Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fantasy Focus: More on Punting Saves

In our last Fantasy Focus, we looked at how punting Saves could be turned into the equivalent of an ace starter by rostering 3 setup men in RP slots.  Here, we look at an alternative strategy in which Wins and K's are maximized while hopefully preserving competitiveness in ERA and WHIP.  In this strategy, you look for SP's who either have dual eligibility or are a listed strictly as RP's but being used as starters by their MLB team.  Essentially, you convert your RP positions into SP's.  The advantage you gain is these SP's will give you more W's and K's over the course of the season than you would get from rostering 3 setup men.  The downside is a potential hit on your ERA and WHIP categories.  Saves are moot because you've already made the decision to not compete in that category.

Before we look at specific pitchers to target, let's look at some numbers.  I play in a Yahoo H2H league that has 5 SP roster slots, 3 RP, 2 P and 5 Bench.  We can reset our lineups daily so players can be moved back and forth from the bench on a daily basis.  As I have said many times, unless you have handcuffed a couple of real life platoon mates, it is almost impossible to know what position players are going to sit on any given day, so I consider position players to be a waste of bench space.  It is easy to track MLB starting rotations, so it is easy to shuttle pitchers to and from the bench depending on their turn in the rotation.  If you use your RP, P and Bench spots all on SP's, you can effectively roster 15 SP's.  MLB SP's typically have 1 start per week except every 3'rd week when they have 2 starts.  You can expect an average of 20 starts per week from a roster of 15 SP's.  You can even increase that by 1-2 starts per week if you stream pitchers, but that's a story for a separate post.

In my league, if you get 10 W's and 100 K's in a week, you will win those categories 90% of the time.  Even 8 W's will get you the category about 75-80% of the time.  With starts per week, you only need 5 K's per start to average 100 K's per week.  Most full time starters who pitch a full season will get at least 9-10 W's.  Most will get you in the low-mid teen range and you should have 1-2 starters who get into the upper teens.  With 22 weeks in the season, 20 starts per week should reliably get you at least 8 W's per week.

Since you only need 5 K's per start, you don't need to sacrifice WHIP and ERA for K's.  If you choose wisely, you can remain competitive in those categories while dominating W's and K's.  Sure, you will likely run into a manager who only tries for the minimum # of IP per week in an effort to minimize his ERA and WHIP, and you will probably lose the categories those weeks, but it's also likely only 1 or 2 managers use that strategy in your league.

With that discussion as a background, let's take a look at some pitchers with dual eligibility and some RP's who are likely to be used as fulltime SP's by their MLB teams(stats are from last season):

Chris Medlen, Braves-  10 W, 1.57 ERA, 120 K, 0.91 WHIP.  Medlen put up elite numbers over the second half of last season.  He will be expensive, though, and the usual rationale for punting Saves is to save money on your RP positions.  Also, don't expect these numbers over a full season from Medlen.

Aroldis Chapman, Reds- 5 W, 1.51 ERA, 122 K, 0.81 WHIP, 71.2 IP.  Chapman will also be expensive and his role on the Reds is far from certain.  The current plan is to use him as a starter, but manager Dusty Baker is reportedly not fully on board.  Part of Chapman's cost is due to the perception that he will be the closer if he isn't a SP.

Lance Lynn, Cardinals- 18 W, 3.78 ERA, 180 K, 1.32 WHIP, 210.2 IP.  The W's and K's are nice, but when I use this strategy, I like try to roster only pitchers who are likely to produce WHIP's less than 1.30.  There is also some thought that Lynn may regress in 2013.

Marco Estrada, Brewers- 5 W, 3.64 ERA, 143 K, 1.14 WHIP, 138.1 IP.  Estrada is all but guaranteed a rotation spot with the BrewCrew and is going cheaply in most fantasy drafts.  An ideal target to fill a RP slot for Saves punters.

