Innings Eaters

Last week, in this space, I talked about how batting average is calculated and scored in standard fantasy baseball leagues, and how players who rack up lots of at-bats have a bigger impact on team BA. That principle may be even more important when drafting pitchers, as two of the four pitching categories tracked in standard 4x4 Rotisserie leagues - ERA and WHIP - are also calculated as team-wide percentages.

As most casual fans know, ERA - Earned Run Average - is computed by dividing the number of "earned" runs allowed by number of innings pitched. WHIP is short for "Walks plus Hits over Innings Pitched" - the formula is right there in the name. The way those stats are computed makes innings pitched - a stat that doesn't "count" directly in most league formats - a crucial consideration when drafting pitchers. Here's a list of pitchers that is projecting will pitch more than 200 innings this season and have an ERA under 3.50:

Felix HernandezSEA 34241752.81.124
Roy HalladayPHI 34238652.461.025
Clayton KershawLA 34236712.711.051
Justin VerlanderDET 34236793.011.119
Dan HarenANA 34236893.391.102
CC SabathiaNY-A 33235813.11.217
Cliff LeePHI 32228692.721.061
Jered WeaverANA 33228793.121.149
Ricky RomeroTOR 33222813.281.216
Cole HamelsPHI 33221702.851.023
Tim LincecumSF 33219702.881.169
Matt CainSF 33219793.251.142
David PriceTB 33218733.011.142
C.J. WilsonANA 33215743.11.214
Yovani GallardoMIL 33211743.161.204
Dan HudsonAZ 32211773.281.161
R.A. DickeyNY-N 33211763.241.171
Matt GarzaCHI-N33209753.231.196
Adam WainwrightSTL 31205753.291.273
Gio GonzalezWAS 33205793.471.341
Josh BeckettBOS 31203753.331.094
Wandy RodriguezHOU 32203753.331.261
Jon LesterBOS 32202723.211.203
Yu DarvishTEX 31201723.221.149

Unsurprisingly, King Felix tops the list, followed by superstars like Halladay, Kershaw and Verlander. Hernandez throws enough innings - and at low enough ratios - that he more than makes up for the wins he might miss due to Seattle's suspect offense. But you might be surprised to see names like Arizona's Dan Hudson - his detractors are quick to point out his sub-par strikeout rate. Yu Darvish is another mild surprise - 200 innings and a 3.22 ERA seems like a lot to ask of the rookie, especially as he gets acclimated to the United States, American League hitters and the Texas heat - but this projection would seem to indicate he's worth the risk. What about the category killers? Pitchers have to perform at least reasonably well to accumulate big innings numbers; pitchers who struggle tend to get yanked early or lose their spots in the rotation. But is predicting that the following players will reach my somewhat-arbitrary 200-inning mark with ERAs over 4.00.

Carl PavanoMIN 322181004.131.312
Brett MyersHOU 332111014.311.351
Randy WolfMIL 33208954.111.404
Luke HochevarKC 33207984.261.227
Jeremy GuthrieCOL 33207944.091.324
Bronson ArroyoCIN 332031034.571.355
Ricky NolascoMIA 32201954.251.299
Ryan DempsterCHI-N33201934.161.383
Mike PelfreyNY-N 322011004.481.403

In most formats, you'd be better off with an unproven youngster with upside than any of these "proven veterans."

Punting Saves

The disparity in innings pitched between top starters, who will pitch upwards of 200 innings in a given season, and top closers, who usually don't pitch more than 70, is one of the reasons the "punting saves" strategy can work in many leagues.

Even the best closers don't throw enough innings to have much of an impact on the percentage categories - they really only matter in the "saves" column. So you have to ask - does it make sense to use a high draft pick or a great deal of your auction budget on a closer, when that pick or that money could go towards a starting pitcher that can impact three categories - or a hitter that can impact four?

And that's in standard 4x4 category leagues, which count Wins, ERA, WHIP and Saves. In a 5x5 - which adds strikeouts to the list of pitching categories - the overall impact of a top closer is even smaller.


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