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The Fantasy Lookout: Draft Prep Turns Into Fantasy Baseball Lineup Action

Dellin Betances, Keith Allison, Fantasy Baseball Lineup

By now, your Fantasy Baseball drafts are complete and the 2015 MLB season is underway, which means you go to work on your Fantasy Baseball lineup.

This truly is the best time of year. All fans and Fantasy managers alike are full of expectations and hope. Eventually, most of those hopes will be crushed, but about 1-out-of-12 will turn to elation and joy!

This week we will take a look at some distinct trends in baseball over the past few years. There is some closer news that needs to be addressed, given the large Braves-Padres trade.

We will also touch on the art of streaming pitchers and how to get the most out of your pitching staff.

Finally, we will take a deep dive into the category stats required to be competitive in a typical 5×5 roto Yahoo league.

Recent MLB Historical Context

The following chart from www.baseball-reference.com shows team averages per game.

Year R HR SB AVG ERA WHIP K BB
2000 5.14 1.17 0.60 .270 4.77 1.47 6.45 3.75
2001 4.78 1.12 0.64 .264 4.42 1.38 6.67 3.25
2002 4.62 1.04 0.57 .261 4.28 1.38 6.47 3.35
2003 4.73 1.07 0.53 .264 4.40 1.38 6.34 3.27
2004 4.81 1.12 0.53 .266 4.46 1.40 6.55 3.34
2005 4.59 1.03 0.53 .264 4.29 1.37 6.30 3.13
2006 4.86 1.11 0.57 .269 4.53 1.41 6.52 3.26
2007 4.80 1.02 0.60 .268 4.47 1.41 6.62 3.31
2008 4.65 1.00 0.58 .264 4.32 1.39 6.77 3.36
2009 4.61 1.04 0.61 .262 4.32 1.39 6.91 3.42
2010 4.38 0.95 0.61 .257 4.08 1.35 7.06 3.25
2011 4.28 0.94 0.67 .255 3.94 1.32 7.10 3.09
2012 4.32 1.02 0.66 .255 4.01 1.31 7.50 3.03
2013 4.17 0.96 0.55 .253 3.87 1.30 7.55 3.01
2014 4.07 0.86 0.57 .251 3.74 1.28 7.70 2.88

You can see the noticeable decline in hitting and the resulting increased dominance of pitching over the past 15 years.

Power and scoring is at a premium these days and pitching is deep. The large decrease in batting average means that a low average hitter is not as painful as it used to be a few years ago.

This makes a power guy that swings and misses often much more palatable to have in your lineup.

Closer News

The Atlanta Braves/San Diego Padres deal that was completed just prior to Opening Night results in a few changes.

Craig Kimbrel, now of the San Diego Padres, will push Joaquin Benoit out of the closer role and into a setup role. For now, it appears that Jason Grilli will get a chance at being a closer again, this time with the Braves. Jim Johnson is lurking and would be next in line in Atlanta.

The Yankees will go with a closing tandem of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller to start the year. This is not surprising given the spring struggles of Betances that we touched on last week.

There is even more closer news out of the Big Apple, this time with the Mets. Jenrry Mejia has an elbow injury and Jeurys Familia will take over. Remember, though, Bobby Parnell is due back within a month or so.

Streaming Starters Into Your Fantasy Baseball Lineup

I find streaming pitchers an extremely effective way to boost and maximize both your pitching staff and your overall lineup. When you stream, you can focus more of your precious roster spots on bench hitters and bench relievers.

The hitters will provide depth to your roster, so you can maximize your games played. This is a key way to obtain the highest counting stats possible.

Rostering elite middle relievers can help in two ways.

  • First, they can provide a valuable impact to your ratio stats, while also contributing to strikeouts and a possible vultured win here and there.
  • Second, they also can be used to speculate on a potential closer should anything happen to the current closer on that team.

Streaming must be done correctly; otherwise the eventual pitcher blowups can be very costly. A standard Yahoo league allows you to start 10 hitters, two starting pitchers, two relievers, four pitchers, with five bench players.

