It’s not exactly a secret that Albert Pujols hasn’t exactly been the player we’ve grown used to seeing. The change of scenery may do him well in the long run, but the first month in Anaheim (or Los Angeles, or Los Angeles of Anaheim, I can never keep it straight), was not a good one.
Sometimes stars just start poorly. In other cases, it may be an injury, or a singular bad season. It could also be the sign of a significant career downturn. But if you have a superstar that you had big expectations for who’s literally playing like a scrub, what do you do? Well, take a look at these ideas.
Put him on your bench. I will admit, this is a lot easier in leagues with deep benches, or with players at deep positions. First base is a deep position, so there are generally plenty of options on the waiver wire, even if you have to ride a hot streak, dump that player when he cools off, and sign another player.
Sure, the expectations were great and you probably used a high pick (or spent a lot of money) on him, but you can’t let anyone keep your team down for too long. If Pujols is struggling and a hot-hitting first baseman is on the waiver wire or available for a cheap trade, grab that guy and let Pujols ride the pine for a while.
The beauty of the bench is that slumping players occupying it aren’t hurting your team. In the case of Pujols, when he begins to show his Hall of Fame form again, just put him back on your active roster.
Don’t release him. In the case of players like Pujols, Can’t Drop Lists usually make this a non-option anyway. But if we’re talking about a Tier-2 star, chances are still pretty good that he will come out of his slump.
Chances are also pretty good that he will heat up when the weather does. It may sound like a cliche, but players do tend to perform to the numbers on the back of their cards.
If a hitter is generally around .300 but struggling to stay at the Mendoza Line, the extra hits are going to come later in the year. He may or may not get back to the .300 range, but that kind of hitter isn’t going to go from .300 to .200 without any warning.
Let’s put it this way. Hypothetically, speaking, let’s say that a star is hitting .200 after the first month of the season, which we’ll call 100 at-bats. If that hitter ends up with 600 at-bats with a .260 average, we’re looking at a 156-hit season. To go from .200 in 100 at-bats to .260 in 600 at-bats, a hitter will need to bat .272 in the remaining 500 at-bats.
That’s not a great average, but it’s probably coming with some power as well. Also, if we’re talking about a perennial .300 hitter, a final average of .260 is a conservative guess, even if he started at .200.
If you release a player, you’re going to lose that kind of production to someone else in your league, and it won’t cost your rival anything. On that note…
Shop the slumping star. Allow me to tell you a story, a true one. Fairly late into the 2010 season, I was in a league and looking to acquire Chase Utley. I will certainly admit that I was trying to get the better end of the deal, but it was also clear that Utley was not the player that had really spear-headed the Phillies’ consecutive National League titles in 2008 and 2009.
An owner that I have a great deal of respect for objected to the move (which was eventually voted down), referring to Utley as a “top five” player, not a top five second baseman, but overall player. Utley finished that season with 75 runs, 16 homers, 65 RBI, 13 steals, and a .275 average. Certainly not bad, but not a top five season. In 2010, Utley just did not play enough games to deserve that recognition. He had the same problem in 2011 and is experiencing the same issues in 2012.
For the previous five seasons, Utley had averaged better than 110 runs, 29 homers, 101 RBI, and 15 steals, all while hitting a clean .300. You can clearly make a case that those numbers are “top five” worthy, and can certainly make that claim when you factor in the fact that he’s a second baseman.
The secret may be out on Utley now, but in 2010 I could have robbed that guy blind on a trade if I wanted to. He was focused on the name, not the numbers. Again, this was a good owner who knows his stuff.
The point is that people get caught in names. They know who the top players of the last few years have been. While they’re probably aware that stars are slumping, they also probably feel that said stars will eventually get back to normal.
So, if you have a slumper, make some of the guys who look at names over numbers some offers. The worst they will ever do is say no.
You’re not going to find a bigger name in baseball than Albert Pujols. So, if you have him and are getting tired of the lack of production, make an offer to a league rival where the numbers greatly benefit you. Many owners will be so consumed with the fact that they’re getting Pujols that they won’t pay attention to the fact that they are getting robbed.
It’s certainly not unethical to try to get the most out of a trade. If you have a big name guy who’s not performing, you’ve stumbled into a golden opportunity to get a great trade for yourself. You owe it to yourself to at least try to make that happen.