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Friday 18th Aug 2017

Though Major League Baseball’s non-waiver deadline has passed, we are still seeing important trades occurring in August, such as the Jay Bruce move to Cleveland this past week.

We all play in leagues with varied rules for interleague trading in-season. Chances are that we have disagreed with one or more of them. While rules cannot be changed mid-stream, the best time to discuss potential alterations for next year is now - when the issue is upon us.

In that vein, I asked three industry leaders a series of questions about interleague trading. In doing so, we took a “clean sheet” approach. I asked them, based on their preferences and experiences, this:

“If you were starting a brand new AL-only or NL-only re-draft league and could make the rules, how would you set them up and why?”

While I certainly have opinions, I want to lead with the views of these friends, who also happen to play in and administer leagues in which I compete. They are Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Famer Ron Shandler of ronshandler.com, USA TODAY Sports' Senior Fantasy Editor Steve Gardner and Mastersball’s own Todd Zola.

Here are responses to five questions posed to the group of analysts, with my remarks following.

1) If a player is traded into the league (AL to NL or vice-versa), should he become eligible this season?

Zola: “Yes. As inexact as the FAAB process is, I like the conundrum between spending early and often or waiting for the MLB trading deadline. Further, the trend in recent seasons is for deals to begin earlier than the last week, adding another layer of FAAB management.”

Shandler: “Absolutely.”

Walton: You may think I started with a Captain Obvious question, but there are still some who believe the player set that started the season is the one that should be used the entire way. However, Steve makes a great point about natural pool expansion.

Gardner: “It’s similar to minor leaguers being called up to me. New players to spend FAAB money on. You know that’s a possibility going into the season so you have to plan for it.”

2) Should owners continue to receive stats if a player is traded out of his initial league?

Gardner: “My overriding sentiment is that since the lines between the two leagues are already blurred so much – from umpiring and interleague play throughout the season – there’s really no reason (besides convenience) to separate players. The designated hitter and the rules around it aren’t enough to make any real difference in the way the game is played.

“Previously, the leagues would only see their league’s pitchers and you could say the two leagues were definitely separate. You can’t anymore. That’s why I feel like there really isn’t any difference when players switch leagues. So players’ stats should continue to count.”

Zola: “Yes. I understand the argument equating injury-prone players and players with contracts and scenarios rendering them prime trade targets and there are players in both subsets that get hurt or dealt unexpectedly. Still, to me this game should be about generating player expectations, converting to a rank then developing a corresponding draft strategy.

“Playing time is integral to player expectations. I just feel we shouldn't be penalized if a player is dealt to the other league. A trade just feels different than an injury.”

Shandler: “Absolutely. Since the arrival of interleague play, the lines between the leagues have been blurred. Any league that still prohibits keeping players/stats from interleague trades is just being stubborn. It's 2017. “

Walton: Ron hits on a key underlying inhibitor in considering league rules changes – not specific to this one. There is a natural reluctance in some leagues to touch the rules. Some just want to leave things as they always have been. Others are suspicious of their league mates trying to shift the competitive balance through the rules.

That may sound crazy, but I bet you have encountered it!

The third question is moot, since all four of us are in favor of continuing to allow stats from a player traded out of the league. However, I am including the responses for your consideration.

3) If you would allow no stats following the trade, should the losing owner receive compensation?

Ron notes how complicated and potentially unfair this could become.

Shandler: “This is where things start going off the rails. There is no adequate/equitable compensation to an owner for the loss of a player through no fault of his own. Even before interleague trading dulled the lines, I was in favor of keeping players/stats for the duration of that season.”

Zola: “With the caveat I'm against any form of compensation for losing player for any reason, I'd want to keep it consistent with compensation for injured players. If there's no compensation for injured players, then none for traded players. If there is, then the process should be the same.”

Walton: I think Todd’s general point is an especially good one. Consistency in approach is paramount. Having said that, I am against compensation.

