We’re almost there. Opening Day is just 11 days away (10 if you’re counting down to the Cubs/Cards game on Sunday night), which means that fantasy draft season is in full swing. For those of you who are veterans of the FBB world, you know that draft day can be quite unpredictable. Average draft positions can mean next to nothing at times, particularly in competitive leagues. What should you do if Kershaw falls into your lap unexpectedly at the turn? How about if pitching is flying off the board and productive hitters start dropping an extra round or two below ADP (or more importantly, your own personal rankings)?

If you find yourself in the latter position, fear not. Resist the urge to get caught up in the SP positional run and load up on the hitting values that fall your way. Maybe even grab an elite RP like Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, or Greg Holland if the price is right. But what starting pitchers should you target after that?

That brings us to this week’s exercise. In daily formats with shallow benches that allow you to stream pitching to your heart’s content (e.g. the RCL format), it’s important to build a foundation of low WHIP, low ERA pitchers to offset the potential ratio damage that can be inflicted in those categories by a streamer off of the waiver wire. How do you identify the SPs who are most likely to be ratio helpers for your team? Let’s take a look at today’s search criteria:

2013-14 MLB seasons

Minimum 100 IP

BB% of less than 7%

K/BB ratio of at least 3

xFIP of 3.75 or under

The thinking here is relatively simple – limit the number of walks allowed which limits the amount of baserunners and thus run-scoring potential for the opposing team. There’s no strikeout requirement here other than the amount of Ks needs to be triple the amount of walks allowed. If a pitcher can’t punch out at least a few hitters, he’s not terribly useful in the majority of formats regardless of how low his ratios might be. The xFIP criterion is included to try to eliminate defensive and luck factors when evaluating a pitcher’s performance.

As always, for context and peace of mind, here are the MLB averages for starting pitchers during the 2013-14 campaigns:

Season K% BB% K-BB% K/BB HR/9 BABIP WHIP ERA xFIP
2013 18.90% 7.40% 11.40% 2.54 1.01 0.295 1.31 4.01 3.91
2014 19.40% 7.10% 12.30% 2.73 0.91 0.296 1.27 3.82 3.78

There are 47 starting pitchers who fit the criteria. Since that’s a fairly large number of qualifiers, we’ll split the results up into two tables. Table #1 features the 24 pitchers who produced a BB% of 5.5% or lower, and can be seen here (sorted by BB%):

Name Team IP K% BB% K-BB% K/BB HR/9 BABIP WHIP ERA xFIP
Cliff Lee PHI 304 23.90% 3.60% 20.40% 6.68 0.86 0.308 1.11 3.08 2.84
David Price – – – 435 24.10% 3.70% 20.40% 6.49 0.85 0.303 1.09 3.29 2.98
Phil Hughes – – – 355 20.60% 3.80% 16.80% 5.39 1.01 0.323 1.25 4.11 3.66
Brandon McCarthy – – – 335 17.80% 3.80% 13.90% 4.65 1.02 0.325 1.3 4.24 3.23
Masahiro Tanaka NYY 136.1 26.00% 3.90% 22.10% 6.71 0.99 0.299 1.06 2.77 2.58
Hisashi Iwakuma SEA 398.2 21.50% 4.00% 17.50% 5.38 1.02 0.268 1.03 3.05 3.08
Jordan Zimmermann WAS 413 20.60% 4.10% 16.50% 4.97 0.7 0.286 1.08 2.96 3.3
Doug Fister – – – 371.2 16.60% 4.40% 12.20% 3.76 0.77 0.301 1.21 3.12 3.61
Matt Harvey NYM 178.1 27.70% 4.50% 23.20% 6.16 0.35 0.28 0.93 2.27 2.63
Dan Haren – – – 354.2 19.70% 4.50% 15.30% 4.39 1.4 0.288 1.21 4.34 3.7
Adam Wainwright STL 468.2 21.50% 4.60% 16.90% 4.68 0.48 0.287 1.05 2.67 3.06
Matt Shoemaker LAA 126.1 23.00% 4.60% 18.40% 5 0.64 0.291 1.06 2.78 3.24
Hiroki Kuroda NYY 400.1 18.00% 4.70% 13.30% 3.79 0.9 0.281 1.15 3.51 3.57
Yusmeiro Petit SF 110.2 25.30% 4.90% 20.40% 5.18 1.14 0.308 1.16 4.47 3.24
Clayton Kershaw LAD 434.1 28.40% 5.00% 23.40% 5.67 0.41 0.263 0.89 1.8 2.51
T.J. House CLE 101 18.80% 5.20% 13.60% 3.64 0.89 0.336 1.34 3.39 3.09
Rick Porcello DET 375.1 17.30% 5.20% 12.10% 3.31 0.86 0.307 1.26 3.88 3.45
Felix Hernandez SEA 440.1 26.70% 5.30% 21.40% 5.04 0.63 0.284 1.02 2.55 2.58
Tim Hudson – – – 320.2 16.30% 5.30% 11.00% 3.07 0.7 0.293 1.21 3.73 3.56
John Lackey – – – 387.1 20.20% 5.40% 14.80% 3.74 1.16 0.293 1.22 3.67 3.49
Chris Sale CWS 388.1 28.00% 5.50% 22.50% 5.11 0.83 0.285 1.02 2.67 2.9
Corey Kluber CLE 378 26.00% 5.50% 20.50% 4.76 0.69 0.321 1.16 3 2.77
Hyun-Jin Ryu LAD 344 20.70% 5.50% 15.20% 3.76 0.6 0.306 1.2 3.17 3.27
Marcus Stroman TOR 120.1 21.10% 5.50% 15.60% 3.81 0.45 0.3 1.15 3.29 3.16

