Wednesday, March 26, 2008

[Fantasy] Baseball trade banter!

It's that time of year again -- when fantasy baseball geeks get together to draft their fake teams of real players in a grand, pathetic attempt to bring themselves closer to a game that many of them have still yet to accept holds no professional prospects for them.

I am one of these people, and I live every day of my life completely convinced that it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Pirates could call me at any minute to offer me a job as an advance scout or a bullpen catcher. This is neither here nor there.

But quite possibly the only thing worse than a rabid fantasy baseball enthusiast is a rabid fantasy baseball enthusiast who knows nothing about baseball. If you've ever been in a league before, you know what I'm talking about.

Well, I'm in a few leagues online -- just for fun; no money -- and no sooner had our draft ended last weekend than Justin (name not changed for his protection because he doesn't freaking deserve it) began his annual post-draft barrage of trade proposal e-mails.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don't know Justin. I've never met him. We've been in the same online fantasy league together for two or three years now -- something we're both a part of through a mutual friend. I don't know where he's from, what he does for a living, or what his hopes and dreams are. If I had to guess, I'd say that Justin is probably from somewhere stupid, like Youngstown, OH, and he's a daytime security guard who sits in the lobby of an office building that tries to appear higher-end than it is. He lives with his buddy Jarrod from high school, probably likes the Cowboys, but owns a Randy Moss Raiders jersey.

Anyway, after the draft, Justin and I had the following e-mail exchange:

Interested in talking trades? You've got a few guys I'm interested in, and I think I could potentially help with your weaknesses in OF and closers. Let me know. FYI, I'm on MSN Messenger and xSlapNutz69x on AIM.
Good luck with the season.

My "weak" outfield includes B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, Chris Young, Delmon Young, Lastings Milledge and Steve Pearce (for when the inevitable call-up occurs). Yeah, I'm rocking the youth movement in the outfield, but apart from Milledge and Pearce, who ride my bench, we're not talking about marginal prospects here. These are a bunch of 20-30 homer, 20-30 steal potential guys. My closers are Jonathan Papelbon and Brad Lidge. Certainly, I could use a third. Let's see what this schmuck is after.

Who on my team interests you?

- Matt

Okay, let's keep in mind the question I asked him. It was a simple question; a succinct question. Who are you after? Think he'll answer it?

I think you drafted really well, generally speaking. You're dependent on a number of young guys with good upside, though (Gordon, Upton, Ellbury, DYoung, Milledge). Lidge scares the crap out of me because he's a head case. I took him early last year and watched him lose his job after 2 appearances.

We're going to have to break this up, because he clearly models his thought process after Sean Salisbury's, and he's completely incapable of saying what he means -- possibly because he doesn't know what he means. And what the hell does his opinion of my draft have to do with anything, especially the question of "which players do you want me to trade you?" This is very quickly turning into condescending garbage, as he obviously fancies himself quite the baseball aficionado and is going to commit 14 acts of felony highway robbery on my ass before leaving me bleeding to death on a street corner.

I also get the idea that he buys into all kinds of crap about baseball that's either based on pure speculation or is patently false, like how Brad Lidge is obviously insane because Phil Garner didn't find him fit to pitch in the 9th inning. Fact of the matter is that Brad Lidge is a great reliever who played for a crappy team last year, and fell victim to an overblown media storyline. This year, he'll be pitching in a park of roughly the same size, but for a team that scores a ton more runs. That will quite logically translate to more save opportunities and safer save opportunities. More on Lidge later.
I could use another decent starter, and I like Bedard and Haren best, but I don't really want to pay super top dollar for them.

You'd much rather rip me off, yeah? I understand that. Well, since you don't really WANT to give me equal value for my players...Let me talk to my manager and see what we can do for you. But only because you've got a nice face.

Maybe we can work out a deal for a mid-range starter like Lincecum. I've got closer value in Rivera, Wilson, and Gagne that I'm willing to negotiate over, as well as some decent OF depth with CLee, Markakis, Ibanez, Burrell, Bourn, and Jones.

Mid-range? Closer value? OF depth?
Kinsler and B.J. are also somewhat interesting, but I do already have a decent 2B option with Figgins.

He's not an option, he's the only second base-eligible player you drafted, Johnny Baseball.
Lemme know.

Justin -

The only thing about Lidge that scares me is that he's now pitching in a damn sandbox. The Phils have done a pretty good job upgrading their bullpen, and Lidge is a very effective reliever. He was awesome from 03-05, had a rough 06, and bounced back nicely last year. Look at the numbers. His save total from last year doesn't frighten me because he was playing on a bad team with everyone and their mother just waiting for him to screw up. I don't believe for a second that he's going to be anything other than a solid contributor this year. Not even the point.

It's not that you could use a decent starter, it's that you're in dire need of a starter. A passable starter. Any starter.

I don't think it's fair to call Lincecum a mid-range starter, given that:
a) He's 23 years old with absurd "upside"
b) He worked a slider into his repertoire in the offseason
c) He's unquestionably the best strikeout pitcher -- possibly the best pitcher -- on his team, despite being the third starter.
d) His K:IP is better than that of anyone on your staff from last year, and his 16 quality starts in 24 games is more than anyone else on your staff had last year, except for Ian Snell (22) and Tim Hudson (25). He strikes out more guys than Hudson, and plays on a better team than Snell.

One could very easily argue that were I to trade him to you, Tim Lincecum would automatically become the best pitcher on your team. So let's call this what it is.

- Matt

Matt --
I don't share your optimism of Lidge, but I'm probably unfairly biased because he burned me last year. It's not that he doesn't have the talent, it's that he seems to choke in the clutch.

