Every year, MLB trends - e.g., K's are up, starter innings are down, the opener! - cause a lot of fantasy writers and players alike to rethink how they approach starting pitching in drafts. Reflection is generally a good thing but it is a waste of time if you keep making the same mistake. There is no one successful way to draft Starting Pitchers. There are factors specific to you (the drafter). Are you better or worse than the average person in your league at finding hitter or pitcher bargains later in the draft? Are you better or worse at streaming during the season? Is your league format conducive to streaming (better in shallow leagues and daily rosters, harder in deeper leagues and weekly rosters)? How do your projected player values line up with the market? Here is my only evergreen advice on the subject: Do not wing it when it comes to how much you spend of your draft capital (either auction $ or draft picks in snake) on starting pitching.
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It’s baseball season, long-lost Razzball friends! Okay, fantasy baseball season. Okay, fantasy baseball drafting season. Okay, fantasy baseball drafting season for fantasy baseball writers and mildly disturbed folk who couldn’t make it through the first day of 2018 without entering into a fantasy baseball draft (proud to count myself a member of both of those elite groups, thank you very much). Drafting the first week of January feels downright crazy. Well, is downright crazy. Projecting stats takes on a new layer of complication right now with such a ridiculous number of draftable players unsigned, and it’s trickier than ever trying to guess how fellow owners might be valuing players. I recently completed my first official fantasy baseball draft of the year, and found my instinct taking over regularly, leading me to impulsively click on a name which was far below other, higher-ranked names on my tidy little spreadsheet, simply because I had a gut feeling. Sure, we could call it women’s intuition, if we wanted to sound like we were writing this article in 1978. (As it turns out, there are studies that support some version of women’s intuition being a biological reality, due to the fact that females are exposed to less testosterone in the womb, which leads to an extra “sense.” Google if bored). “What’s the point, lady??!” you ask...
This is part of a four-part series using Rudy and Grey's Razzball Commenter League experience as well as some modeling (the dorky kind) to quantify the effectiveness of streaming and how it should inform one's draft strategy in shallow mixed leagues (10-12 teams). The first three posts will focus on quantifying the value of streaming starting pitchers, relief pitchers, and hitters. The fourth will synthesize the learnings from the three and how they impact draft strategy. The streaming decisions made by Grey and I were HIGHLY influenced by our free, daily updated tools for streaming starting pitchers (Stream-o-nator) and hitters (Hitter-tron). If you are reading this article (or this site for that matter), I assume you are familiar with streaming starting pitchers. This is an essential strategy in all daily league formats whether one plays standard Roto or H2H. While my beloved Stream-o-nator aims to make sure all our readers make the most informed decisions on which pitchers to stream over the next 7 days (and possibly more in 2014), I have yet to read any analysis that quantifies the value of the average streaming pitcher to inform draft strategy. So this post is going to focus on quantifying the value of a streaming SP and, once I've completed quantifying the value of streaming relievers and hitters, I will figure out how this impacts draft strategy.
Not Your Grandfather's Top 100 Starting Pitchers... Starting pitchers: You can't live with em, you can't win your fantasy baseball league and then use the championship trophy to score babes without em. I know, you won't be able to do that second part either way, but it's called fantasy baseball for a reason. Starting pitchers remind me of grandparents. Oh boy, where's Donkey going with this one? Don't worry Grey's random italicized voice, I won't get into my James Shields pants peeing analogy. When they're young, visits with gramps and granny are full of excitement and unexpected gifts; those times are as magical as a Walker Buehler vs. Jack Flaherty locker room sword fight. But as time passes, and our elders age, it's not all ice cream, pizza and 13 strikeout gems. Hips are fractured and ulnar collateral ligaments are severed. The pizza and ice cream is replaced by prune juice and fruit cakes, with a side of 8 earned runs in 2/3rds of an inning. And of course there's the erectile dysfunction, brought on by another Tyler Chatwood misfire. In this biweekly top 100 starting pitchers column, I'll track developments of decreased blood-flow, fractured hips and, most importantly, those mythical GILFs (Grandmothers I'd Like to play Fantasy baseball with; what did you think it stood for?) as they rise across the fantasy pitching horizon. Here's a little GILF tease along with my preseason top 100 to hold all you grandmother lovers over...