4) If you are in favor of compensation, how would you administer this? (Awarding the players the MLB team received in return, FAAB rebate, etc…)

Shandler: “I am not in favor.”

Zola: “If the rest of the league wanted compensation, I'd agree to FAAB. Even if it's more complicated, I'm in favor of a prorated method, using the number of weeks left in the season.”

Walton: I agree with Ron. Steer clear.

5) Does the answer to #4 change if the league is a waiver priority league, rather than one using FAAB? (For example, an adjusted waiver priority for all free agents or on other players coming into the league only)

Shandler: “You're just playing games juggling commodities that are not equivalent to the loss/gain of a player. There is no logical reason to prohibit the retention of a player who crosses leagues.”

Zola: “Hmm, been awhile since I played in a waiver league and it was mixed so I don't have any first-hand experience with this iteration. Thinking through the different possibilities, I don't like giving the owner losing the player the option of picking up the returning player since some will get a stud and some will get a prospect. I also don't like jumping up waiver priority, so unless presented a method that escapes me, I'd prefer no compensation.”

Gardner: “I like the rule we have in my home AL- and NL-only keeper leagues where the owner of the player who goes to the other league has the right of first refusal for the player he’s being traded for. If there are multiple players involved, it goes in order of highest dollar value of the players lost. We use waiver priority in that league, so any trades would supersede the waiver process.”

Walton: As we conclude, we finally see a bit of a variance in opinion. However, it should be noted that the original ground rules of our roundtable specified re-draft leagues. As the stakes are higher in keeper leagues, Steve’s preference to compensate for players lost via interleague trades should be given a fair hearing in those formats. Perhaps we can delve into this variation in a future installment.

No matter how you feel about the interleague trade subject personally, it is always a good idea to take your league’s temperature throughout the season and be ready to engage your peers on potential changes for next season – especially if you are a proactive commissioner!

In closing, I would like to thank Ron Shandler, Steve Gardner and Todd Zola for participating in this discussion.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.

With less than two months remaining in the 2017 MLB season, we are at the point where we know which of our full-year fantasy teams have a realistic chance at a title and which do not. For those teams that have fallen short of expectations, it is never too early to try to determine why, so it can hopefully be avoided in the future.

I play in two high-visibility re-draft industry leagues, both National League-only formats. While the drafts were three weeks apart, I went into them with the same basic preparation and came out with what I thought were solid rosters.

Yet, here we are on August 10 and one of the two, my NL Tout Wars team, is in third place and performing well, while the other, in NL LABR, is floundering, fourth from the cellar.

As you might expect, only a few players were common to both rosters, so I cannot blame them. Sure, there have been disappointments and injuries on each team, as everyone faces during a six-month season.

In my self-analysis of what has happened, I point to the difference being my terrible record with waiver wire additions in LABR this season. I have called out eight pitchers and eight hitters below, all of whom I purchased of my own free will during the season. They represent $30 wasted.

In fact, it is likely even worse than wasted.

On the offensive side, you can see that a collective .188 batting average was probably more harmful than the small benefit of two steals, 11 runs, four homers and 16 RBI achieved from this collective group. (Note that I added and dropped Cincinnati outfielder Patrick Kivlehan twice.)

Hitter Tm Pos  AB R H HR RBI SB AVG $ Replaced by
Eibner, Brett LAD OF 3 0 0 0 0 0 0.000 $1 Ryan Raburn
Kivlehan, Patrick CIN OF 17 2 2 1 3 1 0.118 $1 Michael Morse
                    $1 Luke Voit
Hill, Aaron SF OF 25 2 3 1 2 0 0.120 $3 Matt Bowman
Morse, Michael SF OF 26 0 5 0 0 0 0.192 $1 Moved to DL
Ruggiano, Justin SF OF 39 1 8 1 2 1 0.205 $3 Brett Eibner
Parker, Jarrett SF OF 29 1 6 0 2 0 0.207 $3 Moved to DL
Stassi, Brock PHI 1B 45 2 10 1 5 0 0.222 $2 Patrick Kivlehan
La Stella, Tommy CHC 3B 18 3 4 0 2 0 0.222 $1 Player off DL
      202 11 38 4 16 2 0.188 $16  

The league standings bear this out as my team batting average of .261 is ninth. Had I taken zero stats instead of rostering these hitters, I would have three more points in batting average. These players’ runs, home runs and steals made no difference in the standings. I would have lost two points in RBI, but still the next benefit of never acquiring these players would have been a net positive of one point.

