Fantasy Baseball: Building an Elite Staff With Pitchers that aren't

Clave and I recently spoke about pitchers, we have both noticed that the “elite” guys are slim this year. VERY slim, actually.

However, that doesn’t bother us all that much, nor should it you. You see, in a normal year, you might have good tiers of 8-10 pitchers that are close in stats to each other. In 2013, there might just be three “elite,” bankable pitchers. Those being Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez. Then you have a HUGE second tier or guys that can be your fantasy “Ace” no problem. Guys like, R.A. Dickey, Matt Cain and David Price, might even be in a small tier of their own. Depending on another pitch count thrown on Stephen Strasburg, I’d put him up with these six guys too.

After them, it’s basically 25-50 or the same pitchers.

I like Matt Moore, the same as I like Gio Gonzalez, Madison Bumgarner, Jered Weaver, Cole Hamels, or Zack Greinke. It really just depends on what batter I’m drafting to pass on which pitchers.

Now, I typically will have goal set at the beginning of every off season, so that I can begin to plan accordingly. In a standard 5×5 Roto style league, I am looking for around 1400 strikeouts, 100 wins, 125 saves, an ERA under 3.25, and a WHIP under 1.25. That would be for a league that has a start cap at 200 starts. If your league has no start or inning cap, you may need to play it by ear a little more, because guys will not have a stop sign, so owners loading up on pitchers may drive the competition much higher.

For a capped basic 5×5 league, these goals should get you right around top three in each category.

So the key now is to build your staff accordingly. Whether you stream in pitchers or not, it’s a good idea to have a solid core of arms to bolster your staff. For those of you who need the peace of mind of a Kershaw, King Felix or Verlander, that is fine, but know that drafting one of these guys in the first three rounds is going to hurt you a bit offensively.

First we have our goals:

Ks Wins Saves ERA WHIP
1400 100 125 3.25 1.25

Obviously it would be nice to all these stats covered by your drafted pitchers. In that case, you can just coast to 40 or points in pitching, barring injury of course. That is the dream.

Guys like Kershaw and Verlander are great because they will knock off more strikeouts from your year end goal than anyone else. Although, guys like Max Scherzer and James Shields can provide a ton of strikeouts, they just don’t bring the total package like the “elite” arms do. If you do skip on a guy like Kershaw in round 2, grab another top bat, perhaps Ian Kinsler or Troy Tulowitzki, and then be sure to draft enough pitching later to be just as tough as anyone else.

My process building a pitching staff has 3 steps:

  1. Mind the WHIP. WHIP is a very good indicator of a pitcher’s control, and therefore you can trust it more than ERA as an indicator if the pitcher is good, as opposed to lucky or vice versa. There are just more variables that go into what constitutes ERA than WHIP.
  2. Chase Ks, not wins or saves. Again, wins and saves have a lot more variables, especially ones outside of the pitcher’s control. Strikeouts all fall on the pitcher  Furthermore, guys that miss bats, typically don’t have a terrible ERA or WHIP. I mean, less guys are hitting them, right?
  3. Innings are important. First off, if your league has an innings cap, then innings are SUPREMELY important, you need to constantly check your pace, otherwise you may mess yourself up with a week or more to go. Either way, you need to have a good amount of innings to stabilize your ERA and WHIP otherwise a few bad outings are going to hurt you down the stretch.  Also, the more innings the more opportunity for counting stats.

Now I realize you may be asking yourself, what about saves?!  Just like with wins, I say, don’t chase. However, if you are set to pick in round 5 and Craig Kimbrel is still on the board, you’d be foolish to pass. After Kimbrel is off the board, I say wait on closers a long while. Personally, I have no problem filling all my active offensive spots and a few good starting pitchers before going for closers.

Guys you got in late rounds last year: Max Scherzer (round 14), Hiroki Kuroda (round 15) Ryan Vogelsong (round 22). Nab a guy like James Shields (round 6) and you have yourself a core. Then you went after closers like: Jason Motte (round 13) J.J. Putz (round 12), Chris Perez (round 19) and Sergio Romo (round 23) and you have yourself a VERY good starting point for your goals on just 8 pitchers.

Ks Wins Saves ERA WHIP
1052 70 127 3.324 1.157

Again, I won’t chase ERA, so this won’t bother me at the beginning of a season that my projections will come up short there, as long as I am on track in all other areas. Also with the wiggle room in WHIP and being on pace for more saves already, I would be fairly confident that I’d make up a point or two elsewhere to make up for the loss of one or two points in ERA. Either way, I would feel very comfortable if this is where I stand before the season begins, because I know that each week I can come back and read Dixon’s Picks for the week and to easily make up the K’s I’m lagging. We also only drafted eight total pitchers, which means I can just fill in my bench with guys that I can wait and see what I have then start the hot hand as it were.

Surprisingly enough, these guys I have mentioned might be available in about the same rounds as they went last year. However I’ll be sure to go over this again after our 251 rankings and a few mock drafts to say exactly who I’d be targeting this year in what rounds!

Tags: Craig Kimbrel ERA James Shields Pitchers WHIP