Fantasy Mailbag: Mussina’s Value

I had so much fun answering five e-mails last week that I thought I’d come back and answer another five this week. That’s what happens when you encourage people, they keep coming back. Anyway, if you have a question of your own, don’t hesitate to send it my way. Even if I don’t include it in my next fantasy mailbag, I’ll try to answer it as quickly as possible. Please include your full name and the city and state you live in.

I have been stuck with Mike Mussina this season and I am looking to trade him, and was just wondering about how much I can expect to get for him. Some players I have targeted include Derrek Lee and Mark Teixeira. Am I giving too much away if I could get one of these players? The stats we keep in the league are: W, L, CG, SV, HR, BB, K, HLD, ERA, WHIP and R, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, BB, K, AVG, OPS.Brad Kracht, Overland Park, Kansas

If you trade Mussina for Lee or Teixeira, I don’t think you’re getting enough. Mussina’s numbers are obviously ugly right now, as he has a 5.88 ERA and 1.79 WHIP. However, if you take out the start in Japan and the first start after the trip to Japan, which isn’t cheating because it was clear that the trip really messed him up, then his ERA is 4.45 and his WHIP is 1.58. Obviously, those still aren’t good numbers, but they’re within the realm of a normal slump and that’s something.

The next thing to look positively at is that his last three starts haven’t been bad. In two of them, he’s gone at least seven innings and had a 3.60 combined ERA. In the middle start of his last three, he gave up four earned runs in six innings, but he had seven strikeouts and just one walk.

That leads me to my biggest concern for Mussina — his strikeouts and walks. Mussina’s had at least 7.5 K/9IP in each of the last eight seasons and he’s had at least 3.3 K/BB in each of the last seven seasons. This year, he’s averaging 5.44 K/9IP and 1.79 K/BB. Even if you take out his first two starts, he’s only at 6.12 K/9IP and 2.2 K/BB.

I think he’ll get those numbers up enough that they’re at least close to normal for him. Even if he doesn’t, though, his numbers should get better because he’s getting very unlucky with balls in play so far. When hitters give the defenders a chance to impact the play (that is, when they don’t strikeout, walk, get hit or hit a home run), they’re hitting .365 against Mussina.

I know the Yankees don’t have a good defense, but even they can turn more balls in play into outs than that. Mussina’s final numbers for this year probably won’t be as good as you’d have expected. However, for the rest of the season, I’d still expect him to have an ERA around 3.50 or lower and a WHIP around 1.15 or lower. If you give that away for a decent first baseman, I think you’re making a mistake.

The trade is already done, so I guess it is a moot point, but I just traded Miguel Cabrera for Kerry Wood (Cabrera is not eligible to be kept next year, and Wood is unlikely to be kept as he was drafted in the first round). What are your thoughts?Ryan Secan, Boston, Massachusetts

Congratulations?

Seriously, that’s a heck of a trade. Cabrera’s a fine young hitter and I probably undervalued him this off-season, but if there’s no keeper issue to consider, Wood’s the easy choice. Both players are off to very nice starts, but you have to consider what you can realistically expect from them.

Cabrera’s batting average is already down to .280 and it’ll probably hover within 10-15 points of that number in either direction for most of the season. He could maybe hit 30 home runs and pick up 100 RBIs, but I really can’t see him doing much better than that. If he continues his nice walk rate (13 in 26 games), I’ll have a lot more confidence in his abilities to have a big season this year.

Wood, on the other hand, is only performing slightly better than he did last year. The big difference is that he’s not walking as many people (just 13 in 42.2 innings). If that’s a real improvement, he’ll win the Cy Young award. If it’s not, he’ll simply be a very good pitcher again.

Let me put it this way. If you’ve got a choice between an outfielder who could conceivably hit .290 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs and a pitcher who could conceivably win 20 games with a 3.00 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 275 strikeouts, which one are you going to take? Obviously, you’ll take the pitcher. The fact that the pitcher is more likely to reach his upper limits this season just makes the choice that much easier.

