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. . . these ideas worked for me

What are the most common mistakes that Scoresheet GMs make? Which are the best trading strategies? In 2003, my AL Robinson League was in its 13th year. I tallied up every trade by category that ended up heavily lopsided. The categories represented the type of deal (quantity for quality) (play-off push) or the type player misjudged (young middle infielder, slow slugger, strikeout pitcher, etc.) and whether that misjudged player was overrated or underrated.


I’m not sure if even 13 years of trades is conclusive. Most categories had just a few hits. Sometimes those hits were dominated by the same player getting misjudged. The Slugger-Comeback-from-Injury-Abyss category had three entries hot-potatoed all in the same winter: Mark McGwire, Mark McGwire, and Mark McGwire.


Overall, the over-valuations outpaced the under-valuations 9 to 7. Frankly, considering the nature of expectations vs. reality, I am a little surprised that ratio wasn’t even higher. In fact, because of a couple players who were traded a few times just before they had an unexpected surge in ability, the actual ratio is probably closer to 2 to 1.


The type of traded player who scored the most surprises was the high Strikeout Pitcher. The young ones appear to have a greater chance of developing and the old ones have a greater chance of lasting and lasting. The category of older pitchers who were not hard throwing strikeout guys was one of the worse categories. They tended to break down and disappear.


Pitching prospects were a poor bet, too, as were pitchers who just hadn’t established themselves long enough in the majors. Hitting prospects, however, did well if they were the all-around super stud variety.


Middle infielders were a very bad bet - especially the older ones. I guess they get worn out. I would also declare the slow sluggers in their prime a danger for overrating. However, there have been a number of late bloomers in this category, but most of them are Jason Giambi. Judge for yourself, if he was a steroid fed aberration.


A separate study of mine showed two very good types of trades. Taking advantage of pennant seekers by snatching up their best not-quite-ready-for-prime young players for the right veterans is a worthwhile ploy to build your team – and the easiest way to grab extra picks. Also, it has paid off to trade quantity for quality.


The early part of the season is good for taking advantage of managers who project seasons based on the first 6 weeks of stats. Sell high, buy low. It is harder to do than say, of course. We all want to believe the 30-year-old career .800 hitter we picked up really has turned the corner and suddenly become a .950 hitter or the 4.75 pitcher has mastered a new pitch and is now a 3.25 pitcher. Sometimes, these wunderkinds do last playing above their heads almost an entire year, but they become a pretty safe bet to implode the next year. Chances are, however, the reversion will come sooner than later. As for the underachievers of the moment, often they have a nagging injury bringing them down. As soon as that’s gone, they take off.


One mistake some managers make is to focus too much on trading a particular player they think is very marketable, whom they no longer need. Actually, that’s a good approach to start off with. It helps you select the teams you are going to target. Obviously, you look at the teams that would be most interested in that player. Just know when to pull back. Don’t make a trade just to get rid of a guy. If you can’t make a worthwhile deal one week, maybe you can later. Sounding too desperate can scare owners away. We are probably less subtle than we think.


Many of the worse trades in AL Robinson were outrageous desperate acts. Believe me, most of us in the league collectively shrieked when these occur.


Trading young players to shore up your playoff push can be very dangerous.  It is often hard to prove whether getting those seemingly necessary role players helped a winning team stay on top, but many teams in contention making these trades fail to win anyway. Sometimes it can backfire. .At the trading deadline in 1995 one first place Scoresheet manager geared up for the play-offs by trading two of their best players (Alex Fernandez and Kenny Lofton) who were having off years to a struggling team which was enjoying a career comeback from Mark Gubicza and a career year from Chad Curtis. They were even thrown-in a couple of useful extras in the deal. Big mistake. Fernandez and Lofton got red hot. Gubicza and Curtis slumped. The team still won their division, but was wiped out badly in the play-offs.


One manager (myself) won his division 15 years in a row by keeping his picks, his 13 most cherished protectees, and his most prized prospects. I’ll deal B+ prospects, and young borderline protectees, but that’s where I draw the line. In order to have a consistently excellent team you have to put your equity into your top 13, not the supporting bunch.


That’s why you should give your own team a tentative protection list before you make any late season deals. Think long and clearly about whom you will protect and who is a marketable commodity. It is always nice to get extra draft picks or make a two-for-one during the off-season. However, you can’t count on getting something for those marginally protectable 14th guys. Just be prepared by knowing whom you should keep, whom you should toss, and how much of a difference there is between the borderline keepers and non-keepers.


Do go after an excellent closer if you are play-off bound. A couple of fine set-up men take on a little added value in the playoffs as well. He doesn’t have to be a real life closer, just some guy with a fantastic ERA, WHIP, and K/W. Just don’t trade away your future to get them – an extra prospect and an injured 14th guy might do it.


Protection slots? Playing Canada, I cannot claim to be an expert, but the going price for one is a Round 15 or 16 draft pick (a team’s 2nd or 3rd pick). Andy Cleary a scoresheet-talk guru advises exchanging a lower round draft pick upgrade for a better player to use for your extra protection slots. Some 14th men can be had cheaply – especially in a year of many crossovers.


Some managers (even some professional GMs) make the mistake of blaming their stars instead of their lack of supporting talent for their teams’ failure. “This guy isn’t making the difference for us - so let’s try somebody else” is their logic. Of course, when a team fails, it is not the stars’ fault. You have to put 9 guys in your  line-up and rotate five pitchers on the mound backed by relievers. The star is the face of the club, though, and often the focus of a team’s failures or successes are unfairly attributed to him.


We’ve got 13 spots we can fill with as much talent as we can to carry on from year to year. When building your team focus on those 13 spots. Find 13 players who will likely be one of the best in the league now or in the near future and keep him until you are convinced they are not going to get that good. If you are not sure about one, get more possibilities at his position, but hang on to him as long as you can until you no longer have room for him or find someone you are pretty sure will be better. In Canada you could try for the best 16 and then sell three of them for picks. However, you don’t generally get fair value in that scenario. This all sounds simple and obvious, but sometimes we get strange ideas – and experimenting with those odd notions can be more fun than winning.

John Carter