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Ask NotGraphs! (#2)

Dear NotGraphs,

For the past 2+ years, I have worked as a prosecuting attorney. After a full year of handling felony offenses, I find myself overwhelmed by the enormous caseload and constant stress of being exposed to our community’s seedy criminal underbelly. Lately, thoughts of changing my occupation have been gaining momentum in my mind. On top of that, my league’s keepers are tied to where they were drafted the previous year. All teams must keep three players: one pitcher, one batter, and one of either. Which of the following players would you recommend keeping: Ryan Braun (taking the place of my 2nd round pick), Joey Votto (5th round), Robinson Cano (1st round), Jacoby Ellsbury (9th round), David Price (14th round), Madison Bumgarner (16th round), Jair Jurrjens (21nd round), or Doug Fister (22nd round)? Please keep in mind that my student loans from law school still total over $130,000. Thank you kindly for your advice.

P.S. It’s a 10-team points league with standings based on total points accumulation over the entire season. Each hitter’s position has a 162 games played limit, and there is a 1500 IP limit for the entire pitching staff. My student loans are on an income-based repayment plan, with the balance to be forgiven if I reach 10 years of employment for a government agency or nonprofit.

Concerned in Colorado

Dear Concerned,

Fortunately, you’ve touched on my two areas of fake expertise, fantasy baseball and the law. Let’s start with your keepers. First, I have to assume that Ryan Braun is off the table, given that you work for law enforcement. What kind of example would it set if prosecutors could own steroid scofflaws on their fantasy teams? I was afraid to even bid on Barry Bonds in fantasy auctions when I was in law school. Also, I’m almost certain I read recently that anyone who’s ever owned Ugueth Urbina is under house arrest until 2024. Okay, until they officially decide on Braun’s appeal, I guess he’s presumed innocent, but you know better than I do that no one who’s accused of anything is ever actually innocent. So he’s out.

Moving on… Robinson Cano, Jair Jurrjens, and evil Canadian Joey Votto. These are foreign-born players, and due to your financial dealings with the government as far as your student loans… well, it should be obvious where I’m going with this. They’re all clearly off limits. Especially the Canadian. Although Wikipedia claims that as a high schooler, Votto was “not interested in hockey,” so I’m not sure his whole Canadian story really adds up.

Which leaves Ellsbury, Price, Bumgarner, and Fister. (That’s also the name of a law firm, right? Do they pay more than your prosecutor job? Maybe you should send a resume.) I think due to our nation’s historic dealings with Native Americans, it’s only fair for you to give special preference to Jacoby Ellsbury, and therefore keep him. Not to mention that unless your point system skews the values of certain players in unexpected directions, Jacoby in the 9th round is, to my eyes, your best value option on the hitter side– especially with Braun potentially out for 50 games.

[Then again, with a good deal of Ellsbury’s value dependent on stolen bases– theft is a felony, right?– I think you have be careful you aren’t sending the wrong message, as a representative of the legal system. But let’s put that concern aside and give Ellsbury one of your slots.]

The pitcher slot almost certainly has to go to David Price. I’ll admit I’m perhaps more of a Fister-skeptic* than some, but, no, the .272 BABIP, the low K rate, the odds of him repeating his terrific 2011 seem even lower than your odds of paying off your loans before our currency goes bust. Price has upside that far exceeds what you could otherwise grab in the 14th round– although how he even went in round 14 last season, I can’t figure out. Was he a holdover from the year before? Can you keep your keepers indefinitely? If so, that’s even more of an argument for keeping the 26-year-old Price.

*Fister Skeptics would make a great band name.

So we have Ellsbury and Price, and you’re left with one more slot, hitter or pitcher. I think Bumgarner in the 16th is a great pick, especially if you can keep these guys indefinitely. His peripherals look great, there’s no reason to believe he isn’t going to be a very, very valuable pitcher for a long time. Canadian terrorism threat aside, I do think you could probably take a look at Votto as well. Depends on the details of your point system, but if OBP is a valued skill, Votto may well be a first-round talent for you. And hitters being less of an injury risk than pitchers*, especially young pitchers like Bumgarner, I would be tempted to keep Votto over Bumgarner.

*I assumed I could easily find a killer citation to support this, but Google isn’t being my friend, and the best I can do is this 1998 Rany Jazayerli article from Baseball Prospectus about pitcher abuse points: “Pitchers are several times more likely to get injured than hitters.” I’m going to assume that’s based on actual data, and if I’m just buying into fake assumptions not grounded in reality, someone can lead me on the right path in the comments.

I would also be tempted, knowing people who’ve shuttled between prosecutor jobs and the private sector, to realize the grass may not necessarily be greener on the other side. At least the seedy criminal underbelly you’re dealing with now are the people you’re trying to lock up and not your colleagues and bosses. And I’m not sure the enormous caseload and constant stress are any better at many law firms, although the loan balance would potentially shrink a good deal faster. Or, you can leave the law, give fantasy baseball advice, and pay off that debt in, uh… let’s see, life expectancy is… well, you never know. Doctors are doing amazing things these days.

Good luck,

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