Wheeler Dealer: The Gambler

I have always loved The Gambler by Kenny Rogers. For those of you too young to know the song I am talking about, take a listen.  It’s ok, I will wait.

Lyrical genius I say.  A lost art of storytelling through song not heard on mainstream radio these days.  Anyway, now that you have taken that time to expand your musical horizons, let me tell you why we would all be wise to heed the gamblers advice.

First, keep this nugget in mind “‘Cause every hand’s a winner, And every hand’s a loser”
That’s right.  No matter how well or how bad your draft may have gone, you could be staring at the winning team on Opening Day.  Of course you don’t have all the pieces you need, but that is what the dealing is all about.

Now, the secret to turning a losing hand into a winning hand is knowing which pieces to deal and when, or as the gambler put it
“Know when to hold ‘em, Know when to fold ‘em”

So, as we approach the statistical midway point of the season, where does your team sit in the standings?  If you are like me, you are somewhere in the middle to lower half of the pack in many leagues.  Is now the time to panic?  I say no.  As Grady Little once pontificated, “this is a marathon, not a sprint”.  As an avid runner, I have seen many a victory celebration prematurely end when the competitors hit that final unsuspected hill.  I ask you, are you with me?

If you are with me, then let’s take stock in the fantasy assets that are on your roster.  Maybe you are the owner of Nelson Cruz and his MLB leading 21 HR.  This has certainly helped your team so far, but do you expect Cruz to keep this up?  Let’s look at some of his career numbers:

  • Most HR in season: 33 (2009)
  • Most games played in a season: 159 (2012)
  • HR in first half of season (career): 110
  • HR in second half of season (career): 68
  • At-bats in first half of season (career): 1796
  • At-bats in second half of season (career): 1328

Verdict on Cruz: Know when to fold ’em

Perhaps you are the unfortunate owner of currently on the DL Carlos Gonzalez.  He is slated to rejoin the Rockies in a week or so.  Should you hold onto him, or deal him to another owner who thinks he is going to simply rake the rest of the season?  Let’s look at Cargo’s numbers:

  • Most games played in a single season: 145 (2010)
  • Most HR in a season: 34 (2010)
  • Most SB in a season: 26 (2010)

Clearly 2010 was a great year for Cargo and his owners. Even though he only played in 110 games in 2013 he still filled the stat sheet (26 HR, 70 RBI, 72 runs, 21 SB). In a roto league, Cargo is a guy you can own because when he plays he produces. The issue is that he misses time and could really open a void in your lineup come the playoffs. Gonzalez is still on the DL and may be out for another month. This means he could return to your lineup in August, and have about 2 months of production. Remarkably consistent, Gonzalez is a 0.288 career hitter in August, with 25 HR in 122 games. So, he could certainly give owners 8-10 HR over the final month and a half of the season, but what about in the meantime?

Verdict on Carlos Gonzalez: Know when to fold ‘em

I recommend dealing him if you can get someone who can produce now. I just dealt Cargo and Kipnis for Freddie Freeman and Chase Utley in a roto league. Hopefully Freeman and Utley will continue to produce and keep me near the top of the standings.

Is the team in first place riding some hot bats and growing weary of Matt Holliday and his lack of production?  Maybe the iron is ripe for striking here. Let’s look at Holliday’s career splits:

  • HR in first half/second half: 128/128
  • HR in second half of 2013: 9

Additionally, the Cardinals have struggled to score runs this year.  They currently rank 27th in MLB in runs scored, when in 2013, the Cardinals ranked 3rd, an improvement over their 5th place standing in 2012.  Should the Cardinal offense pick up over the summer, expect Holliday to take advantage of that, driving in and scoring runs.  Whether the power returns or not is up to the owner to decide.

Verdict on Matt Holliday: Gotta know when to hold ‘em

John Lackey’s record currently sits at 8-4, and he owns an ERA just under 3.  In the hitter-friendly AL East these numbers have been more than a pleasant surprise, and have many Lackey owners, who drafted him late, wondering what to do with the current Red Sox ace.  Taking a deeper look into some of Lackey’s numbers might make the decision a bit easier.  His K/9 sits at 7.84, numbers he has not had since 2006.  His HR/9 is also well below 1.  Many of his numbers are in line with career trends and his 2013 season.  Remember, the Red Sox may have won the World Series in 2013, but for all his accolades, Lackey sported a sub 0.500 10-13 record.  And currently the Sox are struggling (more on this in an upcoming piece).

Verdict on John Lackey: Know when to fold ‘em

There is a pitcher out there with a 1-5 record who I want to own.  His name is Matt Cain.  And no, I am not playing in a lowest scoring teams wins league.  Sure, his ERA is north of 4.5.  His K/9 is under 7.  But there is hope.  Cain is inducing more groundballs, though he is suffering by giving up more HR when he does allow flyballs.  Opponents are hitting only 0.249 against him, but he is hurting himself by walking 3.39 batters per 9 innings.  But history would indicate that Cain is a better pitcher in the second half, with an ERA more than ½ a run less than in the first half.

Verdict on Matt Cain: Know when to hold ‘em

Last week I told you that I want to own Jose Altuve for the rest of 2014.  Well, if you happen to own Dustin Pedroia, I think it is worth at least approaching the Altuve owner with a deal proposal.  So far this season I have been sharing my strategies on dealing. And I have been making my fair share of deals. Let’s take a look at a few deals I have made.

14-team keeper h2h points: In the preseason I sent a package of the #1 pick (which turned out to be Jose Abreu), Justin Upton, Jason Kipnis and David Wright away to get Mike Trout and Jason Heyward.  While my record is 5-5, I am the highest scoring team in the league thus far.  Mike Trout is the highest scorer out of these 6 players, followed by Upton and Abreu. This deal has been a win-win deal so far IMO.

14-team keeper h2h points league (this is a second league):  I just sent Carlos Gonzalez, Rougned Odor and Ervin Santana for Matt Carpenter and Noah Syndergaard.  Of course, the day I trade for Syndergaard he injures his shoulder on a play at the plate.  Hopefully Syndergaard avoided serious injury and will be able to contribute for my team during the fantasy playoffs.  My rationale dealing Gonzalez was based in the fact that I still have Alex Rios, Alex Gordon and George Springer in my OF, while Carpenter solidifies my MI (2B/SS/MI).  Additionally, in points leagues, I worry about players like Gonzalez who seem to get injured at inopportune times (you can use his stats in roto but if he is hurt during playoffs in points league you are often done).

12-team roto keeper:  In late May I shipped off Joey Votto for Jason Grilli and Anthony Rendon.  Grilli has returned from the DL and given me a legit closer (well, OK, until he was re-demoted to setup guy and cost me a win last week with his negative points).  I am slowly climbing the saves ranks. Rendon has been a nice source runs (13 so far), average (0.309) and surprise HR (4) since joining my team.

Plenty of deal discussions ongoing, so I am sure more deals will be done.