By Andy Behrens
April 25, 2007
Roto Arcade This Week : April 23
| April 24
After Nick Swisher left Tuesday's Oakland-Baltimore game in the first inning with a strained hamstring, the A's lineup looked like this:
Shannon Stewart, LF
Marco Scutaro, RF
Eric Chavez, 3B
Mike Piazza, DH
Todd Walker, 1B
Bobby Crosby, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Jason Kendall, C
Danny Putnam, CF
Yup, Oakland started both a Bobby and a Danny. If they just had a Davey, a set of spazzy twins, and a "Bob's Salt and Feed" logo on their jerseys, they'd be my old Little League team.
Swisher is listed as day-to-day, and the early reports aren't too discouraging. But Milton Bradley is on the DL. So is Dan Johnson. And Mark Kotsay. Travis Buck's wrist hurts. Bobby Kielty has a strained calf. With the exception of Swisher, and to a lesser degree Bradley, none of those names are particularly exciting, fantasy-wise. Still, when you remove all of them from a lineup, you're left with kind of a mess. Which brings us to this thought: the Oakland A's, despite leading their division at 11-9, are a team fantasy owners need to pick on right now. They aren't the only such team, either.
Whether you're routinely streaming pitchers or just looking for a spot-start at the end of a head-to-head week, you need to think primarily about quality-of-opponent. In fact, when you're sifting through the un-owned probable starters in your league, you should care much more about the specific match-ups than how various pitchers might rank in some overall sense. If you're adding a guy for tomorrow's game, focus on the opponent. You may generally prefer Joe Blanton to Paul Byrd, but if Blanton gets the Red Sox and Byrd gets the Royals, you want Byrd for the day. Make sense? This will seem rudimentary to many of you. Sorry. But it seems to be a recurring issue in emails from various owners – novice owners mostly, but not exclusively.
With that in mind, let's look at this season's most user-friendly lineups:
Those are the lowest-scoring teams so far. Of course, not every team has played the same number of games, and not everyone's had a crack at the Rangers and/or Nationals pitchers. Thanks to a bunch of postponements, the Mariners have only played 15 games. Most teams have played 20. Thus, I've added on-base percentage and slugging, two stats that have some correlation with run-scoring. You can reasonably expect the M's, Pirates, Nationals, Royals and Giants to remain in the bottom-third of the league in runs scored. They were near the bottom in 2006, too. Oakland clearly remains a safe opponent until a few of their more dangerous bats return.
Are the A's so safe that it's OK to start Miguel Batista against them tomorrow? Well, um … that seems too aggressive for a Thursday. I'd rather have Wandy Rodriguez (1.1 percent owned) at Pittsburgh.
On Tuesday I mentioned that I'd dealt Roy Oswalt for Justin Verlander and Chone Figgins in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League. Before reviewing the deal, let's discuss why, exactly, any of us write about leagues in which we participate. It's not that we think there's anything inherently special or compelling about our leagues. I'm not trying to sell you "Y! - Behrens" merchandise. It's just that we tend to offer lots of abstract strategy recommendations, and the F&F league provides context. That's it. I'm not attempting to transform my team into a global brand. If I were, I'd give it the usual name: The Boneless Squabs. We really have sweet hats.
So, Oswalt for Figgins and Verlander. The deal made sense for the owner who proposed it, Chris Liss. He'll get stolen bases from multiple positions in his lineup, so Figgins' contributions wouldn't have had an enormous impact on his category rank. Oswalt is clearly superior to Verlander. Their wins and K-rates should be similar – and K-rate, not Ks, is really what we care about in a roto league with an IP maximum – but their ERA and WHIP won't be. Oswalt's three-year composite ERA is 3.14 and his WHIP is 1.21. Verlander, despite having nice ratios at the moment, isn't likely to be quite that good, not in the American League. Also, Oswalt has averaged 233 IP per season over the prior three years, so his ERA and WHIP have a greater effect on a team total. He's an unusually valuable SP.
Ostensibly, it might not seem like I needed to add steals. I'm squarely in the middle of the pack right now. But I've gotten stolen bases from unexpected places: Barry Bonds has a steal, as does Chris Duncan. Russell Martin currently leads my team with four. April is too early in the season to make transaction decisions based on category ranks. You still have to consider projections. Thus, Figgins is a useful add. He's about to begin a Triple-A rehab assignment, so his return isn't far off. The Verlander/Oswalt swap creates problems, though. Thanks to Chad Cordero and Brett Myers, my team ERA and WHIP are atrocious. Given time, Oswalt would have repaired them. Verlander is unquestionably good, but not good enough to single-handedly get my ratios right, so I'll need to make another transaction or two.
There's this great passage in Michael Lewis' "Moneyball" in which Billy Beane discussed the loss of Jason Giambi, and how the A's intended to replace his most significant contributions. "The important thing is to recreate the aggregate," Beane said, not the individual player. This is something to think about when making fantasy transactions. I don't need to go get Roy Halladay to replace Oswalt. I can still improve ERA and WHIP in less costly ways. The fact that I recently dropped Boof Bonser will help a little bit here. It's not that I don't still like him situationally – like Thursday against KC, for example. He's a great source for Ks, but he's getting hit hard the second time through a lineup. I don't expect anyone to add him via waivers, so he was a fairly harmless drop.
More trades have been proposed. If any are accepted, I'll probably defend them here.
Andy Behrens has written for ESPN.com, the Chicago Sports Review, NBA.com, the Chicago Reader and various other publications. In all likelihood, Andy owns more Artis Gilmore memorabilia than you. Follow him on Twitter. Send Andy a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Wednesday, Apr 25, 2007 4:38 pm, EDT
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