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2013 Draft Prep: Scott White's Roto strategies

Senior Fantasy Writer
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More Rotisserie strategies: Al Melchior | Nando Di Fino

As Fantasy Baseball formats go, Rotisserie is old school.

None of those walks or doubles or other newfangled statistics that some guy at Topps probably invented to fill out the back of a baseball card. This is a man's game. Meat and potatoes! Mustaches and stirrup socks! Home runs and stolen bases! Woo!

Woo?

To play a man's game, you'll need a man's help. I'm the closest you'll get right now. I would have said woo, too.

In the interest of helping, I've outlined some of the strategies I find most useful in those leagues where only a handful of stats matter, avoiding the ones already covered by my esteemed colleagues, Al Melchior and Nando Di Fino.

They're also men, you see.

1. Maintaining the delicate balance

Delicate? Balance? So much for Rotisserie being a man's game.

Because of the way the scoring works, with points awarded based on where your team finishes in each of 10 categories, a standard Rotisserie league is like 10 mini-competitions in one. The competition in batting average is separate from the competition in home runs is separate from the competition in ERA. Yet because they're all happening simultaneously, you can't divert your attention from any of them. You have to balance all 10, which can become a brain strain if you let it.

Fortunately, some of those stats work in tandem, allowing you to shortcut the process. Base stealers generally bat at the top of the lineup and, therefore, score more runs. Home run hitters generally bat in the middle of the lineup and, therefore, drive in more runs. Sure, you'll find some exceptions, but the correlation is strong enough that you can use it as a crutch on Draft Day. Likewise, you can whittle the pitching categories down to just strikeouts and WHIP. If a pitcher misses bats and keeps runners off base, he won't allow many runs, and if he doesn't allow many runs, he'll win his share of games.

Granted, luck has some say, but as long as you balance the stats a player can directly control -- meaning the home runs, stolen bases, strikeouts and WHIP -- the others should fall into place. Well, maybe not batting average or saves. But batting average you can cover just by making sure you don't load up on a bunch of B.J. Upton/Danny Espinosa types, and saves are a specialty stat that only a specific type of player can provide.

2. Saves are saves are saves

That specific type of player, of course, is a closer, and while teams will occasionally experiment with several different relievers in the role, they all eventually settle on one. So that's 30 players in all capable of making a worthwhile contribution in the saves. Safe to say you can get shut out if you're not careful.

But being careful is different from obsessing. Just because you want to lock up a certain number of saves on Draft Day doesn't mean you should pay for them. No doubt, some closers are better than others, but with the exception of Craig Kimbrel, are any so good that you'd be drafting them over a worthwhile starting pitcher if they weren't getting saves? In mixed leagues, the answer is no. And so, the only reason you draft them is for the saves.

If that's the case, then you shouldn't really care which closer you get. As long as you trust him to keep getting saves -- or to keep his job, in other words -- he'll do exactly what you need him to do.

So instead of focusing on quality with closers, focus on quantity. If you play in a 12-team mixed league, for example, simple arithmetic tells you not every team can have three closers. You want to be one of the ones that does. Greg Holland, Glen Perkins and Casey Janssen will almost certainly combine for more saves than Jonathan Papelbon and Joe Nathan.

3. Five outfielders are significantly more than three

Fantasy owners, particularly those most familiar with Head-to-Head play, consider the outfield a deep position. And relative to most of the infield positions, it is. But if you've conditioned yourself to think of it in terms of threes, you've probably gotten comfortable waiting on it. And in a league with five outfield spots to fill instead of three, that's a surefire way to a cast of nobodies.

In a 12-team league, it's the difference between Michael Morse being the last of the starting outfielders and Carlos Quentin being the last of the starting outfielders, according to my rankings. Jason Kubel, Coco Crisp, Michael Cuddyer and Brandon Moss are all likely starters in a five-outfielder league compared to Carlos Beltran, Nick Markakis, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford in a three-outfielder league. The contrast is startling.

