Grand Theft Roto: Buy high while others buy low
"Maybe this game is just for bangers. But the thing is, even if is just for bangers, everybody's doing it. If everybody's doing it there's a lot of guys doing it."
Tom Cruise, as Vince, the nine-ball savant in "The Color of Money," used this rationale for why he strived to be the best. But Vince wasn't a born hustler. Vince wanted the world to see him coming, while Fast Eddie wanted to fly under the radar.
Can you guess which guy has his GTR button?
Pulling off a Grand Theft Roto is as much about the hustle as it is about the haul. Maybe we'll trade away Jason Schmidt and Troy Glaus right before both go on the DL, as I did just last week (and yes, I tore my rotator cuff patting myself on the back), or maybe we'll buy Brett Myers after a few bad starts, only to watch him turn into a relief pitcher. Regardless of the results, the techniques we use are empirically valuable.
So don't be a Vince. If "everybody's doing it," do the opposite.
So what is everybody doing? They're buying low. It's like a cheer.
"Injuries, weather, rotten luck! Give me a star whose stats suck, suck, suck!"
Feel free to join the pep squad too if you come across a Carlos Zambrano owner who wants to unload his slot-machine inspired 7.77 ERA for fear he has actually switched bodies with Kyle Lohse (it would explain a lot).
If your fellow owners have two fully functioning hemispheres of their brain, though, you'll find a lot of competition when trying to buy low. That's when it's time to note the second half of the "buy low" mantra, which is "sell high." With everyone looking to move their players who are off to hot starts, a selective owner will see opportunity.
The key word is "selective." It is foolish to buy high on Tim Hudson's sub-1.00 ERA and WHIP so he can anchor your staff or Aaron Hill's .353 batting average and 120 RBI pace to boost your offense. But I have to disagree with the boss man, Matthew Berry, (that's right GTReaders, I'm putting my gig on the line to keep it real with you) who in his April 16 TRUM implied that Alex Rodriguez could be sold high since he's unlikely to hit much more than another 40 or so home runs this season due to his hot start.
Some players have an established pattern, like Johan Santana, whose April ERA from 2004 to 2006 is 4.42, more than a point and a half worse than his overall ERA of 2.75 in that span. But for the rest, assuming a player will speed up or slow down to eventually regress to his career average is a pill some swallow too easily, and without checking the label first.
A-Rod hit 57 homers just five years ago, so he could hit another 46 this year without even setting a new career best. Sure, his batting average is likely to slip, but weren't we all saying the same thing last year when Joe Mauer was leading the league early on? So if you sell high on the Yankees' third baseman, do so because his value will never be higher. But understand there are plenty of players out there who are taking their game to the next level whose owners aren't yet convinced.
Last year, when Garrett Atkins exploded out of the gate, I said, "Go get him," because I believed it was the tip of his stat-a-licious iceberg. I said the same thing about Michael Barrett, Erik Bedard and Brandon Webb in 2006, all of whom got off to great starts and kept them going.
If you can take a big name who has genuine questions looming, such as Ryan Zimmerman, Barry Zito, Gary Sheffield or A.J. Burnett (see, now Mr. Berry likes me again) and turn one of them into a player whose hot start is just the beginning of a career year, it's a GTR that goes against the grain.
Who fits the bill?
For years, the peripheral numbers implied Javier Vazquez was getting unlucky more often than he was getting hit hard. Now, he's getting waaaaaaay lucky, but I still like him to finish with an ERA less than 4.00 and approach 200 K's.
Ian Kinsler batted .345 with 20 homers and 98 RBI in 2004, his first year of full-season minor league ball, so what he's doing now he's done before. Last week I said I'd dangle him for Chone Figgins and I still would because Figgy is a category killer, but Kinsler has the skills to be this year's Dan Uggla.
Marcus Giles' numbers look like the ones he put up from 2003 to 2005, before last year's debacle. Giles isn't even 29 yet, folks. If someone thinks they're selling high, let them. He will go 15/15 this year.
I think you might find Tom Gorzelanny and Ian Snell's owners nervous about holding on to their two Pirates aces too long. Snell's strikeouts make him the prime target, but I'd inquire about both without reservation.
You may catch some heat for "buying high," but while other owners wait for their slumpers to wake up, you will be riding hot hands who have no intention of cooling down.
I made two deals this week, but the first one can't be counted as a GTR since it was offered to me. Grand Theft Rotos must be engineered, not simply accepted. A frustrated owner in my 10-team AL league offered Miguel Tejada straight up for J.D. Drew. I accepted it quick, before the other owner went back on his meds.
My main need, though, was starting pitching, and Jeremy Bonderman's owner had been trying to pry some power out of me all season, so I turned around and offered Tejada and Jarrod Washburn for Bobby Crosby and Bonderman.
No counteroffer. We had a deal. In 48 hours, I turned Drew and Washburn into Bonderman and Crosby. That's when I got a note from my Consigliere, Zach Messler.
I hate J.D. Drew. I can't help myself. It comes with being a Philadelphia sports fan. It clouds my judgment, because any deal where you can give away Drew and get Bonderman is a nice score in my book. But, if I rationally consider the numbers, I don't think this is a GTR.
Yes you needed pitching and seriously upgraded on Jarrod Washburn by adding Bonderman. If Bobby Crosby is finally healthy, he could be very good too. But that's a big if. Bottom line: I like this trade, but perhaps more because you got rid of Drew than the numbers. Not a bad deal at all. Just not necessarily a GTR.
I'm worried about Crosby too, but this roster also happens to include the previously mentioned Aaron Hill, so until Crosby gets going, he can ride the pine. It's also worth remembering that as one of four starting pitchers on my team, Bonderman's going to influence my pitching stats a lot more than Drew or Tejada would impact my hitting as one of fourteen hitters.
Use ESPN Conversation or e-mail to let me know what you think of the latest deal, and until next week, don't just win your league. Steal it.
Shawn Peters is a fantasy baseball and football analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com, as well as a regular contributor to the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. He can be reached at GrandTheftRoto@TalentedMrRoto.com
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