Among the pitchers, not all of these guys are as bad overall as they were during their stint on my roster. In fact, even if I tried, it would be hard to come up with any combination of hurlers who could deliver a collective ERA of 11 and a WHIP right at 2.00 over almost 50 innings. Yet, that is what I managed to accomplish with these terrible choices.

Pitcher Tm Pos W L ERA IP H ER BB K WHIP $ Replaced by
Stripling, Ross LAD RP 0 1 18.00 2 6 4 0 $1 3.00 $1 Patrick Kivlehan
Bowman, Matt STL RP 1 0 16.88 2.7 5 5 1 $3 2.25 $1 Hansel Robles
Robles, Hansel NYM RP 0 1 15.43 7 14 12 5 $6 2.71 $1 J.T. Riddle
Gomez, Jeanmar PHI RP 1 0 15.00 3 5 5 1 $4 2.00 $2 Kyle Freeland
Freeland, Kyle COL SP 0 1 11.57 4.7 8 6 3 $2 2.36 $2 Ross Stripling
Williams, Trevor PIT SP 0 0 11.25 4 6 5 0 $3 1.50 $3 George Kontos
Torres, Carlos MIL RP 0 1 10.12 5.3 8 6 2 $5 1.88 $1 Trevor Williams
Anderson, Tyler COL SP 1 3 7.32 19.7 24 16 7 $17 1.58 $3 Wandy Peralta
      3 7 10.98 48.3 76 59 19 $41 1.97 $14  

In terms of the standings, the additional saves and strikeouts from the eight made no difference. I would have lost 1.5 points without the three wins, however. Without these eight pitchers, my team ERA would be 4.41 instead of 4.71. Believe it or not, because the rest of my staff is so bad, I would still not pick up even one point in ERA.

However, there is one more category remaining. Do you know that they call high blood pressure “The Silent Killer?” (At least that is what my doctor recently told me!) In fantasy baseball, the silent killer is WHIP, a stat we rarely track carefully.

Believe it or not, without these eight pitchers, my team WHIP would have improved from the league-worst 1.385 to second-best at 1.270. That’s right, it would have given me TEN more points in the standings.

So to sum it up, I would have gained just one point in offense by avoiding these players, but would have added 8.5 points in pitching for total benefit of 9.5 points!

Hitting plus/minus   Pitching plus/minus
Runs, HR, steals 0   Saves, Ks, ERA 0
RBI -2   Wins -1.5
Batting average 3   WHIP 10
subtotal 1   subtotal 8.5
         
Total 9.5      

If you noticed the far right column in the above player tables, those are the players who I added when dumping each of the group of 16. They should look familiar.

Though the tables are listed from worst to best in batting average and ERA, respectively, I thought about re-ordering them by the connection between being added and dropped. You can see that I burned through $1 bids repeatedly, tossing one disappointing player overboard just to add another. Rinse and repeat.

Given this, I am going to re-think my general only-league guideline to maximize counting stats and try to avoid roster openings, even when there are no good options on the waiver wire. This data tends to suggest that a week of no stats now and then will be far better than taking a 10.98 ERA and a 1.97 WHIP.

This may especially be the case in LABR, where zero dollar bids are not allowed. That $30 flipped away a buck or two at a time on bad stats and more bad stats could have been better used collectively on one or two potential impact players.

Take from this what you can, but at least get the point that churning roster spots on the wrong pickups can have devastating consequences for your fantasy roster – and keep a special eye on the silent killer!

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.