Some thoughts and observations on these results:

• Just 4 out of these 24 qualifiers posted a WHIP above 1.22, while 15 of these SPs posted a WHIP of 1.16 or less.

• Kershaw, Harvey, Felix, Sale, etc. A who’s who of elite talent appears here. Limiting baserunners and luck seem to lead to success. Who knew?

• An unfortunate knee injury recently suffered by Stroman has prematurely ended his 2015 campaign. The outlook for Cliff Lee doesn’t look much better. Ryu is currently experiencing shoulder discomfort and is likely to begin the season on the disabled list. Just a reminder of how unnatural it is for the human body to throw a baseball 90+ mph several dozen times every five days (not to mention the breaking stuff).

• T.J. House looks to have an inside track on a rotation spot for the Cleveland Indians this season. His 60.5% GB% as a starter last season would’ve been the 2nd highest mark in all of baseball had he pitched enough innings to qualify. Maintained an extremely low 5.2% BB% as well, as you can see in the table above. Looks like a player to target in the later rounds.

Now let’s take a look at Table #2 which features the SPs who produced a BB% between 5.5% and 7%:

Name Team IP K% BB% K-BB% K/BB HR/9 BABIP WHIP ERA xFIP
Kris Medlen ATL 194 19.20% 5.70% 13.50% 3.37 0.79 0.297 1.22 3.11 3.55
Zack Greinke LAD 380 23.10% 5.80% 17.30% 3.99 0.76 0.294 1.13 2.68 3.06
Julio Teheran ATL 406.2 21.50% 5.80% 15.70% 3.71 0.97 0.277 1.12 3.03 3.74
James Shields KC 455.2 20.00% 5.90% 14.00% 3.36 0.85 0.297 1.21 3.18 3.64
Andrew Cashner SD 289 18.10% 6.00% 12.10% 3.03 0.56 0.272 1.12 2.83 3.56
Stephen Strasburg WAS 398 27.10% 6.20% 20.90% 4.37 0.88 0.292 1.09 3.08 2.83
Mike Minor ATL 350 20.70% 6.20% 14.50% 3.34 1.11 0.294 1.23 3.86 3.75
Madison Bumgarner SF 418.2 24.90% 6.30% 18.70% 3.98 0.77 0.275 1.06 2.88 3.15
Cole Hamels PHI 424.2 23.10% 6.30% 16.80% 3.67 0.74 0.295 1.15 3.05 3.33
Patrick Corbin ARI 208.1 20.70% 6.30% 14.40% 3.3 0.82 0.283 1.17 3.41 3.48
Collin McHugh – – – 177.2 22.70% 6.30% 16.40% 3.61 0.86 0.281 1.14 3.65 3.3
Carlos Carrasco CLE 124 22.70% 6.30% 16.50% 3.64 0.58 0.324 1.28 4.35 3.07
Jon Lester – – – 433 22.20% 6.40% 15.80% 3.45 0.73 0.299 1.2 3.1 3.49
Mat Latos CIN 313 20.10% 6.50% 13.60% 3.11 0.66 0.289 1.19 3.19 3.7
Jose Quintana CWS 400.1 20.60% 6.50% 14.10% 3.17 0.74 0.3 1.23 3.42 3.62
Gerrit Cole PIT 255.1 22.90% 6.50% 16.40% 3.5 0.63 0.31 1.19 3.45 3.2
Derek Holland TEX 247.1 20.70% 6.60% 14.10% 3.13 0.73 0.306 1.25 3.13 3.67
Anibal Sanchez DET 307 24.20% 6.70% 17.50% 3.62 0.38 0.294 1.13 2.93 3.18
Scott Kazmir – – – 348.1 22.50% 6.70% 15.80% 3.36 0.9 0.303 1.23 3.77 3.49
Max Scherzer DET 434.2 28.30% 6.80% 21.40% 4.13 0.75 0.288 1.07 3.02 3.14
Homer Bailey CIN 354.2 22.20% 6.80% 15.40% 3.26 0.91 0.285 1.17 3.58 3.42
Jeff Samardzija – – – 433.1 23.20% 6.80% 16.50% 3.44 0.93 0.298 1.2 3.66 3.26
Johnny Cueto CIN 304.1 24.40% 6.90% 17.50% 3.53 0.86 0.238 0.98 2.37 3.21

