Friday, May 29, 2009

Question: Can Liriano and Lester Recover?

posted by Jon Williams
Dear Jon,

My name is Max Estes and I found your website through mlbtraderumors.com on Monday and I REALLY enjoy it! I have two conundrums in a extremely competitive head-to-head 7x7 (Runs, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, OBP, SLG, IP, W, L. Save, Strike Outs, ERA and WHIP) keeper (10 keepers plus 1 minor leaguer) league of which I am the commissioner. I could use your guidance. The categories I'm having some trouble in are AVG, SLG, Saves and sometimes SB. I received an offer from another manager where I would get Carlos Beltran, Francisco Liriano and Matt Lindstrom for Hunter Pence, Justin Verlander, and Jon Lester.

I was thinking about taking out Verlander for either Wandy Rodriguez or Eric Bedard. What is your opinion of those trades. Also I have an offer of I get Marco Scuturo for Gary Sheffield. I need an IF more than an OF but I could use the power. If you need any more information or more players on my team please let me know. Thank you in advance for helping me.

Max Estes
Hey Max,

Thanks for checking out the site and deciding to stick round. I appreciate it a lot. I need to thank Tim Dierkes, he's been sending a lot of readers my way lately. But to your trades...

Carlos Beltran, Francisco Liriano, and Matt Lindstrom

for

Hunter Pence, Justin Verlander, and Jon Lester

You did not include any prices or rounds so I'm going to assume that they do not matter in regards to who you choose to keep. If that assumption is wrong just let me know but for now I'm going to evaluate the trade as if you could keep anyone you choose without penalty.

Carlos Beltran is the best player in the deal by far, despite Hunter Pence having his strongest season yet. Unfortunately, being a Houston Astro sort of limits the Runs and RBI potential. A Rule of Thumb for Fantasy Baseball trading is that if you gain the best player in the deal you win the trade. They call it a Rule of Thumb because that isn't always a very accurate measure. Both players are hitting for very good averages, both are hitting for power (although not as much as we might hope as far as homeruns are concerned), and both are stealing a few bases. Beltran is just better in all of those categories. Beltran would be an upgrade over Pence but not a mind-blowing one.



Francisco Liriano is having a very tough season. His control is way off which is much more damaging than any perceived loss of stuff. He is having a degree of bad luck but a FIP of 4.88 indicates it is a bit more than just bad luck. He also seems to have abandoned his change-up. Which is resulting in more flyballs hit on his fastball, which resulted in a higher homerun rate. That's a major mistake for him and something that is easily fixed assuming he hasn't lost the feel for the pitch somehow. This could have a lot to do with Joe Mauer's absence for most of the first two months of the season. It's hard to judge based on one start but in his May 25th start his control seemed to be back and the result was zero walks, and seven strikeouts (and 11 hits) in just four innings. There were also small signs of recovery in the few starts before that one. It is based on a hunch, but I'd be willing to bet Liriano is about to enter a very strong stretch of pitching.

You would also receive the Florida Marlins closer, Matt Lindstrom. He may be a closer but Lindstrom is not going to help you in any category except saves. His control has been about as bad as it could be. I'm shocked he hasn't lost the role to one of the Marlins' many prospects. But you need saves and he does get them.

You would be giving up Justin Verlander who is pitching great and Jon Lester who has had disappointing results thus far. Believe it or not Verlander has been pretty unfortunate this season. His BABIP is bloated at .339 and his LOB percentage is just 64.9 compared to his career mark of 71.5 percent. In short, Verlander has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season. As bad as Verlander's luck has been, Jon Lester's has been much worse. Lester's .379 BABIP has been a huge hindrance to his owners. That and a 17.5 percent HR/FB rate has ruined his results. Balls that were harmless infield flies last year (12.9% in 2008, 4.8% in 2009) are now being launched out of the park. This is going to turn around soon. It has to, or Lester could be the causulty of the return of John Smoltz who is looking very good in his rehab starts. The Red Sox also have Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden pitching great in the minors.

You are going to lose quite a bit from your pitching staff if you make this deal but I understand that this is your strength. Exchanging Wandy Rodriguez or Eric Bedard (both are pitching pretty good) for Verlander would help make it a bit better for you and still provide your trading partner a significant upgrade over what he was getting before. If you can get him to make the switch from Verlander I would do the deal. It has some risk, but I think you'll get enough of an upgrade where you need it (SLG, Saves, and Stolen Bases) to make it worth while. This is especially true if you believe (as I do) that Francisco Liriano will turn it around. Liriano is the key. If you believe, you can do this trade. If you don't believe then you should keep trying to re-work it.

As for the Marcus Scutaro and Gary Sheffield deal, I would just hang on to Sheffield. Scutaro is having a nice season, but I think it will all be downhill from here for him. Sheffield is going to get to play a lot and when he's playing well there are few better.

Good luck Max!

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