Tag:hitters over pitchers
Posted on: August 6, 2008 4:13 am

Pitch the pitchers; keep the hitters

Some of the Dear Mr. Fantasy entries inspire such lengthy responses that I just have to transfer them to my blog. I just have to, Kenny. I'm sorry.

I know it's still early, but I'm looking to next year for my keeper league. I'm in first place now. I get to keep three players. I can't decide between David Wright, Grady Sizemore, Ian Kinsler, Brian McCann, Roy Halladay and Joe Saunders. Pitchers are obviously worth more.  Halladay has been stellar for me this year, but Wright, Kinsler, Sizemore, and McCann are the best at their positions this year and entering their prime. The scoring system is standard Head-to-Head. What do you recommend?
-- Kenneth Lazor

I recommend you rethink your premise that pitchers are obviously worth more. I have a pretty steadfast rule in this situation: Pitchers and keeper leagues don't mix.

If you could keep more than three or four players, maybe you could sway me, but in your case, not a chance. I've gotten burned too many times in my own keeper league -- Head-to-Head ones, at that -- to recommend keeping a pitcher -- first by Mark Prior, then by Jake Peavy, and just this year by Erik Bedard. What happens when I keep pitchers? They get injured, every time, without fail.

I don't plan to keep a pitcher ever again.

"But wait," you say. "Pitchers don't always get hurt. You just didn't keep the safe ones."

Oh, I didn't? Maybe I would have had better luck keeping pitchers without a history of injury -- guys like Roy Oswalt, Aaron Harang and Tim Hudson.

Yeah. Good call.

"W-well, you've just had bad luck. You got burned a few times, but it won't always happen."

OK, yeah, you could call a pitcher getting injured "bad luck." But these days, couldn't you just as accurately call a pitcher not getting injured good luck?

And the blunt truth is, in Fantasy, I don't want to rely on any sort of luck. Does getting lucky help? Yeah, it does. But I don't want to rely on it, and drafting a pitcher early -- the equivalent to keeping one -- puts me in a situation where I have to. If you want the one guideline to ensure that you finish near the top of your Fantasy league every season, this is it:

Don't leave yourself vulnerable to things you can't control.

I can't control injury, but by making a pitcher the centerpiece of my team, I leave myself vulnerable to it. So while I can think of situations where I'd consider doing it, in your case, where you have plenty of viable alternatives at other positions, why?

OK ... Wright is a first-round pick. No contest with him. Sizemore is nearing that point. I'd probably call him a second-round pick right now, but you obviously want to keep him.

Your final decision comes down to Kinsler and McCann -- two of the best options at two of the weakest positions. I generally don't like to invest much in catchers because even the best can't play 162 games in a season. The consistent off days required by the position have a way of depolarizing the position, making the elite options less of an improvement over the second-tier options than you'd see at other positions. In other words, I'd keep Kinsler over McCann.

So Wright, Sizemore and Kinsler -- and under no circumstances a pitcher. There you have it.

That's all for now.
Posted on: July 15, 2008 2:59 am
Edited on: July 15, 2008 3:00 am

First half risers and fallers

As an extension of my Sliders column this week, in which I talk about the biggest sliders of the entire first half, I made a list of the biggest risers and fallers at each position. How 'bout I share?

Riser: Geovany Soto
Faller: Victor Martinez

Soto had sleeper written all over him going into the season, but people still waited until the 20th round to draft him. Can't exclude him just because some people saw it coming. Listing Martinez here might seem unfair because of his elbow injury, but he was so bad, and people drafted him so early. If you want another pick, I'll say Kenji Johjima.

First Base
Riser: Jason Giambi
Faller: Nick Swisher

I admit I declared Giambi toast, and while his batting average keeps him from becoming a clear must-start in Fantasy, his power numbers and strikeout-to-walk ratio qualify him as such in most leagues. As for Swisher, he always had a good strikeout-to-walk ratio of his own, and the move to a hitter's park should have helped his numbers. Not so. Hopefully, you didn't draft him in the sixth round like some people did.

