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June 27, 2000

Fantasy Mailbag

Russian Roulette

by Keith Law

I just finished your article "Russian Roulette" on ESPN.com. After reading your excellent article I began to ponder the starting pitcher/wins ratio this year. It seems every second or third boxscore has a win by a middle reliever or closer.

I've noticed a few relievers, like Danny Graves, Jeff Nelson and Gabe White, who have high win totals already.

Are starting pitchers winning less this year?

--BC

Yes, they are. The data, courtesy of Michael Wolverton:

Year    Pct. of games won by a starter

2000 67% 1999 70% 1998 71% 1997 70%

I was considering a trade in a 5x5 league in which I give Carlos Delgado, Ramon Martinez and Preston Wilson and get Richie Sexson, Tim Hudson and Barry Bonds. I am already quite strong in offense and am looking to shore up my starting staff. What are your thoughts on this deal?

--MK

It's good, not great, and I'm not sure how much it'll help your pitching staff. Hudson is good, but isn't in the upper echelon of starters yet (ones who are near-certainties to lower your ERA and Ratio: Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, etc.).

Would you trade Darren Dreifort and Jeff Brantley (or Robb Nen or Rick Aguilera) for Greg Maddux and a warm beer (Steve Parris or Masato Yoshii)? I also have Danny Graves. I am thinking of trading Brantley while he is hot but I wonder about trading Nen since he could be traded to the American league. Yoshii or Parris would be on my taxi squad so they probably would not hurt me. With four closers, though, I think I can guarantee the top spot in saves, although I might possibly do it with the three I have if the Reds ever win a game and Barry Larkin ,my guy, starts doing something. I also have Kirk Rueter on my staff and he has done real well for me. I do not think I could make the deal with him anyway.

--JL

Certainly, if you can do Rueter/Brantley for Maddux, do it, and even if you can do Rueter/Aggie, do it, because Rueter is really nothing special. I'd hang on to Nen, who's the best closer you have; 90% of trade rumors never amount to anything, and there aren't any AL teams in the race in need of a closer right now (whereas the Braves could always get silly and go for him).

In regards to your statements about the Seattle Mariners in "Russian Roulette", where do you see a need for improvement in the M's defense? Come on. They've been one of the top defensive teams in the league this year, surrendering the fewest unearned runs in all of baseball last I heard.

I'm also not certain where you get that Freddy Garcia was in need of rest. He may have been ridden a little hard last year, but that'd be why he skipped winter ball, and that'd also be why he came to camp like 30 pounds overweight--and played quite poorly before the injury. His arm wasn't the problem. It was his weight, and eventually his leg. Latest report is he's lost the weight and looked spectacular in a recent simulated game.

--JB

I see a team with subpar defensive players at right field, left field, second base (when it's Mark McLemore), third base (when it's John Mabry) and shortstop. John Olerud and Mike Cameron are good, but not good enough to make up for all those other guys.

Freddy Garcia was ranked third in the majors in 1999 adjusted workload by our Pitcher Abuse Points system. He topped 130 pitches in a start three times last year, topped 120 six more times, and topped 110 seven more times--all at the age of 22. His arm needs all the rest it can get at this point, and making excuses for the inexcusable Lou Piniella just papers over the real problem.

What are your opinions of Vicente Padilla? Is he a good pickup?

--MA

Depends on for what. In a mixed league, I wouldn't bother. In a tight NL-only league, he's worth a look, but there are likely better middle relievers out there with a shot at some saves. Padilla is behind at least Byung-Hyun Kim and Matt Mantei in the closer hierarchy.

I'm concerned that I should dump Travis Lee while he still has that valuable prospect shine on him, since he's shown no signs of improvement in the years I've loyally held on to him, and get me a potentially good starter on the cheap, like Jamey Wright. Am I insane?

--DZ

Yeah, I'm a little dismayed that he still isn't developing as a hitter. I wonder if it's the Darin Erstad syndrome: a hamstring problem that never really went away. I love Wright, but the problem there is that we know there's something awry in his shoulder, so the blowout risk is high.

How can you call the Montreal lineup feeble? The Expos, while maintaining a very low payroll, have put together an amazing young team. At the time of this e-mail, the Expos have the same record as the multiple-time NL Central champion Cleveland Indians (who have players such as Roberto Alomar, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez). The Boston Red Sox are only half a game better than them. They are also only three games out of the wild-card and own one of baseball's best records at home.

I certainly don't consider Jose Vidro, Rondell White, Vladimir Guerrero and Lee Stevens feeble.

I'm sorry if this sounded rude, but I cannot tolerate American reporters talking about "the lowly Expos" just because they've had a few bad years. The White Sox have done a similar turnaround and they have become the center of attention. No one seems to care about the Canadian team.

Vous avez choisi a commencer un argument que vous ne pouvez pas gagner, Monsieur, parce que les nombres sont avec moi.

Si vous allez a vous verrez que les Expos ont marqué seulement 352 points (je suis desole de ne pas savoir les mots justes pour le baseball), et ils comptent 12ème parmi les 16 equipes de la Ligue National. S'ils avaient marqué neuf mois points, ils compteront 14ème. Onzieme est moins de la moyenne, et c'est pas acceptable que les Expos sont moins de moyenne malgre d'avoir Vlad Guerrero et Jose Vidro.

La raison? Si vous allez a vous verrez qu'il n'y a pas un autre équipe dans la LN qui a recu moins walks que les Expos.

On continue aux frappeurs (hitters). Vlad est incroyable, probablement le mieux joueur du champs-droit au baseball. Vidro est excellent aussi, comme M. White quand il est en bon santé. Stevens joue bien, oui, bien que je crois qu'il ne continuera pas a jouer comme cela, et aussi il n'est pas plus de moyenne parmi les 1b. Mais il faut utiliser huit frappeurs, pas quatre, et les autres Expos ne sont pas aussi bons. Widger et Cabrera sont terribles, et bien que j'aime bien M. Bergeron, aussi il ne joue pas bien. Enfin, 3b est un zéro total cet annee.

Je suis desole si mon francais est mauvais; je ne l'ai pas utilisé il y a un ans. Je vous remercie pour les mots gentils.

Keith Law can be reached at roto@baseballprospectus.com.

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