Barry Zito

Fantasy Baseball: Be Like Beane on Draft Day

Billy Beane’s best quality is one that would serve many fantasy general managers well: he knows when one of his players is overvalued, and either trades them away or lets them go.

Since most of you haven’t had your fantasy baseball drafts yet, you probably don’t have any overvalued players on your roster right now. But when it’s time to make your selections in the coming weeks, stay away from a pitcher who netted Beane quite a few prospects from the Arizona Diamondbacks: Dan Haren.

A lot of people will be stoked on Haren after his move to the National League, especially to a D-Backs squad that made it to the postseason last year. Many will figure there’s no way a guy who started for the American League in last year’s All-Star Game will re-enter the Senior Circuit and do anything less than dominate.

Plus, Haren has been a fantasy baseball favorite of many over the last couple years, including myself. I was known by my friends as a Haren guy, leading my buddy Sean to snag him in last year’s draft just to spite me (at least that’s what I told myself).

Just based on Beane’s track record however, fantasy GM’s should be wary. Tim Hudson did have a good bounce-back year in 2007, but as a whole Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito have not performed nearly as well as the “Three Aces” did as Athletics. Something tells me there was a reason Beane was so public about his desire to trade Haren before the deal with Arizona went down.

It might surprise you, but I am not a member of Oakland’s scouting department or training staff. As such, I have no idea if Haren has been pitching through an injury. But it isn’t that difficult to see that Haren’s production fell off after the All-Star Game like a latter-day Atlee Hammaker.

(For those who don’t remember the former Giant, Hammaker gave up the All-Star Game’s only grand slam in history to Fred Lynn in 1983. In all he gave up 7 earned runs and 2 homers in two-thirds of an inning in his only All-Star Game appearance, and his career was never the same. In the process Hammaker cemented his rep as the weakest Giant mentally of all time, save for short-timers Ruben Rivera and Alex Sanchez.)

Haren didn’t get embarrassed like Hammaker in his All-Star Game appearance, but he might as well have. Before the mid-summer classic, Haren was 10-3 with an ERA of 2.30 and a tidy WHIP of 1.00. After the break Haren was a borderline Major Leaguer at best (5-6, 4.15 ERA, 1.50 WHIP).

Of course, I had first hand knowledge of Haren’s slide after working out a midseason trade with Sean to grab Haren back for myself, a move that was about as smart as the lyrics to an LFO song.

If Beane can forget sentimentality and trade away an fairly young All-Star like Haren when he was midway through a very reasonable contract, I can do likewise and stay away from him on draft day. I suggest you do the same.

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