Second Base
Riser: Ian Kinsler
Faller: Robinson Cano

Most people who drafted Kinsler drafted him to start, so in a way, he doesn't apply here. But he's risen so much I feel like I should still give him his due credit. To think he ranked behind Chase Utley, Brandon Phillips, B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla, Brian Roberts and Cano before the season. Now, some might argue he doesn't even rank behind Utley. Speaking of Cano, his poor plate discipline really caused his batting average to fluctuate, didn't it? Really, you had no business drafting him ahead of guys like Kinsler and Roberts, but what's done is done. The good news is he usually explodes in the second half, so don't sell now.

Third Base
Riser: Jorge Cantu
Faller: Ryan Zimmerman

Cantu's 28 homers in 2005 looked like a fluke or something worse, but he's on an even better power pace with the Marlins this year. Every time he looks like he'll slow down, he heats right back up, so I have to believe in him by now. I still can't believe I took Jose Castillo over him in an NL-only league. Talk about a bad move. As for Zimmerman, he got hurt, of course, but he still looks stuck in neutral after his rookie season. I wouldn't expect anything amazing when he returns -- certainly nothing to rank him among the top 10 at his position.

Riser: Jerry Hairston
Faller: Troy Tulowitzki

For the riser, I could have chosen Cristian Guzman, but I preferred to go with the guy the Orioles used to consider a better prospect than Brian Roberts. I seriously doubt he'll hit .350 all season, but he should hit well, and his stolen bases offer more for Rotisserie owners than anything Guzman does. Tulowitzki had some bad luck with injuries, of course, but even they can't explain a .166 batting average. He won't hit below .200 all season, but don't expect him to hit .290 in the second half either.

Riser: Carlos Quentin
Faller: Andruw Jones

Quentin was toeing the line of big-league bust before the season, but he's since emerged as an elite Fantasy outfielder. Not bad for a guy who went undrafted in most mixed leagues. I could have picked Josh Hamilton, J.D. Drew, Nate McLouth, Milton Bradley or Ryan Ludwick, but I went with Quentin for the combination of overall upside, low draft position and potential to sustain his current pace. As for Jones, when I have trouble sleeping all those lonely, guilt-ridden nights, at least I can take some solace knowing I warned people against drafting him in the eighth round.

Starting Pitcher
Riser: Justin Duchscherer
Faller: Brett Myers

So many risers at starting pitcher this season, which is the No. 1 reason I suggest loading up on hitting at the beginning of a draft, no matter the league format. From Edinson Volquez to Ervin Santana to Joe Saunders to Cliff Lee to Jonathan O. Sanchez to Ryan Dempster to any of a dozen other names, I could have gone in so many directions here. But I couldn't go against the man who's bailed me out in two Fantasy leagues. I mean, Duchscherer was a complete afterthought in AL-only formats, much less mixed, and he leads the world in ERA. And it doesn't even look like a fluke, considering his consistency. Meanwhile, no potential Fantasy ace has crashed and burned like Myers, with the exception of maybe Dontrelle Willis. I kind of hope people saw the warning signs with Willis, though.

Relief Pitcher
Riser: Kerry Wood
Faller: Trevor Hoffman

I know some people might pick George Sherrill as the biggest riser, but I get the impression a lot Fantasy owners don't quite trust him. I know I sure don't. Just look at his peripherals. I considered picking Joakim Soria and Brad Lidge -- and I couldn't have gone wrong with either -- but Wood entered the season totally distrusted in Fantasy circles, for understandable reasons. He's since become arguably the best closer in the National League, pitching for arguably the best team in the National League. Trevor Hoffman, meanwhile, pitches for the arguably the worst team in the National League, and he doesn't pitch particularly well. I applaud the Hall of Fame career he's had, but he looks finished at age 40.

That's all for now.
Posted on: June 2, 2008 10:57 pm

Do no harm

Another day, another e-mail followed by a stirring rant ...

