MLB Handicapping: Look Back At Trade Deadline Deals
by Robert Ferringo - 8/10/2009
This happens all the time in fantasy baseball: two teams make a blockbuster trade, everyone in the league starts burning up the message boards about how one side got molested and what an unfair deal it is, the teams that made the deal start hurling insults back and after about a three-day shelf life the trade gets forgotten.
But then very rarely does anyone ever go back a few weeks or a few months later to analyze how the deals actually worked out.
I imagine that discourse between Major League Baseball general managers is a bit more civil. But the fact remains that the MLB trade deadline came and went with a lot of hype, a lot of fanfare, and a lot of bobblehead media commentary. However, has anyone gone back to see how these deals have actually worked out for the teams involved? I mean, I understand that Victor Martinez is going to be a fantastic player and a great asset to the Red Sox for years so it’s absurd to try to judge the Cleveland-Boston trade after two weeks. But I also couldn’t help but notice that the front-runners (buyers) and the bottom feeders (sellers) during Trade Season have gone in opposite directions since July 31, and not in the directions you would think.
Don’t look now, but the hottest team in baseball is the Washington Nationals. That’s right -- not the Yankees, not the Marlins, not the Cardinals -- the Washington Nationals. The Nats have strung together a solid eight-game winning streak and are 8-2 since the trade deadline on July 31. And going back a little further they are a respectable 14-6 since July 21. I thought that the teams that were dumping stars and salaries on the trade deadline were waving the white flag on this season and were going to be pushovers for the rest of the year. What the hell happened?
The Nats aren’t the only bottom feeder that is making noise. Cleveland dumped half of its team in July but is still finding a way to win. The Indians are 11-5 since July 23 and they are 6-3 since their deadline deal of Victor Martinez. (They ditched Cliff Lee four days earlier.) The Mariners are 7-5 since trading Jarrod Washburn and the A’s are 9-8 since dumping Matt Holliday. Even teams like Arizona and San Diego have gotten hot and started posting significant profits after being doormats all season.
Here is a look at how the bottom feeders have been performing lately:
Cleveland – The Indians are 11-5 since July 23 and they are 6-3 since the traded deadline. They have earned their backers +530 this August.
Seattle – The Mariners are 7-5 since trading Washburn on July 28 and have brought in +290 during that time.
San Diego – The Padres have been a sizzling 9-4 since July 28 (+620) and the Dads are 6-4 since trading Jake Peavy (+210).
Arizona – The D-Backs are 7-4 since July 29 and that run includes a 6-4 road trip.
Washington – Has won eight straight (+1055), are 8-2 since the trade deadline and a profitable 14-6 dating back to July 21 (+1135).
Oakland – The A’s 9-8 since dealing Holliday, 8-5 since July 28 (+510), and 6-4 since the trade deadline. Their offense has surged to an average of six runs per game over their last 13 games and the are 11-2 against the total during that stretch.
Of course, not every cellar dweller has caught fire. Pittsburgh has been absolutely pathetic over the past few weeks while dumping its starters. The Pirates are 2-13 since July 25. They won on July 31 but have lost eight straight – all at home – since then. Baltimore and Kansas City are both 3-7 since the deadline and Cincinnati had to use a 3-1 run over the weekend to “improve” to 3-9 since July 28.
On the flip side, some of the top teams in the game before the trade deadline have been floundering. Of the top 15 teams in the Majors – the 15 teams that are competing for playoff spots – only six of them have shown a profit since July 31. And three of the six profitable squads (Yankees, Braves, Rockies) really didn’t make any significant moves (the Yanks brought in Jerry Hairston).
Here are the records of the teams competing for playoff spots since July 31:
N.Y. Yankees – 7-1
Boston – 2-6
Detroit – 6-3
White Sox – 4-4
Minnesota – 2-6
L.A. Angels – 4-4
Texas – 4-5
Philadelphia – 2-6
Florida – 4-4
Atlanta – 6-3
St. Louis – 5-2
Cubs – 4-4
L.A. Dodgers – 3-6
Colorado – 5-3
San Fran – 5-3
So the Phillies (Cliff Lee), the Red Sox (Victor Martinez) and the Twins (Orlando Cabrera), three of the biggest beneficiaries of the trade deadline, are a combined 6-18 since making their deals. Detroit (Jarrod Washburn), St. Louis (Matt Holiday) and the Yankees have been playing great since the deadline. But the Mariners and A’s have been doing just fine without their traded stars. And in the case of the A’s, Oakland has been significantly better at the plate and in the field without Holliday.
Obviously there are confounding factors that I’m glossing over here. Things like the schedule, injuries, and other random factors have contributed to the good/poor play of teams this August. But the bottom line is that it can’t be a coincidence that the teams that dumped players are starting to win and the teams making a playoff push are starting to falter. There isn’t an easy explanation and my best guess is just that the teams near the bottom of the standings have started to relax. They are resigned to their fates and they are just going out there and playing the game, not worrying about their jobs or where they are in the standings but just focusing on each at-bat and each pitch. Being relaxed and playing with nothing to lose can be a big asset for a team. And that’s why Week 17 in the NFL is usually such a shit show.
Anyway, I don’t really expect it to continue. But if you think you can just mop up by betting on the Big Boys against the Weaker Sisters you are sorely mistaken.
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