Of course, the contrast applies to everyone in the league, so the solution isn't to overextend yourself and have all five outfield spots filled by the time the Markakis types start going off the board. Kubel, Crisp, Cuddyer and Moss are all perfectly suitable fifth outfielders. But just so none winds up as your first outfielder, you'll want to make sure you've filled a couple of those outfield spots by the end of, say, 10 rounds.

4. High-end pitching is for suckers

At a point in the draft when big-name hitters such as Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Holliday are still available, some of the best starting pitchers, such as Felix Hernandez, Madison Bumgarner and CC Sabathia, will start going off the board.

But you know the main thing separating them from the Kris Medlens, Jeff Samardzijas and Doug Fisters of the world? Innings. That's it. In terms of ERA, WHIP and strikeout rate, the two sides are comparable. And while innings are crucial for Head-to-Head owners, they don't have a direct impact in the Rotisserie standings.

True, more innings typically mean more wins and more strikeouts, but innings tend to increase with experience. So over time -- potentially as soon as this year -- the Medlens, Samardzijas and Fisters will close the gap on the Hernandezes, Bumgarners and Sabathias. And then what will separate them?

Now, you may point to Justin Verlander's and Clayton Kershaw's other-worldly numbers as justification for taking a pitcher early, but the fact of the matter is the value you get from an early round pitcher isn't the same as from an early round hitter, not when the middle-round alternatives offer so much promise.

Part of the reason they offer so much promise is because, relative to hitters, so few pitchers are needed in Rotisserie leagues. A standard Rotisserie lineup has 14 hitter slots compared to only nine pitcher slots (three of which, as we've already covered, will be occupied by closers), so even if you use the first seven rounds to fill out half your hitter slots, plenty of high-upside starting pitchers -- the kind with high strikeout rates and low WHIPs -- will still be available.

Of course, that logic only applies for mixed-league owners. If you wait too long for starting pitchers in AL- or NL-only leagues, the few that remain will likely do more harm than good to your ERA and WHIP.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Edinson Volquez picks up no decision after strong start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:08 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Edinson Volquez turned in a scoreless start Saturday against the Brewers.

Volquez allowed three hits over seven scoreless frames. He struck out six and issued three walks during the appearance. Though he was mostly unhittable during the outing, Volquez never seriously flirted with a no-hitter. He gave up a double in the first inning, but was able to get out of the frame without giving up any runs. Volquez put two runners on base during the third inning, but was otherwise able to prevent multiple base runners during the start.

Volquez left with the game tied, picking up a no-decision. He’ll take on the Braves in his next start. 


Matt Garza gets ejected during scoreless outing
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:08 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Matt Garza was ejected during a scoreless start Saturday.

Garza allowed three hits over 4 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out six and walked two during the outing. Tensions were high after Garza hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch in the third inning. At that point, both benches were warned. Garza managed to work until the end of the fifth inning. After striking out the first two batters, Garza hit McCutchen again, and was ejected from the game.

Garza earned the no-decision for his performance. He’ll take on the Cubs in his next start. 


Chris Archer wins No. 10
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:22 pm ET) Rays pitcher Chris Archer was able to pitch around his control issues Saturday.

Archer allowed two hits over 6 1/3 scoreless innings. He struck out three and walked four during the outing. Archer was mostly unhittable during the appearance. He gave up a first inning single to Jose Abreu, but kept the White Sox from doing much else over the next two innings. Avisail Garcia added the other hit in the fourth inning, but that was it for Chicago. Walks became an issue late for Archer. After putting two men on via the free pass to start the seventh inning, Archer was pulled. 

With the win, Archer improved to 10-8. He’ll take on the Indians in his next start. 


Hector Noesi turns in quality start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:21 pm ET) White Sox pitcher Hector Noesi turned in a quality start Saturday against the Rays.