Oh, beautiful. Our first "choke in the clutch."
You're absolutely right that I don't have a top flight starter. I think Liriano, Gallardo, Billingsley, Snell, and Hudson will all be very adequate, though. I was admittedly hoping that I could take Liriano and sleep on Cain, but Joe snagged him before I got the chance.

I won't BS you.

Too late.

I like Tim Lincecum. He's not Haren or Bedard, though. I also agree with most of your points about him, though I think he and Cain are about on par as far as K's go and Tim is less consistent.

Patently untrue in 97 different ways.

He'd be at least on par with Liriano, Gallardo, and Billingsley though I don't know if he'll be substantially better.

He will. And you're a moron.
I'd be willing to trade Wilson straight up. Mariano is definitely on the table, but I don't know if I'd do that 1:1. I think solid starters come along more often than solid closers, and Mariano is proven and will hold the job all year for sure having just signed a long term extension.

Unless he gets hurt or implodes, which isn't out of the question, given that he's, like, 38 years old.

Perfectly willing to talk about CLee or Markakis, but then we'd have to probably involve Upton somehow. Clearly can't do either straight up for Lincecum.

Seems like having B.J. Upton in your outfield is a waste with Kinsler onboard, since most of his value is in his 2B eligibility. He's just a regular 20/20 outfielder, who are plentiful. Markakis is probably better, so long as they're both playing outfield.

You're not Justin. You're Dave Littlefield. You have to be. Admit it.
Lemme know your thoughts.

Justin -

You, my boy, said the magic word. "Seems." He can only seem to choke in the clutch because in reality, he can't choke in the clutch. He can't choke "in the clutch" because the very idea of "clutch" is a myth.

Same with consistency. A guy who gets 30 hits in back-to-back months (100 or so ABs/month) on the mark is consistent, but at the end of the year, he's exactly the same as the guy who one month gets 10 hits and another month gets 50. They're both .300 hitters. Doesn't much matter how consistent they are, because by the end of the season, you're getting the same production.

Now in the case of Cain vs. Lincecum, you don't have a ton to work with, as Lincecum's major league career is less than a season's worth of work. But for shits and giggles:

Cain: 200 IP, 79 BB, 163 K, 3.65 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 4.44 lgERA
Lincecum: 146.3, 65 BB, 150 K, 4.00 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 4.44 lgERA

These guys are damn close to the same pitcher. But your issue was "consistency," so let's give that a quick look. Again, this is very rough, as Lincecum has so little ML experience, so let's just look at last year.

ERA by month (April - September)

A - 1.54
M - 5.25
J - 3.27
J - 6.58
A - 2.18
S - 4.08

A - x
M - 3.24
J - 7.71
J - 1.62
A - 4.03
S - 4.50

Who is more consistent? Cain didn't even have two months where his ERA was in the same damn area code, let alone two straight months. Lincecum didn't pitch in April, but he's got two big deviations from the norm -- June and July. The others are right much, much closer to his season average than any of Cain's monthly numbers, save September.

Back to the trade banter.

Are you saying you want Lincecum straight up for Wilson? You want me to take hits in K's, quality starts and WHIP for a guy closer prospect whose CAREER K:BB is 41:28? The guy has been around for two years and still hasn't pitched 60 total innings. That's an awfully big risk to take, especially when you're talking about a guy whose main stat -- saves -- is more heavily dependent on his offense, starting pitching and bullpen building and maintaining leads than it is his individual performance. At least with Lincecum, I'm getting a big-time pitcher who helps me immensely in at least three of five pitching categories. Your Beach Boy hasn't put up decent K:BB numbers since 2005, when he was pitching in AA ball, and at the most, he's giving me saves -- that is, as long as his team is providing him with leads to protect; which, if you look at the Giants' lineup for this year, is much less safer a bet than taking Brad Lidge at The Bank behind the same team that led the league in offense last year.

If you wanted to talk about Lincecum for Wilson and Markakis, I'd listen. If you wanted to talk about Lincecum for Rivera, I'd certainly have to entertain that offer.

>Clearly can't do either straight up for Lincecum.

You could. Nothing's stopping you. In fact, that'd be much more honest and forthright than anything you've offered me yet.

>Seems like having B.J. Upton in your outfield is a waste with Kinsler onboard, since most of his value is in his 2B eligibility

Yes. B.J. Upton is a total waste. I only drafted Ian Kinsler so that I could shoot B.J. Upton in the face out of spite for his general uselessness.

Quick side-by-side comparison time.
Player A: 637 AB, 23 HR, 97 R, 112 RBI, 18 SB, .300 BA, 24 years old
Player B: 474 AB, 24 HR, 86 R, 82 RBI, 22 SB, .300 BA, 23 years old

Player B has done more in less playing time than Player A in all the team-independent statistics, and you've gotta figure that if Player B gets a full season's worth of AB's, he's clearly going to eclipse Player A in every fantasy category.

Player B guessed it! B.J. Upton.
Player A? Nick Markakis.

If B.J. Upton's value is all in his 2B eligibility, that must mean that Nick Markakis's value as an outfielder is akin to that of the sock you use to simulate the presence of a woman as you lay in bed at night.

If you have a real trade idea, a fair trade idea, I'm all ears. But I'm almost certain you don't. Justin, why do you hate baseball?

- Matt

There's more to this garbage, as Justin goes on to show me his personal projections for each of the players we've discussed. According to Justinmetrics, Nick Markakis is much better than B.J. Upton, Tim Lincecum is only okay, and Brian Wilson will save more games than his team will actually win.

Science fever! Catch it!

I don't even care if I'm competitive in this league. From this day forward, my only goal is to finish ahead of this stooge.

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