Author Archive

Avoiding Late-Season Bear Traps

With only two weeks left in the season, every decision for starting pitchers can be crucial, whether trying to close things out in roto, or surviving another week of the playoffs in point leagues. Your hand is often forced in roto, as categorical needs will often be driving your decisions, and sometimes you can only be so conservative. But in H2H points with a typical playoffs setup, a format for which I have great affection, you can often be a lot more creative with your start/sit decisions, making choices you typically wouldn’t at any other time besides the playoffs.

In most leagues, you’re not only dealing with a limit on starts per week but (depending on your scoring system) the worry of the equalizing effect of a pitcher going negative in any given start. This makes every start choice supremely important, as playoff upsets are often built on the backs of unexpected blowups. And sometimes you need to play defense, playing the opponent as much as the pitcher.

Because there is really nothing worse than strolling happily along through your season before being snatched up by a Dallas Keuchel-shaped beartrap right before the finish line. Crack! No more fantasy season. Read the rest of this entry »

Can You Still Trust These Starting Pitchers?

Falling into a rut with your decisions can be deadly as the fantasy season comes to a close, particularly with pitchers and when you choose to start them. Depending on the starter and the team they’re facing, as well as your own categorical needs, matchups that might have been must-starts in July could sit in a gray area in September.

With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at starting pitchers who were in the top-50 for the first half but have fallen out since the break. And instead of just looking at drops in just fantasy categories, we’ll use total value and see where the drops have come and whether you should trust them as we come down the final championship stretch.

A few notes about calculated values:

  • As you can’t use date ranges with our auction calculator, I calculated my own values using a standard z-score methodology. One difference is that values were made using only starting pitchers, scored using wins, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP.
  • In addition to ERA and WHIP, I’ve also included “xERA” and “xWHIP” but these are not expected values, rather they are the ratios weighted to the number of innings pitched.  A 3.50 ERA over 200 IP is better than a 3.50 ERA over 100 IP and a 2.25 ERA over 120 IP is better than a 2.00 ERA over 90 IP. Basically, xERA and xWHIP put these values on the same scale, allowing us to judge ratios on a 1-to-1 basis, regardless of innings pitched.

Read the rest of this entry »

Targets and Avoids for Streaming LHP

As we come down the fantasy stretch, every matchup you choose starts to matter that much more. Whether it’s knowing who to stream or which stalwart in your rotation should maybe sit one out, it’s best to bring as much recent information to your process as possible.

We already looked at team performances vs RHP, so let’s crossover and look at how teams are faring versus lefthanders, looking at the numbers heading into last night’s action. But first, a quick caveat. Read the rest of this entry »

Targets and Avoids For Streaming RHP

Back in June, we took a look at which teams to attack with streaming options, as well as who to avoid, according to pitcher handedness. With a scant five weeks remaining in the season (and playoffs starting soon for H2H leagues), knowing which teams to exploit (and which beartraps to step around) becomes even more paramount.

But not just for streaming options, as fantasy players in tight races might need to make some tough decisions on who to start down the stretch. Because when time is running out, every start counts, and pitchers who were “start no matter what” prior, might slide into a more nebulous zone as you try to bring home gold.

You may have spent the previous five months cruising but no one wants to be this guy in September:

With that in mind, let’s take a fresh look at the teams you should be going out of your way to face, as well as those teams who’ve improved enough in the second half to make you take a pause.

Damn the torpedoes, full stream ahead. Read the rest of this entry »

Finding Speed on the Wire

With only about six weeks remaining in the regular season and most trade deadlines past, many may be scrounging for stolen bases as we come down the fantasy stretch. Trolling for speed on the wire is always a dicey proposition but even more so than in years past, with teams running less and less, more of a matter of philosophy than necessarily a dearth of talent.

Today, we’re going to look for speed targets according to the quality of the catchers faced, looking at the team whole, as well as the starting parts. ie. How many games will you have a good chance of facing a suspect catcher? Suspect, at least, when it comes to stolen bases and attempts allowed, as well as their rate of catching would-be thieves.

This brings me to my first large caveat: it’s not all the catcher’s fault. Stolen bases can be on the pitcher as much as the catcher but mixing in who is on the mound goes beyond the scope of this piece. When streaming for stolen bases I want my guys to have as many chances as possible of facing a catcher who has been run on a lot and hasn’t been successful at stopping them.

