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May 16, 1998

Rotisserie Turns

Which players to buy, hold, and sell in the AL

by Keith Law

If there's a message to take from these buy/hold/sell recommendations, it's that the smart rotisserie owner doesn't get all caught up in small sample size statistics. In other words, 100 at bats or 30 innings don't tell you squat about a guy (unless it's Ozzie Guillen, in which case 16 at bats tells you all you need to know). Here are eight players in the AL whose early stats may make them attractive candidates for a trade, and four more whose stats don't look that unusual at all.

Buy

Edgar Martinez (.252, 7 HR, 28 RBI, 0 SB)

In every season of Edgar Martinez' career when he's had at least 400 PA, he's hit at least .302. In the past 3 years (all injury-free seasons), he has hit .356, .327, and .330. Now, at 35, Martinez' stats could very well decline; his slugging percentage and on-base percentage both dropped from '95 to '96, and again to '97. However, a 78-point drop in batting average seems unlikely, especially when he's still hitting for power and drawing his walks. Could be available at less than market rates.

Manny Ramirez (.271, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 1 SB)

His stats have been held back by minor injuries and a nasty flu. He hit .328/.415/.538 last year at age 25, but started this year at .271/.331/.459. He's probably the biggest bargain on the market if his owner is the least bit concerned.

David Wells (4 W, 5.23 ERA, 1.2000 Ratio)

Starters with Ratios of 1.2 don't finish with ERAs above 5 very often. Wells isn't putting guys on base, so why the high ERA? Small sample size is one problem, and a couple of real shellackings is another. The ERA will come down, given more time, and Wells will continue to be an effective pitcher for the middle of a rotisserie rotation.

Roberto Hernandez (0 W, 4 SV, 6.88 ERA, 2.0588 Ratio)

Hernandez needs to be used more often than most "closers;" if he goes four or five days between appearances (not unlikely, given the D-Rays' anemic squad), he gets wild. If you own him, you've already noticed that. If you don't, now's a great time to try to get him, with rumors of a temporary Mesa-like demotion to setup and his awful numbers working in your favor. The Rays are not going to keep a $20 million setup man in setup for long, and Rothchild will eventually learn how to use Hernandez effectively.

Other Buy ratings: Rusty Greer, Mike Fetters, Mike Stanton, Fernando Tatis

Hold

Mike Sirotka (5 W, 4.33 ERA, 1.2593 Ratio)

Rated a "hold" to keep you from hitting the panic button. Sirotka slipped a little in the past week, and the last blowout took a real toll on his ERA. However, three points remain in his favor: his ratio is still intact, his stuff is just as good as it was pre-blowout (duh), and he's probably the only reliable starter Jerry "RTF" Manuel has left. Don't get skittish and dump him; be patient and let the ERA settle over the course of the season.

Matt Stairs (.333, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 2 SB)

I'm not going to tell you that Stairs is a .330 hitter, because he's probably not. However, the home runs are for real, and he could even pick up that pace a bit. I rated Stairs a "hold" because most roto owners seem to discount him - he seemed to come out of nowhere last year, so perhaps he'll go back to nowhere this year. Anyone who followed Stairs pre-97 knows he can hit in the majors and has legitimate power, and that such fears of a Mexican cliff-dive are unfounded.

Todd Walker (.370, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 4 SB)

As with Stairs, Walker's average is way above where I expect it to end the year. However, I rate Walker a hold mostly because his average isn't that far ahead of where I expect to end the year: a .320 average was a reasonable upside prediction in March, and it looks much more reasonable today.

Brian Giles (.247, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 5 SB)

The power is there, the walks are really there, but the average isn't. He hit .268 last year despite odd usage patterns, so you know that there's some low-hanging fruit waiting for Giles in the BA department. However, his unadjusted batting averages in the minors from 1994-1996 never dipped below .310, and the Davenports on those averages are all at least .292. The man can hit for average. Why isn't he a buy? Because he's on pace to hit 35-40 homers, and I don't believe that's going to happen. Likely outcome: Giles ups his average to .300, but falls off the homer pace and finishes with fewer than 30.

Sell

David Segui (.369, 8 HR, 29 RBI, 1 SB)

The fact that Segui is a career .279/.350/.419 hitter is a little misleading; he was a bit player until the '95 trade to Montreal (for Reid Cornelius - oops). However, over the past three seasons, he's still a .301/.377/.470 hitter, but is pulling a .369/.431/.670. That's not just the Kingdome's doing; he's just hitting way over his head.

Troy O'Leary (.290, 10 HR, 23 RBI, 0 SB)

Coming into 1998, Troy O'Leary had a career slugging percentage of .459, had never slugged above .491, and averaged 4.2 homers per 150 AB. In 145 AB this season, he already has 10 homers and is slugging .572. Could it be real? Sure, anything's possible--but guys as consistently mediocre as O'Leary usually don't suddenly turn great.

Quinton McCracken (.344, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 6 SB)

If you know park effects, you know why McCracken is here. He hit .291 in 609 at bats as a Rockie, and he's already 28. Yes, the speed is nice, but it's not going to get better as his OBA gets worse.

Ken Hill (6 W, 3.16 ERA, 1.4026 Ratio)

Hill's ERAs since coming to the AL in 1995 have been 4.62, 3.63, and 4.55 (last year), and his ratios have been 1.5081, 1.3763, and 1.5211. There's a pretty clear reason to be concerned here, but it gets worse: when his ERAs were above 4, his K/9 IP figures were 4.77 and 5.02; when his ERA was below 4, his K/9 IP was 6.12. His K/9 IP rate this year is 5.08. Looks like the ERA is a sample size fluke to me.

Other Sell ratings: Damion Easley, Hal Morris, Tony Saunders

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MORE BY KEITH LAW
1998-10-10 - 1998 HACKING MASS Recap
1998-07-01 - BP's NL All-Star Team
1998-06-24 - Transaction Analysis: June 19-21
1998-05-16 - Rotisserie Turns
1998-05-08 - Rotisserie Turns: The Analyst's Report
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