Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 18, 2006
BASEBALL: Head to Head

My latest defeats in head to head fantasy baseball leagues have me re-thinking my strategy. For those of you who do fantasy baseball, read on.

This season I did three leagues - my usual AL auction league (in which I'm currently hovering in 5th place hoping for 1 or 2 of the in-the-money teams to run short of the innings requirement) and two Yahoo-based 5x5 (Runs and Ks included) NL/AL head-to-head leagues. As usual in such leagues I ran in first most of the season in one league, a close second in the other, powered by a pitching staff deep in power pitchers, especially young power pitchers - my rosters as drafted are here, plus I picked up Francisco Liriano in each league when teams dropped him in late April having given up on him entering the rotation.

And, as has happened to me repeatedly now, I lost in the 1-week first round of the playoffs, and in significant part (at least in one league) due to my young power pitchers wearing out by mid-September - Liriano's down, Kazmir's done for the season, Zambrano was iffy and missed a start, Bonderman just won this week for the first time in six weeks and I had him and Zambrano on the bench out of concern for where they'd been in the weeks leading up to this one.

Which has me wondering if starting pitching is - despite its advantages in the head to head format, where it affects 4 of 5 pitching categories - a poor strategy because of the need to have players who are playing at maximum capacity in mid to late September.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:10 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

I don't know about fantasy baseball, but I think your analysis just provided the best explanation for anybody who wonders why Billy Beane's Moneyball teams face a similar fate to your fantasy teams.

Posted by: Chin Music at September 18, 2006 10:54 AM

Crank, I suffered a similar fate, but my problem started with Griffey and Giambi getting hurt and being out of the lineup just as the playoffs started. I think your power pitcher strategy is a good one, but maybe you should branch out to include older power pitches too. You are right in that the young ones start to slide as they wear down.

Posted by: maddirishman at September 18, 2006 11:47 AM

We have sychronicity...I followed a similar strategy, relying for most of the season on Bonderman, Kazmir, etc. What aced me in the end (semifinals, ended for my with yesterdays stats) were my power hitting numbers and the fact that no good FAs were out there. More pertinent to your situation, though, is the fact that, if your league allows daily adds and drops (or even weekly) in a head to head league it's very important to pay attention to who is hot. This goes against the grain of most sabermetricians because of the small sample size issue, but let's face it, a week is a small sample size and the current week is what counts. There are a lot more pitchers out there than hitters, so you have more flexibility with your pitching staff. With daily adds you can even get into daily adjustments, based on needs for saves, holds, strikeouts, etc.....of course, when Robinson Cano drops 13 ribbies on you that week, there's only so much you can do.

Posted by: Reb at September 18, 2006 12:47 PM

Is this really a trend, or just bad luck? Every season a certain number of pitchers lose time due to injury. The crapshoot is when that time is lost. On my 5x5 rotisserie team the two big pitching-injury hits I took were Ben Sheets and Tim Wakefield. You can see the difference.

Both Jake Peavy and Dontrelle Willis (who are both fairly young) started poorly but are now in good form; Matt Cain is having a great second half; Scott Olsen and Jered Weaver are hanging in there.

Consider that the rookie pitchers that get into the regular rotation are the ones that start fast -- so if they have a second half slump it gets magnified.

Posted by: Henry at September 18, 2006 12:58 PM

I think that H2H does put a premium on hitters over pitchers, and loading up on closers can also be a strategy that seems much more successful in H2H than in Roto. Though any strategy can be undermined by poor performances from players you depend on, I tend to think that the strong hitters are usually only derailed by significant injuries, whereas pitchers tend to be affected by injuries whether they are major or minor, arm fatigue, or young pitchers who may even be shut down by their teams just in time for the fantasy playoffs. My "main" fantasy league is also a yahoo-based 5x5 H2H league, although we keep 5 players from one year to the next. Although my league maintains a low limit of roster moves during the playoffs, many H2H leagues utilize a strategy of steaming starting pitchers, effectively using a certain number of roster spots as a revolving door of any starting pitcher that happens to be starting that day. This further lowers the value of pitchers, as Wins and Ks can often be won simply by amassing starts.

Although SP can affect 4/5 pitching categories, power/speed hitters can affect all 5 hitting categories (though these hitters are in short supply)

Anyway, I was just trying to jot down a few thoughts, not try to lecture becuase I'm sure that you have already spent a good ammount of thought on many of these things. The only other thing that jumps out at me is that during the playoffs in H2H, I don't think I would keep anybody on my bench that I wasn't intending on using, I made some tough decisions late last week and cut Chone Figgins and Prince Fielder, but I managed to make it to the finals after a tough semifinal matchup.

Posted by: Mike at September 18, 2006 1:01 PM

I'm pretty well convinced that the best strategy is to load up on stud offensive guys with power upside, then watch the waiver wire for pitchers. There are always a bunch of decent pitchers that you can pick up during the year off the waiver wire (Josh Johnson, Rich Hill, Kyle Davies, Cole Hamels), but you're not going to find a guy with 30+ HR potential out there. Your thought about the propensity for power pitchers to wear out is another reason for the stud offense strategy.

Posted by: Brian at September 18, 2006 1:02 PM

One of these teams also had Cain and Hamels.

Posted by: The Crank at September 18, 2006 1:06 PM

Same exact thing happened to me. In fact, had BJ Ryan chosen to save more than one game last week, I would've won based on having a lower ERA. A wire-to-wire first place season down the drain over one freaking save.

I think Reb and Henry make good points. There's a hesitation to drop your horses late in the season, but in a head-to-head league (especially a non-keeper league) you have to just bite the bullet at the end of the season. Secondly, my situation makes me realize the bad luck factor. You can plan all you want for the season but in one week small sample sizes can just kill you.

It also hurts when Albert Pujols' injury kills his power after the break.

Posted by: Tom at September 18, 2006 2:40 PM

This is a question for Mets fans not in regard to this line though.

I saw Pedro made his 5th error of the season the other day. That seems astronomical. Figuring about 30 chances (putouts and assists) for a pitcher/200 innings this would give Pedro about 18 chances this year. If that is about right that would give him a fielding percentage of .722. I know Pedro was never exactly Greg Maddux when it came to fielding his position but what the hell is he doing out there this year?

Posted by: jim at September 18, 2006 3:29 PM

I guess that means I pulled out the victory this week, yet to check the results.

Maybe my team is just better.....


Posted by: jt at September 18, 2006 5:20 PM
Site Meter 250wde_2004WeblogAwards_BestSports.jpg