Fantasy Mailbag: Too Much Hypeby Ben Jacobs
May 19, 2004
It's mail time, and pitching questions dominate the agenda. The first question asks about a swap of star hitters, and the other four involve pitchers. If you're having your own pitching issues, or have a fantasy question of any sort, please 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 love reading your fantasy news and advice. In my yahoo league, I just traded A. Soriano and Pat Burrell for Carlos Beltran. I've been reading how Beltran is the next coming of Bonds. Was it a smart trade? -- Greg Micklewright, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Greg, I'm glad to hear you love reading my columns, but if you had read my first fantasy mailbag, then I wouldn't have to give you this bad news. Unfortunately, you made a bad trade. In that first mailbag, I mentioned that there are only three players I'd trade Beltran for straight up, and Soriano is one of them (the others are Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols).
Over the last two seasons, here are the averages for Beltran and Soriano:
Avg R HR SB RBI Soriano .295 121 38.5 38 96.5 Beltran .288 108 27.5 38 102.5
You can see that the only advantage Beltran has is in RBIs, and Soriano's RBI total was likely to go up this season due to him moving from the leadoff spot to the third spot in the lineup.
I know Beltran's off to a much hotter start than Soriano this season, but Beltran's not going to become the first person to hit 50 homers and steal 45 bases (he's on pace for 48 and 44 right now) and Soriano's not going to finish the season with just 21 homers and 21 steals. They'll both move at least a little closer to their averages for the last two years. Soriano will probably have at least 30 homers and 30 steals and Beltran won't hit more than 40 homers, if that many.
Is it possible that Beltran will provide more offense this year than Soriano? Certainly. But even if he's a little bit better at the plate, Soriano will still be at least as valuable a fantasy player because he plays one of the thinnest positions. And we haven't even addressed the fact that Burrell's a fine fantasy outfielder in his own right
Basically, you traded a player for a player of similar, but likely lower, value and you threw in another good player to boot. That's the problem with making trades because everybody's talking about how good a player is and is going to become. If everybody's talking about somebody, you're not likely to get him without overpaying for him.
I'm in a 12-person Yahoo 5-by-5 league. My hitting has been awful (team BA of about .250), primarily due to my holes at catcher, second base and third base, I currently have Pierzynski/Olivo, Ray Durham, and Corey Koskie (with David Bell as a short term replacement). My pitching has been pretty good with a staff consisting of Randy Johnson, Beckett, Santana and Harden. I just offered RJ and Koskie for Rolen and Hudson. I have received a counter offer of Rolen for RJ. I am frustrated with my offense, but think that RJ will likely be the most valuable pitcher this year. Should I pull the trigger or should I try to get an elite 2b or catcher for one of my starters? -- Doug Baumstein
In my last fantasy mailbag, I mentioned that Johnson could be the best fantasy pitcher in baseball this season and nothing he did on Tuesday convined me otherwise, so I agree with you there, Doug. For that reason, I wouldn't trade him.
Rolen is certainly off to a fantastic start and he'd be a big upgrade over David Bell, but he's not worth nearly as much as the best fantasy pitcher in baseball. Plus, I'd say Rolen is less likely than Johnson to stay as hot as he is.
Rolen is currently on pace for a .350 average, 97 runs, 32 homers, 158 RBIs and four steals. The runs, homers and steals aren't out of whack, but he's never had an average or RBI total anywhere close to those. Johnson, meanwhile, is on pace for 16 wins, a 2.43 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 324 strikeouts if he makes 36 starts. The WHIP is a little ridiculous, but everything else is right in line with what he did for Arizona from 1999-2002 (accounting for the fact that he's not going to win as many games because Arizona's offense isn't as good as it was).
Plus, Johnson is your most dependable starting pitcher. Beckett, Santana and Harden are all very talented and promising young pitchers, but none of them have proven over the course of an entire season that they can be truly great. Johnson has, many times over.
