How to analyze a trade at the halfway point

The upcoming All Star break offers a good opportunity to assess team performance and get ready for the second half.

Since it’s also a time that engenders a great number of trades, fantasy teams in Roto leagues need to be prepared to know how to analyze transactions for potential points gain.

In some cases, this comes easy.

For example, here’s a look at the saves category of a particular league.

Exhibit 1:
Team 1: 68 saves
Team 2: 53 saves
Team 3: 50 saves
Team 4. 49 saves
Team 5: 48 saves
Team 6: 48 saves
Team 7: 47 saves
Team 8: 40 saves
Team 9: 35 saves
Team 10: 15 saves

Which team seems to be in the best position to pick up a lot of points in saves?

The obvious answer is Team 7, who stands a half dozen saves away from gaining ground in this category. In many instances Team 7 will look to acquire a closer to net him five potential points.

On the flip side, Team 1 and Team 10 are in good positions to deal a closer. Team 1 has a comfortable enough margin to begin thinking about trading a closer for a player who will help him in other categories. Team 10 is far enough behind to give up on the category and maybe trade his closer for better potential points gain.

That’s pretty basic.

Let’s move to something a little tougher to analyze.

For example, here’s a look at the strikeouts category of a particular league. Which team has the best chance of picking up points?

Exhibit 2:
Team 1: 790 strikeouts
Team 2: 758 strikeouts
Team 3: 700 strikeouts
Team 4: 694 strikeouts
Team 5: 690 strikeouts
Team 6: 688 strikeouts
Team 7: 670 strikeouts
Team 8: 620 strikeouts
Team 9: 600 strikeouts
Team 10: 550 strikeouts

Did you say Team 7 again, noting that the team is within 31 strikeouts of picking up five points?

Maybe, but maybe not. Turns out this is a trick question. Consider that not all teams have pitched an equal number of innings. Let’s say Team 7 has pitched 850 innings whereas Team 6 has only pitched 750 innings. If the league maximum is 1600 innings, we can’t weigh each team’s strikeout potential as equal. Team 6 will have a much easier time picking up four points than Team 7 will have picking up five points.

Sometimes, it’s easy figuring out where to pick up points but hard figuring out exactly how to do it. Let’s say we’re in this league:

Exhibit 3:
Team 1: 50 wins
Team 2: 49 wins
Team 3: 49 wins
Team 4: 49 wins
Team 5: 49 wins
Team 6: 49 wins
Team 7: 48 wins

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Obviously, this is a tight race and whoever comes out on top in the wins category may go far in winning the league. But how does Team 7 chase wins?

Is it better to roster pitchers who go deep into games and pitch on high-scoring teams? Or is it better to roster middle relievers who won’t pitch many innings but may garner lots of vulture wins?

If Team 7 has already amassed a great deal of innings, is approaching its maximum innings allowed, and wishes to protect its ERA and WHIP, the team may opt for the middle reliever strategy. If Team 7 has pitched few innings, has a lot of upside in the strikeout category, and has assets to deal for an extra starter, he may go in a completely different direction.

The All-Star break is also a good time to analyze potential points gain because it’s roughly the half-way mark of the season, making the math easy on everyone.

For example, here’s a look at the AVG category in a particular league:

Exhibit 4:
Team 1: .284
Team 2: .283
Team 3: .277
Team 4: .277
Team 5: .276
Team 6: .275
Team 7: .265
Team 8: .263
Team 9: .260
Team 10: .250

In doing an analysis, Team 7 has to measure its potential for catching up to Teams 3-6, potentially netting one to four points versus letting go of the chase for average, potentially sacrificing one or two points.

How conceivable is it that Team 7 gets to a .276 average? Because the season is half over, the team would roughly need to add double 11 points on his average. To get to .276, he’d need 22 points, or a .287 AVG the rest of the way. That’s going to be hard to pull off.

People in fantasy leagues need to figure out the categories to pursue and the categories to relax. But keep in mind that there’s more than one way to gain ground on a competitor.

For example, let’s pretend that the teams who play in Exhibit 1 & 4 participate in the same league. Let’s also say that our favored Team 7 is in a tough battle for first place overall with the dastardly Team 5.

If Team 7 trades some of his high-average players to Team 6 for a closer, he accomplishes a couple things all at once. He gains ground in the saves category, obviously passing Team 6 and hopefully Team 5. He also provides the ammunition for Team 6 to pass Team 5 in the average category.

Trading someone like Ichiro for Andrew Bailey may seem like an insane deal. But often, it’s this type of deal that wins someone a league.

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Paul Singman
Paul Singman

Nice article, Eriq. I enjoyed reading it and it made me take a harder look at where I stand in my roto league in the categories.