It is with great pride (and serious skepticism with respect to the judgment of my editorial overlords) that I announce I will be assuming the role of Roster Doctor here at THT Fantasy. It’s a position that carries considerable gravitas, and I’ve wanted to be called “Doctor” since the moment I started crafting this article.
In the interest of full disclosure, though, I slept through the requisite exams to qualify as a licensed Roster Doctor. As such, I’d consider myself more of a Roster Consultant. I hope this subtle tweak in title indemnifies me in case I’m responsible for running your team into the ground.
In all seriousness, though, it’s a real privilege to be here, and I’m very much looking forward to an enjoyable and prosperous season of fantasy baseball. Now drop your pants.
CH James writes:
5×5 OPS league with five keepers. Getting crushed in the standings… eighth place. Cut losses with Eric Hosmer early and pitching has underperformed early. R, SB, W, K, WHIP are major sore points. Help appreciated!
C- Carlos Santana
1B – David Ortiz
2B – Ben Zobrist
SS – Troy Tulowitzki
3B – Adrian Beltre
IF – Ike Davis
OF – Michael Cuddyer
OF – Matt Kemp
OF – Ryan Braun
U – Lorenzo Cain
BN – Curtis Granderson
BN – Melky Cabrera
SP – Shelby Miller
SP – Jake Peavy
RP – Grant Balfour
RP – Huston Street
P – Brandon League
P – Yovani Gallardo
P – Kenley Jansen
P – Alex Cobb
P – Brandon Beachy
P – Kris Medlen
DL – Zack Greinke
Judging by the wealth of elite players on your team, I surmise that this is a 10-team league, and that offense has been your unambiguous priority since day one. With a core of Troy Tulowitzki, Rayn Braun, Matt Kemp and Adrian Beltre, your offense is extremely potent, and I’d be incredulous if this team didn’t lead the league in OPS by October. That said, it looks like you’ve gravitated towards the sluggers and not the table-setters. That isn’t necessarily an untenable approach, but it seems to have caught up with you a little in the earlyish part of 2013: Success in the runs and stolen bases categories has eluded you. I still see plenty of value in your pitching staff, despite the fact that it’s “underperforming early,” but you can make a couple of minor adjustments.
First, jettisoning Ike Davis is a priority. Despite the allure of his 30-home run campaign in 2012—which is looking increasingly like an aberration fueled by an unsustainable 21.1 HR/FB percentage—he’s proven a liability in every offensive category this year. I realize that power carries double the value in your league (home runs and the slugging component of OPS), but any surplus value Davis could conceivably generate with his pop is effectively negated by his inability to get on base. When you’re not getting on base (and he really isn’t, with a microscopic .236 OBP), you’re not scoring runs and you’re not stealing bases— not that the latter is something he’d do anyway;he hasn’t swiped a bag since 2010.
At this point, Davis (14/4/9/0/.481 OPS) has virtually no trade value, and continues to bring you down in the categories you’re already struggling in. Dump him, and consider grabbing someone in the vein of a Marco Scutaro or Daniel Murphy to fill your infield void. They won’t put up sexy numbers, but they can provide some assistance in the areas you’re hurting. Both of these players hit toward the top of the lineup, demonstrate solid on-base ability, and will get plenty of opportunities to score runs, while maybe even stealing a base or two.
Another move I’d consider is trading Michael Cuddyer, as his market value is approaching (or has approached) its apex. The 34-year-old is enjoying a solid season in Colorado, posting a 18/7/23/3/.963 OPS line for a resurgent Rockies club. However, despite his hot start, he’s not really helping you a ton in the areas you’ve identified as weaknesses. With Curtis Granderson’s eventual return from his latest injury, you have a bit of a surplus in the outfield, and should consider moving Cuddyer for someone who can help you with stolen bases or in your pitching categories.
