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.
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