Noesi allowed three runs on six hits over six innings. He struck out one and issued three walks during the appearance. The long ball has been Noesi’s bugaboo all season, and came back to haunt him Saturday. With a man on in the second inning, Nick Franklin took Noesi out to right for the two-run shot. Noesi would give up another run in the fifth inning after a single plated a runner from second. 

With the loss, Noesi dropped to 8-11. He’ll take on the Royals in his next start. 


Mike Leake knocked around Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:20 pm ET) Reds pitcher Mike Leake got knocked around Saturday against the Cardinals.

Leake allowed six runs, five earned, on six hits over five innings. He struck out four and walked two during the outing. After a scoreless first, the Cardinals were able to get to Leake. With two outs in the second inning, the team mounted a mini-rally. After a double and a walk, Tony Cruz belted a three-run shot to left. A home run sunk Leake in the third inning as well. After hitting the leadoff man, Kolten Wong smacked a two-run shot. Leake would give up another run in the fifth inning, but it was due to an error. The run would be unearned. 

With the loss, Leake dropped to 11-13. He’ll take on the Pirates in his next start. 


Michael Wacha fails to go five innings Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:19 pm ET) Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha failed to go five innings Saturday against the Reds.

Wacha allowed two runs on six hits over 4 2/3 innings. He struck out one and did not issue any walks during the outing. Wacha got off to a solid start, tossing three scoreless innings to open the game. He gave up his first run in the fourth inning. After a leadoff single advanced to second on a wild pitch, Brandon Phillips managed to knock the run home with a single. A leadoff single again came around to score in the fifth inning after Kristopher Negron doubled. Wacha was replaced after giving up the hit.

Wacha didn’t go five innings, so he wasn’t eligible for the win. He picked up a no-decision, and will take on the D-Backs in his next start.


Jordan Zimmermann wins 13th game Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:18 pm ET) Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann picked up a quality start Saturday against the Marlins.

Zimmermann allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits over six innings. He struck out four and did not issue any walks during the outing. Zimmermann’s first run came in the first inning. With men on first and second, Zimmermann gave up a run-scoring single to Justin Bour. He would escape the inning without allowing any more damage. His second run would be unearned due to a couple of errors. Reed Johnson hit a double during the fourth inning, but managed to score due to throwing errors by both Denard Span and Zimmermann. 

Zimmermann improved to 13-5 with the win. He’ll take on the Marlins in his next start. 


Jarred Cosart loses despite quality start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:17 pm ET) Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart turned in a quality start Saturday against the Nationals.

Cosart allowed three runs on nine hits over 6 1/3 innings. He struck out two and walked two during the outing. Cosart proved to be somewhat hittable during the appearance, but managed to keep the Nationals off the board until his final inning. After a single and two run-scoring triples, Cosart was pulled from the game. Another run would come around to score, and was charged to Cosart.

With the loss, Cosart dropped to 13-10. He’ll take on the Nationals in his next start. 


Jonathon Niese turns in a strong start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:16 pm ET) Mets pitcher Jonathon Niese turned in a strong start Saturday against the Braves.

Niese allowed two runs on seven hits over 7 1/3 innings. He struck out five and walked one during the outing. Niese was excellent to open the game, throwing seven scoreless innings to start things off. He gave up both his runs in the eighth inning. With one out, Niese loaded the bases on three straight singles. He was pulled from the game at this point. Two runs would come around to score before the Mets could get out of the inning. Those runs were charged to Niese. 

With the win, Niese improved to 9-11. He’ll take on the Astros in his next start. 


Chris Tillman picks up 13th win Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:05 pm ET) Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman turned in a strong start Saturday against the Red Sox.

Tillman allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings. He struck out six and walked two during the outing. Tillman gave up both of his runs in the first inning. After opening the game with a walk, Tillman allowed David Ortiz to belt a two-run homer to left center. Tillman would settle in at that point, keeping the Red Sox off the board for the rest of his outing. 

With the win, Tillman improved to 13-5. He’ll take on the Blue Jays in his next start. 


 
 
 
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