• 21 out of these 23 SPs produced a WHIP of 1.23 or lower. Fourteen of these players produced an ERA of less than 3.20 as well.

Andrew Cashner looks like a potential pitcher of interest. Perhaps he will learn to better utilize his fantastic stuff under the tutelage of a proven ace like James Shields (who also qualifies here).

Collin McHugh, aka Sky’s man-crush, had the 6th lowest WHIP among all SPs who threw at least 100 IP last season. His 18.7% K-BB% (17th best) and 2.73 ERA (t-19th) weren’t too shabby either. Just don’t mention the fact that he qualified for the same list as Fister. Sky wouldn’t be able to take it.

Do you plan on utilizing a hitting heavy approach in the early rounds and targeting any of these ratio-helpers to fill out your pitching staff later on?

 
  1. GhostTownSteve says:
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    Scherzer or Felix Hernandez?

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @GhostTownSteve: Don’t think you can go wrong there. Scherzer for 20-30 more Ks and Felix for slightly better ratios. Who do you like better? Starting to lean Mad Max’s way?

      • GhostTownSteve says:
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        @Big Magoo:

        I am starting to lean towards Max.

        • Big Magoo

          Big Magoo says:
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          @GhostTownSteve: He has a good shot at 250+ Ks. Ratios should be solid in the NL East as well.

          • GhostTownSteve says:
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            @Big Magoo:

            Scherzer or Stras?

            • Big Magoo

              Big Magoo says:
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              @GhostTownSteve: Scherzer. I do like Stras though. Scherzer has just been slightly more reliable.

              • CMUTimmah says:
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                @Big Magoo:
                Scherzer’s perif’s will be aided by pitching in the NL.. I’d say he is pretty exciting in Washington…

                • Big Magoo

                  Big Magoo says:
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                  @CMUTimmah: Agreed. Looks like he’s in for a big year.

  2. sport says:
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    I like to shoot one big arm early, then a couple from your ‘SP to Target’ in the middle rounds, the guys like McHugh later.

    My first time in a keeper league is this Sunday. It’s the first year of it, 15 team regular roto and I have the 9th pick. Should I stick to Grey’s rankings for the top 10 or go with Rizzo over Jones, E5, and Batista since it’s keeper and they are a little older?

    • Baezaworldseries says:
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      @sport: Go Rizzo. It’s your team. He should be top 10ish for the next 6 years or so. Got to draft who you want. I went EE 13th and Joey Bats in a first year RazzNasty league. I hate my self for it. Go be you.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @sport: Yeah, that’s a solid pitching strategy. Always a good idea to grab an established workhorse as your #1.

      Depends on your league’s keeper rules, but I’d definitely bump Rizzo ahead of those other three. The 27-year-old and under players gain a little bit of extra value and the older guys get dinged a bit in that format.