If you really need to upgrade your offense by trading a starter, I'd try to trade Harden. People seem to be pretty high on him right now, saying that he's turned things around and that his only bad start of the season was his first. Well, it's true that he's only pitched fewer than five innings or allowed more than four runs once, and both were on April 15 at Texas.
However, his other six starts don't make me see a star pitcher either. In those six starts, he has four quality starts. They've come against Detroit twice (without Dmitri Young both times) and Tampa Bay and Seattle once each. In those four starts, he's pitched 26 innings with a 2.08 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 23 strikeouts and 12 walks against offenses that simply aren't good.
In the other two of those six starts, he's faced the Angels and Yankees and allowed seven earned runs on 12 hits and seven walks with 13 strikeouts in 13.1 innings. I think Harden's eventually going to be a very nice pitcher. However, it's not going to happen until he drastically improves his control, and it doesn't look like that's going to happen this season.
How bad has Harden's control been this year? Of the six teams he's faced, five of them (the exception being the Yankees) are in the bottom six in the American League in walks drawn. Yet, Harden is still averaging 4.15 BB/9IP. If you take the start against the Yankees out of the equation, he's issuing 3.79 BB/9IP to five of the six least-patient teams in the AL. That's simply too many free baserunners to be giving away.
So, keep Johnson and try to trade Harden for a solid second or third baseman.
I'm in a 10-team 5x5 league, and my pitching has been dead last in ERA and close to last in wins. I feel like I've finally settled on my closers (Valverde, Betancourt, and Izzy, w/ F-Rod getting innings), but now my rotation is looking thin after the top. I have Brown, Sheets, and Vazquez, but we're competing in a 1,400-inning league, so those three aren't enough to keep me competitive. The guys I've tried as filler (Kim, Santana, & Eaton) haven't really been helping, so I'm seriously considering a trade that's on the table -- Brown for Millwood and Wolf. I'd drop Kim and be able to hang on to Eaton and Santana in the hope that they turn it around, and Brown's always an injury risk, so I'm leaning towards doing it. There's nobody on the FA list who I'm even remotely tempted by. What do you think? -- Allen Bonner
I think I'd make that trade, Allen. Brown's clearly the best pitcher of the three, but it sounds like you need some quantity or you're going to fall too far behind in the counting stats. And while Brown is a great pitcher, Millwood and Wolf are both quality pitchers with the potential for great seasons.
Right now, Brown has a 3.13 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while Millwood and Wolf have combined for a 3.62 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. I don't know if those will be the exact numbers, but you can probably expect that sort of difference between the performance of Brown and the performance of Millwood and Wolf, so your ERA and WHIP will definitely take a hit in this exchange.
However, Millwood and Wolf have twice as many strikeouts as Brown (in two-thirds more innings) and they should combine for at least 10 more wins than Brown will finish with. If it's looking like you'll be short of the innings limit as is, Millwood and Wolf will help you get there and will give you some much-needed help in your counting stats.
And if Santana ever gets things turned around, your top five of Vazquez, Santana, Sheets, Millwood and Wolf would be pretty solid. The fact that, as you mentioned, Brown is a much bigger injury risk than either Millwood or Wolf makes this a pretty solid trade in your situation.
I've been offered Moises Alou and Roy Oswalt for Mark Mulder and a still-injured Mark Prior. My outfield is terrible and my power numbers are atrocious. If I made the trade, I'd still have a starting staff of Beckett, Oswalt, Day, Harden, Myers, Cliff Lee. Do I make that deal? -- Dave Feder, New York, New York
First of all, this trade essentially boils down to Alou for Prior, because Oswalt and Mulder are very similar. I'd say Oswalt has a slight edge because of his extra strikeouts, but I think most people would have trouble swapping them straight up no matter which side of the trade they were on. It would essentially be a challenge trade, as either one could easily finish the season with better numbers than the other.
So, looking at this as basically a trade of Prior for Alou straight up, I wouldn't do it. If you were going to trade Prior, you should have done it ages ago and let somebody else pay the cost of all of his time off with injury. Now that you've paid most of the injury costs, you should keep him and reap the rewards of your patience.
