let’s him show it off is the thing.

    Now is the time to see what the owners of Jhonny Peralta, David Ortiz, Troy Tulowitzki, Jimmy Rollins (don’t know why Kouz is mentioned with this group, has he ever been elite?) will take in trade.  Maybe a hot closer, Heath Bell?, or a guy with a high BABIP, is worth an offer.

  2. Mark said...

    I think we had plenty of track record for Howard, but I would agree with the Braun comparison…I at the very least could not have anticipated his immediate impact. Even someone like Jay Bruce put up numbers in 400ish at bats that you weren’t likely to find on the waiver wire.

    Also, while I understand the point about “selling high and buying low”, it’s worth noting that Michael Young’s power increase appears to be legit—he’s not really getting lucky, he’s actually increased his HR distance and batted ball speed. Perhaps he’s finally healthy, perhaps he tinkered with his swing…who knows. But that’s why it’s important to do the next level of research (or read people who do it for you) rather than just assuming everyone will always regress to career norms.

  3. Eric Hinz said...

    LaPorta has neither Howards’ power, Braun’s athleticism nor Longoria’s defensive ability.  In mixed leagues there are much safer selections than gambling on a player you hope will play despite a defensively suspect reputation.

    As for Young, he is already sitting out with a sore back.  Expecting him to find new HR r levels after three seasons at a certain level seems like a fluke or pharmeceutical intervention.

    Whatever happened to the belief in samll sample sizes?  Or is this a concrete example of exactly what I lead the piece with?

  4. JCP said...

    I think a LaPorta made sense a week ago, even for shallow mixed leaguers.  Ryan Brauns are rare, but if you’re in a competitive league you’re not going to get him if you wait for him to start hitting.  At this point, with Hafner coming back and LaPorta only having started one of five games, it makes sense for mixed leaguers to let him go by the wayside.  But your argument for not picking up the hot prospect was that there are a number of very comparable players on the waiver wire.  I would argue that this is the exact reason that you should pick up a LaPorta, because his upside is generally far greater than the OFers on even shallow mixed league waiver wires.  If he doesn’t blow up, as he obviously hasn’t (and probably won’t for quite a while due to the glut of corner players in Cleveland) you let him go and go back to the waiver wire. 

    The thing is, Ryan Howards and Ryan Brauns do happen, and often times they win even shallow mixed leagues.  Maybe I’m preaching to the choir, I don’t know, but I got the sense that mixed leaguers were overly caught up in the hype, which may be so, but there have been very recent precedents that justify that excitement, and I think LaPorta’s profile didn’t differ all that much from Braun’s or Howard’s when he was called up.

  5. Mark said...

    Sample size is one thing; ruling out of hand the idea that a hitter could ever improve after 3 seasons at a certain level is another.

    Take the numbers with a grain of salt, but Young’s HR distance and HR ball speed are noticeably up this year compared to previous years.

    It’s also worth nothing, however, that the longer HR’s and faster batted balls are grouped earlier this year, and that more recently (possibly as injuries started affecting him?), the HR distances and ball speeds have come down a little.

  6. Eric Hinz said...

    In addition to the previous three seasons of performance, I am also very wary of a 32-year-old staying healthy in this day of tighter PED policies.  I don’t doubt that any one player can have a fountain-of-youth season in his 30s, but I’d rather act as if it were flukey rather than the needle in the haystack.

    The data you provide screams to sell high on Young.  If he defies his age and past efforts, you lose.  If someone trades for him based on a 25 HR season, then you have locked in an acceptable amount of profit.

    My point is you won’t sell high.

  7. Mark said...

    My point is just that “selling high” is often easier said than done. In a league of savvy owners, finding the sucker who thinks Young is a lock for 30 HRs and is willing to trade for him as such isn’t a given.

    To use another example, I got Bedard mid-draft this year. Would I love to trade him for ace-level value? Sure.  But my league mates are no dummies – their offers for Bedard makes it clear they understand his riskiness.

    Given that situation, I might be better off taking the risk that Bedard actually pitches 200+ innings than just taking whatever I can get for him in a trade (even if that would count as “selling high”).

    Similarly, if no owner is willing to seriously overpay for Young, an owner may be better off keeping him and hoping for that career year. It’s a continuum of judgment calls, not a slam-dunk “sell high” every time a guy has a hot start.

  8. philosofool said...

    You bench players because they are cold? Why? It seems like the one thing we know about streaks is that we don’t know when they will start or when they will stop. Do you have any reason for thinking that Rollins will be worse than Guzman next week?

  9. Eric Hinz said...

    phil -

    In a standard mixed league with daily transactions, there is no reason to buy-and-hold cold players.  In leagues with weekly transactions, I can understand b&h.  Daily leagues not so much.

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