Playing GM for a major sports franchise is a fun thing to do. That’s part of why so many of us do Fantasy Sports. Unfortunately, for many of us, there is a huge difference between making fantasy trades online and actually running a major sports organization.
Which is a good thing, because I’m getting killed in my fantasy baseball league. Sure, the guy winning the league has a masters degree in statistics and is an athletic director for a large school district in northern Ohio. But I’m an Analytics Manager for an international, entertainment company. I really should do better than 8th out of 10.
I’m kind of embarrassed about it. I hope nobody finds out.
When you fantasize and fanaticize about sports, it’s easy to speculate on the whys and wherefores of potential trades without thinking of the real-world consequences of those trades. Earlier this week, Jason Linden shared some wonderful thoughts on why he thinks the Reds should trade Adam Duvall. It was a great article and it made a lot of sense.
You should probably go read that article first. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Okay. Now that you’ve studied why the Reds should trade him, here are some reasons why I think the Reds should keep him.
His K% Isn’t That Surprising, Neither Is It Problematic
Jason mentioned that Adam strikes out a lot. He’s right. Duvall strikes out so much he’s solely responsible for an 82% increase in high wind phenomena in every major league park he visits (which is a statistic I totally did not just invent). Jason even went so far as to say that Duvall has been Dave Kingman-esque in his ability to hit for power while rarely walking and getting more strikeouts than Nolan Ryan pitching to little leaguers.
But here’s the thing.
Most power hitters strikeout a lot when to come to the biggs. Another famous Adam, Adam Dunn, struck out 25.9% of the time his rookie season compared to Adam Duvall’s 29.6%. Duvall is also in the same ballpark as Rookie-Dunn in wOBA (Duvall: .372 , Dunn: .398) and wrc+ (Duvall: 131, Dunn: 138). This, despite Dunn having a much higher OBP due to his uncanny ability to walk. Dunn, you will remember, was near the league leaders in OBP most of his years in Cincinnati.
Duvall probably won’t hit 40 homeruns a year like Dunn did (although he is currently on pace for that this season, so who knows?), but he almost does enough with the non-homerun hits to make up the difference in value. Duvall is already at 1.4 Fangraphs WAR and projects out to a high 2 or low 3 for the full season if he stays healthy. Dunn put up only a 2.1 his rookie season.
Dunn is a bit of an anomaly for power hitters, since he took so many walks. Compare Duvall to someone line Jose Canseco’s rookie campaign – BB%: 9.7%, K%:25.7, OBP: .318, wOBA: .341, wrc+: 115, WAR: 2.9 – and, while the walks are still troubling, the numbers are still good.
He strikes out a lot and rarely walks, but if the return is a walkless Dunn or a mulletless Canseco, that’s not necessarily a drag on the team.
VALUE IS RELATIVE:
The thing about returns on investment, though, is they’re relative to what you paid at the outset. If you spend $50 on a shoebox of baseball cards at a garage sale and find a T206 Honus Wagner, you did well. If you spend $1million on a bowl of ice cream, you lose out on that deal, no matter how good the ice cream is.
There’s a similar philosophy in play here. The Reds didn’t pay all that much for Duvall. He was the also-ran in the Mike Leake trade. He’s already a full run in WAR ahead of Leake this season. Duvall could fall off a cliff and explode and the Reds will have their money’s worth.
In Duvall, the Reds might not have found shoebox Honus Wagner, but they’ve got something a lot better than a million dollar bowl of ice cream.
What this means is, unless he’s keeping someone else from filling his spot (he isn’t) or his numbers get real bad real fast, the Reds have nothing to lose by keeping him around and everything to gain. IF he can keep up his numbers or even play slightly worse, he’ll be a bright spot in a very dark year. That’s not necessarily a quantifiable reason for keeping a player around, but it is a BIG reason: one that will mean a lot to even the hardest of hard-nosed statisticians the closer they get to that 100 loss margin as the season wears on.
OTHER TEAMS AREN’T FOOLED
The story on Adam Duvall this season is he’s had a fast start and it’s been fun to watch him play, but he’ll most likely regress as the season goes on and teams figure him out. You know that. Other teams know that, too, and that will affect what they’re willing to pay. Nobody is desperate for what appears to be a low ceiling /low floor LF with lots of HRs and lots of Ks. We won’t get anything close in value to what we’ve seen thus far.
Since there’s no excessive cost in keeping him around a while, the better option is to see if his success thus far is a fluke or the real deal. If it’s a fluke, no harm no foul. Send him to the minors with his memories and follow up with him in twenty years when he’s coaching high school baseball and teaching History classes side. Talk about his one, shining moment in the sun. Put it on the front page of the paper. It will be awesome.
But if he IS the Real Deal – and, yes, that is a big if, but an exciting if nonetheless – the Reds will have gained a lot more for their patience. They might have a potential big bopper in LF to match Winker in Right. Or, if they DO trade him, they’ll get a significantly higher return than they’d get if they trade him now.
HE’S STLL ON MY TEAM
Duvall is on my fantasy team. I took a risk on him, Tyler Story, and Corey Dickerson as backups. Dickerson hasn’t panned out, but the other two are doing okay. Two out of three ain’t bad, as my Grandpa used to say. Maybe the Reds should think the same way.
Then again, I AM in 8th place. So what do I know, right?