The Ugliest 12-Team Mixed Pitching Staff?

As I type this, it’s now July 19, and my 2020 fantasy season auctions and drafts have all officially been completed. That is such a strange sentence to type. I am guessing the majority of you are in the same boat, with some of you auctioning/drafting this week as well. Not only is it hard to be excited about the season, but I still feel like it’s going to be a complete crapshoot between small sample performance randomness and COVID-related injuries and issues galore. Given the smaller sample size, I thought the correct pitching strategy was to discount ratios and buy strikeout rates. That strategy gave me five names to target if executing it.

Aside from discounting ratios, we already know that starting pitchers are going to go fewer innings early on and wins and quality starts (if your league counts those, as mine does) are going to be much more difficult to earn. With so much uncertainty, why should I spend $20-$30 on a starting pitcher? You can argue that there’s actually more reason to buy the aces, but I just fear the small sample randomness and the uncertainty of early usage, regardless of who the pitcher is. In my mind, a $2 starting pitcher has a much greater chance of matching a $30 pitcher’s end of season value this year than over a 162 game season.

I always go cheap on pitching to begin with, but in my just completed 12-team mixed “home” league, I may have set a new record for cheapness. I spent just $55 of my $260 budget on my pitchers (21.2%), which may have been slightly less than my previous record, but there’s no way for me to be sure.

So is this the ugliest 12-team mixed pitching staff you have ever seen? Or did I do a brilliantly good job of maximizing value by buying pitchers at a discount and executing on my 60 game season strategy?

Pod’s 12-Team Mixed Pitchers

I keep seeing on my Twitter feed that closer prices are being bumped up, and I believe this is deserved. If starting pitchers are earning fewer wins and quality starts, that means closers will lose less value as a result of only winning a game or two and not recording any quality starts. That’s because your starting pitcher replacement options will earn fewer wins and quality starts, so you’re not giving up as many in the category by opting for a closer rather than a starter. So the gap in value between a starter and closer closes a bit. In addition, fewer innings per start results in fewer innings overall, which also closes the gap between the two roles, as starters will rack up fewer strikeouts.

In this league, in which I have been commishing since 2002, nearly every year my most expensive starting pitcher costs in the mid-teens. Perhaps I’ll buy two of them, but usually I buy a handful of single digit guys with breakout potential and then load up my reserve list with more of these types. It’s possible that I have never spent $20+ on a starting pitcher. For me, it’s just not necessary. So seeing that I spent a whopping $14 on my six starters is hilarious, even for me. My most expensive starter was Mike Minor and Sean Manaea at $3 each!

My Pod Projections forecast four of the six starting pitchers to post an ERA over 4.00. That’s not very good, but that’s why they came at the prices they did. What I care more about though is that I’m projecting the starters group to strike out more than a batter per inning for a K/9 of 9.2. Give me the strikeouts and I’ll cross my fingers that after their last starts, these pitchers’ ERAs will finish below 4.00 (because below 3.00 is way too much to ask). Remember, pitcher ratios are extremely volatile, so a nine to 12 games started sample is small enough to result in marks you would have never predicted before the season started.

Clearly, without any horses, it could still be difficult to compete in strikeouts and wins + quality starts. But this is a shallow 12-team league, so it’s easy to rotate pitchers from your reserve list into your starting lineup or pick up a streamer with a two start week.

Speaking of reserves, these are the pitchers I drafted during the snake portion. We allow six reserves and I increased our IL spots to 10. I only drafted one hitter in the reserve rounds.

Pod’s 12-Team Mixed Reserve Pitchers

Though Mychal Givens’ results were terrible last year, he actually posted a respectable 3.34 SIERA, right in line with his career mark. I think he’s a better pitcher than Hunter Harvey and it’s hard to imagine a team handing over the closer role to a pitcher with only 6.1 career MLB innings amassed.

Griffin Canning and Justus Sheffield epitomize my strikeout strategy and are two of my favorite sleepers. Kevin Gausman moves to one of the friendliest pitcher’s parks in baseball (though less friendly now due to the park changes), but because he’s not a big strikeout pitchers, he’s not a perfect example of the strategy, but I like him overall. Given our ample IL slots and the fact I could replace him as soon as our first FAAB runs Tuesday morning, I nabbed Jose Urquidy with my last pick. He would have likely been bought during the auction portion if he had reported to camp and had won a rotation spot.

So, now that you have seen my $55 pitching staff and reserve list, does it make you want to vomit or high-five me on a job well done?

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Chris Torresmember
1 year ago

Those names look very familiar!

I think I read this article before you wrote it.