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 Rotowire.com is projecting will pitch more than 200 innings this season and have an ERA under 3.50:
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 Rotowire.com is predicting that the following players will reach my somewhat-arbitrary 200-inning mark with ERAs over 4.00.
In most formats, you'd be better off with an unproven youngster with upside than any of these "proven veterans."
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.