Tag:pitcher strategies
Posted on: April 11, 2008 6:57 pm
Edited on: April 11, 2008 7:01 pm

It's OK to say goodbye

Jason Bergmann -- I liked the guy.

I made it clear in this blog, clear to all my friends who were drafting in NL-only leagues, clear to some of my colleagues who thought his current circumstances were less than favorable. You want a pitcher with your last pick? Take a chance on Bergmann: good sinker, good strikeout rate, good WHIP, good spring.

Bad choice.

At least so far, he is. Through two starts, he has a 10.45 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP after running out of steam around the fifth inning both times.

So you know what I did? I cut his sorry behind. Felt good about it, too.

Fantasy becomes a much easier game when you accept the somewhat obvious notion that you will be wrong. Expect it. Don't even cross your fingers and hope otherwise.

Instead, embrace it -- well, as much as you can, anyway. You don't have to hold on to Bergmann or Matt Garza or Ian Kennedy or Barry Zito or whatever late-round flier you had high hopes for going into the season. Being wrong affords you the opportunity to assume you'll be wrong again -- specifically, on all those fliers you didn't have high hopes for. And now with Draft Day good and over, you have some early-season evidence at your disposal.

I know what you're thinking: It's only two starts. If you loved a guy so much going into the season, why not hold on to him just a little bit longer? What if he becomes good after all and somebody else ends up with him? You'd be heartbroken!

I know you love that sleeper. I know you saw something in him that still makes believe he has ability to break out in a big way, but you shouldn't feel any kind of loyalty to your sleepers just because they were yours. Besides, keep in mind I'm referring to guys you got with one of your last few picks. If nobody wanted them on Draft Day when they hadn't done anything period, who's going to want them now when they haven't done anything good? Believe me, nobody's going to swoop in and grab Bergmann, and even in the rare case somebody does, there's always that ever-increasing possibility that I'm wrong about him, at least for this year.

So with all that said, here are the pitchers showing early signs of a breakout that I've managed to snag in mixed leagues. All of them have two starts except for ...

Manny Parra (3.38 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 11.8 Ks/9)
Probably the perfect example for what I try to do with starting pitchers early in the season. He makes his second start tonight (Friday) against the Mets. If he does poorly, I'll cut him for the next pitcher who steps up. No harm done. If he does well, bad news for everyone else in my league: I already have him.

Edwin Jackson (0.64 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 6.4 Ks/9)
Maybe the ultimate wild card because his control made him so awful in the past, Jackson has already demonstrated better command of his pitches this season. His walks are still a little high (six in 14 innings), but he's compensated with nearly unhittable stuff. He showed too much talent early in his minor-league career for anyone to think he'd stay bad forever.

Jonathan O. Sanchez (6.30 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 16.2 Ks/9)
He had one frighteningly good start preceded by one awful start. He might struggle for wins as a member of the Giants rotation, but those strikeouts are too good to ignore.

Dana Eveland (0.68 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 8.8 Ks/9)
Maybe he doesn't have quite the upside of the three pitchers ahead of him, but the Athletics thought enough of him to bring him over in the Dan Haren deal. And so far, so good after a lights-out spring (1.29 ERA, 17 strikeouts and 19 hits in 21 innings). I'm totally on the Eveland bandwagon until he gives me a reason to jump off it.

Ryan Dempster (0.69 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 6.9 Ks/9)
Of the five pitchers I've listed here, I'm most skeptical of Dempster. I just can't imagine him being this good as a starter after being so poor as a reliever (and not so good as a starter before converting to reliever). But again, I'm willing to explore the possibility that I'm wrong. Maybe those years of closing gave him a better approach to pitching in general. Hey, like everyone else on this list, I can always cut him once he shows signs of weakness.

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