Valuing injured pitchers who plan on returning at a later date can be tough to do correctly. Yu Darvish an example of such a pitcher. After having Tommy John surgery in mid-March this past season, Darvish should return some point after mid-May (14-month rehab is the norm now). An owner can expect above replacement level from Darvish, but for a couple months, a lesser pitcher will be used. I will step through the process of valuing Darvish by combining his value with a replacement level pitcher.
As I step through the process, it will be best to have this spreadsheet open. All of the cells shaded yellow will need to have information filled in. Here are the steps.
1. Total innings: This cell estimates the total innings both the pitchers, injured and replacement, will pitch over the course of the season. For pre-season estimates, I will use 200 IP for starters and 60 IP for relievers. An owner will need to adjust these values for an injury occurring during the season. If four months into the season a starter is going to miss two months, the total innings would need to be around 130.
3. % of innings: This is the amount of the total innings you expect the hurt pitcher to pitch. With Darvish, he is expected back mid-May. I will give him a little buffer and go with early-June. Darvish would then throw 2/3 of the season or 66%.
4. Projection for the injured pitcher: I have the spreadsheet set up so that a person can go to the pitcher’s Standard projection and copy-and-paste the projection (link to Darvish’s data). Take the whole row of projection data and the WHIP will be automatically calculated. If you don’t like a FanGraphs projection, feel free to make your own. Also, note that the innings are not adjusted. The spreadsheet automatically adjusts the values based on the initial total innings.
5. Finding the replacement level pitchers. These are the pitchers who should be easily found on a league’s waiver wire or extras on a team’s bench. During the season, they are easy to determine because all the players are drafted. Before the season, the best way to find these replacement players is to find a draft ranking. For ease of calculations, I am going to use Zach’s end of season rankings as my draft ranking and assumed a 12 team, 9 pitcher league for a total of 108 pitchers starting each week. The 109 to 111 pitchers are Kevin Gausman, Zachary Godley, and Wade Miley. An owner can use a larger sample of pitchers, but I find three samples are generally enough. Then add the projections for the replacement level pitchers just like it was done for Darvish to the spreadsheet. Again, don’t adjust the innings. Now if you need to do other pitchers in the league, just use the same replacement pitchers later and add in the stats for the injured pitcher stats
6. Composite Player. This is the projection to value Darvish in a 12-team, 9 pitcher league. Looking at the normal five categories stats of Wins, K, ERA, WHIP and Saves. I found two similar pitchers. The problem finding comps is Darvish’s projected high strikeout rate for a starter
The process for projecting pitchers who will miss some time can take a few minutes and the values are unique to each league. With a little bit of work, a composite projection can be created between the injured player and the replacement player. In competitive leagues, these differences can make all the difference.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.