Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Mailbag: Carlos Guillen vs. Jason Kipnis, vetoing trades

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on July 25, 2011 @ 10:17:34 PDT


The trade deadline is approaching and things are no doubt taking shape in your fantasy league. Those of you in head to head leagues are coming down the homestretch with your playoffs right around the corner. Those in rotisserie formats are looking to see where you can gain points and make a run for the championship. Need a hand? No problem, just send an e-mail to lordzola@kffl.com, post your question on the KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by following @KFFL_Baseball.

Hello Lord Zola. I have a philosophical question for you. Recently, I made a trade in my league, but it was vetoed by the commissioner. Now he has made a trade with the guy I traded with and I am pissed. Our rules say when the commissioner is involved in a trade, the assistant commissioner gets to rule and guess what, I am the assistant commissioner. To be honest, the trade is OK, but so was mine. What should I do? – Reg Butterfield, Fort Wayne, IN

Okay, lots of ways to take this. Let me start by answering the question and then I will go off on my rant, which may surprise those of you not familiar with my stance on this issue. Reg, honestly, the right thing to do is let the deal go through, though it would have helped if you provided the details. Be the bigger man, in the long run, you will be better off. It would not surprise me if this earned you some brownie points with the league and helps you make another deal of your own. After not rejecting the commissioner’s deal, he would be a fool to veto yours.

Now to get on my soapbox and do the veto rant. Actually, now that I think about it, there are two egregious points that are in need of attention.

Carlos Guillen, 2B, Detroit Tigers
Guillen or Kipnis?

First, it is my not so humble opinion that a fantasy league commissioner should not have any ruling authority assuming they are also a participant in the league. They should be simply a secretary and facilitator, enforcing the rules, not making decisions that impact the dynamics of the league’s standings. Sure, the commissioner can write the rules to their liking, but it should be done in such a manner that the league runs itself. At times, especially during the first few years of a new league, there may be loopholes and cunning owners that try to exploit them, but even then, I still do not feel it is the commissioner’s job to rule. I would prefer the commissioners clearly explain the spirit of the rule and ask the league to vote. Then, in the off-season, the rules can be revised to eliminate the loophole.

My general take on trade vetoes may be a little different than you are accustomed to coming from a card-carrying so-called expert. I know the party line is to decree that no trades shall be overturned unless there is clear evidence of collusion. I am familiar with all the rhetoric. You cannot legislate against stupidity. Who am I to judge if a trade is fair? Albert Pujols could get hit by a bus tomorrow. For what it is worth, if Pujols was in fact hit by a bus, he would probably only miss a game or two, but I digress. My fellow fantasy brethren are quick to say things like if an owner got ripped off, it is shame on you for not doing the fleecing. Sorry, but I have an issue with this myopic perspective.

In general, I am bothered by the words always and never. They are just too absolute. Things are hardly ever black and white; there is usually a gray area. It is this gray area I am concerned about. At the end of the day, it is going to take an extremely unreasonable trade to make me veto, but I at least want the ability to do so. I am thinking mostly about the uninvolved owners. They invest their time, energy and sometimes discretionary income on this hobby. To me, it is just not fair to have that compromised because it is league policy to let an unreasonable deal go through without there being tangible proof of conclusion.

I have twice purposely chosen the word unreasonable, because that is the root of my argument. Like it or not, the fact is, every player has a reasonable level of expected performance. Of course, this is a range, sometimes a very broad one, but the truth is every player has an expected worst case performance and an expected best case performance. Not every player will end up falling within that range, but that is not the point. An objective evaluation can be made on each and every player. If you happen to believe the player will perform worse than the low or better than the high, you are applying some subjective criteria. Think about it, if this were not a subjective prediction, the basis for that would be incorporated into the objective analysis and the range would reflect that. Different people may disagree exactly where in the range a player may fall, but they should be able to concur on a reasonable range. For the record, I define reasonable as not being hit by a bus or being bit by a radioactive spider, giving the player superpowers, though the range can reflect injury concerns for those with a history of health woes. In my eyes, if there is no overlap of reasonable expectations in a deal, it is worthy of being rejected. That is, if the worst one can reasonably expect from one side is superior to the best one can reasonably expect on the other, sorry, I will veto. I do not look at it subjectively, but use projection theory to objectify the deal.

I do not want to dwell too much longer on this, but I do wish to make a couple more points. As suggested, I do not have an itchy trigger finger when it comes to vetoes. All I ask that is there is a mechanism in place to handle what I have defined as an unreasonable trade. I am willing to bet I would veto fewer deals than some of you that presently agree with the credo to never veto deals, until you are in a league with such a deal.

To wrap this up, I completely understand that if there is a veto system in place, some may abuse it which can be considered as a reason not to use one. Not everyone will use the “reasonable” criteria I described and instead vote with personal agendas, not unlike Rog’s league commissioner. My response here is most leagues will end up policing themselves. Sure, there will be a few numskulls who veto because the deal hurts their team or because they want to get revenge on another owner. But if the number to enact a veto is sufficient, these selfish votes will have no impact and only the truly unreasonable deals will be stopped.

Hi Todd. I have Orlando Cabrera at middle infield and am afraid he will lose playing time. Should I pick up Jason Kipnis who is replacing him or take a chance on Carlos Guillen? – Joanne Schmidt, Bellingham, WA

I am privately chuckling because over the weekend, I was asked a similar question, Kipnis or Ryan Raburn? I waffled back and forth and finally settled on Raburn, figuring there are several paths to Raburn getting his playing time back, while Kipnis is still a bit of an unknown and if he struggles, Cleveland will not hesitate to reinsert Orlando Cabrera full time so long as they are still competitive in the AL Central.

At the crux of this particular question is balancing the unknowns. As suggested, Kipnis is a wild-card, who knows how he will do? We have a little better idea of how Guillen will produce, we just do not know for how long. I have seen some people suggest Kipnis can go 10/10 the rest of the season. I know as a society we prefer round numbers, but we do need to be careful. With two months remaining, 10/10 translates to 30/30 for a full season. Do you know how many guys go 30/30, let alone rookie second baseman with a good but not great pedigree? Let’s be conservative and give Kipnis 15/15 for a full season. That means he should hit five homers and swipe five bags the final two months. This is not bad, all I am saying is let’s temper expectations. A healthy Guillen would likely match if not better the power but not the speed. But, I think Guillen’s injury risk is a little greater than the chance Kipnis completely bombs so in the Kipnis versus Guillen comparison, I will side with Kipnis.

When Todd is not trying to decide what is unreasonable and what isn’t, you can find him waffling on the forum at Mastersball.

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About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.

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