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Tuesday, August 11, 2009
As I'm sure you've heard, the Chicago White Sox have claimed Alex Rios off waivers and the Blue Jays have let him go to get out of his contract (which wasn't really even bad). Rios has been a bit unlucky this year (thanks in part to a terrible April), but he is still a good player, both in real life and in fantasy baseball. Currently, the Sox have Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye patrolling the corners and Scott Podsednik in CF. Podsednik has been pretty good this year, and the Sox obviously like him enough to bat him leadoff, but I have a hard time seeing him play much over a guy like Rios.
Overall, Rios' value doesn't change much (maybe a small hit due to PT concerns). Toronto's Rogers Centre is a little less homer friendly than U.S. Cellular (worse park factor, deeper left-centerfield fences), but it is still a very good homer park. Toronto suppresses Ks by 5.1% over U.S. Cellular and increases singles by 4.9%. Doubles and triples are suppressed, but the overall impact on his BA should be positive. Another 6 or 7 homers, 8 or 9 steals, and a .290 average can be expected the rest of the way (assuming Podsednik doesn't dig into his PT too much).
Indirectly affected is, obviously, Podsednik, whose value takes a huge hit. In Toronto, Jose Bautista gets a temporary boost in value. If you can afford a BA hit and need power, he makes a decent pickup in very deep mixed leagues. It might not last, though, as the loss of Rios could clear room for the Jays to recall top prospect Travis Snider. If you have room in deep mixed leagues (perhaps even deep 12-team leagues), it's time to stash him (Note: This might not be the case. Check the comments below).
Posted by Derek Carty at 2:00pm
For those in keeper leagues where many keepers are allowed, or in which there is some sort of minor league or salary system, it might be wise to snatch up Julio Borbon (assuming he's still available). The Dallas Morning News had this to say earlier in the week (h/t Lenny Melnick):
Borbon will be the Rangers' leadoff hitter in 2010, should he make the Opening Day roster, manager Ron Washington said. Washington said he views Ian Kinsler as more of a run producer than leadoff hitter...
That's some kind of statement. Borbon doesn't possess much power, but he does have very good speed, rarely strikes out, and has a pretty good BABIP history. That means he should help in steals and batting average, and if he leads off, should score lots of runs (even if he doesn't walk very much).
Here's a scouting take from Jason Grey from the beginning of July:
[Borbon] was a true 80 runner at the University of Tennessee [Note: Scouts rate tools on a scale of 20-80, so 80 is incredible] before breaking his ankle, but his speed has bounced back nicely. He's so good at making contact that he really doesn't worry too much about patience at the plate, which means his OBP is always going to be an issue (29 walks in 546 at-bats in '08), but there's a lot to like about the rest of the package. He has great range in center field, plus makeup and an excellent work ethic. He hasn't hit for a ton of pop yet, but there is still a bit more projection in him, and he should eventually have some pull power. He's squaring up balls consistently, and even his outs have been hard-hit balls right at fielders. He needs to be firmly on your radar screen.
Posted by Derek Carty at 1:47pm
The season is quickly winding down, but we've still got a lot going on at THT Fantasy. This week, I'm proud to introduce you to two new members of the THTF team.
The first is Mike Silver, who you may know from his work at MVN's Statistically Speaking blog. Mike will be doing player profiles and analysis for us. He'll officially introduce himself to everyone tomorrow, but he sneaks into the action today by tackling this week's Fantasy Baseball Roundtable question, proposed by THT Fantasy.
The second "new" member of the team should actually be a very familiar face for everyone. Your friendly neighborhood psychologist, Marco Fujimoto (who needed to take a leave of absence for personal reasons) is now back and ready to go. You'll start seeing his work every other week starting next Thursday.
Finally, because most fantasy baseball trading deadlines will have passed by next week, the Roster Doctor will be going into hibernation. I'd like to thank everyone who submitted their roster for consideration, and hopefully we were able to help some you improve your teams and bring you a step closer to a fantasy baseball championship.
Posted by Derek Carty at 1:31pm
This week, it's THT Fantasy's turn to host the Fantasy Baseball Roundtable. The question we asked (thanks to commenter Bookie for giving us the idea last time around):
Have you ever "pitched” or “marketed” a player in a trade and changed a potential trading partner's opinion about the player? Or, conversely, have you ever had you own opinion about a player changed by an opponent's pitch? Or could pushing a player actually have a negative effect and make a deal less attainable?