If you're going to trade Prior after keeping him around with an injury for two months, you should definitely be able to get more than an average fantasy outfielder who's playing over his head right now. I might be exaggerating a bit with Alou, but he's definitely not an impact fantasy outfielder. I'll be surprised if he finishes with more than 30 homers, let alone the 42 he's on pace for.
I know you say you're desperate for offense, but that doesn't mean you should make just any trade that will help your offense. You don't want to improve your offense a little at great expense -- or potential expense -- to your pitching. You might say that you wouldn't be hurting your pitching since you haven't had Prior yet anyway, but you'd be losing an opportunity to get better pitching.
If you're going to trade Prior with him apparently so close to returning, you need to get more than Alou. You need to get a hitter who will almost definitely be good-to-great the rest of the year, not one whose been good so far and could continue to be good. Myself, I'd keep Prior and count on him and Mulder to anchor the pitching.
To help the offense, I'd try to trade one of the other pitchers you mentioned. If you read the second question in this mailbag, then you know my first suggestion for a pitcher to trade would be Harden. However, Day, Myers and Lee would all be fine to trade as well.
They're all young and talented enough to have value in other people's eyes, but they're inconsistent enough that they're probably not going to be as good as you'd like them to be. Unfortunately, they also might not bring as much offense in return as you'd like. With that in mind, I'd even consider trading Beckett.
Beckett's already been given "ace" status because of what he did in the playoffs last season, but he hasn't really earned it in the regular season. He had a nice ERA last year, but he only pitched 142 innings and he had a 4.10 ERA the year before. I'd expect him to improve upon the 3.96 ERA he has now, but it's no guarantee and if you told me that I either had to bet on him to have an ERA below 3.25 or an ERA above 3.50, I'd probably take the latter.
If you can trade Harden, Day, Lee or Myers for a hitter who will help your offense, I'd do that first. If you can trade Beckett for a top-notch hitter who will greatly improve your offense, I'd do that. If you can't get one of the best fantasy hitters in the game in exchange for Prior, I'd hang onto him.
I'm in a 6x6 20-team league and currently have a question regarding starting pitching. With all of the news flying around that Claudio Vargas could lose his rotation spot when Armas/Patterson return, I'm considering other alternatives. Ryan Vogelsong, Erik Bedard, and Jason Davis are the best free agents out there. Of the four, who in your mind is the best bet for the remainder of the year? -- Nate Freiberg, New York, New York
Isn't it fun looking for pitching in deep leagues, Nate? The first thing to mention is that Vargas probably isn't going to lose his spot in the rotation right away. He pitched well his last time out and Sun-Woo Kim will likely get bumped from the starting five when Armas returns. If Vargas continues to pitch well in his next start or two, it will make it more difficult to move him to the bullpen when Patterson gets back.
Ultimately, though, you're right that he'll probably lose his starting spot at some point. So, let's try to answer your question.
Vogelsong and Davis have both been awful so far with ERAs above 6.00 and WHIPs above 1.75. Vogelsong has been decent in his last three starts, at least, with a 3.32 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 19 innings. Davis, on the other hand, has allowed five earned runs in each of his last three starts.
Despite the fact that he just won his first game, Bedard has been about the best of the four thus far, posting a 4.97 ERA and 1.62 WHIP with nearly a strikeout per inning. The problem is that, as the fifth starter for the Orioles, he's been skipped a few times and has pitched just 29 innings.
Still, with Vargas unlikely to be a starter for more than another couple weeks and Vogelsong and Davis providing very little hope that they'll be decent for the rest of the season, my first choice would be Bedard. After that, I'd rank them Vargas, Vogelsong, then Davis. No matter which of the four you decide upon, however, he'll drive you crazy at times throughout the season. That's just the way it is with most young pitchers.
Ben Jacobs can be reached via e-mail.
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