The Plaguey Dodgers Rotation

Entering the 2017 season, we were talking about two game changing trends – the home run surge and the 10-day disabled list. We’ve talked home runs to death. I think we all get it – players continued hitting record quantities of home runs. The 10-day disabled list also had a big impact on our fantasy games, and no team better exploited it than the Los Angeles Dodgers.

We could spend a couple paragraphs discussing exactly how the Dodgers leveraged the disabled list. Instead, can we just take it for granted that they used it to keep their pitchers fresh by implementing a pseudo seven man rotation? Let’s move on to fantasy implications.

No Dodger pitcher made 30 starts. Not Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, or Hyun-Jin Ryu. Technically, Yu Darvish did, although only nine of them were with the Dodgists. The lack of heavy volume was seemingly by design – those are all good pitchers with durability concerns. No real team should expect any of the non-Kershaws to reach the 30 start plateau, especially if the club wants those pitchers sharp in October. You can toss Brandon McCarthy, Brock Stewart, and Julio Urias into that conversation too.

Fewer starts means less bulk production. You have to replace those starts, and those pitchers are too good to stream in most formats. So they clog your DL slots instead. On the other hand, fresher pitchers theoretically produce better ratios. There are definite pros to a guy like Hill receiving a therapeutic stint on the disabled list. Better to be fake injured than real injured. The downside is a simple managerial headache.

Notably, it’s unfair to describe any of these issues as “fake.” The Dodgers responded to very early indicators of serious injuries. Rather than hope the pitcher could work through the issue with no ill effect, they played it safe. Los Angeles had more than enough depth to take a conservative approach.

Here’s my position on the matter. The new rules clearly intended for teams to exploit the 10 day disabled list. This was always going to happen. The Dodgers did it. It happened. Other teams are going to follow their lead in 2018. Everybody agrees – when it comes to injuries, it’s better to be proactive than reactive.

Fantasy leagues should respond to this by increasing the number of DL slots. Fantasy owners should respond by adjusting their valuations. Using resources like Steamer or ZiPS could overestimate pitcher workloads. In typical 12 team leagues, we all need to be prepared to use the waiver wire. Deeper leagues should load up on volume arms with positive attributes like Trevor Williams or Joe Biagini. With any luck, you’ll catch a breakout or two.

I’d like to spend the rest of this post examining a few clubs poised to manipulate their pitcher workloads. Let’s assume the Dodgers reprise their role as disabled list exploiters.

New York Yankees

The Bronx Bombers have a full five man rotation with reported interest in adding at least one more quality starting pitcher like Darvish. That would presumably push Jordan Montgomery into the sixth starter role. The Yankees have an embarrassment of pitching riches – I count upwards of eight minor league hurlers who could conceivably provide roughly league average innings over a five or 10 start trial. I also wouldn’t mind seeing a few starts from Chad Green or Adam Warren. The necessary depth is present, and they reportedly have interest in expanding upon it.

Cleveland Indians

Another contender, the Indians already have six quality major league starters. Right now, they lack the ridiculous depth of the Yankees, but they’ll have plenty of spot starters to call upon by the time the regular season rolls around.

Los Angeles Angels

After adding Shohei Ohtani, the other Los Angeles club is sitting on seven veteran starting pitchers – all of whom have some sort of injury history. This is a perfect opportunity to balance workload with some creative “injuries.” After building an uber-infield, they may consider adding a cheap ground ball pitcher like Trevor Cahill.

Houston Astros

The world champions have two aces, four mid-rotation studs, and a variety of high impact pitching prospects. Don’t forget Joe Musgrove too. After an abusive 2017 campaign, manager A.J. Hinch might want to reward his horses with a few extra spa days.

Oakland Athletics

The talent isn’t great, but there’s an awful lot of volume present. Why not mix and match?

Atlanta Braves

The #Barves kinda sorta demoed this strategy last season. They’re waiting for somebody from their bulk of upper-minors pitching prospects to take a step forward. Churn and burn baby.

New York Mets

No need for phantom DL stints here, amirite? The Mickey Callaway era may include better pitcher injury management. Considering the combination of depth and past injury issues, the Mets are a prime candidate to work the disabled list.

You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 years ago

I disagree with the position that fantasy leagues should respond to the 10-day DL by adding DL slots. I’ll support my position with the following examples:

Pitcher A is injured and will miss significant time. Under both 10 and 15 day DL regimes the player is moved to the DL and you can set him into one of your DL slots to stash him for the month or so he is out. The 10-day DL didn’t change anything.

Pitcher B shows injury concerns. Under the only 15-day DL system the team may play it safe and just skip one of his starts, meaning he stays on the active roster but isn’t going to help your fantasy team for nearly two weeks. You have to stash him in a valuable bench slot.

Under the 10-day DL system Pitcher B can be moved to the DL for the minimum 10-days, skip one start, and by ready to go. While he is out, you can place him in a DL slot freeing up a roster position to stream a replacement.

For years we’ve had to scour injury reports to glean whether a pitch would or wouldn’t make his scheduled start. I actually can’t remember dealing with that last year. What I do remember doing was moving Alex Wood back and forth from my DL slots, but I never had to deal with roster crunch, because when he was active he pitched and when he wasn’t he was DL’d.

For every example of a seemingly healthy player getting a 10-day DL stint, I think you’ll find a counter-example of a player taking a DL stint when in the past he would have festered on the active roster for a week or so doing nothing to help your fantasy team.

The Real McNulty
4 years ago
Reply to  Brad Johnson

I think you both can be right. On one hand, as the esteemed TapeyBeercone says, the 10 day DL has brought us more clarity with when a pitcher will start, and it opens up the OPTION of placing such a pitcher on either the DL or bench. On the other, Brad is correct in that your DL slots are likely filled up for the entire year. Additionally, the 10 day DL encourages more missed starts