In this format, you can carry six starters and three closers. With a 1,400 innings limit, this works since the six starters can average 200 innings each and the three closers can total 200 innings.

This also allows you to use the other four bench spots on depth hitters. If I am streaming, I will typically use the last of my six starters as a streaming spot. The best part of streaming pitchers is that you can be very choosy. You never have to start a pitcher in a poor situation.

The best-case scenario involves a strong pitcher throwing against a weak offense in a pitcher-friendly park. You will need to consider the pitcher’s K-BB% and WHIP.

Also, take a look at the luck factors such as BABIP, LOB%, and HR/FB% to determine the sustainability of the pitcher’s ERA. Consider the home/road splits, park factors and the opponent’s OPS.

Team Overall OPS Rank Home OPS Rank Road OPS Rank
Colorado Rockies .772 1 .902 1 .636 29
San Diego Padres .634 30 .647 29 .621 30

The chart above (from ESPN.com) shows OPS data from last year for both the Rockies and Padres. I like using OPS as a proxy for batting prowess because rate stats are easier to use during the season.

Midseason, the uneven “games played” totals may skew the total runs figure. As you can see, it made sense to stream pitchers in Petco Park — or against the Padres anywhere. While it was not smart to stream against the Rockies in Coors, it was fine to do anywhere else.

When determining the pitcher friendliness of a park, take a look at www.ESPN.com and their MLB Park Factors section. The most recent season’s data is pretty good, but using a historical three-year average is better. Pitcher-friendly parks include Petco Park, Citi Field, AT&T Park, Dodger Stadium, Angel Stadium, and Safeco Field. Hitter-friendly parks include Coors Field, Chase Field, Fenway Park, Rogers Centre, US Cellular Field, and Globe Life Park in Arlington.

I find streaming to be more effective later in the season, when the weak hitting teams can more easily be spotted. Also, it gives more time for the pitching stats to stabilize as you get farther away from small sample size issues.

September is the best time to stream. Rosters are expanded and as teams fall out of the playoff hunt, their compete levels may decline a bit. That being said, on paper, it appears that the weakest hitting teams will be the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays, and New York Mets this year.

Deep Diving Into Rotisserie Standings

Each league is different, but in a competitive 12-team 5×5 league, 80 points should get you at least third place. First and second place probably will require somewhere between 100 and 90 points.

Therefore, as a rough rule, averaging 10 points (third place) in all of the categories should give you a very good shot at winning the league.

Second place will require an average of about 9 points (fourth place) per category, while averaging 8 points (fifth place) per category will give you a very good shot at third place overall.

R HR RBI SB AVG W SV K ERA WHIP
896 237 865 173 .282 103 148 1,408 3.22 1.15
868 236 835 165 .280 95 137 1,346 3.25 1.17
860 224 827 142 .278 93 134 1,313 3.30 1.18
845 209 799 130 .276 87 120 1,294 3.40 1.20
817 202 779 123 .275 87 104 1,280 3.47 1.21

The chart above shows the top-five finishers and the average statistics per category over the past three years for a 12-team mixed Yahoo keeper league that I am in.

Helpful Articles for Week 2
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This should give you an idea of what you need to achieve in each category to obtain the previously discussed points.

The league settings of this league are the typical 5×5 categories.  There is a game played limit of 162 per hitting position and there is a 1,400 inning limit for all of the pitchers. The positions are C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OF, 2 UTIL, and 9 P.

If you are in a deeper league that includes more outfielders, corner and middle infielders, and even a second catcher, you cannot simply take the average of the statistics over the 10 hitters and add them to the totals required.

The incremental players chosen in these deeper formats will not be as proficient as the current 10 hitters. The type and number of additional hitters will require different amended calculations.

Starting next week, we should have more 2015 data to use and help us with our decisions. Until then, enjoy the next seven days of Fantasy Baseball!

Dellin Betances Photo Credit: Keith Allison

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