As I noted while filling in for Chris Liss in Charging the Mound this week, I participated in a 10-team mixed league draft earlier this week (we're playing it out). The full results are available here
Occasionally, I will make trades in April, but typically the middle of May brings on the more steady flurry of offers.
When trading, I find that many owners fall into one of the following two extremes. They are either wedded to the price they paid on draft day for an underperformer, insisting on getting something that would have been similarly valued six-to-eight weeks ago. Alternatively, owners skew on the high side of what their fast-starting players are likely to be worth going forward.
Draft day prices are often the "Beckett" used when a trade is made within a few weeks of the initial event. Beyond that, they become exponentially less relevant by the day. Ever try to use a two-month old Beckett to get a deal on something that had clearly increased in value? The 10-year-old version of you was probably wise to such a tactic with baseball cards, so it should come as little surprise that we see right through it as grown-ups with our roto commodities.
In this space, we often preach patience and sample size – and for good reason, but at the end of the day nobody is trading me anything close to a $19 player for Ike Davis in mixed Tout Wars.
I have three choices.
1. Trade him anyway, and take pennies on the dollar.
Would you deal any of the following players eligible at first base 1-for-1 for Davis right now? Eric Hosmer, Brandon Moss, Lance Berkman, Adam LaRoche, Kendrys Morales, Yonder Alonso, Brandon Belt, or Mitch Moreland? Short of finding a James Loney owner ready to cash out and go home, Davis looks like an Old Maid card right now.
2. Keep Davis and leave him in my lineup, sticking to my original projection of 35 homers with a .340 OBP and hope that he gets a pro-rated portion of that from today forward after making the necessary adjustments at the plate.
With a K% that has jumped from 24.1% last season to 31.5% entering play Friday afternoon, Davis is redefining the concept of flailing. His ISO has been cut in half, falling from .235 last season to .110 through his first 37 games. Underneath, we see an increased swinging-strike rate (from 11.2% to 11.7% this season) and significant drop in his contact percentage outside the strike zone (from 60.4 to 50.0%), along with an increased willingness from opposing pitchers to throw him pitches in side the zone (a career-high 45.9%, compared to a 40.7% career mark).
Although the increase in his groundball rate is a concern (42.2%), it's only a slight bump from his career 41.2%.
The lack of contact and generally poor quality of the balls Davis has hit comes in large part from an increase in his infield flyball rate (career-high 16.1%). If we count those five infield flyballs as strikeouts, which from an expected outcome standpoint they are, Davis has struck out or popped up in the infield in 35 percent of his plate appearances.
3. Bench him, knowing that a one-week stretch with a handful of homers could be missed, but waiting until he shows signs of turning things around (specifically, fewer strikeouts) before returning him to my lineup in the future.
Considering the erosion in his plate discipline and approach, the third option is probably the best option. Realizing that I am increasingly unlikely to return anything close to the $19 I paid for Davis in March, this is at least provides some time for him to try and work out the kinks.
Recall last season when Davis may or may not have been dealing with Valley Fever in spring training. He opened the season with a .160/.220/.298 line including five homers and 14 RBI over his first 38 games played. Underneath, we saw a grotesque 10:39 BB:K over 141 plate appearances (27.7% K%, splitting the difference between his end result in 2012 and current 2013 mark).
Davis' struggles persisted into June, before he produced at a good clip over the final two-thirds of the season with a .263/.343/.566 line over his final 99 games including 27 homers and 69 RBI. (Note to self: pacing for 45 homers over two-thirds of the season does not guarantee a future 45-homer season.)
As for the aforementioned draft – it's an updated Beckett, which as we know from our days piling up cards a few decades back, is a relative guide at best and one that will expire just as quickly as our drafts and auction in March did.
Still, it's more indicative of how other owners are probably looking at their players now as we move further into the season. Davis happened to go 202nd overall to Dalton Del Don, one pick after Yonder Alonso and four slots ahead of Lance Berkman.
Perhaps Davis will end up going on to have a career similar to notorious slow starter Adam LaRoche? It's too early to tell really, and it takes me several years worth of a data to subscribe to the fuzzy notion that some guys don't play well in cold weather, or that they simply need more at-bats before getting comfortable at the plate.
If you're willing to bet on something in the mold of last season's surge from June on, Davis' price tag makes him an excellent "buy lowest" target. Keep in mind, however, that there are whispers that the Mets are considering a possible trip to Triple-A Las Vegas to help get Davis back on track.