VinWins outed me as having had a modicum of success in streaming pitchers: 68 SP (yes, 68 different starters) have recorded 55 wins and 648 strikeouts with an ERA of 3.13 and 1.22 WHIP in 797 IP. From FA/WW grabbed the likes of R.A. Dickey, Lance Lynn, James McDonald, Jonathan Niese, Wade Miley, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Parker. You could have scooped them as well.
Relievers I was able to pick up include Ernesto Frieri, Santiago Casilla, Rafael Soriano, Francisco Rodriguez, Henry Rodriguez, Tom Wilhelmsen, Rafael Dolis, Jared Burton, Glen Perkins, and Bobby Parnell. In total, 59 RPs recorded a 2.75 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 293 Ks in 249 IP. Plus a league-leading 71 Saves. And, oh yeah…FOURTEEN VULTURE WINS.
The Fredsies currently score 58 out of a possible 60 pitching points after drafting only ONE SP (Stephen Strasburg — traded early). Those rankings are open to scrutiny since I have started so many pitchers thus far. I am trying to get almost all SP out of the way before September, when the ERAs and WHIPs get inflated by strong hitting and weakening arms.
By ‘popular demand’ I am happy to share my ‘secrets’. Yoda advises: “Wise you be to consider this a model tweaked by your own experiences and pearls of wisdom, yes!”
Why swim up stream?
I think the first kernel came from reading on Razz that there were an increasing number of managers approaching drafting all hitters for the top ten slots. What makes that work? We had shared an end of season ‘recap roto strategies.’ Then, I believe that last year’s RCL winner had said he had used a similar strategy. And… well, the picture you get.
1) Allow you to target HITTERS (and CLOSERS?) on draft day, and TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!
2) LIMIT the number of BIG BLOWOUTS, so that the occasional/infrequent/unforeseen & unavoidable one doesn’t destroy your peripherals for the season.
3) Give pitchers the BEST CHANCE to return EXCELLENT WHIP and ERA.
Ws (by virtue of streamed Vulture Wins) and Ks (by virtue of streaming relievers) are NOT targeted, per se, for SP (more explanation further; it is OK to avoid a pitcher who projects to give you only 1 or 2 Ks.) Hmmm… Felix Hernandez lost to Clayton Richard. Stephen Strasburg lost to Mike Minor and to Anthony Bass. Clayton Kershaw lost to Lucas Harrel and Ryan Vogelsong. Cole Hamels lost to Mark Buehrle. Heck, in 15 GS, Cliff Lee even won 1 game, proving anybody can win on a given day.
STRANGE THINGS HAPPEN when THE LEAGUE STARTS BUYING INTO THE PROCESS. I was able to grab Justin Masterson (71% owned), Jarrod Parker (83%), and Ryan Dempster (93%) this weekend. Good pitchers get dropped for the SIT start and become opportunities to grab for the following STREAM.
The following are factors that I weigh in deciding if a pitcher is worthy of streaming, using MLB.com (Probables, sortable team stats), FanGraphs (O-Swing%), and the ESPN league Player Page (% owned, recent results, splits). Yes, it is a lot of work, and it may seem daunting to tackle. Still, if you did nothing other than begin by streaming pitchers @SD/SEA/OAK, I believe you could be successful. (BTW random fact: Mariners rank dead last with 2.9 R/GM @HOME, while @TEX they score 6.4.)
AVAILABILITY (why do the research if someone else already owns him?)
1) Is he a go for the day?
2) Check the FA/WW lists daily.
PARK FACTOR: I don’t check factors anymore, but probably should. KNOW that games @ COL, NYA, BOS, TEX, CHA, CIN, AZ, MIL are absolute SIT. Games @ SEA, OAK, SD are currently the crème de la crème to STREAM. The rest possibles. Huh, why MIL? I don’t have to check the park factor. Home they are 5th in team OPS. Away they are 26th. If they can light it up in MIL, other teams will too.
MY PITCHERS’ STRENGTHS:
RECENT GAME(S): ERA, WHIP
HEADS-UP: if none available for this year, go to previous year. This is a STRONG factor. Poor heads-up is almost a guaranteed SIT.
A recent ESPN player post: “Masterson allowed eight runs on nine hits, walking four and striking out seven, while lasting just 4.1 innings, as the Rays defeated Cleveland 10-3 on Friday night. Spin: He had been on a bit of a roll in his last few outings, but the Rays have always been a struggle for him, and Friday was no different.”
HOME/ROAD, DAY/NIGHT, SPLITS: No absolutes, but if a pitcher is obviously and continuously bad in a situation, SIT.
O-SWING% (The percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone): a pet stat of mine; yours may be better. Basically, a guy can blow fire, but if he doesn’t have a pitch that batters will chase, they will look for the heat, catch up to it, and—BLOWOUT. Look for 30+.
