Friday, June 08, 2012

The Merits of Dumping

Over at Fangraphs today, Howard Bender wrote about dumping. The piece starts out with a pretty negative stance against dumping and for the most part maintains this focus throughout. Bender does finish by saying "if one man's trash is another man's treasure and both parties are happy, how can it be a bad deal?" However, the piece is pretty much a slam against the idea of playing for next year...particularly this "early."

Here were some of Bender's points...and where I differ.
It doesn’t matter that there’s still almost four months left in the season and plenty of time to mount a comeback, there are those that accept defeat a little too easily and all they care about is which stud protect they can pick up just by unloading their roster to someone in the hunt for a title.  It’s time for the dump deal.
While there is a lot of time left in the season, by June it is usually fairly obvious which teams are going to contend and which teams aren't. It's rare for a team in eighth place in a 12-team league to suddenly start performing at an elite level and make a spirited run at the title. I have been playing Rotisserie for 25+ years and have seen it happen four or five times. Hanging on because there's "plenty of time to mount a comeback" has to be rooted in reality, not the calendar. I did it once, but I also had the benefit of an in-his-prime Pedro Martinez and a lot of luck.
The following season, supposedly, those bottom-feeders become the contenders and the top ranked players get passed around again.  Ideally, that’s the case.  Ideally.
In my home leagues, there is a fairly healthy turnover in the "money" (top four) spots from season to season. In the three of the last five years in my home A.L., only one out of four teams that finished at the top the year before repeated the following season. Last year saw complete turnover...every team that finished in the top four in 2010 failed to do so in 2011.

Part of the reason this happens is that our league has contracts. Players don't get passed around again and again because eventually their contracts run out and they hit free agency. A contender typically loses a significant number of players to Rotisserie free agency and has to start over the following year. It's possible to stay in the money for multiple seasons but extremely rare if your league is set up correctly.
But the problem with these, though, is that these trades are usually three or four players for one and come off as egregiously lopsided.
We used to see trades like this all the time. Then we instituted a salary cap and it made it harder to pull trades like this off without hitting the cap in short order. Beyond the cap, owners in experienced leagues are simply savvier than this and won't do more than a 2-for-1...if you're lucky. I'm contending in one of my home leagues this year and am having a hard time finding a 2-for-1 dump deal. The teams at the bottom set the market, and if one team won't take a 4-for-1 no team will since the goal is to get the most keepers for next year.
The debates are endless and usually remain unresolved.  Some leagues try to implement rules to try and block such deals from occurring but, more often than not, the attempts are futile because it really all comes down to subjective value.  Everyone values players differently.  Some look at a guy like Jacoby Ellsbury and see a potential 30-30 stud while others will look at him as an injury prone guy who had a fluke season with respect to power.  As it stands right now, neither is 100% wrong, are they?  So how do you determine the value of protecting a guy like him for next year?  Is the chance to keep him and hope for a repeat of his 2011 numbers worth a bounty of role players right now?  And if he is worth it, then what would be the price to pay for an underachieving Albert Pujols or a twice-DL’d Matt Kemp? 
On the other side of that coin, is the value of the role players.  Are they just role players or do some of them have the potential to become keepers?  If Jason Kipnis continues to play at this level, is he worth keeping?  Some will say that he is just off to a good start but will level off while others see him as a potential 20-20 player at a relatively thin position.  Can anyone say, with 100% certainty, who is right and who is wrong here?
What Bender looks at as an issue, I view as a wonderful challenge. Kipnis or Dustin Ackley? Eric Hosmer or Brett Lawrie? This is where the game is won and lost: evaluating players not only on their numbers in the rearview mirror, but based on what you think they're going to do next year.

I don't like to dump, and until this year in my National League home league had avoided it for the last six years. But I view the dump culture as part of the challenge of fantasy baseball, and not as something that I turn my nose up at. If I hated dumping that much, I wouldn't play in keeper leagues.


NSH said...

In my AL, I was willing to pull out the stops to see if I could continue a multiple year run of money finishes. But, realistically, a ton of teams to crawl over. I was disinclined to dump because with our new ten player freeze list rule, I will no longer use up spots for long range plays. And, I had a nearly full keeper list with Trout, Andrus, Wieters, Reed, Sale, Duffy, Cain, and dollar players Ross, Drabek, Miline, Peacock, Hultzen and Zobrist and Upton at 24 and 22. And Lavarnway at 2 and Fllowers at 4.

But, Hosmer at 10 and now Lawrie at 15 and Kipnis at 13 are in play. As well as Matt Moore at 7. So, dump was the way to go. Got Hosmer, d'Arnaud (2) , Holland 14 for Felix 31, Martin 13 and Morales 18. Reasonably good chance can get one of Kipnis or Lawrie. If you realistically cannot win, why wouldn't you go into next year with those guys? And enjoy barring injury watching them this year?

Answer is, if you are looking for guarantees that the dump will pay off. No such guarantee. But in my view the gamble is part of the game

Scooter said...

Hear, hear, Mike.