Before I became enamored with the gyrations of my league peers in National League LABR and Tout Wars in their attempts to acquire Jose Quintana last week, I had begun a feature highlighting the best players to not be selected to this year’s All-Star Game.

My twist on the tired “All-Star Snub” storyline is to compile my list based on the two half-seasons since the 2016 Midsummer Classic. This process especially reminds us of those who finished last season strongly but maybe did not match that high level in the first half of 2017.

Last time, the subject was position players, leaving the starting pitchers for this time around. My population consists of the 176 starting pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched from last July 12 until this season’s break.

Here are the two-half year top 10 leaders in key categories not invited to Miami.

ERA

Starters ERA MLB rank
Kyle Hendricks 2.65 6th
Noah Syndergaard 2.82 9th

The only two members of the ten ERA-leading starters not selected as All-Stars were both injured during the first half. Still, I believe the numbers justify the selection of both Kyle Hendricks and Noah Syndergaard. Put them on the team and immediately announce their replacements. That way, they are still recognized.

Strikeouts per nine innings

Starters K/9 IP MLB rank
Danny Salazar 12.3 1st

The exclusion just happens to be the major league strikeout rate king among all starting pitchers over the last year, Cleveland’s Danny Salazar. Again, we have a pitcher injured during part of the first half, but put him on the team!

Cy Young Award points

Starters Cy Young Pts MLB rank
Jon Lester 65.9 6th
Justin Verlander 64.7 7th
Dan Straily 62.6 8th
Kyle Hendricks 58 10th

As you probably know, there is a formula created from the numbers of prior Cy Young Award winners to predict future ones. Of course, there is no second half 2016-first half 2017 award. But if there was, the winners would have been Max Scherzer and Chris Sale, who not coincidentally, were the two All-Star starting pitchers this year. Bravo! They got it right!

But this is about those overlooked. Old warhorses Jon Lester and Justin Verlander are joined by dark horse Dan Straily and Hendricks as top 10 Cy Young point scorers not named All-Stars.

Wins

Starters Wins MLB rank
Dan Straily 17 2nd
Carlos Carrasco 16 T3rd
Dylan Bundy 16 T3rd
Jon Lester 15 T6th
Ivan Nova 15 T6th
Rick Porcello 15 T6th
Masahiro Tanaka 15 T6th
Kenta Maeda 15 T6th
Zach Davies 15 T6th
Adam Wainwright 15 T6th

Originally, I was not going to include wins, but I added them, as the list is really illustrative. It shows how far we have come. Of the top 13 pitchers in wins (due to ties), 10 of them are not All-Stars – and I am good with that. It is nothing against the names on the list above, but none of them have a sure-fire case as an “All-Star Snub.”

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.

You have probably read about challenge trades over the years – deals in which the two trade partners offer up players of comparable value, perhaps even at the same position. The hope on both sides is that the new team can maximize the potential of its new player and prosper as a result.

Though it is probably less common in fantasy baseball, I just executed a challenge trade with Tristan H. Cockcroft of ESPN in National League Tout Wars - my Dee Gordon for his Matt Carpenter. Both qualify at second base, though the Cardinal also has eligibility at first and third.

Here is how and why the swap came about.

Back in March, I had an imbalanced draft and with time getting short in the season, I need to try to recover. There are two key problem areas with my roster.

I had over-emphasized stolen bases and now that we are four months into the schedule, I have established a huge lead in the category. How huge, you ask? Currently, I have 17 more stolen bases than the second-place team and a whopping 39 bags more than the team with the third-most steals. As we all know, winning any category by a country mile is a really bad idea, as a huge edge provides no more points in the standings than winning by one.

As you might guess, my roster has multiple stolen base threats, but the headliner is clearly Gordon. The Marlins’ leadoff man has swiped a total of 38 already this season. Only Billy Hamilton has more in the NL.

My other problem is at the opposite end of the scale. My team is dead last in on-base percentage, but is not without hope. I have the potential to pick up two points quickly and another two reasonably within sight – if I can get some help.