Alexi Ogando, Rangers- 2 W, 3.27, 66 K, 1.00 WHIP, 63 IP.  Ogando moves back to the Rangers rotation where he put up 13 W, 3.51 ERA, 126 K, 1.14 WHIP in 2011.  He's had a rough start to spring training so will bear watching closely up until opening day.

Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners- 9 W, 3.16 ERA, 101 K, 1.28 WHIP, 125 IP.  Iwakuma excelled after moving into Seattle's starting rotation last year and I currently running as their projected #2 or #3 starter.

Erasmo Ramirez, Mariners- 1 W, 3.36 ERA, 48 K, 1.00 WHIP, 59 IP.  A swingman last year, Ramirez is currently projected to be in the M's rotation.  Will need to be tracked to make sure he keeps it.  He's not being taken at all in early drafts.

Drew Smyly, Tigers- 4 W, 3.99 ERA, 94 K, 1.27 WHIP, 99.1 IP.  Currently battling Rick Porcello for the #5 starter spot with the Tigers.  There has been a lot of talk about a trade for Porcello.  Stay tuned.

Wade Davis, Royals- 3 W, 2.43 ERA, 87 K, 1.09 WHIP, 70.1 IP.  Pitched out of the Rays bullpen last year.  Projected as a starter for the Royals.  Some question whether he can maintain his K rate as a SP.

Eric Stults, Padres- 8 W, 2.91 ERA, 55 K, 1.20 WHIP in 99 IP.  Found a home last year in the Padres rotation.  Won't give you a lot of K's, but may continue to contribute in other categories pitching on the west coast.

Kyle Kendrick, Phillies-  11 W, 3.90 ERA, 116 K, 1.27 WHIP, 159.1 IP.  ERA is a bit dicy pitching in that home park, but other numbers are decent.

Shelby Miller, Cardinals- 1 W, 1.32 ERA, 16 K, 0.95 WHIP, 13.2 IP.  Odds on favorite to win the Cards 5'th starter gig.  This will need to be monitored closely as he is competition with Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly.  Might not be cheap if he is announced as the 5'th starter by draft day.  Big upside with some risk.

Francisco Liriano, Pirates- 6 W, 5.34 ERA, 167 K, 1.47 WHIP, 156.2 IP.  Always intriguing.  Someone will take a flier on him in your draft.  Don't let it be you!  Needs to prove he won't blow up your ERA and WHIP on any given week.

Brett Myers, Indians- 3 W, 3.31 ERA, 41 K, 1.22 WHIP, 65.1 IP.  Closer in Houston last year.  Trying to win a rotation spot in Cleveland.  Will he be as effective as a SP?

Patrick Corbin, D'Backs- 6 W, 4.54 ERA, 86 K, 1.33 WHIP, 107 IP.  Poor ERA and WHIP.  Don't like the park he pitches in.

Wade LeBlanc, Marlins- 2 W, 3.67 ERA, 43 K, 1.31 WHIP, 68.2 IP.  Trying for rotation slot on the Marlins' decimated team.  Could thrive in that stadium.  Might not get a lot of run support.

Freddy Garcia, Padres- 7 W, 5.20 ERA, 89 K's, 1.37 WHIP, 107.1 IP.  Good bet to win a rotation spot with the Padres.  Should see his numbers improve substantially moving from Yankee Stadium and the AL East to Petco and the NL West.

Luis Mendoza, Royals- 8 W, 4.23 ERA, 104 K, 1.42 WHIP, 166 IP.  Right now, just someone to keep an eye on.

Dylan Bundy, Orioles- 0 W, 0.00 ERA, 0 K, 1.20 WHIP, 1.2 IP.  Bundy will probably start the season in the minors but will almost certainly be called up at some point in 2013.  Do draft him and stash him on your bench!  Future ace, as soon as this year!

As of right now, my targets are Estrada, Iwakuma, Erasmo Ramirez, Drew Smyly, Wade Davis, Eric Stults in that order with Bundy a target for stashing on the bench.

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