I let out a full-throated cackle when I wrote the title. I don’t know how to predict wins in a 162-game season. In a 60-game season? Dress up your four cats in players’ jerseys and spin a bottle. Whether the Fanta lands on Hairy Styles or Cat Stevens, don’t matter, pick them up, because they could lead the majors in wins. I was saying to Rudy the other day, I don’t know if it’s fortunate or not to roster Freddy Peralta. He could be the 3rd thru 6th inning guy every third game and lead the majors in wins, or he could be unrosterable. (Brewers are especially problematic with Corbin Burnes, Peralta, Josh Lindblom, Brett Anderson, and Eric Lauer. Start Brandon Woodruff and Adrian Houser and pray for rain, but since MLB has a hard stop date, there’s no time for rain, so spin the bottle and hope it lands on Purry Mason.) So, with a 60-game season, what is a fantasy baseball strategy for wins?
1. Opportunities for Wins: Whatever that means. Okay, what I think Eight Word Ago Grey meant by “opportunities for wins” is it best encapsulates the shituation I mentioned in the opening about Freddy Peralta throwing in the 3rd thru 6th, and Brandon Woodruff throwing five-plus innings. If a guy becomes a manager’s go-to guy for 3rd thru 6th innings, then he has opportunities for wins. If a guy is going 5+ innings, then he too has opportunities for wins. An Opener? Well, dur. A setup man, who regularly goes in the 8th? Meh, not especially. A closer? Nah, homey. Could Sean Doolittle lead the majors in Wins? Of course. Is it likely? No. I don’t know if deGrom is going to shock the world and get six wins to lead the majors, or if Vince Velasquez is going to come in every tied game in the 6th inning and lead the majors. Wins will be fluky eh-eff. Opportunities feel like the best guess for them.
2. Good teams: Last year in the last thirty games, the Astros had a 22-8 record and their pitchers ended up with 22 wins. I’m totally effin’ with you. I mean, it’s true, but that’s not real advice. “The Nats had 19 wins in their last thirty games and their pitchers accounted for 19 of those wins.” Haha, I’m not that dumb! Though, good teams will get more wins. Where the wins will go on those teams? Over-the-internet friend, we are really struggling to make heads or tails of that.
3. Avoid 4th or 5th starters: Teams might not even have 5th starters, and their 4th starters won’t see many innings. Think of the playoffs. Okay, now think of a hot tub. Now think of stick of margarine. Are you just doing whatever I say? Think for yourself. Now, technically, if you’re thinking for yourself, you’re still doing what I’m saying. Okay, seriously, think of the playoffs. Teams with three good starters can bully their way through to the World Series. Look at the Astros or Nats last year. If you’re a team with a solid front three, you can fight your way through about a month of games in October. Why would anyone start, say, Vince Velasquez for more than a few innings, if they were trying to win two months of baseball? In six months, sure, you concede some games. In two months of baseball? You don’t concede anything. If you can start Bieber, Clevinger and Carrasco for 200 IP total out of ~540 IP, why give Plesac or Civale more than a few innings to bridge to the bullpen? If you can start Sonny Gray, Castillo and Bauer for 200 IP, do you really trust Wade Miley or DeSclafani? Teams’ bullpens are going to be about 12-man deep (good luck finding six feet to put between them!) and pitchers who struggle are either going to get removed from the rotation, or be pitching for the Orioles.
In summation: Wins are a clusterfudge of extreme proportions. All you can do is get good pitchers with opportunities and hope the dominos fall your way. I never chased wins in past seasons, and I wouldn’t chase wins now. Long relievers on good teams may account for a team’s wins just as much as their ace. To give you a few extreme examples, the Nats had 12 postseason games last year. The league leader in wins was Strasburg with five wins, Scherzer had three, Corbin had two and Anibal and Daniel Hudson had one each. Tracks pretty well. But then you look at the Astros who had ten wins, and Cole had four; Josh James had two; Verlander had one and Greinke had zero. That is how all over the map wins could be. One team could look relatively normal; another team could have a top 20 starter with zero wins, and a top five starter have one win after a month of games. Say it with me now, “Wheeeeeee!”