Moneyball vs. Stud Muffins – 3 F.J. 134 (August 7, 2011) – fantasy baseball trade (F.Freeman/Cain/Carpenter)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Moneyball vs. Stud Muffins

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided August 7, 2011

Cite as 3 F.J. 134 (August 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

Moneyball has made a trade with the Stud Muffins.  Moneyball traded Freddie Freeman (1B-ATL), Alex Gonzalez (SS-ATL), Tom Gorzelanny (SP-WAS), Johan Santana (SP-NYM), and Chris Snyder (C-PIT) to the Stud Muffins in exchange for Matt Cain (SP-SF), Chris Carpenter (SP-STL), Chris Coghlan (OF-FLA), and Ian Desmond (SS-WAS).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between Moneyball 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.  See Smittydogs v. Moneyball, 1 F.J. 32, 33 (June 2010).

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 Freddie Freeman, Alex Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, Johan Santana and Chris Snyder in exchange for Matt Cain, Chris Carpenter, Chris Coghlan and Ian Desmond looks fair and even.  Matt Cain is a borderline elite pitcher and is the most valuable fantasy player in this trade.  He has asserted himself as a big game pitcher which bodes well for his performance down the stretch as the San Francisco Giants try and win the pennant in the National League West.  Cain is typically the victim of poor run support which will hold his win total down, but his peripheral numbers in terms of ERA and WHIP demonstrate how good a pitcher he is.  Carpenter is having a down year despite remaining healthy with a respectable 3.75 ERA.  Freeman is a legitimate contender for National League Rookie of the Year playing on an Atlanta team that is in contention for the NL Wild Card.  Gonzalez is the Braves starting shortstop but does not put up spectacular numbers in any category.  Gorzelanny is a well-traveled pitcher now on the Nationals and will not contribute in any significant way.  Santana is likely out for the season after suffering from fatigue in his first rehab start.  Even if he does return, it will be sometime in September and it is questionable at best whether he will be effective.  Coghlan is still currently injured and Desmond has lost playing time due to his ineffectiveness.  Snyder has also been hurt most of the year.  Most of the players involved in this trade will have minimal fantasy impact this year or next.

The following is a statistical comparison of the players involved in the trade:

Player

AVG.

HR

RBI

Runs

SB

Freddie Freeman

.296

15

55

53

4

Alex Gonzalez

.236

9

37

44

2

Chris Snyder

.271

3

17

13

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Coghlan

.230

5

22

33

7

Ian Desmond

.230

4

31

40

20

 

 

 

 

 

 

Player

Wins

ERA

K’s

WHIP

Saves

Tom Gorzelanny

2

4.50

79

1.34

0

Johan Santana

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Cain

9

3.00

130

1.09

0

Chris Carpenter

7

3.75

128

1.32

0

Based on this statistical comparison, the numbers are equivalent enough to conclude that the value is comparable. 

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 nine-player trade involves a mixed bag of positions and needs for both teams.  Moneyball, currently in 5th place, clearly is trying to improve their starting pitching by acquiring Cain and Carpenter.  They now join Zack Greinke, Matt Garza and Chad Billingsley to form an impressive staff.  They were able to trade Freddie Freeman because they also have Ty Wigginton and Lance Berkman who can play first base.  The Stud Muffins dealt Cain because he was in his final year under contract and would be lost at the end of the season.  They had just traded Todd Helton in a separate deal, and Freeman is an improvement over him as well besides being younger and cheaper in terms of salary cap value.  They also are taking a low-risk chance on Santana by acquiring him in his first year under contract at only $0.50.  If Santana can return from his injury, they would receive the long-term benefit.  Based on the foregoing analysis, the needs of each team were equally met with this trade.

In terms of keeper league status and salary cap value, this trade provides benefits to both teams.  Moneyball acquired an expensive expiring contract in Cain in exchange for a cheaper, younger player in Freeman which is the essence of team management in a keeper league.  They also do have Carpenter under control for another two seasons.  Coghlan and Desmond are also free agents at the end of the year, so this also contributes to the “win now” mentality of Moneyball.  The Stud Muffins receive $4.70 in salary cap flexibility.  This is significant as it represents over 13% of the allotted budget that can be used to acquire better players in the 2012 draft. 

As referenced in Smittydogs v. Moneyball, 1 F.J. 32, 34 (June 2010), the dichotomy between the Stud Muffins and Moneyball’s 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 approve it. 

Based on the foregoing reasons, the Court 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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