  3. Baezaworldseries says:
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    Shoemaker, fantasy darling. Would you be surprised to see his k/9 go to 6ish? How do guys like he and DeGrom do an 8-9K/9 in their first full time jobs in the MLB, after only registering 6-7K/9 in the previous years? And is it sustainable?

    • de nachos says:
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      @Baezaworldseries: it’s sustainable if he pronounces his name “Schumacher” just sounds nastier.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Baezaworldseries: I’m not really worried about deGrom. He’s more of a “stuff” guy so I don’t see the K-rate dropping off much.

      I could see Shoemaker’s K/9 falling into the 6.5-7 range. His 8+ mark from last season was higher than what he had produced in the minors.

      • de nachos says:
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        @Big Magoo: I recall that the deGrom game with 8 straight K’s (9-14 vs. Marlins, 13K in 7) was even more impressive because he didn’t have his off speed stuff that day. so he threw three pitches in one, a low 90’s, mid 90’s, and high 90’s fastball to keep the batters off balance. it was beautiful.

        • Big Magoo

          Big Magoo says:
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          @de nachos: Yeah, I remember that game. It’s always nice to have an effective plan B (and C) when one or two pitches aren’t working that day. deGrom has the ability to do that.

      • Baezaworldseries says:
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        @Big Magoo: I don’t really see where deGrom put up great k/9 in the minors.

        • Big Magoo

          Big Magoo says:
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          @Baezaworldseries: I was just saying that deGrom is likely to see less regression than Shoemaker because his raw stuff is much better. That doesn’t always immediately translate to a high K-rate for a young pitcher who’s still learning on the job.

        • J-FOH says:
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          @Baezaworldseries: I believe he was a converted position player learning to pitch. The Mets starters are so relentless up there that the approach may be the difference. I’m just making a conversation starter. Damn you dynasty guys need to get your head out of the minors and look at the show

          • Birdmann says:
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            @J-FOH: DeGrom was a SS before signing don’t believe he played there professionally.

          • Baezaworldseries says:
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            @J-FOH: Dang it!! I went all MIA today and missed out on the convo. Still don’t really understand how his /9 can be better instantly in the majors and stay that way.

  4. de nachos says:
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    Arrieta qualifies with your criteria if you only use last year. He might just slip in if you combine his 2014 with 2012. Found it interesting to see how he was grabbed “early” in the FCL yet he “fell” in my SP heavy point league – however both were round six selections of him. What do you think, a fresh arm at 29 or a SP who won’t handle a +190 inning season?

    on a me-try-write-smart-fail note, I googled whether I should use “criteria” or “criterium” but clearly bicycling is way off topic for this article.

    great stuff, as always!

    • GhostTownSteve says:
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      @de nachos:

      Magoo and I own him in the NFBC. Took him and Carrasco at the 8/9 wheel out of the #1 slot in the online 12 team championship. Brilliant drafting by the great Magoo.

      • Big Magoo

        Big Magoo says:
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        @GhostTownSteve: Thanks! Hopefully it turns out well. The thinking was that at least one of them would be able to avoid significant regression/injury and be a high-end #2.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @de nachos: Criterium! Haha. Me no good at grammar either. Hell, that’s probably right.

      I like Arrieta quite a bit. He’s always been considered a quality prospect. He’s just had issues with durability and consistency over the years. This sounds like a glowing report, doesn’t it? There was recently an article on fangraphs about mechanical adjustments that he made last season which improved his control (and hopefully his health) considerably. Always had great stuff.

  5. Baezaworldseries says:
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    Why does RB want to track my physical location?

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Baezaworldseries: I don’t know. Do you owe Grey money?

  6. Ante GALIC says:
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    Big Magoo!!!

    Fantastic write-up! Many thanks.

    TJ House is one guy definitely on my radar.

    Cheers,
    Ante

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Ante GALIC: Thanks, Ante! I like House this year too. Reminds me of Keuchel quite a bit.

  7. Michael Durkee says:
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    Great read. Thx to Razzball I won my championship last year. My draft is this Sunday. Im in a 10 team head to head 6×6. We’ve added holds and OBP.
    Last year I streamed my ass off and beat the commissioner for the title. He changed the rules and also limited weekly pick ups (sore loser)

    My draft strategy this year is to load up on batters filling in my positions first. Then make a move on pitchers. Im making a short list of pitchers I want that should be available after 5-6 round. Do you think that’s a safe strategy given how shallow the league? Also, since we have saves snd holds, should i adjust my strategy.