Though Gordon has improved his OBP recently, his .341 mark is not his strength. Nor is it embarrassing, as a team of Gordons would be a very respectable fifth in NL Tout in the category.

Still, Gordon is no Carpenter. St. Louis’ first sacker is 16th in the Senior Circuit in OBP at .378 this year, within three points of his career mark. Mr. Consistency’s OBP in the second half to date is .377, compared to .378 before.

The deal aligns perfectly in terms of value, as well. According to Todd Zola’s rest-of-season projections - part of the Mastersball Platinum package – in a 5x5 OBP league, Carpenter is worth $25, with Gordon right behind at $24.

However, I did not target Carpenter. I let him come to me.

I began my trade efforts with a broadcast e-mail to the league that generated zero responses. My excuse for such boorish behavior is that I have been extraordinarily busy the last 60 days. But still, I probably got what I deserved.

When I had a few moments, I reviewed the league standings and looked for a team that was still competitive and that could benefit from a shot of stolen bases.

Cockcroft jumped off the page for those two reasons and another.

Tristan is in second place, but needs to make up 18 points to pass the current leader. With just six more bags – the same total as Gordon has swiped in the last two weeks alone – Cockcroft could pick up three very quick points.

Even better is that Tristan was in the same imbalance situation as me, except in his case, his surplus was in OBP. His total of .359 is a whopping 11 points ahead of the next-closest team. Considering we are two-thirds of the way through the season, that represents a clear area of strength from which to trade.

In the standings, Cockcroft would have to lose 14 1/2 points just to fall into third from second place, so why not take a shot at a trade to try to close the gap? After all, no one remembers who comes in third vs. second, anyway.

The potential benefit for me would be to solidify my spot in fourth, just ahead of a pack of league mates, and with some good luck, slip into third. I know. I just said no one remembers, but to me, it still matters.

When our talks were still in their infancy, Cockcroft identified infield as the area on his roster from which he wanted to trade. Carpenter jumped off the page as the perfect fit. Once Tristan evaluated my offer from all angles, he agreed.

We will see if this is enough to help Cockcroft win the league and for me to hold off the others for fourth, or perhaps even slip into third. But it is clear that at least on paper, this deal works for both owners - by subtracting from a clear area of excess and enhancing a category where leverage to improve exists.

When evaluating your leagues for trade partners and player targets, look for this kind of ideal match. Once you do, do not be afraid to go for it, with a clear and honest explanation why you see it could be good for both owners. And good luck to you in your trade efforts the rest of the way!

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.

My original focus in writing this article was to delve into the FAAB chess game played among owners in two National League-only industry leagues as the result of the first major interleague trade of the summer, with lefty Jose Quintana moving from the White Sox to the Cubs.

While that will still occur and will hopefully be illustrative, I want to begin with an admission from a veteran winner of many such competitions, including NL LABR 2016. Derek Carty came into this past weekend with the most FAAB in both NL LABR and NL Tout Wars. In another oddity, in both industry leagues, Carty was exactly 35 points out of a share of the lead.

So, the question was, with the FAAB hammer, does he swing now, or hope for an even better prize in a week or two?

It appeared that Carty’s strategy was the latter, as he did not bid on Quintana in either league.

However, the reason was not what I expected it would be, but let’s be honest, we have all been there – or we are liars.

“Kind of afraid to admit it, but I don't have Quintana right now because I dropped the ball,” Carty explained. The combination of his birthday celebration and taking his first weekend off from work since February led to him losing track of time. As a result, he did not get any bids in.

So, with Carty out of the picture, what happened with Quintana in each league and why?

Let’s look at the top bidders in the context of each league’s standings and their remaining FAAB as of this past Sunday.

NL Tout Wars

The only teams with a realistic chance to win are:
Gray Albright: 105 points
Tristan H. Cockcroft: 95.5 points
Scott Wilderman: 83.5 points
Everyone else: 70 points or less.