It might be tough to part with a guy who’s flirting with a 1.000 OPS (and who plays half his games in Coors Field), but it looks as though some regression is inevitable for him. His .352 BABIP represents a 46-point upgrade over his career mark, while his .261 isolated power is the highest such figure of his career. A 31-game sample isn’t exactly nothing, but it’s not nearly enough to convince me that Cuddyer is about to enjoy the best offensive season of his life. Once he cools off at home (five homers, 1.157 OPS in 64 plate appearances), Cuddyer will better approximate the production we’ve come to expect, so I would aggressively scour the trade market before that happens. Like Davis, Cuddyer will certainly not be part of this dynasty going forward, so capitalize on his trade value while you can.
I’d consider pursuing someone like Michael Bourn, a player in the stolen-base/run-scoring machine prototype, as your offense is deep enough to accommodate a category specialist. Coming off a hand injury that sidelined him for nearly a month, Bourn’s value isn’t exactly robust (shoutout to a recent episode of Veep), and his owner might be getting frustrated. You certainly need the help in the stolen base department&mdash only two players on your team have more than three, and none has more than six.
As far as your pitching goes, it appears as though you’ve tried to cultivate a binary between your starters and your relievers, where the former are good and the latter are really not good. It’s a shame, too, because while some of what your starters have done is pretty impressive, your suspect relief pitching seriously undermines their efforts. Shelby Miller has emerged not only as a Rookie of the Year candidate, but as a legitimate Cy Young contender, collecting five wins with a 1.74 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 62 Ks through his first nine starts. Alex Cobb has also been a pleasant surprise with five wins of his own and sexy rate stats, to boot.
The best advice I can give you with this rotation is to stay patient. Zack Greinke has returned from the disabled list—curse you, Carlos Quentin, and your overperforming club, too—and will start to compile the dubyas if he sustains his current level of effectiveness (3.48 ERA/2.94 FIP, 3.75 K/BB). Kris Medlen has been a hard-luck loser, too. He’s not putting up the ridiculous numbers he did during his dominant 12-start sample in 2012, but with a 3.02 ERA and a very, very good offense behind him, he’ll start to pick up some wins soon. Wins are face-palmingly unpredictable, as you’re surely aware, so don’t go chasing them (or waterfalls), especially when you have a decent staff.
Unfortunately, your suspect relief pitching has hurt your rate stats. Only one of your four relievers (Balfour) has an ERA below 3.63, and two of them have WHIPs north of 1.23. So here’s my recommendation, albeit after some annoying pontification:
While I respect that you’ve monopolized the Dodgers closer situation, with both League and Jansen, it doesn’t seem worth it unless the non-closer is a real asset with respect to both your rate stats and strikeouts. At this point, Jansen serves only one of those two functions, having compiled 31 strikeouts in 22.1 innings. His 1.07 WHIP is nice, but he has surrendered four home runs already this year, resulting in a relatively inflated 3.63 ERA. Since you’re not desperate for saves, I’d suggest dropping him in favor of an elite non-closer who can rack up the strikeouts while keeping your rate stats down, someone like David Robertson, Darren O’Day or Joaquin Benoit. It’s unlikely that any of these guys receive (m)any save opportunities (like Jansen might, depending on how much longer the Dodgers remain comfortable entrusting the ninth inning to League) but they all have pretty solid track records with respect to the rate-stat/strikeout combo.
Ultimately, your struggles with WHIP and Ks are not easily reconciled. Most of the pitchers available on the waiver wire are there because they’re good at one and bad at the other (see: Felix Doubront, Bartolo Colon). Pitchers who strike out a lot of guys while keeping men off the basepaths are exceedingly rare because they’re exceedingly good.
If your problems in these areas persist, consider dealing from an area of strength (read: offense) to address this need. The core of your offense is strong enough to keep you going while trading away supplemental pieces. With multi-position eligibility, Ben Zobrist could augment a Cuddyer trade nicely, while players like David Ortiz and Carlos Santana should be considered moveable, too. At this point, I still believe it’s premature to be shopping the core pieces I alluded to earlier, as I’m confident your staff will improve, but remember, in fantasy as in real baseball, preventing runs is as important as scoring runs. Act accordingly.