Carson City Cocks vs. Stud Muffins – 3 F.J. 23 (May 16, 2011) – fantasy baseball trade (J.Johnson/J.Putz)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Carson City Cocks vs. Stud Muffins

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

 Decided May 16, 2011

Cite as 3 F.J. 23 (May 2011)

Factual Background

A rotisserie fantasy baseball league (hereinafter referred to as “Roto league” or “The Incontinent 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

The Carson City Cocks have made a trade with the Stud Muffins.  The Carson City Cocks traded J.J. Putz (RP-ARZ) and Kyle McClellan (SP-STL) to the Stud Muffins in exchange for Josh Johnson (SP-FLA). 

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Carson City Cocks and the Stud Muffins 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 J.J. Putz and Kyle McClellan in exchange for Josh Johnson looks peculiar.  The reason for initial pause is because Johnson is unequivocally one of the top pitchers in both real and fantasy baseball, and Putz and McClellan are not household names.  It is rare to see a superstar of this caliber involved in a trade that does not include either another top superstar or prime prospects for the future in keeper leagues.  However, the Court has always held that its approval or rejection of a trade is based purely on its fairness, free from collusion, and in the best interests of the league.  Whether a trade is intelligent or popular will not be part of the analysis.  Clearly this trade will raise some eyebrows by other members of the league, but the virtue of the trade is measured in both quantifiable criteria and subjective needs of the teams involved. 

When analyzing the fairness and equity of a trade, the Court will consider each team’s individual needs to assess whether the trade subjectively made sense from each team’s perspective.  See Cajon Crawdads vs. Carson City Cocks, 1 F.J. 41, 42 (June 2010) (upholding a trade for Jason Bay because of the Carson City Cocks’ desperate need for a starting outfielder due to the demotion of Cameron Maybin).  This trade involved two starting pitchers and one closer.  Prior to the trade, the Stud Muffins did not have any closers on their roster.  The relief pitchers they had were all set-up relievers, including Kerry Wood, Sergio Romo and Matt Lindstrom.  Presumably, the Stud Muffins were near the bottom of the rankings in saves since these relief pitchers have not had, nor will they have, many opportunities to close games for their respective teams.  In fact, they are set-up men for three of the best closers in baseball (Carlos Marmol, Brian Wilson and Huston Street, respectively).  It is clear that the Stud Muffins were in need of a closer.  They also had Matt Cain, Chris Carpenter, and Clayton Richard as starting pitchers, so dealing Johnson was not going to leave them completely empty.  With respect to the Carson City Cocks, they could afford to trade Putz because they also have Joel Hanrahan and Vicente Padilla as closers.  The addition of Johnson was more crucial to improve the Carson City Cocks’ starting pitching which only consisted of Jorge de la Rosa, Wandy Rodriguez, and Jordan Zimmermann. 

 The wild card in this trade is Kyle McClellan.  He is a converted relief pitcher thrust into the Cardinals’ rotation due to the loss of Adam Wainwright before spring training.  McClellan has been impressive thus far, despite losing his last start.  The Cardinals have played better than was expected of them, thanks in large part to McClellan’s emergence as a reliable starter. 

Here is a statistical comparison of all players involved through May 15, 2011:

Player

Wins

Strikeouts

ERA

WHIP

Saves

Josh Johnson

3

53

1.63

0.90

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kyle McClellan

5

23

3.62

1.39

0

J.J. Putz

0

14

2.40

1.13

9

As good as Josh Johnson is, he simply does not win a lot of games.  This is not his fault, but rather as a result of poor run support or an inefficient bullpen.  Johnson’s career high in wins is 15 back in 2009.  In 2010, when he clearly had a better season all around, he only won 11 games and also suffered from some injuries.  Currently, Johnson leads the National League in both ERA and WHIP.  While his production in those categories is unparalleled, he is not a reliable source for wins for the aforementioned reasons.  McClellan, still not completely proven, has at least demonstrated he will keep his team in games and last long enough to win.  It would not be all that surprising if McClellan actually wins more games than Johnson in 2011.  As we know, win totals do not measure the quality of a pitcher in real baseball.  But in fantasy baseball, numbers and statistics are gospel (most times).

In terms of keeper league status and salary cap value, this trade is almost equivocal.  All players involved are in their first year under contract with their respective teams.  Johnson is worth $3.40 while McClellan is worth $0.90 and Putz is worth $2.30.  The Stud Muffins, currently in seventh place, will gain $0.20 in salary cap space which is not significant enough to factor into the evaluation given the equality of the players involved.  See Smittydogs v. Stud Muffins, 3 F.J. 10, 11 (April 2011) (holding that a $0.10 differential amongst the players salaries was not enough to factor into the Court’s evaluation).

As referenced in Smittydogs v. Moneyball, 1 F.J. 32, 34 (June 2010), the dichotomy between the Carson City Cocks and the Stud Muffins’ motivations is precisely why the Court must look at trades in keeper leagues differently than non-keeper leagues.  However, had this trade been made in a non-keeper league, the Court would still likely approve it. 

Based on the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby decides that the subject trade is fair, equal, and free of collusion.  The trade should be approved as it comports with the best interests of the league.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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