Fantasy Baseball Advice

Ed. Note:Welcome to another installment of Fantasy Baseball Advice here at Yard Work. Our guests this week are a couple of Oakland A's stars -- 2002 Cy Young winner Barry Zito and first baseman/"Moneyball" hero Scott Hatteberg. We caught up with them on the afternoon before Zito's Sunday night start against the Giants.

Q: A GM in my league wants to take Jake Peavy off my hands in exchange for Keith Foulke. I could use a better closer but other than his save numbers, I don't think Foulke is pitching well. I rejected the trade but he offered it again a few days later. I rejected it again, and yesterday he offered it for a third time. He's insisting that Peavy is young and therefore more unpredictable, whereas Foulke is a consistent year-to-year performer and therefore isn't as much of a risk. Should I rethink this deal?

Tom H., Milwaukee, WS

Barry Zito: Your friend is seriously uptight, man. He's pestering you all the time and that negative energy isn't healthy for you, or for your team. You can't talk baseball with this dude until he chills out a bit. Tell him to veg, listen to some Ben Folds, and relax for a while. Once that happens, you guys can work on improving your teams together.

Scott Hatteberg: Unfortunately, you haven't provided us with much information here. So I can't make a fully informed decision, but I can give you some useful advice. You didn't say what the GM's name is, so I'll call him Joe. You'll need to gather information on every trade that Joe has made over the last three or four years. For each previous trade between you and Joe, assign a number based on the following ranking system:

0 - trade worked out strongly in his favour
1 - trade worked out mildly in his favour
2 - trade worked out evenly
3 - trade worked out mildly in your favour
4 - trade worked out strongly in your favour

You'll need a minimum of five or six trades between you and Joe in order to have a meaningful sample size for the calculation. Average the ratings for all trades between you and Joe. Then, assign similar ratings for Joe's trades with everybody else in the league, and take the average. Now, subtract the league average score from your average score, and normalize the result by dividing by 2.0 (since the rating for all trades by all GM's in the league must necessarily average out to 2.0). This final number represents your Baseball Upper-Normalized Trade Scores (BUNTS) with Joe (for future reference, you should also determine your BUNTS between you and every other GM in your league).

If your BUNTS are positive, then relative to the rest of the league, you are faring well in your trades with Joe. Therefore, you should continue to trade with him. Anything over 0.5 is excellent. If your BUNTS with Joe are greater than 0.5, then you should certainly accept any trade he offers you. On the other hand, if your BUNTS are negative, then you should think twice about making any deals with him.

Obviously, you should give trading preference to GM's based on high numbers of BUNTS. There are a lot of fantasy baseball trade strategies, but BUNTS are almost always a winning strategy. Good luck.

Q: My outfield has been decimated by injuries. I've been scouring my league's waiver wire for a short-term pickup, and I'm trying to decide between B.J. Surhoff and Reed Johnson. Johnson has played very well so far this season, but he might be hitting above his head because his OBP and SLG are way above his career numbers. Should I gamble on the youngster or play it safe with the veteran?

Norman J., New Orleans, LA

SH: Johnson has some "hidden value" in that he gets hit by a lot of pitches. If HBP is a stat in your league then you should lean toward selecting Johnson. On the other hand, Surhoff can ... [Ed. Note: at this point, Mr. Hatteberg abruptly stopped talking in mid-sentence and approached a member of the grounds crew]

BZ: (following a very long pause ) I guess I'll give my answer until Hatty comes back. But yeah, I agree, I'd go with Johnson. He's got that soul patch and he looks like a laid back guy. I'm liking the vibes from him.

SH: [returning three minutes later] ... help your counting stats, provided he gets ample playing time. He'll probably finish with more RBI's than last year because of that great offense they've got in Baltimore. And I'm sorry for leaving you a few minutes ago, but the groundskeeper is my neighbour's best friend's uncle. I had to tell him my story about Jeremy Giambi and the green-eyed chihuahua. I've been meaning to tell him for months.

Q: I'm preparing for the draft in my midseason league. In a league with fifteen teams, do you see Jon Garland getting picked in the first two or three rounds? He must be due for a 2nd half dropoff, at least that's my feeling. Also, will Ben Sheets come back strong from the DL in the second half? I'm thinking of making him my first pitching draft pick if he's available.

Luis B., San Bernadino, CA

BZ: (extremely long pause ) Sheets, man, he's a wild dude. Totally cool. He's a funny guy, too. I'd much rather hang out with him than Garland. Does that answer your question?

SH: This is a tough call. When was Garland drafted last year? Were you involved in a full-season draft this spring with any of the same GM's, and if so, when was he drafted? You'll need to acquire the video from past drafts and study the events leading up to his selections. For any given draft, before Garland was picked, how long was the pause between his selection and the previous selection? If it was shorter than seven or eight seconds, then he was queued up on somebody's preranked list and likely will be again. If his selection took sixty seconds or more, then that GM may have taken a flyer and Garland's draft position is probably due to luck, particularly if it was in the first four or five rounds.

Q: Barry Zito is single-handedly killing my pitching staff. I selected him in the third round of our draft, thinking that he would step up his performance after the Hudson and Mulder trades. It was a dumb hunch, I know, particularly considering his steady decline since the 2001-2 seasons. Anyhow, I've tried to trade him for anything ressembling a real pitcher, but no other teams want this decade's Steve Avery, and to be frank, I can't blame them. Zito has one win, his peripherals are bad, and I don't see much upside. Is it time to give up and put him on waivers? Or do you think I should hang on for a little while longer? I might be able to trade for a decent utility player or long reliever if Zito can put together a couple of quality starts.

Horace P., Trenton, NJ

SH: Er, I think ... hey Z-man, do you want to take this one?

BZ: (cavernously huge pause lasting approximately seventeen minutes) Hey man, that's cool. Totally understandable. You're frustrated, and I can sympathize. But there may be a greater power at work in your league this year. There are some bad spiritual demons working against you right now. If you don't win this year, then it wasn't meant to be, and it's out of your control. Set your lineups for the next two weeks and just head to the beach for a while. Waking up on the beach, man, watching the sun rise in the morning, feeling the surf coming in and washing over your toes, it's the best feeling. It's a much better feeling than winning some fantasy baseball league. Come to think of it, I just might do the same thing myself.

Ed. Note: thanks for reading, and keep your eyes peeled for future editions of Fantasy Baseball Advice!


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