Pitching decisions -- they're enough to drive you mad, aren't they?
Every week when you go to set your lineup, you deliberate over them more than anything else. And you still guess wrong half the time.
You can't avoid them because you always have extra pitching on your roster. You should, anyway. The position is too unpredictable and too susceptible to injury for you to get away with running the same five guys out there all season long.
If you want to know the one wild card during the week-to-week grind of the Fantasy season, the one variable I feel is totally beyond my control -- well, other than injuries, of course -- look no further. I've never felt comfortable choosing which pitchers to start and which to sit.
And my indecision cost me in several leagues this week, dropping me from third place to seventh in one.
The way I see it, us Fantasy owners consider three factors when choosing our pitchers each week:
1. Ability. How good is the pitcher? Does he contend for the Cy Young award every year, or did you just pick him up off the waiver wire?
2. Performance. How well has the pitcher pitched lately? Has he allowed 13 runs in his last 14 innings or three in his last 21?
3. Matchups. Does the pitcher make two starts? Does he have to pitch at Colorado or Texas? Does he pitch against Johan Santana or Josh Geer?
And just so not to alienate anybody, I have to mention a distant fourth factor:
4. History. How well has the pitcher performed against the team he's facing?
I don't like using history. Teams change too much. Pitchers change too much. I don't want to say it has no bearing, but after weighing the first three factors, I rarely have reason to consider it.
I do, however, have my favorites among the first three, giving you a rough guide to follow (or perhaps not follow if you want a better success rate than mine).
Ability trumps all. Studs can shut down anyone at any time, so by benching one, you risk losing a gem and, with it, a major portion of your investment. I've wavered between performance and matchups as the second-most important factor, but right now, I think matchups matter more. Just look at Randy Johnson's season if you want to know why.
|John Lackey (DL)||P||LAA|
|Troy Glaus (DL)||3B||STL|
But of course, the whole process takes some finesse, which is part of what makes it so difficult in the first place. I don't always favor matchups over performance, and if I did, I'd still end up wrong too many times to count.
So let's examine just where I went wrong last week and how I hope to avoid those same mistakes this week, especially in my two Head-to-Head leagues. Hopefully you'll be able to base some of your decisions going forward with some of the same principles.
12-team mixed Rotisserie (3rd; 5x5 Score: 78.0)
But first, let's talk about my Rotisserie league, where I never have to make any pitching decisions because I don't have any sort of bench.
Well ... OK, I guess I have to make some pitching decisions, even if not the kind I just outlined. I made a big one this week when someone released Scott Downs, cutting Jordan Zimmermann for him to give my lineup four closers instead of three. The saves category is one of the easiest to win if you don't squander your opportunities to gain ground in it. I have an opportunity here with Downs holding the job in Toronto for the foreseeable future, so I might as well take advantage of it.
And really, I can see Downs holding the job all season. He certainly has the ability, and the Blue Jays had become so demystified with B.J. Ryan that they talked about making the switch to Downs this spring, before Ryan even got a chance to work through his issues. Plus, I don't totally trust Mike Gonzalez or Brian Fuentes. If either of them loses his job, I still have a third closer and don't have to worry about sinking to the bottom half of the league in the saves category.
As for Zimmermann, he has looked good so far, but not enough to convince me he'll become an ace this season. And apparently not just me: Nobody else has picked him up yet. By losing the extra starting pitcher, I sacrifice some wins and strikeouts, but Downs might not last long anyway. Besides, when I see some of my opponents picking up pitchers like J.A. Happ, Tim Wakefield and Scott Richmond (I'm not a believer), I have to feel good about having Downs as the last pitcher on my staff, right?
I made one other move this week, cutting Todd Helton for Dexter Fowler. I still like Helton, but Fowler looks like a candidate for 40-plus steals -- something I need more than homers right now even though I drafted Jose B. Reyes, Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino with three of my first five picks. Funny how that works.
|Ryan Doumit (DL)||C||PIT|
Finally, I want to let out a big, resounding wheeeeeeew! after teetering on the brink of cutting Nick Swisher last week. I'm convinced. He's here to stay.
10-team mixed Head-to-Head (2nd; Record: 3-1)
I had a brilliant idea last week. I decided to bench Matt Garza.
You know the guy who took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Red Sox the other day? Yup, that one.
Can you blame me? He was facing one of the best teams in baseball and coming off back-to-back poor starts. I benched him in favor of Wandy Rodriguez, who I thought might end up making two starts. And he did, but his two starts didn't equal Garza's one. Few do.
So how can I change my approach to make sure I make the right decision next time? I don't know. Garza doesn't qualify as a must-start yet, and he certainly didn't have any other factors going for him. I think I'm better off not overreacting here. I made the right decision; I just got the wrong outcome. As much as it sounds like a write-off, that's the way baseball goes sometimes.
Of course, I wouldn't dare bench Garza this week, not after that performance. He makes two starts, the second against those same Red Sox he shut down last week. I might not get credit for that start, however, thanks to a wrinkle in this league. Each team gets credit for only its first seven starts, and Josh Johnson and Jon Lester also make two starts this week. I could have benched Wandy Rodriguez and relied on only four pitchers for my seven starts, but I like to guard myself against rainouts whenever possible.
Is it worth it? Well, I have a really, really good feeling about Rodriguez's next start. He pitches at home, where he dominates, against the light-hitting Padres, who have a lefty-loaded lineup. If he can't make a quality start out of all that, I give up.
|Chris C. Carter||DH||BOS|
|Daisuke Matsuzaka (DL)||P||BOS|
|Rich Hill (DL)||P||BAL|
But I had to make one move to get Garza in my lineup, so for the first time this season, I benched Kevin Slowey, who has only two quality starts even though he has four wins. His inconsistencies make him less than a must-start.