We're officially a week into the season which means two things. One, you're obsessively checking your teams all day every day in hopes they've racked up more stats in the 5 minutes since you last checked. Two, you are already dealing with at least one injury and you're quickly reminded with how long of a grind baseball season is. Between your late round value picks starting off scorching hot and your studs starting the season 0-14, fantasy baseball is back with all its glory and pain. Chances are you and the other owners in your league have cut ties with at least a couple of the guys you drafted and the waiver wire is churning. Whether it be to fill in for an injury or to replace that struggling guy you didn't want to draft anyway, the waiver wire is the go-to in improving your team. Yes, the samples are small right now which leads to overvaluing and overreacting. But we finally have some real numbers to look at! I'll keep it to hitters for now since pitchers have only had one start for the most part. I'll exclude guys that are likely gone by now and owned in 70%+ of leagues. If you didn't draft Jose Martinez, wait why didn't you draft him?! Have you not been reading Razzball this offseason?? However, if you didn't listen to our top-notch advice I'm assuming someone already picked him up as he's now owned in 78% of ESPN leagues. Thanks to his 3-home run Opening Day, I'm assuming everyone picked up Matt Davidson (71%) before he even hit his 3rd. Let's check out some hitters that are hopefully available on waivers that can help make an impact for your H2H squads.
Michael Wacha holds a special place in my heart. When Albert Pujols left the Cardinals for the west coast during December of 2011, I partially disowned the player I was most fond of in my childhood; the reason I became a Cardinals fan back in 2001. (Hopefully I didn't just lose a lot of readers...) Having a vague understanding of compensatory draft picks, I paid attention to the 2012 MLB Draft. When the 19th pick came up, and St. Louis selected the tall righty from Texas A&M, I associated some of my fleeting distaste for Pujols with the gift given due to his departure. The logic of disowning a player for nothing more than assuming his blind loyalty, which no player should have, in retrospect, was terrible. But the product of my now-distant bitterness was admiration for Wacha. That affinity soared when he broke out during the 2013 Postseason, mowing through the Pirates and Dodgers before collapsing in Fenway during the final game of the World Series. Wacha then evolved into the low hanging fruit of regression candidates when 2015 finished, fulling that tag a year later when the product didn't match his peripherals. But an aggregated look at last season stands out for the 26-year-old. A noticeable jump in strikeouts, coupled with usage tinkering, results in an intriguing starting pitcher who lasts into the 20th round of drafts on average. Rudy has Wacha 175th overall on Razzball's Player Rater for 15-team NFBC leagues, a solid five rounds ahead of his current NFBC price tag. Grey is even more aggressive on Wacha, ranking him as a viable SP3, inside his top 40 pitchers and inside his top 125 overall. There is love for Wacha on Razzball and I support the aggression. It's hard to think of Wacha without citing his injury history and his ADP may be a tangible result of his unfortunate doctor visits. I alternate my perception of Wacha's injuries between two categories of thought: development and mechanical. Development is all eye-test or feel based. I hold a space in my mind, with every young arm, that aging and growth can help mature one's body out of recurring injuries. Others are simply just injury prone. If that doesn't quench your thirst for understanding - it shouldn't - then the folks over on Top Velocity's YouTube channel might help. I've cited their expertise multiple times with Ralph on the Razzball Prospect Podcast, and do so again here to fulfill the "mechanical" portion of my thoughts on Wacha's injuries. One of the things they point out is the lack of engagement in Wacha's lower half. It might look like he's driving off his back leg after you observe his toe drag away from the rubber, but that's a deceptive trick of the eye when you compare his lower half to a pitcher like Noah Syndergaard.
