Smittydogs vs. Moneyball – 1 F.J. 32 (June 19, 2010) – fantasy baseball trade (L.Berkman/P.Polanco)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT 

Smittydogs vs. Moneyball

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM A FANTASY BASEBALL LEAGUE 

Decided June 19, 2010

Cite as 1 F.J. 32 (June 2010)

Factual Background

A rotisserie fantasy baseball league (hereinafter referred to as “Roto league”) utilizing an auction-style draft and transaction platform seeks an evaluation of a trade made between two teams within the Roto league.  This is an NL-only keeper league where each team is permitted to maintain up to ten (10) players during each off-season with each individual player allowed to be kept for a maximum of three (3) years.  Each team is also permitted to keep two minor league players which are in addition to the ten players kept.  This Roto league also has a $36.00 in-season salary cap that is applicable for all teams.

As with many rotisserie leagues, the subject Roto league uses the standard 5×5 scoring categories to determine the standings and prize money.  For offensive players, the five categories are: (1) batting average; (2) homeruns; (3) runs batted in; (4) runs scored; and (5) stolen bases.  For pitchers, the five categories are: (1) wins; (2) earned run average; (3) WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched); (4) strikeouts; and (5) saves.  Statistics are cumulative throughout the course of the season and there are no head to head games contained within the Roto league.

Procedural History

Smittydogs, the 8th place team in the Roto league, has made a trade with Moneyball, the 5th place team in the league.  Smittydogs traded Lance Berkman (1B-HOU) and Placido Polanco (3B-PHI) to Moneyball in exchange for Gaby Sanchez (1B-FLA), Brendan Ryan (SS-STL), and John Bowker (1B-SF).

According to an anonymous source within the Roto league, Smittydogs is looking to add cheap talent to its roster in order to make a viable run at success next season.  The same source indicates that Moneyball is looking to improve its team for the current season.

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between Smittydogs and Moneyball be upheld and approved?

Decision

The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment typically favors individual fantasy sports participants and teams’ ability to make moves, transactions, and trades.  The standard of review has been that people pay money to purchase a team in a league, draft their team, and manage it accordingly.  Whether success is bred from that individual’s decision-making is purely left to some skill, luck, dedication, and savviness.  The Court also acknowledges that the analysis for evaluating trades is much different in a keeper league than a non-keeper league.  A trade that may look uneven or lopsided on its face may receive a different opinion when it is involved in a keeper league.  The reasons for this are obvious, but must be restated.  In a keeper league, teams that are having unsuccessful seasons are more likely to continue to pay attention and make moves that will set themselves up for better success in the following season.  They can do this by acquiring young talent that is not under contract within the league, or by dumping salary (assuming it is an auction league) and allowing greater financial flexibility to sign key players in the next season’s draft.  In non-keeper leagues, there is no rationale for thinking ahead, nor is there any need to stockpile young, inexpensive talent.

Another factor that the Court must always consider is whether there is any collusion or under-the-table dealings going on between teams.  The Court has not been presented with any evidence of such malfeasance, so assumptions will be made that this is not an issue. 

At first glance, the trade of Lance Berkman and Placido Polanco in exchange for Gaby Sanchez, John Bowker and Brendan Ryan does not look even.  Berkman and Polanco are established major league players with several years of impressive statistics that translate well into any format of fantasy baseball, whether the league is rotisserie, head to head, or points.  Sanchez is playing in his first full season as a starter, Ryan has limited offensive skills and is currently part of an infield platoon with three other Cardinals, and Bowker has been relegated to a pinch hitter on the Giants’ bench.

On Smittydogs’ roster, both Berkman and Polanco are in their first year under contract, meaning they can be retained for two more seasons.  Berkman cost $2.00 and Polanco cost $2.50, meaning that between the two of them they cost $4.50.  This represents approximately 12% of Smittydogs’ salary cap.  On the other hand, Sanchez costs $0.50, Ryan costs $1.00, and Bowker costs $0.50 totaling $2.00 for all three.  This represents a savings of $2.50 which can be used for the following season’s draft.

Both Berkman and Polanco are past the primes of their respective careers by being in their mid-30’s.  The likelihood of either or both of them maintaining highly productive statistics in the rotisserie categories over the next few seasons continues to decrease.  Berkman, once considered a true fantasy baseball stud, has sustained multiple injuries over the last few seasons and has very little protection in an anemic Houston lineup.  Polanco, a very steady hitter in his career and a great fit in the potent Phillies’ lineup, will lose his 2B eligibility going into 2011.  Since he will only qualify at 3B, his numbers pale in comparison to most others at that position.  An inference can be drawn that their diminishing skills and increased age label them as pricey investments with little assurance of a positive return.

In contrast, Moneyball’s acquisition of Berkman and Polanco will unquestionably help its cause for the current season as they represent significant upgrades over Sanchez, Ryan and Bowker.  Moneyball, being in 5th place, quite obviously believes he can contend this year and is making a run at moving up in the standings. 

The dichotomy between Smittydogs and Moneyball’s motivations is precisely why the Court must look at trades in keeper leagues differently than non-keeper leagues.  Had this trade been made in a non-keeper league, the Court would overturn it and render the trade both unfair and suspicious.  However, given this is a keeper league where teams can plan for the future by dumping talent and salary, the Court must allow teams to act in the best interests of both their roster as currently configured and to be built in the future. 

The Court hereby decides that the subject trade should be approved as it comports with the best interests of the league.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

 

 

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