This Week in Tout

20/20 Hindsight

One of the things that surprises a lot of people about a league like Tout Wars is how much variance in opinion about the value of individual players there is.  While there's a general consensus about the relative value of players - ARod is good, Alberto Castillo isn't - there's a great deal of difference in terms of degree.  And there's just as much variance on how to best maximize those values.

Because of this, even in a league like Tout, there will be some controversial trades which leave many either scratching their heads or fuming.  One such deal occurred this past week when the RotoWire team announced that it was trading several of it's star players for a bunch of decent players in an effort to get more consistent production.  Specifically, he (Scott Pianowski of Roto-Wire) was looking to deal Alex Rodriguez, Kasuhiro Sasaki and Mark Buehrle for a number of hitters and some replacement pitching.

The first deal he made involved Alex Rodriguez.  He traded A-Rod and John Rocker for Jarrod Washburn and Carlos Guillen.  Given that his starting pitching was the strongest aspect of his team to date and that his offense was struggling, the deal had many people questioning the integrity of the participants - the other of whom was Jim Callis of Baseball America.

If that was the only deal he was looking to do, I might have reacted the same way upon first look.  However, teams don't always match up perfectly for deals, yet deals still get done.  And just because a team makes one deal that seems weak, that doesn't mean that they're finished dealing in an effort to improve the team.  That should hold especially true in a league like this one.  In fact, the deal might just be the first in a succession of deals that he makes all season long.  Some owners just like trading.  If they're good at it, that's how they win.

And in fact, Scott announced as much to the league: he was going to do several deals.  In a league where it is generally accepted that people know what they're doing, this should have been irrelevant.  Regardless, he was basically telling the league that he was going to be trading this season and that this was just the beginning.

If he executes it well, who's to say that this multi-trade strategy won't yield exactly what Scott was looking for - a more balanced, consistent team.  If he's able to turn Sasaki and Buehrle into 4 or 5 solid hitters, isn't he better off with 5 or 6 decent hitters than he would be with ARod and 5 bench-warming scrubs?  Washburn is pretty close in value to what he was getting with Buehrle - fewer wins, more strikeouts - so the only thing he would be losing out on would be saves.  Unless one of the three teams that don't have a closer deal for one, Scott will only lose 3 points in saves.  So if he makes up at least 3 points in hitting with these deals - and that can be in any of the 5 categories - then it was all worth it.

Everyone has a strength.  For some, it's assembling a team at the draft.  Others like to trade.  For others, it's picking up value on the free agent market during the season.  Trading happens to be Scott's forte.  Otherwise he wouldn't be willing to risk giving up a player like ARod without getting a bona fide equivalent deal in return.  He knows that after he's done dealing this season, he'll come out ahead of where he was, despite the fact that he doesn't really know where his next deals are coming from.  That's one of the beauties of this game: there're a number of paths to take to the same destination... it just depends on what you want to see along the way.

The future of Tout?

There're a couple of guys in this year's June amateur draft who'll likely be the objects of some controversial roto-trades in the future.

The first is the consensus best player in the draft, B.J. Upton.  He's a high school shortstop from Chesapeake, Virginia and his numbers this season are just plain ridiculous: 70 at bats, .614 batting average, 9 doubles, 3 triples, 10 homers (that's a slugging percentage of 1.257).  And he stole 21 bases.

The other guy is a high school pitcher from Houston, Texas named Scott Kazmir.  He's 17 years old and his fastball already touches 96 mph and he's got a plus slider and curve.  Just ask the hitters who've faced him this year.  He's faced 263 of them in 75 innings and he's struck out 172.  The 19 hits and 19 walks he's allowed finish the balance.  Only 3 have scored (ERA of 0.37).  For those of you who like roto indicators, that's a strikeout/9 innings of 20.64 and a K/BB ratio of 9.05.

No time like the present

As for what's going on this year, the Long Gandhi team is still one quality starter short, and is still looking for solutions in the middle infield and at catcher.  Hopefully I'll get lucky this week and pick up a couple guys for the rotation who'll stick until Orlando Hernandez and Wilson Alvarez get completely healthy.  As it looks right now, both starters should be back by the middle of June.

I think eventually, the Tigers are gonna have to consider making Mike Rivera at least part of a catching platoon.  Brandon Inge has never showed much potential with the bat and their offense is not so good that they can consider having an easy out in the line-up for the benefit of the defense.  The reason Rivera was sent down was not because of his defense.  Management suggested that, but there's no question that if he had hit half as well as he hit at Erie last year, he'd be hitting 5th in the line-up right now.  Good things have happened for Rivera since his demotion - he's hitting .556 with 2 homers and 7 RBI in his first 9 at bats - so he probably won't stay down for very long.

As for middle infield, the O's finally called up Brian Roberts to take over second base and he's promptly pulled a Jerry Hairston.  Neither guy is as bad a hitter as they've shown this far, but Roberts is slightly more discriminating.  From the games I've seen, he appears to be pressing a bit, perhaps in an effort to justify Mike Hargrove naming him the everyday second baseman.  Hopefully Grover will give him the same chance he gave Hairston - about a month and a half - to show what he can do.  One big positive pointing to better days is that he's still getting more walks than Ks.  Once he gets going, provided he gets the chance, he'll be a nice top of the order guy - .270-ish batting average, lots of walks, 5-8 homers, 15-20 steals.

In Toronto, Joe Lawrence appears to have lost his job to Dave Berg, although he will still gets spot starts.  The Jays are entering a soft spot in their schedule - Detroit and Tampa Bay - so maybe Lawrence can get things going in the next week.  If he doesn't, he's a very long shot to have any value this year because the Jays have other options and he has little or no trade value right now.

On a positive note, Damian Easley is expected back in Detroit sometime this weekend, so that should help the overall hitting situation.  There were rumors a couple weeks ago that Easley would have a hard time getting playing time because Damian Jackson was hitting so well.  Jackson's subsequent 7-for-45 slump took care of that notion and now it looks like Easley will get the majority of the playing time at second and Jackson might threaten slumping Wendell Magee's playing time in center field.

Further positives are the emergence of Adam Piatt, the surprising amount of playing time that Jeremy Giambi is getting in Philly, and the gradual resuscitation of Mark Quinn's bat.  Piatt has looked very comfortable at the plate and seems to be on a mission to prove that last year's bout with viral meningitis is a thing of the very distant past.  While his 39 homer outburst in Midland several years ago is an inflated picture of his power, 20 homers is certainly attainable.  Larry Bowa seems to prefer Giambi's enthusiastic approach to the vicissitudes of the game over Travis Lee's cool, even-handed approach.  So as long as Giambi is producing, he may get the majority of the at bats.  After bottoming out at .167, Quinn seems to have found his stroke this week, getting 5 hits in his last 10 at bats, 2 of them for home runs.  Quinn is another outfielder capable of getting to 20 homers this year.  In 1999, he hit 25 in AAA Omaha before smacking an additional 6 in Kansas City that September.

If Tony Clark can ever get on track, the Long Gandhi offense might start going Long Gone-dy.  Regardless, it should move the team up 5 points in the standings in the next week, and another 6 by the All-Star break.  The pitching should be able to regain it's position atop the standings in ERA (0.023 behind the top 2 teams) and break free of the bottom group in wins (a bottleneck of 4 teams).  That will put the Long Gandhi squad at 75.5 points, right in the thick of the title chase.  From there, anything can happen.