Tag:lineup decisions
Posted on: May 26, 2008 10:12 pm

No such thing as an assured save

I got a good question on this fine Memorial Day from CBSSports.com user tweedy, presumably the arch nemesis of Sylvester.

"Here's a question that I came up with after a day of fishing and extra curricular activities. If you start two closers, is it better to have them face off against each other or to have them in totally separate games? Like, do you like the idea that in their series one or the other of your dudes is going to get the save, or would you rather have them possibly both pitch on the same night?"

If you could really assure one closer would get a save each night, then I'd start the two facing each other, yes. Why not take a guaranteed save when you risk getting none with the alternative? Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Teams win all the time -- in fact, more than half the time -- without their closers recording a save.

Think about it. Almost ever year, at least one team wins 100 games, but how often do you see a closer save 50 games? Only 10 times has it ever happened. Similarly, you don't often see closers on 100-loss, 60-win teams saving 30 games.

So what's a fair estimate, then? A closer saves maybe 40 percent of his team's wins -- meaning 40 saves for one an a 100-win team and 24 saves for one on a 60-win team? That sounds about right.

So when you have two teams facing each other, your only guarantee is that one will win, and since each closer saves around 40 percent of his team's wins, you have only a 40 percent chance of getting a save if you start both closers for each game.

Confused yet? I could go further with the math, but then you get into adding unions and multiplying intersections and other concepts I vaguely remember from my high school statistics class.

Let's just say that if you have two closers who play for teams that win more than 50 percent of their games, the math says you'd rather their teams not face each other. Personally, I don't need the math. Because saves are so sparse and unpredictable, I'd rather maximize my opportunity to get them, and the best way to do that is if both of my closers' teams have a chance to win.

Of course, your dilemma doesn't end there. Even if you decide you don't want to start two closers facing each other, you have to pick one to bench, and the possibility of picking wrong is usually enough to convince me to start both, making this whole discussion moot.

It's the same way when you have two of your Fantasy team's aces facing off against each other. Say you have Brandon Webb starting against Cole Hamels, meaning you can't get wins from both. Who do you bench? If you sit Webb and Hamels ends up taking the loss, you feel like a real doofus, and suddenly, that one start from Bronson Arroyo doesn't seem worth it.

So in most cases, I just like to stick with my best players. I don't need another excuse to beat myself up.

That's all for now.
Posted on: April 5, 2008 6:40 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2008 6:42 pm

When I have to guess ...

Yesterday, I talked about the way I approach pitchers going into a new season, and I wanted to continue that discussion today. But after going over some of the feedback, I decided I'd put off the pitcher talk for tomorrow and instead make my first statements on a topic that will no doubt give me fits for the rest of the season: lineup changes.

My inspiration for this blog entry comes from prescot6 in Walled Lake, Mich. I'll let you read his words for yourself:

"I was wondering what you thought about starting Nate McLouth over Jason Bay for Fantasy Week 2 (April 7-13) in a Head-to-Head league? Part of me thinks it's a no-brainer -- McLouth is hot and Bay not so much. But then there's the stick-to-your-guns side of me that is worried about getting burned by benching one of my "starters" for the flavor of the week (especially so early in the season). I have a similar dilemma with Justin Morneau and Nick Johnson. Last year, I got burned waiting for guys like Paul Konerko to catch fire and produce their numbers. Do you have any tips or insight on how to deal with these decisions?"

I'll answer your question, prescot6, on a general level before I get to down to the specifics. First of all, I want you and everyone else to know that when it comes to lineup decisions, I don't have any kind of magical touch. I'm guessing right along with you. Oh, sure, I can offer an alternative viewpoint, if that's all you want, but a guess is still a guess, and mine will just as likely end up wrong. Trust me: I agonize over lineup decisions just like all of you do, and I have to beat myself up for making wrong decisions more often than I'd care to admit. I'm not telling you all this because I don't want to help; I just don't want you to treat my advice as anything more than it is.

So here's what I've learned in my years of failure. I'll let scoofer from Berkeley Heights, N.J., tackle my first point.

"With regards to Friday's blog, you are definitely right that pitchers should slip later, but you forgot one big reason. You will never bench one of your best hitters because he has a tough week ahead (maybe playing San Diego and Arizona when their studs go). However, if you have Bronson Arroyo on your bench against St. Louis, and Fausto Carmona starting against Detroit (with Verlander going), you'd play Arroyo. My point is that you are more likely to play a benched pitcher than hitter, so why waste a sixth-round pick on a top pitcher if you won't get production every week?"

See? I still managed to further my discussion on pitchers even while changing the subject.

Don't sweat it too much on hitters. They all play six or seven games per week, so the only questions you really need to ask yourself are who's healthy and who's hot.

Pitchers can get a little more complicated. They make only one start (sometimes two) per week, and the difference between a good start and a bad start is often the difference between a win and a loss for your Fantasy team that week. The way I see it, when deciding which pitchers to start, you have to make three determinations (assuming everyone is healthy, of course):

1. Who's hot?
2. Who faces the weakest-hitting team?
3. Who matches up against the worst starting pitcher?

I've prioritized the three, meaning I'll normally opt for a hot pitcher over a cold one who goes up against the Marlins in his next start. But, of course, that approach doesn't always work. I face an appropriate dilemma in one of my leagues this upcoming week, where I have to choose between Micah Owings, who struck out nine batters in his last start and faces the Dodgers and Hiroki Kuroda, and Kevin Millwood, who pitched six scoreless innings in his last start and faces the Orioles and ... an Orioles starting pitcher -- it doesn't matter which one. Right now, I plan to go with Millwood because the Orioles are so unbelievably weak that I don't want to miss one of the few starts Millwood gets to make against them. If you think I'm making the wrong decision, tell me. You might save me from a disaster.

But to get back to your original question, prescot6, I have enough reservations on Bay to justify benching him for McLouth, at least until he gets back on track -- if he ever does. You can find those reservations here. I'll stick with Morneau over Johnson, though. Unlike Bay, you likely drafted Morneau in the early rounds, and so if you trusted him enough to invest an early-round pick on him, you can't go benching him just yet.

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