Are You For Real? Bradley, Iguchi, Linebrink
With the non-waiver trade deadline inching closer and closer, everyone is speculating about who will be traded where. It is more important to analyze what already has happened, though.
The various Mark Teixeira rumors were fun to read about, of course, but the bottom line is simple: He's still going to be awesome. The under-the-radar deals are often the best sources of fantasy value, even if they only play appetizer to the main-course blockbusters. The seemingly minor, quickly forgotten trades are the ones "Are You For Real" touches upon this week.
With Bradley initially designated for assignment, then traded by the Athletics a month ago, it looked as though this could be a lost season as he moved to Petco Park and promptly hit the disabled list. But since returning in early July, Bradley has been on fire, hitting .333 with four home runs. How productive can Bradley be?
Adam: Unreal. I have always been a big fan of Bradley's. His numbers have always projected him as a 20/20 threat, if he could ever manage to play a full season. But so much fantasy value is tied to a player's surroundings, and Bradley's have just gone from bad to worse. McAfee Coliseum, the Athletics' home park, has been a pitcher's park this season, but Petco is one of the few parks that suppresses both home runs and doubles by more than 20 percent from the average. The severity is evidenced by the Padres' own home and away splits; on the road, they are a league-average offense but are the worst offense in the majors at home. Considering what Bradley is, an outfielder with limited power, Petco essentially further strips Bradley of his skills.
Will: For Real. Adam's right, Petco is a significant factor and Bradley is always a health risk. But I don't think Bradley will be a bust. Runs still will be scored in San Diego, and Bradley's high on-base percentage and above-average power will ensure that he's involved in a lot of them. Additionally, his plus speed promises a handful of steals the remainder of the season. A fair projection from here on might be a .270 average, a half-dozen homers and steals and about 20 runs and RBIs. Those are numbers that have plenty of value in all but the shallowest leagues.
Like every other White Sox hitter this season, Iguchi has struggled immensely, on pace to hit just half of the home runs he hit last season. Hitting just .251, Iguchi was traded to the Phillies in the wake of Chase Utley's broken hand. Is Iguchi a mere stopgap or is there something more to the deal?
Adam: For Real. Unlike with Bradley, Iguchi's surroundings have improved significantly. Instead of hitting behind Darin Erstad (.311 OBP) and Jerry Owens (.283), it looks as though he will hit behind Pat Burrell (.412 OBP). The Phillies rank third in baseball in runs scored and second in OPS; the White Sox are 23rd in runs scored and 26th in OPS. In terms of home parks, it is true Iguchi has had significant home splits (career .829 OPS at home, .697 on the road), but in terms of park effects, Citizens Bank Park is pretty much a wash against U.S. Cellular Field. Another big plus in Iguchi's favor is a potential increase in steals; the Phillies have attempted 95 steals, the White Sox 72. Iguchi's batting average should rise, as well. Although he is hitting .251, his contact rate is exactly the same as it was last year, when he hit .281. For the next month or so, Iguchi should be an above-average second baseman.
Will: Unreal. Iguchi probably will be useful, but don't expect too much. His raw power and speed have been on the decline since he entered the league. It's true his contact rate is the same as last year, but he was fortunate last year in terms of hits on balls in play. This year, without that same luck, his average has returned to a level more commensurate with his actual skills. The counting stats Iguchi will provide in Philly are certainly worth something, and I agree with Adam that the environment is no worse, but he won't be anything more than a league-average second sacker. At 32, Iguchi probably has had his best season already.
One of baseball's elite relievers since 2004, Linebrink has been on the trade market for a couple of years now. The Padres finally shipped him out to the Brewers, who already have closer Francisco Cordero. Can he keep up his production in new surroundings?
Adam: Unreal. The scariest Linebrink stats one can bring up are his home and away splits for this season: a 2.10 ERA and 0.90 WHIP at home, but a bloated 5.75 ERA and 1.62 WHIP on the road. Linebrink is a fly ball pitcher, and as we have seen with Chris Young this season, there might not be a more favorable place than Petco for a fly ball pitcher to pitch. The turnover rate for relievers is quite high, and Linebrink already has showed some signs of decline -- his strikeout rate is absurdly low (5.0 K/9). Quite honestly, Linebrink might be about to blow, and it looks like a great idea to sell him off to another team before that happens. Besides, the Padres have a new Linebrink anyway in Heath Bell.
Will: Unreal. Adam has hit this one on the head. Petco has masked Linebrink's real 2007, the one in which his control, home run rate and especially strikeout rate have slipped considerably. Unless he has been hiding an injury, there is evidence of serious skills decline here. Linebrink's home run percentage on fly balls might be artificially high, but there's no visible excuse for the lack of strikeouts. Linebrink's peripherals paint a picture of a reliever who's no more than a shell of his former self. The road numbers Adam quotes above tell the real tale, and this is one trade the Brewers probably are going to regret.
Will Harris and Adam Madison are fantasy baseball analysts for TalentedMrRoto.com. Will can be contacted at WillHarris@TalentedMrRoto.com and Adam at Adam@TalentedMrRoto.com.