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June 3, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

Success Stories in the Endgame, Part Two

by Mike Gianella

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Last week, I looked at cheap “endgame” ($1-3) hitters in the American League and National League and concluded that there were some bargains to be found at the end of the auction that could help your team next year if you’re dumping.

This week, I will take a look at the cheap pitchers.

Table 1: Rate of Return on $1-3 AL and NL Only Pitchers: 2009-2013

Year

League

# of Players

AVG Value

AVG Salary

AVG +/-

AVG Hitter Value

2009

AL

72

$4.84

$1.22

+3.64

$3.39

2009

NL

73

$3.56

$1.04

+2.52

$3.89

2010

AL

61

$4.99

$1.39

+3.60

$4.01

2010

NL

73

$2.36

$1.19

+1.17

$5.28

2011

AL

50

$3.69

$1.41

+2.28

$4.40

2011

NL

60

$5.06

$1.33

+3.73

$5.96

2012

AL

62

$5.51

$1.30

+4.31

$3.60

2012

NL

70

$4.58

$1.07

+3.51

$6.15

2013

AL

55

$5.01

$1.42

+3.59

$4.25

2013

NL

55

$5.62

$1.35

+4.27

$5.07

Table 1 lists all of the pitchers purchased in the CBS, LABR, and Tout Wars AL and NL only leagues for an average salary of $3 or less between 2009 and 2013. There aren’t going to be this many endgame pitchers in your home leagues since this table is working off of an average price. However, the numbers above give a rough idea of what your endgame dollar buys you, and in the aggregate it doesn’t buy you that much. This is the same table that appeared last week except I added a column to the far right to show what the hitters did.

I anticipated that the cheap pitchers would earn more on average than the cheap hitters. However, on a dollar-by-dollar basis it is pretty close most seasons and the better values fluctuate back and forth between hitters and pitchers every season. Much of this is due to the fact that the worst pitchers carry a far greater negative value in only leagues than hitters do. As you can see in Table 2, there is a great deal of value to be derived from the pitching bargains every single year.

Table 2: The Cream of the Crop: Best $1-3 Auction Pitcher Buys, 2009-2013

Year

League

# of $10+ Earners

Value

Salary

+/-

2009

AL

17

$246

23

223

2009

NL

12

$172

12

159

2010

AL

17

$236

37

199

2010

NL

12

$157

20

137

2011

AL

10

$140

18

122

2011

NL

17

$218

27

191

2012

AL

19

$254

24

230

2012

NL

16

$229

19

210

2013

AL

15

$229

30

199

2013

NL

16

$233

23

210

Table 2 shows only the best of the best cheap pitching buys. Removing the total busts creates quite a different picture and the pitchers do quite well. Given that the average NL or AL-only league pitchers purchased at auction earn $1020 overall, a significant amount of value comes from the cheapies. In an earlier discussion this year, I cited the availability of cheap quality pitching as a reason not to spend aggressively on pitching. This chart is an excellent illustration of this point. An average of 21 percent of a league’s pitching value will come from these cheap and effective pitchers.

But we all know that there are pitching bargains to be had at the end of your draft or auction. The larger question is whether or not these bargains can be counted on the following season.

Table 3: Best $1-3 Auction Pitcher Buys, 2009-2012 One Year Later

Year

League

Value

Salary

+/-

Next Year’s Value

% of Prior Year’s Value

Hitter ROI Same Year

2009

AL

$246

23

223

$108

44%

86%

2009

NL

$172

12

159

$58

34%

94%

2010

AL

$236

37

199

$149

63%

39%

2010

NL

$157

20

137

$92

59%

80%

2011

AL

$140

18

122

$107

76%

53%

2011

NL

$218

27

191

$156

72%

74%

2012

AL

$254

24

230

$185

73%

75%

2012

NL

$229

19

210

$146

64%

83%

Totals

$1652

180

1471

$1001

61%

76%

The results are kind of what I expected to see; nevertheless, it is startling to see the difference between the best hitters and the best pitchers. The best cheap hitters earned an average of $12 in their big bargain season and an average of $9 the following year. The pitchers earned an average of $14 and then slipped to eight dollars the next year.

Still, an $8 pitching bargain is almost as good as a $9 hitting bargain. It stands to reason that you should dump for these pitchers, right?

Perhaps. An $8 bargain on a $1 investment is strong, but the overall volatility in the pitching market has a different impact on your future bargain than it does on the hitters. Since so much of the cheap pitching market every year turns into a significant bargain, it doesn’t make as much sense to acquire a $1-3 pitcher in a dump trade unless you’re getting at least a second-tier pitcher. This year’s Jesse Chavez might hold some of his value, but next year’s Jesse Chavez isn’t going to be that difficult to find in the auction.

I’m not completely advocating against dumping for cheap pitching, but I would push harder for cheap hitting in the dump market instead. You are more likely to find bargains in the discount bin on the pitching side every single year, which oddly enough makes the cheap hitting more valuable on the trade market when you are playing for next season.

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

Related Content:  Fantasy,  Endgame

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