January 14, 2003

Big deal

The last time I wrote about one of my Diamond-Mind keeper league teams I got a lot of really good feedback, so I am going to do so again and hope I don't completely bore everyone.

The first Diamond-Mind related entry was about one of my two teams, the Minnesota Gophers, and I solicited advice from everyone about which players I should keep for next year and which players I should cut to stay under the salary cap.
I got a ton of emails with suggestions and I even listened to a few of them.

This time, I want to talk about my other team, the Minnesota Fatboys.

In the middle of last season, I was enjoying my first experience in a Diamond-Mind league so much that I decided I wanted to join a second league.
So, when I was offered a chance to take over an abandoned team in a really good league, I jumped at the offer.
The Fatboys (not their original name) were in dead last (because of some injuries to the star players and some not-so-good 2001 seasons by everyone else) and had no chance of contending, but they had a lot of players that were in the midst of having great 2002 seasons and I knew they would be very good for this upcoming season.
I took over the team, took my lumps over the second half of the season and set out with plans of contending next season.

Looking at the roster and the stats now, I am almost certain I have a playoff team on my hands and I think 100-105 wins is a reasonable expectation.

My general strategy for keeper leagues is to plan for a 2-3 year period at all times.
However, this roster is so unbelievably stacked for 2002 that I have decided that I need to do everything possible to win this year, which means forgetting about any sort of long-term plan.
It might come back to bite me, but it is a chance I am willing to take.
Plus, I think it would be really fun to win the championship during my first full-season in the league!

So, with that in mind, I have been searching for ways to upgrade my team for this upcoming season, via trade.

When you aren't particularly worried about the long-term effects of a trade and you are able to know in advance how well a player will perform for you in the upcoming season (Diamond-Mind uses the previous season's stats in the league's current season) it is fairly easy to figure out whether or not a trade is an upgrade for the upcoming season.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from one of the other team owners (actually the commish of the whole league) wondering if I was interested in Brian Giles.
I definitely was, as any card-carrying member of the stathead community would be.

Giles has been one of the best and most consistent hitters in all of baseball for the past 4 seasons, not to mention one of the most underrated.
His being underrated wasn't going to help me in this instance however, because the guy I was talking trade with was a stathead just like me and was fully aware of Giles' value.
The other team's owner - let's call him Chris - was in rebuilding mode and was interested in acquiring players that had the potential to help him win a championship in 2 or 3 years.

He was interested in a few of my players, but the one he liked the most was Adam Dunn.
As many of you know already, I think Adam Dunn is going to be a stud.
He is a gigantic left handed hitter with huge power potential and an incredible ability to draw walks at a young age (he was 22 last year and drew 128 walks!).

That said, his 2002 season, which was his first full year in the Majors, was slightly disappointing, at least in my mind.
I was expecting him to be one of the top offensive outfielders in baseball from the start...and he almost was.

In the first half of the year, Dunn hit .300/.452/.544 with 17 homers, 14 doubles and 78 walks in 283 at bats.

Those are incredible numbers for a guy in his first full-season in the Majors at the age of 22.
Then something happened and I am still not sure exactly what it was.
Dunn absolutely stunk in the second half of the year and was about as close to "lost" as a great player can be.

He hit .190/.339/.353 with 9 homers, 14 doubles and 50 walks in 252 second half at bats.

Basically, his average dropped over 100 points, his home run power dropped almost in half and he walked quite a bit less.

For the year, he hit .249/.400/.454 with 26 homers, 28 doubles and 128 walks in 158 games.
Definitely a very good season, particularly for a 22 year old, but a lot less than my lofty expectations.

So, while Dunn would have been a very nice right fielder for the Fatboys in the upcoming season, Giles would be a significant upgrade.

Here are Giles' numbers from 2002:
.298/.450/.622 with 38 homers, 37 doubles and 135 walks in 153 games.

According to Baseball Prospectus, Giles was worth 10.0 "Wins Above Replacement Position" in 2002, while Dunn was worth 5.2 "WARP."

The Diamond-Mind league only has 20 teams in it, which means the "replacement level" is quite a bit higher than Major League Baseball, but I think it is safe to say that Giles would be worth about 3-5 wins over Dunn for the upcoming season.

As I said, I am in a mode that is 100% focused on winning this upcoming season, so a 3-5 game improvement is something I was willing to sacrifice the future for.
Still, I was a little uneasy trading away Adam Dunn.

I truly believe he will be a consistent .280/.440/.550 hitter for a very long time.
In his peak, it wouldn't surprise me to see him hit 50 homers and walk 140 times in several different seasons.

But guess what? Brian Giles is already that caliber of hitter and he has been for the last 4 seasons:

Year       G      AVG      OBP      SLG      BB     HR     2B      EqA
1999 141 .315 .418 .614 95 39 33 .330
2000 156 .315 .432 .594 114 35 37 .335
2001 160 .309 .404 .590 90 37 37 .323
2002 153 .298 .450 .622 135 38 37 .349

For a player performing at such a high level, those are remarkably consistent stats over a 4 year period.

