Fantasy Baseball Round Table: Late-season management of your pitching staff

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on August 21, 2013 @ 12:40:55 PDT

 

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Bully hitting and manage pitching is the mantra of many a fantasy baseball enthusiast. The notion is with four of the five hitting categories being of the counting variety, the best means of accumulating stats is sheer force. On the other hand, two of the five pitching categories are ratios so more finesse is possible, especially since one counting stat, saves, is restricted to a small population of players.

This is the time of the season where difficult decisions need to be made as often, the balance between chasing wins and strikeouts puts ratios in jeopardy. As such, we asked the esteemed Knights for some observations recommendations when it comes to managing your pitching staff down the stretch.

Oakland Athletics SP Sonny Gray
Late-season spot SPs a Gray area

Brian Walton: I am in few leagues in which there are enough reserves to enable me to be very selective in the use of my starters. In the leagues that do have ample reserve spots, the weight of a season's worth of injuries along with spots being taken up by keepers again severely limit my options.

In terms of starting consideration, in addition to the obvious such as the player's prior history against his opponent, his record in that ball park and his recent results, I also look at how that pitcher has performed in the past late in the season. As his workload grew, did he get stronger or fade?

Nicholas Minnix: I take a look at how opponents have generally fared against the types of pitchers I'm considering. I consider things like handedness, finesse vs. power, etc. I read somewhere that some teams do that occasionally in order to align their rotations or project for pitchers of theirs they deem similar. That doesn't make it right, of course, but it's encouraging.

History versus opponent is something I consider, but only lightly, not nearly as much as I used to use it. The anticipation of fatigue is one I'd forgotten, good call.

Lawr Michaels: I mostly look for pitchers who are still ambulatory.

Actually, I don't change my strategy that much from the regular season: I try to run as many good starters -- preferably power pitchers -- out on a regular basis as I can.

I realize there are ways we can exploit statistics by, say, having nine starting pitchers active in a deep traditional roto league, but I also think we can over-think and over-manage and shoot ourselves in the foot by doing so.

I do think with pitchers, if you chase anything it is whiffs, and they tend to lead to a good WHIP, ERA and sometimes even wins.

Ryan Carey: Since I am managing so many teams this season, I try to keep my decision-making fairly simple and streamlined. I just don't have the time to get into too much in-depth statistical analysis. If you have a team in contention this late, the odds are you have a fairly stable rotation of arms, at least at the top of your rotation, so usually these start/sit decisions come down the back end of your staff. Generally speaking, I will opt for two-start pitchers if I think they can give me 10+ K's at a minimum for those two starts. It will help if they are pitching at home or against a weak opponent at least once during the week. I will pass over a two-start option if the matchups are lousy, for instance Sonny Gray next week at Detroit then home against Tampa Bay would be someone I'd be leery of rolling with, unless I was desperate to move up in K's and W's. 

If I am looking to protect my ratios, I may deploy an extra reliever if I have an extra one on the bench, or just look to pick on weak offensive teams who are out of the race and playing out the string. Houston and Miami have been the obvious teams to pick on all year. They often use plenty of young players, especially in September, and that can lead to some nice surprise games from streaming options. When I look for streaming options for the week, I look to available NL arms first, since the risk to my ratios will be lessened.

Lord Zola wraps things up....

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About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.

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