Owners with the most FAAB coming into the weekend:
Carty: $897
Mike Gianella: $880
Cockcroft: $866
Scott Wilderman: $861

Other than Cockcroft, the names are a mismatch, but I was sure that industry league winners Carty and Gianella were not about to let Tristan H. snatch the prize. I was half right.

While there were a number of triple-digit bids, the real battle was between Gianella and Cockcroft. The former bid $866, just enough to edge the latter’s best-possible offer. With Cockcroft second in the league standings, Gianella did all of his mates a favor by the keep-away. Of course, having Quintana on his staff is not a bad result for Mike, either.

Gianella had motivation, but it was not blocking on his mind.

“I'm not going to win, but I do want to avoid the FAAB penalty,” Gianella said.

Mike is referring to Tout Wars’ stick, used to keep owners engaged all season long. Those who finish with less than 60 points in the league standings are docked FAAB money the next season. The amount withheld is $10 per point under 60, on a base stipend of $1000.

Gianella went on to explain further.

“With Johnny Cueto and Kyle Hendricks out and with most of the injured hitters and Starling Marte back, pitching seemed like the best place to put my resources. There are no guarantees that anyone better than Quintana will be traded over, so I took my shot,” the NL 2014 champion concluded.

NL LABR

The situation was similar here as in Tout, in that three teams are head and shoulders above the others in the standings:
Steve Gardner: 97 points
Eric Karabell: 90 points
Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf: 89.5 points
Everyone else: 67 points or less.

Owners with the most FAAB coming into the weekend:
Carty: $115
Dalton Del Don: $109
Karabell: $92
Colton and Wolf: $90

So, the question coming into the bidding was whether Carty or Del Don - or both - would block Quintana from landing on the Karabell or Colton/Wolf rosters.

With the second-most FAAB in NL LABR at $109, Dalton Del Don got his man. “Only” 10 of the league’s 12 owners placed offers.

Not knowing that Carty would be sitting it out, Del Don bid his entire kitty, when $92 would have been enough to beat everyone other than Carty - even Karabell on the tiebreaker.

The by-product of his aggressive winning offer will be costly for Del Don. Currently in last place, 10 ½ points out of 11th, he lost his ability to add any further free agents to plug gaps for the entire remainder of the season. This is due to LABR’s $1 minimum bid rule.

Well, that wouldn’t necessarily be true. If one of his drafted players is injured for the season, he could cash him in, which is how he got over the $100 starting point in the first place. However, it is too late for Del Don - and everyone else. One LABR-unique rule is that no FAAB rebates are offered after the All-Star break.

Further, FAAB cannot be traded in LABR, leaving him in a tough spot with no way to replenish his free agent kitty. That lost $17 was valuable, but he does own Quintana, so there’s that.

Del Don was primarily focused on getting the best player in the here and now.

“As anyone who plays in ‘only’ leagues knows, the waiver wire is always barren,” Del Don said in an understatement. “After losing out on a couple of bids early this year, I decided to hoard my FAAB and wait for the trade deadline and nab an American League player coming over to the NL. My team is in a lot of trouble, whether it be due to injuries or my poor auctioning, so I'm fairly desperate, especially in pitching.

“Quintana has a long track record of success despite his slow start this year, and a move to the NL and the Cubs should help (his first start was a 12:0 K:BB ratio gem). And more importantly, I love grabbing a player now as opposed to the trade deadline, as I'll get a few extra starts, which was one of the main factors in me bidding 100% of my FAAB,” he concluded.

Playing 'What If?'

I couldn’t help but ask Carty what he would have done had last weekend been a regular one in his life.

“I probably would have just gone +1 on the next highest possible and then fished around for trades, since I'm fairly well set for pitching in both leagues,” Carty said.

In other words, in both NL Tout and LABR, Quintana would have moved from the real trade market to the fantasy one!

In closing, thanks to Gianella, Del Don and Carty for sharing their motivations with this league competitor – and all of you.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.

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