There is a special day in mid-February where I can freely and shamelessly express my love. Appreciate my partner in life. Get lost in romance. That is Valentine’s Day. But the day before it was the 15-team LABR Mixed draft which is more fun and less expensive. As always, thanks to Steve Gardner at USA Today for the invite. Can’t believe this is the 5th year I’ve been in this league. I was holed up in an NYC hotel for the draft where luckily the wifi did not shit the bed (nor did I). No kids disrupting the draft. A background soundtrack of sporadic car horns and loud-talking pedestrians. I was able to grab the HDMI cord from the cable box so I could rock the two screens. If only I remembered to pick up a pastrami sandwich and a six pack, I could’ve been in Costanza heaven. Quick Perspective On The Difference Between 15-Team Mixed w/ Weekly Roster Changes vs. 10/12-team Mixed Daily Roster Changes I am going to share with you the only relevant difference between these two formats. If you are someone who plays shallow leagues with daily roster changes (and typically a high transaction cap), repeat this as a mantra in your head when drafting in this format (like in NFBC). The 2018 Razzball Commenter Leagues are now open! Free to join with prizes! All the exclamation points!
A few weeks ago, I wrote about four analyst mock drafts currently taking place at the benevolence of Justin Mason. With so much to digest, content ideas swirl around as I determine what would be most beneficial to the masses of Razzball. Ironically, this wavering over what to highlight in the mock drafts has delayed my reaction to what has unfolded so far. If there is one thing I've learned in this great community of fantasy baseball nuts, it's the power Twitter has to spur ideas. I tip my hat to you, Mr. Farnsworth:
We're taking these outfielders to 120 total, so this should still be the beginning of wonderful for you, but as you look down this list, guys like Matt Kemp become more attractive and not just if you're an R&B singer. Rap is not pop, if you call it that then stop. I'm going aggressive for guys like Kepler and Piss-hotty (sounds like watersports, right, Mr. President?), because the alternative is dank with excitement. Stephen Hawking's hitting his keyboard robotically telling us, "It's a black hole for outfielders, we need to spontaneously combust some new ones." Then Stephen jots down a letter to Eddie Redmayne about a sequel to The Theory of Everything; Eddie's got a binder of these letters. As always, my projections are noted for each player and where I see tiers starting and stopping. Anyway, here's the top 40 outfielders for 2017 fantasy baseball:
Hola Razzball Nation. Much like that Pennsylvanian groundrodent (it ain't a hog), I've been underground prepping the first half of this winter. Though it's not like I've been keeping you in the dark as I posted my 2016 fantasy baseball projections (in collaboration w/ Steamer) and auction dollar values around the actual Groundhog Day. The middle of February ushers in the most romantic holiday of the year for me - LABR Draft. This year it was Tuesday, February 16th - casting its big shadow over V-Day (I dressed up in sunglasses and a moustache - my wife thought I was Grey) and the "Let's honor dead leaders by giving your kids the day off from school while non-bank/government employers just consider it Monday" holiday. For those not familiar, this is a 15 team mixed league snake draft with standard 5x5 roto scoring. Same roster format as we use for RCL except 6 bench spots, 2 starting catchers, and unlimited DL. Rosters can be updated weekly. The free agent budget (i.e., FAAB) is $100 and you can only pick up players on the major league roster (the draft is the only time you can prospect stash). My 2015 LABR Team came in 5th place - putting up a fight for 3rd place but well behind Mike Gianella and Bret Sayre of Baseball Prospectus who edged out Fred Zinkie of MLB.com. Looking at my 2015 draft is a good reminder how the second half of these drafts is the equivalent of a Joc Pederson at bat. Take a few big hacks and hope for a home run (my big flies last year were Khris Davis in 13th, Danny Salazar in 15th, Santiago Casilla in 17th, and David Peralta in the 26th). Here are the results of the 2016 LABR Draft. I suggest opening it another tab while reading this post.