As for my hitters, I still can't bring myself to start B.J. Upton until he shows some consistency, so I started the reliable Denard Span instead. Call it a better-safe-than-sorry approach. I also learned never to bench Nick Swisher again. Sorry, Adam Lind.
I didn't make any actual transactions this week (yeah, I can hardly believe it myself), but someone else dropped Chien-Ming Wang. I see no reason why I shouldn't pick him up and stash him, but I don't have any players I want to release. He might finally give me the reason to pull the plug on Carlos Marmol, though I've considered dropping Milton Bradley as well. I just have too many hitters now to put up with all of his ... issues.
12-team AL-only Rotisserie (12th; 5x5 Score: 50.0)
Unfortunately in this league, another week just means more time spent at the bottom of the standings.
I have to make a deal soon, but I don't want to risk overreacting until I see exactly what kind of difference Alex Rodriguez will make. In a league this deep, where some teams -- including my own -- have to start players in the minor leagues (looking at you, Mike Carp), you better believe I got A-Rod active. Just the chance of him returning this weekend makes him worthy of a starting spot.
As for my trading, or lack thereof, I just can't get anyone to buy into Koji Uehara even though he's owned in 50 percent of leagues. Two of my offers have still gone unanswered: Uehara for Jack Cust and Uehara for Josh D. Fields. If I don't hear something soon, I'll have to step up my efforts. We've reached the one-sixth point in the season now. I can't afford to get buried.
I have nothing new to report with my pitching staff. It's still overly dominant and modestly underperforming, if that makes sense. I activated middle reliever Russ Springer in favor of Jeff Niemann, who has to start at Yankee Stadium this week. Better limit the damage there. Those saves from Michael Wuertz last week helped. They also verified his place as the No. 2 guy in Oakland. Good thing I added him when he was still a nothing middle reliever.
With all of my needs on offense, I'm sorry to say someone else won Gregorio Petit, who now starts at second base for the Athletics, with a $0 bid. I apparently got caught snoozing. Darn it. If only I could make Fantasy Baseball into a full-time job.
Oh yeah ...
12-team NL-only Rotisserie (10th; 5x5 Score: 51.5)
|Jorge De La Rosa||P||COL|
|Stephen Drew (DL)||SS||ARI|
|Jose Valverde (DL)||P||HOU|
Yup, I fell a couple spots in the standings this week, which I guess is understandable considering I didn't have Hanley Ramirez, Aramis Ramirez or Stephen Drew. The Ramirez boys return this week, but I'll have to wait another week for Drew.
Garret Anderson also returns this week, though you have to wonder how much the Braves will play him after he refused a rehab assignment. I went ahead and activated him, choosing to sit Alfredo Amezaga for him, which was actually a tougher decision than it sounds. Hey, at least Amezaga gets semi-regular at-bats. That's ... something. And if he happens to get a stolen base this week, I don't want to miss it (which, by the way, is also the reason I didn't bench the pitiful Jerry Hairston). But ultimately, I couldn't turn down the chance of Nate Schierholtz getting a start or two at Coors Field later this week. I kept him in my lineup over Amezaga.
I had to do some maneuvering with my pitching staff as well, sending Jose Valverde to the DL and activating Jorge De La Rosa in his place. I need good numbers from De La Rosa, not only for my Rotisserie score but also for his trade value. I need to make a trade in this league more desperately than I do in my AL-only league, but I don't have a clear excess of pitching here. Other than De La Rosa and Braden Looper, I can't bring myself to part with anybody.
But I'll have to come up with something soon. My offense is sorely lacking, especially in stolen bases. I expected to get maybe 30 from Hanley Ramirez, 20 from Elijah Dukes, 15 from Hairston and even 10 from Carlos N. Lee. So far, my entire team has a combined four. That's not going to cut it. And yes, if I'm already that far back, you could argue I should just punt stolen bases entirely, but I think I'll have an easier time going from 12th to seventh in that category than sixth to first in another. It's the same number of points either way.
No, I'm not that desperate ... yet.
20-team mixed Head-to-Head (7th [NL-only side]; Record: 2-2)
(10 teams NL-only, 10 teams AL-only)
|Chris R. Young||SP||SD|
|Franklin Morales (DL)||SP||COL|
This is the league where those bad pitching decisions go from irritating to infuriating.
It's a product of the new standard scoring, so I guess I can't complain, but boy those bad starts are debilitating. Not only did I lose, but I had the lowest score in the league, dropping me from third on the NL-only side to seventh.
I wouldn't have benched Young either way (though I might consider it next time he pitches in a hitter's park; he just gives up too many fly balls), but I elected to start two-start Sanchez over one-start Randy Johnson, who went on to pitch what might end up his best game of the season, scoring 33 points against the Rockies.
That's a 51-point swing -- a swing that would've made all the difference between a win and a loss.
I'm still learning this new system, so I can plead ignorance for now, but I'm thinking of taking a totally hands-off approach to my pitching staff going forward. More starts too often ends up a bad thing. Maybe I should just start my best pitchers regardless of how many starts they make. I mean, I never would have benched Ryan Dempster, Brett Myers or Young in a league this deep anyway, but maybe I should take Johnson and even Todd Wellemeyer off the table too. Yeah, from now on, Sanchez and Braden Looper have spots on my roster solely in case of injury.
I'll try it this week and see what happens. With my luck, Randy Johnson will get blown out at Coors Field.
I made only one change to my lineup as far as hitters go, benching the slumping Elijah Dukes for the equally slumping Randy Winn. The Giants have a favorable schedule this week, and Winn at least showed some signs of improvement last week. I'll roll the dice on him.
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