I feel like I have better hitting than pitching. I put Albert Pujols on the trading block, not because of concerns over his elbow but because I was hoping to snag a monster pitcher in return. I was offered Cliff Lee straight up and turned it down. Instead, I countered with Pujols and Justin Verlander for Justin Morneau and Brandon Webb. His counter was Morneau, Lee and Brian Roberts for Pujols and Ian Kinsler. I don't want an extra player, so I wouldn't even ask for Roberts.

Am I crazy not to be completely sold on Lee? Am I being too stubborn and asking for too much, or should I see Lee and Morneau for Pujols and Kinsler as a good trade? Though I think Kinsler is playing like a top-three second baseman, no one else seems to think so because I can't get a good offer on a trade for him. What do you think?  Would I be crazy to ask for Cole Hamels instead of Lee, or is that even a good idea?

Cheers from Australia,
(I live in South Jersey, though, just studying abroad. Go Phils!),


No, no, no, no, NO! Please, Eric. No. Step away from the vehicle.

You are not crazy. You are not stubborn. You are doing everything right except for seriously considering this embarrassment of a proposal. Your opponents are tight-fisting you, and you've let their unreasonable expectations cloud your otherwise passable judgment.

In trading Pujols, you're trading arguably the best player in Fantasy Baseball. Only Alex Rodriguez, Lance Berkman, Chase Utley, David Wright and Hanley Ramirez would give him a run for his money, and if we started the season over tomorrow -- without any fear of his elbow injury, because you say you have none -- I'd still probably take Pujols. Don't forget it. Don't ever, ever forget it.

If you really think you need pitching, and I'd argue you probably don't -- not in a shallow Rotisserie league, where you can usually fashion a functional staff on waiver fodder alone -- don't settle for anything less than a tried-and-true ace in exchange for the best player in Fantasy Baseball. Don't settle for less than Webb. None of the other pitchers you mentioned even comes close to the value of Pujols. Even for Hamels, your opponent might have to throw in Morneau and go two-for-one.

And Lee? Really, Lee? No doubt, I respect everything he's done to this point, but nothing in his track record suggests he'll maintain even close to this pace. Even if he betters his career bests across the board, I still wouldn't trade Kinsler straight up for him, much less Pujols. Again, you have the accurate assessment of Kinsler's value, not your opponents.

You say your team is thriving? Then why push it? Why trade one of your most instrumental cogs just because you detect a slight chink in your armor? I could understand if you had a desperate need, were falling totally out of the race, and stood no chance of competing this season unless you made a significant change. But don't make a trade just to make one.

Think of yourself as a doctor and your Fantasy team as your patient. You want a healthy patient, and to get one, sometimes you have to get your hand in there and rearrange a few things. So do make adjustments. Do make changes. Do what you need to do to make the patient better. But above all else, do no harm -- particularly if your patient is already sitting up on the operating table, smiling and winking at you.

And there you have it. It took a few entries, but I finally referenced an episode of Lost by title. It's a good one. Go see it.

... But only if you've seen all the other ones preceding it.

That's all for now.
Posted on: May 30, 2008 8:16 pm

Diluted pitching

The game of baseball has undergone a transition.

Over the last few years, home runs have decreased, perhaps not-so-coincidentally with a tougher steroid-testing policy, and this year, Fantasy has felt the effects more than ever.

Or at least I have. As many who regularly read this blog know, I strongly prefer hitting to pitching no matter the league format. However, due in large part to drafting Travis Hafner and Carlos Pena (who I didn't like but thought fell to me) and Gary Sheffield (who I did like based on his average draft position but ... win some, lose some), I had a shortage of hitting. Even with the returns of Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins from the disabled list, I hadn't gained significant ground in the standings. I needed to make a trade.

Fortunately, I had ample pitching, at least by my standards. While usually filling out my starting rotation with the hottest thing off the waiver wire, this year I had Justin Verlander -- a presumed ace entering the season -- as my No. 5 guy. And in this particular league, because it awards three points per inning pitched, everybody else prefers pitching, meaning I usually have plenty of trading partners.

But a funny thing happened. In a league some might say favors pitching, everybody had too much. For once, I couldn't trade pitching for hitting because everywhere I turned, I got the same response.