I have Roy Halladay and my friend offered me a trade for Curt Schilling, straight up. Points are based on W, K, CG, SHO, SV, ERA and WHIP. I realize that you have Schilling ranked higher in your pre-season rankings, but it feels odd parting with a much younger player who just came out of a Cy Young award winning season.Ilya Rabich

This is a challenge trade. What that means is you’d be swapping players who are at the same position and who have about the same expected value and you’d take the challenge that Schilling will be better than Halladay. With challenge trades, it’s mainly a gut decision, so you probably shouldn’t make the trade if you have any worries about it.

With that said, unless you’re in a keeper league, the age of these two players doesn’t matter. Schilling’s not much of an injury risk, and he doesn’t appear to be in for an age-related decline. So, let’s see how they should do in the categories you mentioned.

Wins is a toss-up for these two as they both pitch a lot of innings and have good offenses and either could lead the AL in wins. They should be close in ERA and WHIP, but I’d give Schilling a slight edge there. Strikeouts should be a significant advantage for Schilling. Halladay will probably have more complete games, and he may have more shutouts.

Overall, I like Schilling slightly better. However, like I said, since it’s a challenge trade, you’d be better off sticking with Halladay if you don’t feel comfortable making the swap.

I drafted A.J. Pierzynski in my 5×5 league this year, and have been pretty disappointed with his numbers thus far. My main weakness right now in the league is HR. Victor Martinez is still available — would I be better off with him for the rest of the way?Ryan Kobliska, Ames, Iowa

I think that would be a smart swap, Ryan. The big question about Martinez coming into this season was how quickly his power would develop. Well, he’s already got five home runs, so I think it’s developing pretty nicely. I don’t think Martinez is ready to hit 30 homers, but 15-20 wouldn’t surprise me.

Pierzynski will get better, but I’ve never been a big fan of his. He’s hit for a good average in the majors, but he doesn’t have much power and he doesn’t have any patience. Even if he can hit .300 again, he’ll probably have a home run total in the single digits. I don’t think there’s a single category that I’m sure he’ll outperform Martinez in this season.

The bottom line is that Martinez has more potential and he’s performing better at the moment, so he’s the better choice.

I have a guy in a Roto 5×5 league with 12 teams offering me either Esteban Loaiza for Danny Graves or Loaiza and Woody Williams for Matt Clement. I’m not sure how much to toy with my pitching staff. It’s only May 4th and I am optimistic. This is my staff now: Randy Wolf, Roy Oswalt, Arthur Rhodes, Octavio Dotel, Graves, Clement, Jason Isringhausen, Kevin Millwood, Zach Day, Barry Zito. Stats for league: IP, W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP, K/BB.John C. Yarosh, Worcester, Massachusetts

I obviously don’t know what your offense looks like, but based on the pitching staff you listed, I’d say that if you’re going to trade away a pitcher or two, it should be for hitters rather than different pitchers. With that said, I’ll tell you what I think of the two trades you mentioned, second one first.

Normally, I’d advocate trading Clement for Loaiza and Williams. Clement isn’t much better than either of them and the three of them could finish the season in any order as far as performance goes. However, you have a fairly deep-looking staff, so you don’t want to trade quality for quantity. While Clement isn’t a guarantee to outperform Loaiza and Williams, he does have the best potential and he’s performing the best right now, so I wouldn’t make that trade if I were you.

The other trade is a little more interesting. Loaiza’s a decent starting pitcher who pitched out of his mind last year and could win a lot of games. Graves is a decent relief pitcher who could save a lot of games. I’d probably rather trade Graves for a hitter, like I said before, but if you think Rhodes, Dotel and Isringhausen will give you enough saves, then Loaiza’s not a bad pitcher to get in return for Graves.

Graves isn’t going to keep saving games at this rate and his ERA and WHIP aren’t going to get much better than they are right now. Ultimately, I’d expect him to give you 35-40 saves (since I was apparently wrong in thinking he’d lose his job at some point this year) with a 3.50-3.75 ERA and 1.20-1.25 WHIP.

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