by Brian Walton
For all the years I have played fantasy baseball, I've never been known as a wild and crazy trader. Yet in recent years in National League Tout Wars, I have pushed harder than in the past.
While the intent was noble, the results say otherwise.
I made three major trades this season in NL Tout. Until now, I did not notice they were almost exactly one month apart to the day. They were all oriented around the same theme - trading away offense to acquire pitching.
Should've stuck with Howard?
I left the draft table with a strong group of position players spiced by a moderate gamble on then-injured Ryan Howard. The group came through, as reborn David Wright and juiced Melky Cabrera fought it out in the NL batting race in the first half.
As always seems to be the case, there was an ugly side. My starting pitching was weak and I had no proven closers. I had used typical closer draft spots on set-up men and potential closers in waiting, putting more money on hitting.
Here is how it played out.
May 31: Walton sends Melky Cabrera, Kris Medlen and $40 FAAB to Nate Ravitz for Zack Greinke and Lance Berkman.
I said all I want to say about this deal last week.
Check that. Since then, it got even worse. On Monday, the Cardinals announced that Berkman needed yet another knee surgery. However, because rosters expanded on September 1, there is no need to put him (or anyone else) on the disabled list.
That really stinks. Without Berkman on the DL, I cannot reclaim half of his $20 draft value. In fact, I can't claim anything other than temporary insanity for having made the trade in the first place.
July 1: Walton sends David Wright and Andres Torres to Scott Pianowski for Clayton Kershaw.
Over the months of July and August, Kershaw added seven wins, an ERA right at three and slightly better than a strikeout per inning. Very good, but not great.
Wright cooled off a bit from his earlier batting race-competing performance, but remained healthy and in the lineup. That is notable in itself. Double-digit home runs and steals, over 80 RBI and a .300-plus average are welcome on any roster any time.
I guessed wrong about Torres, the player who tipped the balance on this deal. I expected him to lose most of his at-bats to some combination of Kirk Nieuwenhuis (since demoted, then injured), Mike Baxter (injured) and Jason Bay (seemingly always injured).
Torres has continued to be a decent performer with bursts of steals, especially productive considering he was a one-dollar addition on draft day. Often these kinds of players are the unheralded difference between leadership in counting stats and being in the middle of the pack.
July 31: Walton sends Ryan Howard and Luke Gregerson to Ravitz for Craig Kimbrel, Reed Johnson and $5 FAAB.
Since coming off the disabled list, Howard has been sort of like an expensive version of a player already on my roster - Pedro Alvarez - with bursts of power but a low batting average. Still, double digit home runs and 41 RBI in his first 58 games back has considerable value.
Similar to Medlen, I drafted Gregerson inexpensively (for $3), expecting he would become the Padres' closer sooner, rather than later. It happened later - much later - after I gave up on him.
Kimbrel continues to be an excellent closer, but just about the time he joined my team, the Braves began to experience severe turbulence. One of the by products is that his save opportunities almost completely dried up.
During the entire month of August, Kimbrel had just two saves. He had his usual solid peripherals in all nine innings pitched, but any number of cheap middle relievers could have provided that.
After the Padres moved the closer's role from Huston Street to Dale Thayer, it finally landed with Gregerson. Despite the right-hander's late-month ascension, he finished with one more save during August than Kimbrel and has seven overall.
Needless to say, with the closers that close, I would have been better off with Howard compared to Johnson and $5.
What underlines my disgust with myself is a feature offered by our excellent league stats provider, On-Roto.com. Called “Drafted Rosters Standings,” it shows today's stats had the teams we left the table with on draft day remained static.
In that view, I have lost 15 points and six places in the standings since March.
I do understand my competition was not stagnant, either, but it seems clear to me that I should have remained more patient this season.
It seems a fine line to walk - as doing something almost always feels better than doing nothing. But if that is the case, why do I feel so badly now?
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league's 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com and in-season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.