As fantasy baseball players, I'm sure we've all had trade negotiations before, but honestly, have we ever truly changed our potential trading partner's mind about a player?
Tommy Landry — RotoExperts
Sure, I've pitched players on multiple occasions. That works great with novices, but experienced players (like in all my leagues) see right through it. Personally, I have strong opinions and no one will change that in most cases, unless I simply haven't been paying attention to a particular guy. In fact, when I go to look at the numbers to evaluate if I'm being oversold on someone, that's a critical point in our ability to close a deal. If it appears they're playing games, game over.
Patrick Cain — Albany Times Union
I never try to offer my bait first as I feel it instantly makes the guy less desirable. Instead I'll propose something in writing with a guy just slightly as productive. Then try to get the opposing manager to counter with who he sees as a slight upgrade aka the guy I actually want to unload. This is best when working with guys that aren't stars. This year in my auction I took both Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. Eventually I did need to move Cabrera so I was willing to be forthright with him.
I can't say an opposing player has changed my mind. I have changed others' opinion, but doing that is a case-by-case example.
I never try to change another owner's mind about a player. My pitches simply state the facts with an emphasis on how the suggested transaction would benefit both of us. I find that the savier owners will get defensive when you question their judgment on a player or suggest that they may not understand how to rate a player properly. Instead I simply sell the facts. For example, last off-season I traded Carlos Gomez (at $21 in a 12tm, 5x5 AL-only League) to another owner for a cheap Joba Chamberlain (he was also a serious Red Sox fan which helped) by selling him on a few very true facts - that despite his poor batting the skills the Minnesota Twins were still heavily invested in the future of Gomez, and that he would continue to steal bases at every opportunity and finally that 40 stolen bases, even with a .240 batting average would be useful on the right fantasy team.
Adam Ronis — Newsday
I was able to pitch a trade recently. There was a lot of discussion going on back and forth for quite some time with many different combinations. I was acquiring Prince Fielder as part of the multi-player deal and was sending back Joey Votto to take Fielder's roster spot. I was telling the owner how I wouldn't be surprised Votto might put up better numbers in the second half than Fielder. He seemed to get sold on that because he never proposed Votto in one of the deals; I did. I also had to push Aaron Harang hard since at the time he had just five wins and had to convince the owner that wins are determined by a myriad of factors often beyond a their control. He was pushing for Wandy Rodriguez or Matt Cain, but I wasn't going to do it.
Mike Podhorzer — FantasyPros911
Considering I have made a whopping one trade all season in three leagues, if I ever did successfully change a potential trading partner's opinion about a player, it has departed my memory at this point! Maybe I have been successful at one time in the past, but I really cannot recall. I personally can't stand the whole marketing of a player though. I know the stats, I know the current situation and league standings, I have my own opinion. I couldn't care less what you want to throw out at me and it has never changed my mind in the past, nor do I expect it to change my mind in the future.
In fact, it actually annoys me when owners tell me about who they are offering like I am some newbie who just learned about this game of baseball this year. Because of this, I rarely try marketing my players in trade offers or making comments when I offer a trade though the website. If I did try to pitch my players, I am inferring that my trading partner does not know the players, does not have an opinion himself, does not know where his team needs help or have a clue where he sits in the category standings. That is just insulting, in my opinion. To be honest, if I was ever able to change someone's opinion on a trade, that might be a sign that I need to replace this owner for my league next year!
Mike Silver — The Hardball Times Fantasy
My response would be that pitches are pretty difficult because of the element of suspicion. I don't know for sure if I've ever influenced anyone. I think pitches can help, because they've affected me before, but they never get me to completely revamp my opinion of a player. I've found that you can cast doubt or slightly improve an opinion, but nothing too substantial.
For the readers, your trade partner will always be suspicious of you, so any way to upgrade your credibility is helpful. Be careful of saying too much and make sure that it is framed in a way that the trade seems mutually beneficial. I don't think I've ever thought less of a player because of a pitch. In my experience, the only time it's been hurtful is when it looks like you're trying to dump someone (I made this mistake with Andrew McCutchen this year) either by proposing them multiple times or pushing too hard.
There are a couple scenarios that I think can help readers:
One is for a person who is particularly guarded against trading with you (think of your personal rival in your best league, or Billy Beane with the Red Sox and Kevin Youkilis; I know you've all read Moneyball). I have a fantasy rivalry with my friend Phil in one of my most important leagues. Whenever he suggests a player to me, it upgrades my opinion of the player, but because I know that he wants said player, I become so guarded that it substantially raises my asking price.What would probably work in that situation would be to use a decoy.
