It stunned no one but the truly hopeless romantics when – after only 72 days – Kim Kardashian’s marriage to…crap, I honestly can’t remember that dude’s name. Anyway, Kim did teach us a valuable fantasy baseball lesson: you have to know when to throw a person away.
In 2010, I paid $26 for Nate McLouth in our auction. Before you berate me in the comments about overpaying for McLouth…actually, you should berate me for overpaying for McLouth. But remember he had just come off a 20/19 season and two years prior had gone 26/23, while hitting .276 and scoring 113 runs, and a balanced center fielder was the last offensive piece I was looking for.
I ignored his dreadful spring training because I had a hunch his skills would bounce back. Although his April was absolute garbage, I was slow to give up on him. But the writing was on the wall and I started the laborious process of fishing for a trade partner, not really wanting to acknowledge that plan A fell through and that I have to give up good performing player to sell low on Nate Frickin’ McLouth.
Fortunately, I was able to package a recently anointed closer that I had grab just a week earlier off the waiver wire, add him to a then over-performing Phil Hughes, add flip them both for Andrew McCutchen, a player that folks hadn’t quite heard of yet. I then dropped Nate McLouth like the bottom dropped out of the housing market. We can only hope that Kim will be able move on as quickly.
Coming from experience I have some tips for you on when to give up on a player.
1. Be aware when certain numbers stabilize. April is a small sample size mathematically, but by a given number of plate appearances certain metrics stabilize and you can predict with 70% certainty that what you are seeing now is roughly what you’ll get going forward. This was true with Nate McLouth. There was no bounce back in May or any month of his career thereafter.
Tom Tango and Statistically Speaking did some work on this. It’s nerdy, but I linked in case you are interested. An example is that at 200 PA a player’s walk rate stabilizes and at 300 PA a player’s HR/FB rate stabilizes.
It isn’t until 500 PA that a player’s SLG and OPS stabilizes, but 500 PA appearances is too long. You need to make a decision before your season is lost. Hence, we move to number two…
2. Look for a regression you may have missed. I failed to factor in McLouth’s horrible Spring Training. I agree with conventional wisdom that tells you not to place too much emphasis on Spring Training, but with the caveat that you shouldn’t dismiss it entirely.
If you are trying to make a decision about cutting bait on poorly performing player you made need to look back at their Spring Training. Was their strikeout rate out of line with their career? Were they chopping them into the dirt when they used to hit them on a rope?
Go back to the end of the previous season as well. There may have been a regression in skills that you missed when you drafted them. (The inverse is also true. When Jose Bautista came seemingly out of nowhere to jack 56 home runs a look at his numbers at the end of the previous season showed that he had made an adjustment and was driving the ball much better.)
3. Notice the player’s patterns. Is the player traditionally a slow starter? If so, stick with him a little longer.
Every season when David Ortiz is sucking it up in April I hop on the message boards and decry that “He’s dunzo. Dunzo, I tell you!” Well, May rolls around and it looks like Papi has something left in the tank. If Papi sucks it up this April then I might try to buy low.
4. Prepare for change early. Start to see if their is trade potential out there before you even make the final decision to cut the guy. Throw out a couple trade fliers and gauge the interest. Study others teams and see if there is an owner with two center fielders on his roster. Scour the waiver wire for an adequate replacement.
Prepare for the change early so that you don’t wait too late and make the change out of desperation. You don’t want to make desperate fantasy baseball moves.
Remember, you didn’t spend millions to marry the guy, make solemn vows to him, and promise that only at death you’ll part. You just drafted him. If he’s not contributing to your team you need to make the decision to call it quits.
The good news in all this is that Kim Kardashian is a free agent, boys. Make a claim for her on the waiver wire.