OPS-TEAM RANK: the lower the opponent rank, the better. A 20+ rank: lol—licking our lips!
HOME/AWAY (the opponent’s)
Vs. RIGHT/LEFT (whichever my pitcher is)
WEATHER: I HATE this one, especially after all the work put in. But, if the wind is blowin’ out @Wrigley at 25 mph, you don’t really want to play with the TOYS (Tsunami On Your Stats). I check the wind at EVERY venue on game day. If it is blowing out @SD at 15 mph, I ignore. If it is blowing in 10 mph at Rangers, I ignore—those boys can hammer it out there anyway.
GREY’S POSTS: STREAM/SIT. Not one of us can hit 100%. Like everything else, success depends on the percentages. I rely HEAVILY on GREY. July 3: ALL factors were strong for Rick Porcello (3 ER in last 20 IP). I didn’t get to Razz that day. Porcello gave up 12 hits in 3.2 IP. Went to Razz. Grey had told several people to SIT—‘don’t like him at all.’ Cust Kayin’.
LAST MINUTE PITCHER AVAILABILITY: guys get hurt, rotations get adjusted. Continuously checking for callups. Yes, almost always avoid rooks the first time out; but, cheated (it was @SEA!) and got Chris Tillman’s 0.00/0.48/7 K in 8.1 IP in his debut this year.
NOTE: BOT—Bench of Three. It is fine to KEEP any 3 SP on the bench. If they sit for ten games, it isn’t necessarily taking away from counting stats. As soon as you fill one of your active pitching slots with a sitting SP, you are SUBTRACTING counting stats. THINK of it as just like having a batter out of the lineup, because that is KIWI—Kinda’ Is What Is.
Here are a couple of examples Vin mentioned:
Vin: “James McDonald’s ERA is an exceptional 2.44; in 35 innings on The Fredsies, he’s even better, at 1.54.”
(How is it that a guy with those stats is available on the FA list? Yes, I got him early. Could have kept him on my BOT, but too many other streaming ops. Yesterday’s McDonald is replaced by today’s Travis Wood or Tillman.)
Added McDonald from FA May 4th (immediately after games locked for that day) for his next start May 5th, HOME CIN.
MY PITCHER’S STRENGTHS: 3 (of 5) quality starts, 2.97 ERA/1.06 WHIP/24 K in 30.1 IP.
HEADS-UP: In 2011 (none yet for 2012) in 28.1 IP vs. CIN: 3.49 era and 22 Ks. Pretty decent.
O-SWING%: currently 29.3 (may have been better at the time).
WEAKNESS OF OPPONENT: TEAM OPS RANK: CIN AWAY 23rd; vs. RIGHT 20th
McDonald enters the game with a sub 3 era, good whip, 7.12 K/9, good record heads-up, weak opponent projections. STREAM.
RESULTS: 1.42 era/1.26 whip/7 K . And, oh yeah, a W. (NOTE: the opposing pitcher was Mike Leake, 0-4, 5.97 era at the time, but that was NOT a consideration in the decision to stream.)
So, entered with strong indicators and, magically, he produced!
DROPPED him immediately when games locked on the 5th—not knowing what his performance might be. Streamed Shawn Kelly (SEA MR) for two days: 4 Ks (and yes, 1 ER). Will take it.
Picked up McDonald again from FA May 8th (immediately after lock) for his next start May 11th HOME HOU. (By now someone may be noticing him; better grab him a little early.) 2-day scoop. It is unrealistic to believe one can stream continuously the night before. Select matchups do get targeted. Just don’t have pitchers filling a slot for a week that could be producing.
HOU @ HOME:
MY PITCHER’S STRENGTHS: 1.42 era/1.26 whip/7 K in 6.1 IP in most recent; 2.70 ERA/1.09 WHIP/31 K in 37 IP going into the game. Home ERA 1.73 vs. 3.54 away. STRONG!
HEADS-UP: In 2011 in 25 IP vs. HOU: 1.80 ERA/1.24 WHIP/24 K in 25 IP. Can it get much better than this?
O-SWING%: currently 29.3.
WEAKNESS OF OPPONENT: TEAM OPS RANK: HOU AWAY 28th; vs. RIGHT 18th.
So, for the upcoming game he enters with even stronger stats across the board than he did for the previous game in which he performed admirably. STREAM.
RESULTS: 1.13 era/.75 whip/8 K in 8 IP. Magically–PREDICTABLE! (Lost 1-0. Opposing pitcher was Bud Norris, who had a 3.95 ERA at the time.) (Subsequently traded McDonald.)
Vin: “For Kyle Lohse, the comparison is 2.82 overall and 1.82 in 49.1 innings for Fred.”
