Roster Doctor

Josh writes in:

“My main questions right now include (1) who should I pick up to fill an empty bench spot in FAAB (potential replacements noted below); (2) should Seth Smith and/or Everth Cabrera be starting in place of any of my current starters; (3) do I still have more SB than are probably necessary to get my 12 points in the category, and if so, what should I trade for now and who should I trade; (4) who are my potential keepers here? I paid at value for most everyone I think, but Maybin, Posey, and Nathan stand out as potential keepers.

Here are the league rules:

12-team mixed league, standard 5×5, 24-man starting roster. Hitters: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, OFx5, Ux2. Pitchers: SP x 5, RP x 4, P x 1. Five bench spots, two DL spots. Five Keepers, salary increases by $5 to keep for next year. $265 salary. Must have between 135-175 Games Started. Weekly FAAB $100 for the year; I’ve got $65 left. Players picked up by FAAB have a salary of the winning FAAB bid.”

Roster:

C AJ Pierzynski ($12) (price is high because of FAAB bid)
1B James Loney ($8)
2B Placido Polanco ($10)
3B Michael Young ($9)
SS Ryan Theriot ($3)
CI Martin Prado ($5)
MI Orlando Cabrera ($1)
OF Nyjer Morgan ($6)
OF Juan Pierre ($14)
OF Bobby Abreu ($11)
OF Alex Rios ($12)
OF Cameron Maybin ($3)
U Chris Coghlan ($6)
U Julio Borbon ($6)

SP Roy Halladay ($31)
SP Josh Beckett ($27)
SP Javier Vazquez ($11)
SP Ricky Nolasco ($17)
SP Jonathan Sanchez ($12)
RP Jonathan Papelbon ($14)
RP Chad Qualls ($8)
RP Jose Valverde ($7)
RP Octavio Dotel ($7)
P Bobby Jenks ($9)

B Hiroki Kuroda ($2)
B Buster Posey ($2)
B Everth Cabrera ($15) (price is high since I spent FAAB on him)
B Seth Smith ($1)
B EMPTY (due to recent trade, potential replacements for next week’s FAAB include: David DeJesus, Skip Schumaker, Ryan Sweeney, Jeremy Hermida, Orlando Hudson, Mark Teahen)

DL Miguel Montero ($10)
DL Joe Nathan $3 (picked him up in FAAB as a potential $8 keeper next year)

Welcome everyone to the first Roster Doctor of the season. We’re starting off the year with an interesting case from Josh. Josh has deliberately punted RBIs and home runs in favor of the other batting stats and, most importantly, pitching. This is a pretty darn bold approach to his league—rarely do owners choose to punt two categories in a 5×5 league.

First off, this strategy is much easier to pull off (initially) in an auction league. In a draft league, it’d be harder (but very possible) to amass that pitching staff.

Still the strategy is a tightrope. I think the team has a good chance to sweep the stolen base and average categories. Runs will be slightly tighter, but a high score should be fairly certain. The team is a dead lock to finish last in the punted categories. The problem as far as batting scores is that at least one or two of the teams that do well (say, finish in the top three) in home runs is likely to finish very high in runs. Sluggers score runs too. If they’re balanced in average and speed, then Josh’s team is going to have to make up at least five or six points and quite possibly as much as 10 in pitching to win.

Fortunately this team is very strong in pitching. I’d think it will do very well in strikeouts and saves. Wins are famously tough to game. I’m also guessing that the team is hurting in the ERA category right now—Halladay obviously helps, but Beckett and Vasquez haven’t pitched in yet. Obviously if they don’t come around, Josh is in some hot water. It doesn’t help that most or all of Josh’s closers aren’t going to lower his team’s ERA and WHIP by a lot.

I would recommend the following (answering some of Josh’s questions):

If you [Josh] judge your lead in stolen bases to be insurmountable, I would look to trade someone like Maybin, who might hurt you in batting average. But only do this if you find the right piece. One possible piece is a steady starting pitcher with less sex appeal who will help with the rate categories if necessary. I’m thinking someone in the Justin Duchscherer, Tim Hudson or Andy Pettitte mold, though given their relative productions I doubt you could pull off this trade for now. In any case, if Smith keeps some playing time, he might be worth starting over Maybin if the matchups are right.

I would take advantage of Prado’s MI eligibility and try to find a corner infielder on the market—a Ty Wigginton perhaps—and use the bench spot to sit Orlando Cabrera. Or you could drop Cabrera and use the bench spot to pick up either Dejesus or Teahen. I would go with them since Dejesus might be a nice replacement for Maybin if he struggles and you don’t have much depth at CI, so Teahen would help well there and fits in with your strategy.

I would also monitor your saves lead closely. If you’re doing well there, you might want to consider trading one of your shakier closers, like Dotel or Qualls, to a team desperate for saves and willing to overlook any pain they may cause to rate stats.

Sadly, I think it is too early to start worrying about keepers. Nathan may indeed be a potential value for next year, but I wouldn’t let that lead you to drop an important piece for this year if you need the DL spot. His keeper value depends on when you have to choose your keepers; you may not want to keep him if you have to make the choice in October, when there’s still likely to be a question mark over his comeback. As for Maybin and Posey, whatever data you get from this year is likely to play a large role in determining their value for next year, so it is way too early to let keeper considerations guide you too much.