First, suggest a lower priority player, then, if you've anticipated the response correctly, you'll have an easier time with the player you really want (because the other person will think that they're not getting worked over or are not giving up too much). These scenarios will always be difficult to deal with, but it will help somewhat.
Another scenario is one that helped me get Lester this year. I asked an owner "what will it take to get Jon Lester?" (while he was slumping, of course), and he listed off a few players. When you know who a different owner likes, it is easier to boost their opinion of that player. This won't lower their asking price, but it should help a lot in preventing them from having doubts about whether the offer is fair. This should increase the likelihood that the offer sticks and that they don't raise their asking price.
Other than that, I've had relatively limited success with pitches, unless you're trading with someone who is really new. In my experience, you can't try to hit home runs, you have to let the trade come to you.
Eriq Gardner - THT Fantasy
EDIT: After reading this post, our own Eriq Gardner had some interesting follow-up ideas that I thought deserved to be shared with everyone:
Interesting that changing a non-novice opponent's mind is perceived as a foolish endeavor by experienced hands. I wonder if that means by extension that a willingness to keep an open mind is perceived as a liability.
Personally, my goal in making a trade offer and pitching a rationale never is to change someone's mind. If that happens, great. But if someone comes back to me and says something like, "No, I can't do that deal. I believe an ace pitcher is more valuable than any hitter," I'm happy to work inside that framework and explore a very different deal that sends a very good pitcher for a more valuable hitter. My goal is to execute a trade that improves my team and I'm more than willing to accept someone else's logic and appear to change my own stance in the interest of that goal.
Interestingly, there have been times when a team witnesses my change of stance and begins to question their own logic, going back to the first offer. I guess one should only practice what they preach.
As I sort of expected, the participants agreed that changing any non-novice opponent's mind about a player is hard to do, at least to any significant extent. What do you guys think? Have you ever been successful in doing this?
Posted by Derek Carty at 1:30pm
In fantasy baseball, risk-takers abound. But before we throw them all into the same boat, let’s illustrate a difference—there are those who like to play the lottery and then there are those who like to play the stock market.
Lottery players have a very high probability of coming up short but typically don’t stake much investment in their gambles. Stock market players, on the other hand, are willing to put a lot more on the line with a smaller probability of coming up short.
Here’s an example.
I participate in a league where I’ve been bouncing between second and sixth place for the last few weeks. The most competitive categories are ERA and wins. Right now, my team leads most of my competitors in those two categories, but the margin is extremely small. Problem is, in order to catch up to the first place team in the league, I’d need to make a major move in steals, and now my team is being offered Carl Crawford and a good reliever for one of my team’s best pitchers, Adam Wainwright, and a player who was projected to have about three times as many steals as he currently does. Do I do the deal?
Regardless of the answer, my team would be making a risk. Accept the deal as any stock market player would and risk a ton of points in the pitching categories—My team might finish in first, but there's a small chance it could finish in sixth place.
Reject the deal as any lottery player would and gamble on some lower possibility for making up the points differential with the first place team—My team might still finish in first, but more probably second or third.
Behavioral economists have had fun through the years studying different choices on uncertain outcomes. Although this is a realm of study loosely tied into game theory, I’m unaware of any researcher who has taken time to analyze fantasy sports competitions. Instead, they’ve gravitated to games like poker and blackjack and even game shows like “Deal or No Deal.”
Most of the studies I’ve seen seem to indicate that the vast majority of people behave like lottery players when making risky decisions. They prefer wherever possible to avoid the possibility of big losses even if they forsake optimal odds. On the other hand, there’s something in economics that’s coincidentally called “prospect theory,” whereby people evaluate potential gains and losses depending on some psychological reference point. For example, two teams in two different leagues with the exact same trade offer on the table as the one described above might come to different outcomes based on one team having achieved early setbacks and late success versus the other team having achieved early success and recent setbacks.
I also think something like this is good to keep in mind when making an offer to another team. You may believe you are making one that serves the rational interests of your trading partner, but are you selling an equity to someone who prefers a lottery ticket? Are you marketing a low-probability chance to win millions to a team less fearful of losses? Understand someone’s tolerance for seeking or avoiding risk or aptitude for measuring gains and losses and you may begin to get a sense about how to trade with them.