Picked him up April 4th, added and dropped him several times, so that I had him 4 of first 5 starts: 2.33 ERA/0.85 whip/16 K in 26 IP. I know, Ks are weak, but remember, I was streaming MRs to make up the difference while he was dropped. Yup, by-the-way, 3 W in those 4 starts (he faced Josh Johnson, Leake, Johnny Cueto, and Marco Estrada).
Let’s look at the other side of the coin: what matchups did we AVOID?
Added Justin Masterson on June 10 after a sterling performance against STL. His next game wasn’t until June 15. That’s a LOT of time to ride my bench. Must’ve been star struck.
On the 15th in 7 IP: 0.00ERA/1.00WHIP/9K, PIT home. That night I DROPPED him to stream someone else!
On the 18th I picked him up again—why was he still on FA?: On the 20th in 9 IP: 0.00ERA/0.33 WHIP/9K. Dropped him as soon as the games locked—a no-brainer, next was @NYA. ANYBODY can do this! (Sometimes it is tooooo obvious.)
How about a more challenging other side of the coin?
On May 29 Masterson faced KC @ HOME. He had just come off a string of 4 quality starts in his last 5. In his most recent two he had given up 3 ER in 14 IP. So, regarding the strength of our pitcher, I think it would have to be good.
The red flag: KC ranks #12 in team OPS vs. RIGHT. (#17 HOME). Remember, I am looking for something in the 20+ ranking. NO WAY do I start him in that game. RESULTS: 7 ER in 6 IP. Was it worth the 8 strikeouts?
A TYPICAL DAY AT THE PARK: Kevin Milwood had a pretty incredible run in May: @NYA/@COL/hTEX/@TEX. In 27 IP: 0.67 era/0.74 whip, and oh, by the way, 20 K and 3 W. His next start he gave up 4 @CHA (excusable). I picked him up for the following start, LAD@home. Clearly he was a strong pitcher. LAD AWAY ranks #27; vs. RIGHT #21. HEADS-UP 3.65 vs. LAD in 2011.
Definitely a STREAM.
He returned: 0.00 era/0.17 whip/6K in 6.0 IP. Yeah, I had picked him up day of the game. His next start was H vs. SF. SF AWAY ranks #13, vs. RIGHT #27. No HEADS-UP. That #13 AWAY for the opponent puts him on the SHELF. For that game he returned: 5.40 era/2.00 whip/4 K in 5 IP. Yes, I cherry-picked a little here. But, you do get these types of games frequently enough to offset the occasional unforeseeable clunker.
An esteemed contributor to RAZZ recently texted: “I pushed it too far and went with Henderson Alvarez. I still think he will give me a good stretch of games eventually.” Stinkin’ Thinkin’. A pitcher is only as good as he projects for the next game. A good stretch is predictable. If a pitcher has three favorable projections coming, put him in a bench slot. Doesn’t hurt a thing. If he projects poorly for the following game, he gets dropped (traded if you are in a chump league; a smart league won’t buy SP). During the ten, or so, days that he would be sitting in a counting slot, for a poor matchup, you could be streaming the likes of Charlie Furbush, Brayan Villarreal, etc., who will give you miniscule era/whip while adding 8-10 Ks. That is why you can, and should, stream SP with few Ks but frugal era/whip. You make up for the pedestrian Ks by having MRs producing Ks in that slot — rather than producing nada for 10 days.
Geez, this looking back is hazardous to your health — just saw that I traded Dolis and received Chapman — how did he get away from me after that?
So, you are standing on the edge of the bank. “Do I dive into the STREAM?” Only two things can happen, right? Sink or swim. Well, actually a third — FLOAT to the TOP, baby!
- Currently in the money? May just want to dip a toe. Already streaming on occasion? Might not hurt to try these tactics to help find those pitchers that have the BEST percentages in their favor.
- Wallowing in the mud? Dive! Dive! Dive! You are going all in. What do you have to lose? Immediately trade ALL of your SP for whatever improvement you can get in hitting or closers. What you can’t trade, DROP. (You may save up to 3 SP that project favorably for their next start on your BOT.
- Currently swimming up stream? It’s risk/reward. You have to evaluate your team. “Will I gain more in cats/league standing by trying these tactics?”
Let’s give it a try for Friday’s games.
Begin by recording your hard stats and overall standing in each pitching cat. This is the base that will tells us later if we have improved or not.
Check the schedule on MLB.com
Eliminate Extreme Hitters’
|Away||Home||Time (ET)||Away Probable||Home Probable|
Then, ID the probable stream candidates. Initially just go down the list for availability. Go to your league’s Players Page, and make sure you are on the pitchers list. Type the last name in the search box. Eliminate the 100% owned/already taken in your league.
