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August 10, 1999

Ask Rotoman

Travis Lee vs. Paul Konerko, Scoresheet vs. Roto

by Peter Kreutzer

Have a question for Rotoman? Contact him directly at rotoman@baseballprospectus.com.

Dear Rotoman,

I am in a $130 AL/keeper league and my team has been hovering around fifth and sixth place since June. I want to stay in the race, since our league awards prizes down to sixth, but I also wouldn't mind picking up a keeper for next year.

I have quite the offensive powerhouse, but my problem has been pitching. My starters are Orlando Hernandez, Kelvim Escobar, Joey Hamilton--I just picked him up three starts ago--Ken Hill, Rolando Arrojo and Dave Mlicki. My relievers include Mariano Rivera, Todd Jones and Steve Karsay. I am currently at ten pitchers.

I am thinking about trading Alex Rodriguez, since he is in the last year of a long term-contract, and he will be placed back into the pool at season's end.

I have been offered Carlos Febles ($8.50) and Chuck Finley ($11.50) for A-Rod. I have offered back Ricardo Rincon, who I feel has no role this year in Cleveland. The other owner wants to make the deal. I feel that Finley, although expensive, will help me straighten out my ERA, Ratio and Strikeouts for the last two months.

Another owner wants to deal me Eric Chavez ($1) or Todd Walker ($6) and Billy Koch ($5) for Rodriguez and Rincon. They don't excite me, and each has his own problem, except for Koch. He is something else. I am second to last in saves, believe it or not.

Should I pull the trigger on one of these. What do you think?

"A-Rod in Hand"

Dear Rod:

I'm assuming that you want Finley because he'll actually help you this year, while Koch may not. Because if you think Febles at his price is worth more than Chavez at his...well, you're mistaken. Even if Chavez continues to tank against left-handers.

Look, Febles is a wonder. He's a joy to watch, and clearly a wonderful contributor to the Royals and the game. But he isn't eight times the player Eric Chavez is.

And that's what a betting game is all about. Especially when you're playing for next year.

A Rod in the Bush, Rotoman

P.S. A $10 Koch is worth way more than a $23 Finley! (Prices adjusted for a $260 league.)



Next year I'll at last be able to cast aside Fred McGriff for my two young sluggers, Travis Lee and Paul Konerko.

Or I could also trade one of them, since I have other first base prospects in the system. But I'm torn.

Travis Lee, for all his potential and the continued expectation that he'll be great any minute now, hasn't produced. His great eye isn't getting him on base that much more than Konerko, who's been hitting for the good power that I had hoped he would develop.

Who to keep and who to convert into pitching prospects?


Dear Lee-ning:

Without prices to consider, your question is an exercise in player evaluation. Well, player evaluation and our ability to properly weigh recent trends.

Because that's the trick here. It's easy to think that a hot player is a Hot Player. It's harder to decide whether or not he'll be a hot player in the future.

Some thoughts:

Paul Konerko is the perfect example of a guy who got some early chances, blew them and was then easy to write off because he got those chances too early. Blame this on the Dodgers, who seem to excel at raising expectations and then almost immediately dashing them.

I'm thinking of Jose Offerman, but Roger Cedeno fits as well.

Konerko put up power numbers in San Antonio and Albuquerque that perhaps raised expectations unreasonably. But heavens to Lasorda, he might have been given more than 210 ML AB before being bailed on--twice!

Needless to say, the Dodgers' desperate attempt to win in 1998 failed. Jeff Shaw did not win them the pennant. And Paul Konerko ended up on the unbelievably crowded Cincinnati Reds. Less obviously, the Reds' subsequent deal of Konerko to Chicago has to be considered a dump, if only because the they didn't really make a commitment to the guy they got, Mike Cameron. Cameron is playing and doing a decent job, and the Reds are in the hunt, but it's not because they believed in Konerko.

The White Sox, on the other hand, seem to have made a calculated move. They needed a first baseman--they had serious young outfield talent in the pipeline that could replace Cameron--so they swapped the promising (and disappointing) center fielder for the promising (and also disappointing) first baseman.

