Sunday, April 24, 2011

When Is It Time To Dump?

And as the last week of April begins, fantasy owners begin to confront the question that will dog him/her throughout the season:  where am I and should I (go for it)/(dump)?  Mike wrote about the time to dump last year, but since I now find myself in the position to do it myself, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this piece.  The dump question is never an easy question to answer.  Is there an advantage to dumping early?  This is never an easy question to answer, and that answer could impact your fantasy team for years to come.  Perhaps it is best if I use my American League home league to demonstrate the points of interest in the analysis.

Step 1.  Identify my team strengths and weaknesses.

In my American League home league (12 teams 4x4 standard categories), I am currently sitting with 47.5 points, having lost 11.5 points so far this week thanks to an anemic offense and a poor Jeff Francis outing.  A glance at my offense tells me that Franklin Gutierrez will not be back any time soon and that Jack Wilson has decided he will not run anymore as punishment to his team for being benched.  A closer look, however, tells me that I have 12 essential full-time players (Kurt Suzuki and Miguel Olivo getting the reasonable time off for catchers) and a few are off to pretty slow starts.  While the Gutierrez injury hurts, there is no glaring need to dump.

My pitching is intriguing.  Trevor Cahill is fine.  My closers, Joakim Soria and Jonathan Papelbon are fine as well.  My remaining staff, however, is really outperforming expected norms.  Justin Masterson and Jeff Francis (until this week’s outing) have been better than projected, and I have gotten very lucky with my flier on Tyler ChatwoodZach Britton, on the other hand, has been a little below my expectations, but a close look at his interior numbers suggest he is going to get better.  Again, I see no glaring reason to dump just based on a look at my roster.

Step 2.  Identify my category strengths and weaknesses.

Step 1 above is not the end of the analysis.  Now it is time to take a look at where you stand in the categories.  Using my AL team as an example again, this is where I begin to find myself in trouble.  I knew coming in to the season that I would be light on speed and average, and my pitching was thin enough to make me potentially in trouble in wins, WHIP and ERA.  Well, so far so good on the pitching side of things: tied for third in wins (three wins back), third in saves (one save back), sixth in ERA and fifth in WHIP (and in shouting distance in both categories).

Offense, however, is a different story.  I am already 11th in HR, and 11 home runs back.  I am also ninth in RBI (and losing ground), ninth in SB (a miracle, frankly), and tenth in average.  Despite having a fairly full compliment of at-bats, I am still falling behind in the counting categories.

In the end, I am 21 points out of first place, with 34.5 pitching points and an offense that is under-performing.  The league spread is only 29 points, so no one is going to be dumping quite yet.

Step 3.  What do I have to trade?

There have been no trades in our American League yet this season.  This is a league built around the dumping culture, and fair trades are hard to find.  Unfortunately, for me, I am thin enough right now in the pitching categories (despite my pitching points), that it is hard to trade a pitcher for offense, and, as you see above, Cahill is untradeable (he is also a $10 S1, so he is either a keep or a dump chip, and I certainly could not get sufficient value back on offense to support the loss of an ace).

While I had a solid auction, and while I have some chips I can trade to make myself competitive, the projected contenders do have a lot of chips to dump, certainly significantly more than I do.  Both of the “co-favorites” are also ahead of me in the standings already.  In other words: do I play for third, or do I dump early and get the best deal I can get while I am the only “dumper” in the marketplace?


In the end, I play to win, whether the “win” is winning the league or winning in dump trading.  This year, I think it is much more likely that I decide to play for next year, and my best bet on a good return on investment might be to go and dump now.  I control the marketplace if I go now, and can hopefully do better than the traditional 2-for-1 dumping culture.  Mike correctly identified my first dump trade of the year last year (as the recipient) here; looking back, that is really a 3-for-2 trade (keeping in mind that Dustin McGowan looked as though he was coming back), and the people who swooped in later seemed to get better return.  

So, with this knowledge, if the contenders try to squeeze me and no good deals come along, it also works to my advantage. You need to convince the contenders that 130 games of your best players is significantly better than the number of games they get from players acquired on June 1, July 1 or July 31.  Frankly, the rate of return for the dumping party should be significantly better, regardless of the arguments of injuries, etc.

If the league remains tightly packed, then the competition for players becomes greater later in the season.  So, on the other hand, I'm in no hurry. 

Unless, of course, my league reads the blog….

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