Doug Fister: Burned me before. Pass.
Jason Hammel: Likely taken, but let’s take a look. The search shows he is owned in 96.6% of leagues, but available in the ECFBL — why? If you check the last 15 days, you see he has given up 15 ER in last 16.2 IP. The question is: why is he still owned in 96.6% of the leagues? Pass.
Ricky Romero: 82% owned. Yet, available in the EFBCL — why? Season 5.22 ERA/ 1.47 WHIP, yuck. Heads-up: Click on his name to bring up recent results; then “View Player Card” for more info. Click”Splits” and find a 7.20 era vs. Cleveland. Pass.
Bruce Chen: Gave up 6 ER in each of last 2. Pass.
Look deeper at what’s left:
Paul Maholm: Facing AZ, worth a look. Gave up 6 ER @AZ 4 games back. Too risky. Pass.
Jeremy Hellickson: 88.5% owned; available ECFBL — why?
- Heads-up: 4.34 ERA/1.39 WHIP. Home 2.96 ERA. 10K in 18.2 IP vs. BOS.
- 28.7% O-Swing% (FanGraphs — Plate Discipline). Not strong.
Don’t see enough win-win in tackling BOS at home. Could be why he is available in the ECFBL. Pass.
Derek Holland: 29.4% owned. Owned in the EFCBL.
- Gave up 8 ER in 1.2 IP HOME vs. SEA.
- In 4 starts vs. SEA in 2011, 2.77 ERA.
- 2 ER in 16 IP @SEA in 2011.
- 26.0 O-Swing%.
Classic risk/reward. Will he return 2011 heads-up or blowout like recent 8 ER. One of the main goals is to avoid blowouts. He may turn in a sterling performance. There will be more opportunities. If he blows, that much more work to overcome. Pass.
Jordan Lyles: 0.1% OWNED.
- 3 quality starts in last 4.
- Gave up 1 ER HOME to SD. Should be good to go @SD.
- 25.7 O-Swing%. Can’t do it. Pass.
Justin Masterson: Check him out. A click on his name after the search reveals his recent performances:
That last 8 ER against TB, yuck; maybe 4 @NYA excusable. Four others with 1 or fewer ER. Let’s check:
HEADS-UP: Click VIEW PLAYER CARD>splits, vs. TOR
Gonna chicken out. Looking at the sortable team stats>Splits> OPS: TOR HOME ranks #7; vs Right #8. Just too many obstacles that could overcome that previous heads-up in CLE. Pass.
These are the weakest OPS teams at home; good targets for even an average pitcher to not get lit up: #20 PHI, #21 LAD, #22 WAS, #23 NYN, #24 PIT, #25 CHN, #26 SF, #27 TB, #28 OAK, #29 SD, and #30 SEA.
Franklin Morales: 12% owned.
- 3.50/1.17 for the season. Possible.
- Gave up 6 ER HOME vs. NYA in last (excusable).
- Heads-up: 0.00 ERA in 4 IP (not much weight).
- TB HOME rank #27; vs. LEFT #23. TB not likely to run it up at home.
- O-Swing%, 33.7.
A.J. Griffin: 2% OWNED
- 1.50/0.72 in 3 GS.
- Heads-up: none, only 3 GS.
- Min Home rank #8; vs. RIGHT #24.
- O-Swing%: 33.1.
Strong pitcher. STREAM.
Francisco Liriano: 18% owned.
- Gave up 1 ER @TEX last outing.
- 4 of last 5 quality starts.
- 0 ER, 9K, W heads-up.
- OAK AWAY #24; vs. RIGHT #26.
- 31.2 O-Swing%.
What’s not to like?—EXCEPT HIS FREAKIN’ TRACK RECORD OF BLOWUPS!!! Everything points to a repeat of last @home vs. OAK. STREAM.
Clayton Richard: 18.9% owned.
- Gave up 6 ER vs. CIN @HOME in last.
- 5 straight quality starts previous.
- VS. LAD 2.70 ERA, .167 AVG against. Look a tad deeper. Vs. LAD HOME: 2 ER in 14 IP. Vs. LAD, AWAY: 4 ER in 6 IP.
- 31.2 O-Swing%.
- HOME/RIGHT: #21/#27.
Tough one. Will risk the possible 4 ER away, given the upside. Close call. STREAM.
There you have it. Periodically, check your current stats with your base: Sinking? Swimming? Floating! If I were in the money and my first efforts turned out blowouts, I’d set it aside.
For the others, you are starting with tiny sample sizes. My stats have proved worthy overall this year. And, I have had my share of blowouts, tempered by sterling performances. If you have already dived in, may as well let the stream carry it where it will.
GET TO WORK!