And oh yeah … I took the deal.
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 2:58am
As we head towards the home stretch of the fantasy season, let's take a look at some players who can help you make a final push in the standings, or maintain your lead.
Speed is always a valuable fantasy commodity and adding a speedster to your team when there are several teams only a few steals ahead of you in the standings can help you gain some much-needed easy points. Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez is looking like he is primed for a great finish to the year and if he continues to get on base at a good clip, the steals should come easy.
As an added bonus with his .173 Iso, he also adds some power into the mix—albeit not home run power but solid gap power that leads to plenty of RBI and run opportunities. A piece of trivia for you: Gonzalez's first seven major league hits were all doubles and that either ties or is the record, someone can check me on that.
When he matures more as a hitter, Gonzalez should be a consistent .300 hitter given his ability to maintain a high BABIP (although definitely not as high as his current .370 rate, think .330-340) and his decently low Triple-A strikeout rate of about 17 percent. So far through his major league time with the A's and Rockies, however, Gonzalez has played more like a .260 hitter than a .300 one. He makes contact with about 75 percent of pitches he swings at (81 percent MLB average) leading to his unacceptable 26 percent K rate.
It is very possible he does hit for a good average the rest of the season because if you look at his strikeout rate over the three months he's played in the majors, you'll will see the obvious negative (in a positive way) trend:
That August number is through just seven games, but even still the trend is extremely promising. Gonzalez can reasonably be expected to hit .280-plus without having to rely on an inflated BABIP, which makes him an even more attractive option.
With the way the Rockies outfield situation played out, Seth Smith now looks to be getting the short end of the stick and may very well be reduced to a pinch-hitter specialist again. It is unfortunate either Hawpe or Smith did not get traded (because the Rockies ended up being contenders) because I still very much believe in his skills. If players move around in the offseason, Smith could end up being be a great sleeper for next year, but that's a ways away.
If you missed out on Everth Cabrera, a player to keep an eye on is Rockies Triple-A second baseman Eric Young. Take a look at his ridiculous minor league stolen base totals:
There is no guarantee Young will make it to the majors this year, but if he does and is given playing time he is a must add for a lot of teams. As he has steadily risen up the minors he has maintained a batting average of .290 or above, so he would not be a batting average killer either. Unfortunately the Rockies are most likely not going to give Young a chance this season, but you never know.
For those not too keen on waiting, there is a player named Rajai Davis who is playing as I expect Young would and is in the majors right now. In 22 games since the All-star break, Davis is batting .354 with 10 steals. He won't keep that batting average up, but a .280 average with another 10-15 stolen bases the rest of the way is quite valuable and reasonable.
Former Mariner prospect-now Cincinnati Red Wladimir Balentien is on a hot streak filling in for the injured Jay Bruce in right field. With nine hits and five walks in his last six games, Balentien is playing rather impressively, though just one of those hits was a home run. In deep mixed leagues and NL-only leagues Balentien is worth a flier to see if he can recapture the glory of his 2007 Triple-A campaign. Until the past week, Balentien has always looked clueless at the plate in the majors. Maybe that is changing.
It is official, Alex Rios is going to the White Sox for his contract and nothing else. Some people are now turning to Travis Snider, expecting him to finish the season strong.
He is currently mashing the guts out of the ball in Triple-A and may hit for some power in the majors if called up, however, here are two reasons I would stay away from the 21-year-old: 1) He most likely will not get called up until the end of August because the Jays want to get rid of potential Super 2 eligibility. 2) He is still striking out at an alarming rate in Triple-A, meaning he is not plate disciplined enough yet to hit for a respectable average in the majors. An average above .270 would greatly surprise me.
Gio Gonzalez tends to be very hit-or-miss with his starts, but lately has been more hit than miss. In six starts since the beginning of July, Gonzalez has gone at least six innings and given up two runs or less in four of them. The strikeouts come easily thanks to a devastating curve at the rate of about one per inning. Wins won't come as easily pitching for the A's, although their lineup has looked somewhat revitalized lately, even with the loss of Matt Holliday.
Sometimes Gonzalez is very hittable or wild or both, and gets lit up like onion volcano at Mt. Fuji. But other times he is dominating, and lately he has been his dominating self often enough that he is worth picking up by those looking for a high-reward pitcher.
Posted by Paul Singman at 2:53am
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