    Thx,
    Mike

    • Michael Durkee says:
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      @Michael Durkee:
      After the 5-6 rounds.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Michael Durkee: In a holds league, closers are devalued a bit, especially the non-elite ones. Think Feliz, Casilla, etc. Don’t bother with those guys unless they fall pretty far.

      That sounds like a solid strategy. Build a strong offensive core focusing on power and high OBP players. For SPs, you could look to grab players like Harvey, Cole, Arrieta, Carrasco, Wood, Richards, Pineda, McHugh, etc. If you draft a few of those guys to go along with a strong offense, you should be good to go. You can always find holds late in the draft and off of the waiver wire in-season.

      Good luck!

  8. Matt says:
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    15 team roto keeper league my pitching:
    Scherzer
    Kluber (keeper)
    Arrieta (keeper)
    A.Wood (keeper)
    J.Weaver
    Kazmir
    Rodon
    Hammel
    Haren
    Cecil
    Hawkins
    Y.Petit

    Thoughts? Not too happy about the Weaver pick but figured for $9 he was a steal ($300total auction cap)

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Matt: That’s a very strong top four fronting your staff. Love Rodon in a keeper as well. Well done!

      • Matt says:
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        @Big Magoo: thanks! What’s the deal with Rodon’s mlb eta? He looked filthy last night against KC.

        • Big Magoo

          Big Magoo says:
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          @Matt: I’m not sure about Rodon’s eta. You might want to ask our prospect guru Mike on his most recent post. I would guess that he’s up at by mid-summer at the latest. He’d be their 4th best SP right now at worst. Not sure if they’re willing to start his clock early by having him on the opening day roster.

          • Matt says:
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            @Big Magoo: yea makes sense they wanna wait after the Super 2 cutoff, I wonder if they’ll go the Chris Sale route with him and put him in the pen for a bit before keeping him in the rotation for good

            • Big Magoo

              Big Magoo says:
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              @Matt: Yeah, I could definitely see him coming out of the pen. He could be dominant in that role and it would help limit his IP.

  9. SallyCips says:
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    Funny enough in the RCL league I’m in Kershaw fell to me at 10, and I had to do it. First time I’ve ever picked a pitcher in the first round.

    Good stuff, Magoo.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @SallyCips: Thanks! Same thing happened to me in one RCL. Couldn’t pass him up at 10.

  10. Birdmann says:
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    Since J-Foh values your giant cranium and I agree
    What do you think of my RCL Team
    C Wilin Rosario
    1B Todd Frazier
    2B Marcus Semien
    3B Nolan Arenado
    SS Danny Santana
    2B/SS Jean Segura
    1B/3B Kyle Seager
    OF Jose Bautista
    OF Adam Jones
    OF Corey Dickerson
    OF Jorge Soler
    OF A.J. Pollock
    UTIL Dalton Pompey
    P Jake Arrieta
    P Cody Allen
    P Huston Street
    P Anibal Sanchez
    P Jake Odorizzi
    P Neftali Feliz
    P Nathan Eovaldi
    P Drew Smyly
    P Danny Farquhar
    Bench Jesse Hahn
    Bench Luis Valbuena
    Bench A.J. Ramos

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Birdmann: Thanks, Birdmann! The first thing that jumps out to me is your outfield. Incredibly strong. Solid CIs. Santana and Segura should give you good speed up the middle. Love Arrieta, and that’s a solid group of RPs. Don’t be afraid to play matchups at C, 2B, and at the back end of your pitching staff. Looks like a really solid team.

      • Birdmann says:
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        @Big Magoo: thanks I like the team as well. Yeah one team auto drafted 3 C is kind of was a $h1t show for me.

        • Big Magoo

          Big Magoo says:
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          @Birdmann: Yeah, the auto drafting can be pretty screwy. I’ve seen it draft 10 SPs for teams at times.

  11. nick the dick says:
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    I love these numbers game posts Goo, keep up the fantastic work!

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @nick the dick: Thanks, Nick! I think that this is my last post in this series. It was just meant to be an offseason thing. I’ll be posting regularly during the regular season though.

      • nick the dick says:
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        @Big Magoo: I’m sure you’re next series will he just as good and informative. Always look forward to reading you.

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