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Comments

  1. Josh said...

    Thanks for making my team the first roster doctor of the year.

    I’ve already got a 6 save lead but obviously that is precarious this early on and with closers that might not stay in their roles.

    Now what about targeting someone like Billy Butler in a trade for one of my shaky closers right now?  I know many (well at least ESPN) was projecting 30 HR for him this year, but that is looking doubtful.  So a 20 HR, .300 guy seems like it would fit appropriately.

    Same for Chase Headley right?

  2. Ryan said...

    In keeping with you theme of potential high BA guys, maybe you should go after someone like Gaby Sanchez or Daric Barton. They seem to fit the mold of your team better than the likes of Butler and Headley.

    I’m betting you could move O-Cab and a closer (Dotel/Qualls) for one of those guys, move Prado to your MI and have a pretty solid BA, SB, R lineup. You would have a chance to get a Sanchez or Barton with those guys, probably not Butler or Headley.

  3. Josh said...

    Why are you so down on Butler’s BA?  No projection system on fangraphs projects less than a .296 batting average for him.  Or are you saying that he’s too expensive to pick up (and that much of that value is tied to HR and RBI which I don’t care about)?

    As far as Gaby, I don’t see how he’s much of an upgrade over O-Cab.  O-Cab is seen around .280 and with the steals potential that I think he has that Gaby doesn’t I don’t know if its worth trading a closer for that upgrade.

  4. Josh said...

    As an update, I just traded Valverde and Rios for Ichiro.  The person I traded with is my main competition for batting average.

  5. Ryan said...

    I’m high on Butler, but you won’t be getting him without giving up much more in talent (He’s a great talent, but really nets you HR and RBI which you are punting).

    As far a Gaby goes, maybe he was a low ball suggestion for those two players (I like him for the season because of where he is and how he hits, I’m betting he hits around 0.300-0.310). O-Cab does give steals and saves can be a premium currency in a 5×5. Maybe it’s more likely to swap O-Cab for Gaby if you choose. You might be able to go after Todd Helton too (more established). Nothing too flashy but he tends to put up a good average and plays in a band box (Again, you lose steals though).

    I suppose if you want to “keep” steals and gain average at 1B, Berkman or D Lee are your best bets. Gonna be hard to swing that deal without giving up too much tough. Another possible option is Ike Davis, but he’s hot right now and a rookie so probably not as consistent as you would like.

    On another note, I’m a fan of choosing one side of cats to sweep (in your case, pitching) and trying to get buy in the other. My best advice would be to not over-react to pitching struggles early on. Beckett and Javy haven’t been very good yet this year, but it will come. Just don’t give up on your strategy before it gets started…

  6. Carlos said...

    Malacoda.  I don’t know if that is true.  If he can get 10pts in 8 categories that is 80pts. So with 1 pt in the other two, he is at 82.  The real key to this strategy is the competitiveness of the league.  If you get 2 or 3 guys who wind up with 25-30 pts, there are more points to go around and a competitor is likely to pick them up – resulting in a winner of the league who has 95-105 pts.  In a competitive league, I would imagine that 85-88 wins it…and he isn’t that far off.

    The risk to this strategy is the choosing of the players you are relying on to execute.  You have to correctly identify high average and steal hitters and SP with great rates.  Vasquez and Beckett may kill this plan while had he went J.Johnson and Ubaldo it would look much better. 

    I guess the real point is that it is hard to undo this strategy if once you start it.

  7. Jonathan said...

    I think that’s a great trade, Josh.  In a vacuum, Rios + Valverde may be worth slightly more, but clearly to you, Ichiro is a great fit.  Good trades in good leagues mean finding players that fit better for you than for the other guy.

    Carlos – i think that’s a great point about how strategies that may work in competitive leagues may not work in leagues with several patsies.

  8. Josh said...

    I’ll say that this is a competitive league.  Right now the guy in first is in first by a lot, but he’s been riding the hot streaks of many guys, including Cruz and Brett Anderson (who are now on the DL).

    Other than that, every other team is between the range of 74-55 points.

    I agree that you can’t undo this strategy *for this year* once you do it.

    But here is where being in a keeper league comes in: if this strategy doesn’t work, then in late July I announce to the league that Halladay, Papelbon, Ichiro, and Pierre are on the market and I’m looking to get back the best keepers I can for these players (of course, everyone else on the team is up for grabs too, I just listed the biggest names here).

    Everyone needs speed, especially in a league where I have a disproportionate amount of it (meaning there is less for everyone else).  Everyone always needs pitching and saves.

    So I think this strategy works particularly well in keeper leagues where one can restock if this year doesn’t work out.

    Note that Shandler in this year’s forecaster suggest just this plan (speed and pitching) for a rebuilding team.  But I’ll say I decided on doing this right at the end of last season before I read Shandler’s 2010 book.

  9. Malacoda said...

    You can’t save this patient.  Terrible auction.  You really can’t win a competitive league punting one category, you sure as hell won’t do it punting two.  Paging Dr. Kevorkian!

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