"I don't really need pitching right now. I'm in the market for a hitter."

It was bizarre, even for a league that, because it factors walks and strikeouts for hitters, often creates a wider gap between the elite and the fringe waiver players. But sure enough, I scanned everyone's roster and noticed none had any real uncertainties within its five-man starting staff. All had studs one through five -- some even on their benches -- which helped explain my 3-5 record despite what, to me, looked like a exceptionally strong pitching staff.

So I had no choice. I had to bite the bullet and overpay for hitting. I couldn't afford to sink further in the standings, and waiting for Hafner to get better clearly wasn't the answer. So I made a trade I would have never conceived myself making before the season.

I gave up Erik Bedard and Ben Sheets. I got Josh Hamilton, Russell Martin and Jair Jurrjens.

And you know the craziest part? I feel good about it. I worry some about Hamilton's injury history, but not any more than I do Sheets'. Plus, some in this office have gone so far as to project Hamilton as a first-rounder next season. I don't want to jump to that conclusion just yet, but I recognize the possibility.

And Jurrjens' inclusion only punctuates my point. His breakout this year compares somewhat to John Maine's last year. But while Maine had become a staple of my pitching staff this time last year, Jurrjens was a throw-in in this trade, an extra man added off my opponent's bench just to soften the blow of me losing my two best starting pitchers.

So what does it all mean? If nothing else, I know I'll place even more emphasis on hitting going into next year's draft. With the reduction of offense in the post-steroid era, more out-of-nowhere starting pitchers are breaking out, diluting the elite class and making its members somewhat wasted picks in Fantasy.

Then again, moments after my trade, someone else swung Edinson Volquez and Kosuke Fukudome for Matt Holliday. Nothing against Volquez, but ... doh.

That's all for now.
Posted on: April 6, 2008 5:25 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2008 7:47 pm

Making their pitch

Back on Friday, I introduced my approach to starting pitchers in Fantasy, saying I prefer to draft them later than hitters because of their potential to boom -- to emerge out of nowhere and become Fantasy mainstays -- or to bust -- to suffer an early-season injury that renders them totally useless.

But in order for that approach to work, I then have to take the next step. I have to play the waiver wire aggressively, hoping to corral all of the booms before the rest of the league sees them coming. I can't just sit on my late-round sleepers and hope for the best because, more likely than not, some of them won't pan out. And by the time I finally decide to cut ties with them, hey, no more booms.

So with that in mind, I've compiled a list of starting pitchers -- ones likely on the waiver wire in your league -- whose first starts have officially put them "on my radar." I'm not saying all of these guys will emerge as useful Fantasy starters or that I even have much confidence in any of them. (In fact, I have pretty low expectations for most of them. But I don't want to ignore them. If I had taken that approach, I would have missed out on Chris Carpenter in 2004.) I'm just saying their first starts make their second starts worth monitoring.

I'm also not saying this list begins and ends here. If one of these guys stinks up the place his next time out, scratch him off the list. If someone not on the list throws a quality start his next time out, striking out a batter per inning or close to it, add him to it. Andy Sonnanstine and Jason Bergmann, for instance, I expect to work their way onto this list at some point in the near future. But their ERAs of 6.00 and 8.44 won't exactly catch your leaguemates' attention, and if a pitcher isn't yet on anyone else's radar, what's the point of putting him on yours?

So here they are, categorized by my own level of enthusiasm for them. I've listed their stats from their first start (or first two, in Kevin Millwood's case) and their ownership percentage in CBSSports.com leagues. Will I refresh this list at some point? Maybe, maybe not, but keep in mind that a list of names isn't as valuable as the approach used to come up with it. I'm aiming to teach you to fish, not catch you a fish.

