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May 5, 2017 6:00 am

Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner: Week 6


Mark Barry

Jacob deGrom, Carlos Martinez and Max Scherzer qualify as must-starts in the NL, with Carlos Carrasco Justin Verlander joining them in AL. Conversely, do everything you can to sit AJ. Griffin and Wily Peralta.

Every Friday we preview the hurlers scheduled for two starts in the upcoming week. Hopefully that will give enough insight to make educated lineup moves and FAAB decisions over the weekend. As the old wrestling promoters would always say “Card Subject to Change," because lots can happen between the time this goes up and first pitch. Unfortunately, weather, injuries and tinkering managers make this less than a science. I’ll do my best, though, and should new information present itself after this posts, we can go over it in the comments. We’ll crowdsource this as well, so if you hear anything, feel free to comment and we all can offer our takes, hot or not.

Here’s how this works. The pitchers will be split by league using these categories:

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Can the whole be greater than the sum of its parts? Can it ever be less? Is a baseball team just the total of the 25 people who comprise its roster?

We live in a statistical ecosystem that is dominated by WAR, a statistic that for all its perks does contain some weaknesses. WAR–in an attempt to compare all players to a common baseline–specifically assigns a value to players with the intention of stripping away all of the context of his teammates. There’s no secret here. This is celebrated as the great triumph of WAR. Where RBI or runs scored were decent indicators of a hitter’s abilities, they were also dependent on the abilities of his teammates. As an individual measure, WAR makes sense as a way to compare everyone to the same baseline.

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April 12, 2017 6:00 am

Daily League Strategy: Week 2: Picking Pitchers


Tim Finnegan

Skills—for the pitcher, for his opponent and his even own lineup—all matter when picking for daily leagues. But so does ballpark environment.

In Week 1, we discussed basic strategies for picking hitters to roster in daily leagues. One of the key points from that article is that fantasy owners want to find hitters who have a good chance to be in a high run-scoring environment. Focusing on opposing-pitcher quality—meaning, finding opposing pitchers who do not usually effectively prevent runs, prevent extra base hits, or prevent baserunners—is a good first step.

This week, we'll do the opposite and focus on basic ways to pick pitchers. Generally, when picking a pitcher, I look for a few key things. I want a pitcher who has a good chance to be in a low run-scoring environment, because pitchers are docked points for allowing earned runs. I want a pitcher who will pitch deep into the game, because pitchers gain points the more innings they throw, and in some formats for quality starts (6+ IP of 3 ER or less). I want a pitcher who will get enough run support to be in position for a victory, because pitchers earn points when they are credited with the win. And I want a pitcher who is going to rack up strikeouts, because pitchers get points for strikeouts. It’s sometimes difficult to find all of these qualities in one pitcher, so I look for as many as possible.

To do this, considering the quality of the opposing team that the pitcher is facing is important, just like with picking hitters. A punchless lineup in a pitcher's park on a chilly night is going to have a more difficult time scoring runs than a high-powered lineup in a hitter's park on a hot summer night. A lineup that has a lot of swing-and-miss in it, like the 2016 Brewers, who had a team-strikeout rate near 26 percent, makes it more likely that a pitcher can generate strikeouts. A team starting an ineffective pitcher against a team that is running out their own ace makes it more likely that the ace pitcher will get run support and be in position for the win, because his opponent is starting a pitcher who is prone to giving up runs.

Looking at splits is important, too. If a lineup is right-handed heavy, starting a pitcher who eats up righties, someone like Julio Teheran, can be another good way to increase the chances of run prevention and the accumulation of strikeouts. Teheran’s numbers have been dramatically better against right-handed hitters. Since the start of 2015, Teheran has an outstanding .570 OPS against, 2.78 Fielding Independent Pitching and 26.4 percent strikeout rate against right-handed batters. Home splits are also notable. Starting pitchers league-wide are more effective at preventing runs and baserunners in home games. The reason for this could be related to the pregame bullpen. A home pitcher throws his pregame bullpen and goes right to the mound while he’s hot, while the road pitcher sits in the dugout after his bullpen and cools down for a half-inning. That’s one theory, anyway. I generally favor picking a home pitcher over a road pitcher when most factors are close because of the league splits, assuming the pitcher’s home park isn’t a haven for scoring runs due to environmental or ballpark effects.

In terms of the pitcher's own skill set, the primary stats I look at when picking pitchers are OPS against, ERA, FIP, and strikeout rate (K%—not K/9). I prefer K% over K/9 because K% uses the total number of batters faced and paints a more accurate picture of strikeout skill. Finding pitchers who are efficient with their pitch counts also is helpful for finding pitchers who can get deep into games and rack up points for innings pitched.

So, for example, yesterday I picked Carlos Carrasco for a few reasons. Obviously, Carrasco’s own skills are really good, but the matchup he had is what grabbed my attention the most. Carrasco was facing a below-average White Sox team at Cleveland that has a lineup projected to score in the bottom five league-wide in total runs for the rest of the season. The opposing pitcher for the White Sox was James Shields, one of the least-effective pitchers in baseball over the past year. Carrasco looked like a good bet to prevent runs, get run support and be in position to get the win. Shields ended up only giving up one run, so run support wasn’t there like I had expected, but Carrasco pitched well enough to score well in fantasy by logging seven innings pitched, getting seven strikeouts, and allowing one run and four hits. Identifying favorable situations like these is something I find important when making pitching choices in daily leagues.

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The Scoresheet gang helps you fill out your lineup card for Opening Day.

While participants in other types of fantasy baseball may cool their heels after the pre-season draft, Scoresheet players have one final task at hand before Opening Day: filling out the lineup card. Some find the lineup card a chore, but spending a few extra minutes on it is a must to wring every last win out of a Scoresheet team. The general key to filling out a lineup card is to think like a manager from the 1980s. A smart manager somewhat ahead of his or her time, sure. But trying to force the latest in sabermetric thinking onto the card will often just result in leaving wins on the table. Keep that in mind as we go through the main features of the lineup card.

Batting Order
Perhaps the most important advice we can give is to platoon everywhere. With some foresight in the draft, these platoons may be obvious. But check every single player’s splits, because surprisingly often, it will make sense to bench a star or semi-star half the time. Our lineups vs. RHP generally look completely different than our lineups vs. LHP.

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