Basically, Giles is a .300 hitter that walks 100 times, hits 35-40 homers, 35-40 doubles, gets on base 40-45% of the time and slugs .600.

I was looking at those numbers while thinking about Adam Dunn's future and the light bulb went on over my head: If Adam Dunn becomes the player I think he will be, he will be performing at about the same exact level that Brian Giles has been performing at for the past 4 seasons.

And, since I am focused on the present and not the future with this team, how could I pass up the chance to get Giles and his performance right now, in exchange for a guy that I think has a very good chance of hitting that well in the future? I couldn't, so I made the deal.

Actually, it wasn't that simple.

Because the team that I took over had such an awful season, I was holding the #3 pick in the entire off-season draft.
Chris wanted that pick, along with Dunn.

There were a lot of players that I had being drooling over with that #3 pick, particularly one Mr. Hideki Matsui.
But, I wasn't sure exactly which players would be available at #3 and no one seemed very likely to help me a whole lot for this upcoming season (Matsui, for example, couldn't even be used because he didn't play in MLB in 2002).

So, I agreed to hand over the pick, along with Dunn, in exchange for Brian Giles and a couple of role players - Steve Reed and Karim Garcia - both of whom had nice 2002s and could help me in the upcoming season.

And just like that, I had completed the biggest trade I had ever made in a keeper league.
One of the top players in all of baseball for a young superstar in the making and the #3 pick in the draft.

I know this is a cliche, but I really think this is a deal that truly helps both teams.
Chris wasn't looking to contend this year or even the year after, so by the time he is ready to get serious about winning, Brian Giles will be well into his 30s.
And by that time, Adam Dunn will be a veteran and will have already totaled about 150 homers and 500 walks and he can be the cornerstone of a championship caliber team.

From my point of view, I sacrifice a potential .400 OBP / .600 SLG hitter in 2005 and beyond for a .400 OBP / .600 SLG hitter right now.

At this point, you are probably wondering exactly what the Minnesota Fatboys' roster looks like.
Unless I am crazy, it is pretty damn scary.

Keep in mind, this is a 20 team league, so the overall talent level per team is better than Major League baseball.
I haven't decided exactly which players I am going to keep and cut, but here is a guess as to how the core of the team will shake out for next year:

Starting Rotation:

Player               IP      ERA
Pedro Martinez 199 2.26
Barry Zito 229 2.75
Derek Lowe 220 2.58
Al Leiter 204 3.48
Jason Jennings 185 4.52

My rotation includes the top 3 AL Cy Young award vote getters and Al Leiter, who had a 3.48 ERA and over 200 innings pitched.
The only guy with an ERA over 3.50 is Jason Jennings and he pitched half his games in Coors Field, so his performance was actually way better than his numbers indicate and Diamond-Mind does adjust everything for park factors, so he'll see his ERA drop quite a bit pitching for me outside of Coors.


Player               IP      ERA
Braden Looper 86 3.14
Damaso Marte 60 2.83
Steve Reed 67 2.02
Mike Williams 61 2.94

All 4 guys had very nice 2002 seasons and my bullpen should be only slightly less effective than my rotation.
If all goes according to plan, I would think my team ERA could very easily be under 3.00, depending on which relievers I grab to fill out the bullpen.

Starting Lineup:

Pos     Player               AVG      OBP      SLG
SS Derek Jeter .297 .373 .421
RF Brad Wilkerson .266 .370 .469
DH Brian Giles .298 .450 .622
2B Alfonso Soriano .300 .332 .547
CF Torii Hunter .289 .334 .524
C Ivan Rodriguez .314 .353 .542
3B Aubrey Huff .313 .364 .520
1B Mo Vaughn .259 .349 .456
LF Mark McLemore .270 .380 .395

I think that's a damn good lineup, although not as impressive as the pitching staff.
The defense is even decent, with Torii Hunter and Ivan Rodriguez on the plus side and Jeter, Vaughn and Huff on the bad end.
Wilkerson, Giles and McLemore all have some serious platoon issues, so they will likely sit on the bench against lefties, at least occasionally.


Pos     Player               AVG      OBP      SLG
C Todd Pratt .311 .449 .500
OF Moises Alou .275 .337 .419
OF Ron Gant .262 .338 .489
OF Karim Garcia .297 .314 .574

As I said, I will need guys to play the outfield corners and hit left handed pitching, which is exactly what Gant, Alou and Garcia can do. The one thing I need to do is find a capable backup infielder that can cover SS, 2B and 3B, which would enable me to keep 3 outfielders on the bench.

All in all, a pretty good team, don't you think?
I think the pitching is good enough to lead the league in ERA and, with the addition of Giles, the offense looks very good as well.

Of course, the team can only go as far as the manager takes them, which is why they might be in trouble.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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