Konerko, for his part, has responded. After some indecision because of Frank Thomas' desire to continue to play first base, Jerry Manuel seems to have found a rotation. Konerko has been progressively more effective as the season has gone along: the power is coming, even if he's still not walking enough.

Travis Lee, on the other hand, is older, though he has far less professional experience. His numbers from 1998 don't look too bad on the surface, but it should be pointed out that his OPS dropped 149 points in the second half, and his OPS this year is a bit lower than his OPS for all of last season (.724 vs. .775). That isn't really acceptable for a first baseman.

Konerko, by the way, has raised his OPS this year to .841 (from...er... .608 in 1998).

Lee, however, is walking a lot more this year, and striking out less, which tells me he is working at his job, and more than likely making the necessary adjustments. He was signed and paid like a can't-miss prospect. And he isn't that old.

Who do I like more? Given a rough equality in everything else you have to favor the younger man. But given the profound change in Lee's BB/K ratio (1998: 67/123, 1999: 53/44) I don't think you can count him out.

Which is to say, the proper measurement of Lee's good eye is his own sordid past, not Konerko (who, by the way, is a vastly inferior 18/34 this year in 100 fewer plate appearances).

Personally, unless I get blown away by the offer of pitchers, I hold on to both these guys. And I smile, just a little. They're both going to be just fine.




Is Bobby Howry for Al Leiter a good trade? I need saves and the pitcher that would replace Leiter on my team would be Rick Reed.

"Mets to You"

Dear Mets:

You don't say who Howry replaces, but unless your league counts strikeouts there is little difference between what you can expect from Leiter and Reed.

They just get it done in different ways, this year mostly not as consistently or effectively as they have in the past. But they also seem to both be getting it together now, at a most opportune time.

And Howry is a closer.

Close to me, Rotoman



I have never played Rotisserie baseball and probably never will. I love baseball but fail to see how Roto even comes close to duplicating the real game. I suspect that if Roto were not played for money it would not be played much.

I do, however, enjoy Scoresheet Baseball and think that it much better represents the real value of the skills required to play baseball well. My memory suggests that some of the writers for Baseball Prospectus also play Scoresheet. Might you offer some advice for playing that game? How much should defense be valued? Can one build a winning team without top quality starters?

Anyway, just some thoughts and questions on a decent representation of the game of baseball.

"He Sheets, he Scores!"

Dear Sheets:

I've never played Scoresheet, so I can't really comment on whether it's a great game or not. I do know that over the years enough people have told me how much fun it is that I think there must be something to it.

On the other hand, I distrust acolytes of one game who feel they have to rip another game. It is, after all, possible that both Scoresheet and Roto are great games.

Certainly the many people who have been playing Roto-style for the past 19 years enjoy their game. And, by the way, there is no shame in playing for money. And there are plenty of people play Roto for no money.

As for the game's validity, in past years readers have requested that I run the Roto standings for the real major leagues, to see if the MLB Roto standings correlate at all to the real standings. And each time I perform this exercise I am surprised and pleased by how closely the Roto standings do indeed correlate.

I don't know if there is some way to similarly test Scoresheet. I would guess not. But that isn't necessarily a flaw in the game.

And this is just a reminder that simply because we like something, it doesn't mean that we have to dislike other things. Or, to look at it another way, because Soviet-style socialism lost doesn't mean that market capitalism is going to win.

Power to the people, Rotoman

Ed. note: Reader Sheets is correct. A few members of the BP group play, or have played, Scoresheet Baseball, myself included. The game is more complex than category-based fantasy leagues, and puts less weight on roto categories such as RBI and pitcher wins while emphasizing measures of performance such as on-base percentage and slugging average. And the game does have a defensive component.

But Rotoman makes an excellent point: whether you play Roto, 5x5, Scoresheet or home run derby, the goal is the same: to have fun. If you're enjoying your particular game, then that's all that matters.

For more information on Scoresheet Baseball, check out www.scoresheet.com.

Related Content:  Scoresheet,  Paul Konerko,  The Who,  Baseball Ops,  A-rod

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