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March 31, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Scoresheet Lineup Tips

by Rob McQuown

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One of the fundamental truths of Scoresheet leagues is that good teams get a much lower percentage of their innings from starting pitchers than their MLB counterparts. This was probably a lot more important 20 years ago, when the Starter-Reliever ERA difference was 0.36 (1990 - 3.89 to 3.62), or 0.44 (1989 - 3.85 to 3.41), than in 2010, when it was just 0.22 (4.15 to 3.93). Still, the increase in reliever usage in real life (up more than 2000 innings since 1990) leads to a wealth of suitable pitchers in the bullpen. Recently on Scoresheet forums, in fact, there have been discussions about one team which is trying a “no starters” strategy, allowing “AAA Pitcher” to start every game, and get pulled after just one inning. And Baseball Prospectus founder Gary Huckabay was asking for ideas on how to set lineups for an AL squad he has with the following sickeningly good collection of relievers:

RP Benoit, J
RP Balfour, G
RP Perez, C
RP Soriano, R
RP Santos, S
RP Chamberlain, J
RP Kohn, M
RP Smith, J
RP Schlereth, D

Barring injuries, that's the sort of bullpen a championship-caliber team in a keeper league is going to have at the end of the year, most often (having drafted and traded for relievers throughout the season).

As Ben Murphy explained, SS/SIM takes into account some of this desire to get relievers into the game, by devaluing mediocre starters. Since today is the deadline for moves, it's good to understand how to make this happen.

First, some basics (from www.scoresheet.com):

List the five pitchers you want as a starting rotation. [...] If none of your starters has a second start available, then we will use your top bullpen pitcher who started a game in the majors that week, or if there are none, we will use your top listed reliever who pitched at least 3 innings that week in the majors, as long as he is not on our short reliever list. (You will use a minimum of 5 different starting pitchers each week. If one of your 5 listed starters does not play in the majors that week then we will go to your pen for your 5th starter.) (link)

Players on your 'taxi squad' will come in and play for you before we shuffle players out of position, or go to AAA players. If you have more than one player at the same position on your taxi squad they will appear in order of season to date major league playing time. (link)

The question, then, is how to utilize the Scoresheet game mechanics to maximize the utility of the pitchers. Using Google on this topic to see what's out there, it seems someone prepared a nice “pitching basics” video on exactly this topic, linked here with no promises as to how long it will remain available.

Summing up:


                                Order (number on left) as best-to-worst in rotation.

                                Hook set to 5.0 for good SP (higher for great SP, per below).

                                Hook for Closer set to expected closer ERA (advice from Scoresheet forums).

                                Set “Prefer to Face Teams” against division rivals or based on L/R matchups.

                General Bullpen:

                                Hook set to high number (e.g. 5.0) for good “mop up” pitcher.

                                Hook set to low number for short relievers (open to debate).

                                Inning set as desired – better relievers usually get later “Inning” setting, 6th or 7th.

                                vs. R and vs. L – Order of usage vsR and vsL. Remember it's only for “next batter”.


                                Generally, an “Inning” setting of 8 is used here.                

The problem with general guidelines is that teams have very specific issues to deal with, not vague generalities. But let's assume that the teams most interested in optimizing their outcomes are those in the .525-.550 win expectancy range. As can be seen from Geoff Young's team, good management of a not-so-great team can lead to excellent results. Part of having a good team is having a strong pen with ample innings. Being able to set the “Hook” numbers for relievers very low significantly reduces the amount of damage a single reliever can do, not to mention the boon of getting those mediocre starters out of the game. The video recommends 5.0 for very good starters, 4.0 for fourth-SP types, and even lower for fifth-SP types. These sorts of setting are nice for more “mature” teams (where the pen has been fully populated already, as in the Huckabay example above).

But for teams with one good closer, two other high-level relievers, and three “filler” types (such as the “300” league lineup shared last week: “RP: Axford, Clippard, W. Lopez, Sanches, S. Casilla, K. Wood “), that's seriously underutilizing the–hopefully–great innings from Roy Halladay, in particular. A hook of “5” means that if a starter allows four runs and then two baserunners, “He gone!” (as Hawk Harrelson might say). But regardless of how many runs Roy Halladay has allowed, his chance of retiring the next batter is likely going to be as good as all but the best relievers, so why not leave him in? [ed - yours truly is asking co-manager Brian Joseph this exact thing right now, while writing, via IM... ]

For the relievers, might as well use low hook numbers, as they are limited by innings pitched, not games pitched. Typically, a pitcher who is likely to amass a lot of innings will be set to “Inning” = 1 (we have Mike Leake and Cory Luebke set to “1” in the “300” league). The pitcher(s) selected to be the closer will use the lower “Hook for Closer” setting instead of the normal “Hook” setting on the starting pitchers.

Once some sensible lineup, rotation, and bullpen settings are configured, save the settings, but things are not done yet! Consider now the “borderline” cases on the team. Often, this will involve the fifth starter or the priorities of the relievers. Or a particular batting slot. For “300”, one such concern is the fifth starter–Kevin Correia or Mike Leake? Now, Correia is the Opening Day starter for Pittsburgh, but, well, they didn't win their division like the Reds did last year. Theoretically, Leake would be in line to face the light-hitting Astros on May 5, as opposed to Correia going to Wrigley Field on April 1. A quick check of weather.com shows “rain/snow showers, high of 48 degrees” for Friday, and similar outlook for Saturday, if the game is postponed. That makes it a no-brainer, as Wrigley Field plays as a poor hitter's park when it's no warm (and breezy) in Chicago.

On this “Lineup Day”, a short list of what every Scoresheet owner should do:

1. Follow the “tips” links provided by user “hotstatrat” in a previous comment (good to review, even for grizzled vets):

  • http://www.attheplate.com/notes/ss_notes.htm

2. Pull up the SS/SIM values for each player on the roster using Player Forecast Manager.

3. Pull up L/R Platoon data for batters, available on their Baseball Prospectus player cards (or at the Scoresheet Baseball site).

4. Setup a “typical” Scoresheet manager, including lineups and rotation and reliever usage.

5. For “borderline” cases (start player A or player B, or pecking order for relievers), review upcoming real-life opponents.

6. Review which opponents are upcoming on the Scoresheet Baseball schedule, and possibly adjust starting pitchers, by changing them specifically, and/or setting “prefers to face”.

7. Change the “typical” lineup to something specific for this week.

8. Relax, and enjoy Opening Day!

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rob's other articles. You can contact Rob by clicking here

Related Content:  Relievers,  Scoresheet,  Hook

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