I judged the catchers solely on the results, looking at their percentage of runners caught (as CS%, as well as CS% percentile) and their percentile rank in attempts per nine innings and stolen bases per nine innings. How much are teams running when you’re in the game and how successful are you at stopping them? K.I.S.S. Read the rest of this entry »

Starting Pitchers Who Could Be Limited

Following a 2020 season in which only 40 starting pitchers reached at least 60 IP, the general worries that starters would be limited this year, have yet to be actualized. Granted, they still have two months to do so but my concerns have at least been tamped down on veterans with track records of high usage. However, pitchers with previously middling maxs are still worrying, particularly as more teams drop out of contention, and young starters still carry the same concerns as they do in the second half of any season.

However, whether looking at veterans or rookies, fantasy managers must try to set expectations for their pitching staff as we head into the fantasy dog days. Even if trusting what management says tends to be an exercise in futility. But you need to at least try to have a handle on who you can depend on the rest of the way, if only to curse their names when they do the opposite.

One if by shutdown, two if by bullpen…The limits are coming! The limits are coming! Read the rest of this entry »

Second Half Batting Average Fades

We’re over halfway through the season and have entered the prime trading season, with many deadlines coming at the end of July. This means teams that are contending but not cruising, will likely need to make some moves to address their deficiencies by (hopefully) moving their surpluses.

Last time out, we took a look at some starting pitchers who’ve gotten a majority of their value from ERAs that might not be sustainable. Now let’s switch over to the hitters and look at some players whose value could take a hit if they see their batting average swoon in the second half.

Just like with the pitchers, this isn’t about saying that Player X will be worse at baseball in the second half. This is about identifying who has put most of their eggs in one basket and whether you need to bake in some regression for the rest of the way. Whether it’s to make a trade or just adjust your categorical expectations, the more you know, the better you can prepare. Read the rest of this entry »

Second Half ERA Value Fades

We’re over halfway through the season and have entered the prime trading season, with many deadlines coming at the end of July. Which means teams that are contending but not cruising, will likely need to make some moves to address their deficiencies by (hopefully) moving their surpluses.

Whether you’re one of the lucky ones who are stacked on pitching and need to trade for an impact bat, or someone running the opposite, you need to know who to trade, who to fade, and who to trade for. Because is there really anything worse than trading away someone who blows up, or trading for someone who blows up your team? It’s really just the worst.

With that in mind, let’s look at starting pitchers who have significant differences between their ERA and their ERA evaluators. This way we can see who could be the most vulnerable to a rising ERA and whether their overall value could take the hit. This isn’t necessarily about saying that Player X is going to be worse at baseball in the second half, it’s about baking in regression to your expectations for the rest of the year. Read the rest of this entry »

Finding Relief Without Saves

Is there really anything worse than having to chase saves? Sure, chasing steals isn’t fun either but given that saves can often be as much about opportunity as talent, spending FAAB to play a weekly carnival game of Whack-a-Closer is extra annoying. So, let’s take a break from the save race and talk about some non-closing (NC) relievers that can return overall value even if they’re not going to supply much of the glamour stat that everyone desires.

Using NC relievers isn’t going to be for everyone and a lot of that will depend on your current team construction and categorical goals. For example, if your pitching scores are fine with ratios but lacking in the counting (wins, strikeouts, saves) stats, you’re probably going to be better served by using lesser starters, more often. Or, maybe you’re like me and due to poor performances and/or injuries have had to punt ratios in favor of throwing any (and every) starter against the wall.

However, some lucky ducks are tracking pretty with their counting stats but maybe need some ratio help. Or perhaps you’re ahead of the game enough to shine up your ratios but not so much ahead that you can afford to do so while letting your attention to wins and strikeouts lapse. For those traveling this middle-ish path, rotating (or holding) NC relievers can offer the best of both worlds. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting Rolled Over by Low K% Pitchers

We’ve all heard about Sisyphus, the wicked trickster, and tyrant who first angered the Greek gods with his general bad deeds but then really got on their naughty list by cheating his punishment of death, not once but twice. These misdeeds earned the former king not just a place in the bad part of town underground but an extra special sort of eternal torture forever tasked to roll a boulder up a mountain. But upon nearing the summit, the boulder would roll right back down from whence it came and Sisyphus would have to start all over.

This seems like a pretty terrible way to spend eternity but that’s what always comes to mind whenever I think about the fantasy power of pitchers with low strikeout rates. Sure, you can make your way up the value mountain while pushing a low K%, but the lower that rate, the steeper things get.

Returning good fantasy value with a low strikeout rate isn’t impossible but it’s certainly a hard knock life. Maybe “hard” is the wrong word. How about less predictable? When you roll with a low-K% pitcher, you simply need a lot of other things to go right in categories that are less in a pitcher’s control. Read the rest of this entry »