Probably should be owned already

Micah Owings, Diamondbacks (65 percent)
6 2/3 innings, two hits, two walks, one earned run, nine strikeouts

Time to at least think about adding them

Kevin Millwood, Rangers (58 percent)
six innings, four hits, three walks, zero earned runs, four strikeouts
eight innings, 12 hits, one walks, two earned runs, five strikeouts

Manny Parra, Brewers (42 percent)
5 1/3 innings, three hits, two walks, two earned runs, seven strikeouts
Dana Eveland, Athletics (25 percent)
seven innings, six hits, one walk, one earned run, seven strikeouts

Give them another start or two first
Carlos Villanueva, Brewers (39 percent)
5 1/3 innings, eight hits, two walks, two earned runs, six strikeouts
Ryan Dempster, Cubs (38 percent)
six innings, three hits, two walks, one earned run, five strikeouts
Randy Wolf, Padres (29 percent)
six innings, four hits, two walks, one earned run, five strikeouts
Justin Duchscherer, Athletics (19 percent)
five innings, four hits, two walks, one earned run, six strikeouts
Edwin Jackson, Rays (10 percent)
six innings, five hits, two walks, one earned run, four strikeouts

I'm highly skeptical
Joe Saunders, Angels (57 percent)
eight innings, four hits, one walk, zero earned runs, four strikeouts
Brad Thompson, Cardinals (18 percent)
6 2/3 innings, seven hits, two walks, zero earned runs, six strikeouts
Adam Eaton, Phillies (four percent)
7 2/3 innings, six hits, four walks, three earned runs, two strikeouts

As always, I'm capable of missing someone, so feel free to add any omissions in the comments section below.

That's all for now.
Posted on: April 4, 2008 6:56 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2008 7:47 pm

My philosophy on pitchers

I tell people I prefer hitters to pitchers, and they don't quite get it.

They think it has something to do with hitters outscoring pitchers (Head-to-Head) or contributing in more categories than pitchers (Rotisserie), and so when they look at their scoring format and see the top pitchers producing more points than the top hitters, they think that the hitters-over-pitchers guideline doesn't apply to them, that they play in a league that "favors pitching."

No, they don't get it at all.

No matter the format, no matter the scoring structure, I still want the big hitters over the big pitchers, the Prince Fielders over the Jake Peavys, and my preference has less to do with raw numbers than it does the typical progression of hitters and pitchers. It's all part of my never-ending goal to take as much of the guesswork out of Fantasy as possible, to make it a game less about prediction and more about maximizing knowns.

I like to use the term "boom-or-bust potential" when comparing pitchers to hitters, my general argument being that pitchers have more. We could obviously point to exceptions, but when a hitter comes into the league, he tends to make a gradual climb to superstar status, improving little by little each year until he reaches those "peak years" in which he performs at his highest level (and his most useful to Fantasy). I'll point to Jimmy Rollins, Matt Holliday and Alex Rios as off-the-top-of-my-head examples, with Jeff Francoeur, Conor Jackson and Alex Gordon likely following the same pattern.

But those guys all had Fantasy relevance before they became early-rounders. They didn't go from being undrafted in March to winning league titles in September. They didn't boom.

Pitchers, on the other hand, do -- or at least they do more often. Look at James Shields, John Maine and Dustin McGowan, to name only a few, last year. All went widely undrafted in April. All were instrumental by September.

Conversely -- and the end of the spectrum more often talked about -- pitchers have more potential to bust. A pitcher can go from second-rounder in April to useless in May, and he doesn't even need to have some kind of on-the-field accident to make it happen. He can just throw a pitch one day and -- POP! -- Tommy John surgery. Every player is susceptible to injury, sure, but you don't often hear of batters going down for 18 months on a check swing.

So in short, I draft hitters over pitches to take advantage of the boom and to avoid the bust. If an undrafted pitcher can end up performing like a stud (or at least close to it), and a stud can end up missing the season in the blink of an eye, what's the point of drafting a stud?

Of course, by avoiding pitchers on Draft Day, you have to take a more aggressive approach in the early weeks of free agency. You still need to have good pitchers, and while you might snag a few of the booms in the late rounds of the draft, you'll probably miss a few, too. The key to the whole strategy is recognizing the duds -- the pitchers you drafted who aren't quite ready to boom -- and switching them out for those ones you missed on Draft Day.

And that, dear readers, is another lesson for another day.

That's all for now.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com