Seven Starts – Choose Wisely

We have now played 10 weeks, and things are clear – pitching is VERY important. Not only do you need to make sure you can get seven starts out of your roster, but you need to choose the RIGHT seven starts.

Take us for instance – we acquired Colby Lewis, Mike Leake and Collin McHugh in the last couple of days and saw Anthony DeSclafani make his season debut. Add that to Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Kennedy and Michael Pineda and that is seven starters. We also have Robbie Ray and Chase Anderson as insurance.

We had to make tough decisions to choose just seven of the 13 starts our rotation had this week. Unfortunately, we picked nearly all the wrong ones.

Lewis was brutal on Monday, with a 14.5 point start, but rebounded nicely on Saturday with a 43 point day. Unfortunately, by Saturday, we had used up all of our starts.

Leake was even worse in his first start of the week, posted 7.5 solid points. But wouldn’t you know it, on Sunday he pitches a 49.5 point gem, that we could not use.

McHugh was just brutal on Thursday, failing to complete four innings and earning just 6.5 points.

DeSclafani’s debut wasn’t great, as he earned just 4.5 points.  The only run scored was on a solo HR, but he allowed 11 runners to reach base in six innings, walking three with just 2 strikeouts.

Zimmermann went negative on Wednesday night, as the Blue Jays hit two home runs off him in less than 5 innings. It was the first time Zimm went negative all year.

Kennedy was at his worst, allowing four home runs to the White Sox and posting a season low -34 fantasy points.

Pineda was our only good pitcher that counted this week, earning 72 points across two starts. However, we only saw 32 of those points from his first start.

We missed out on a 53 points gem from Anderson and a 59 point night from Ray.

Needless to say, it was a tough week.

On a more positive note, here are the top 10 pitchers through 10 weeks and the graph shows their weekly point totals.

spTop10

Jon Lester is the only pitcher in the top 10 to have had a negative week.

Clayton Kershaw has been the weeks top pitcher three times, while Jose Fernandez has done so twice.

Despite being the 2nd best pitcher in the league through 10 weeks, Johnny Cueto has two of the lowest weekly point totals among the top 10 pitchers.

TC (Cueto, Strasburg), IL4W (Syndergaard, Quintana) & TBD (Kluber, Bumgarner) each own two of the top 10 starters.

Trade: Rocky Mtn Oysters | We Talk Fantasy Sports

Rocky Mtn Oysters sends: SP Collin McHugh ($25)
We Talk Fantasy Sports sends: CF/RF Jason Heyward ($48)

Jordan’s thoughts: It’s easy to look at the context of both deals and smash them together. In fact, Bailey does this below. I’m going in a different direction. Looking at McHugh so far, K rate back up from last year. Good. BB rate down from last year, Good. HR rate up, Unlucky? Maybe, maybe not. Seems like a decent candidate to get things going. When the strikes are up, things are likely to trend positively. So I like McHugh to reach a place where he’s valued at, a reliable guy as your 5th or 6th starter.

121, 120, 110, 121, 77. Those are the last four years wRC+ numbers for Jason Heyward ending with his current number in 2016. Heyward isn’t a transcendent hitter, but he has five seasons of being really good, bogged down by one bad first half. Now, he’s going through is second bad first half. The K rate is up and power is missing. He’s likely hurt. Since he’s still playing, probably not seriously hurt. I like his odds to finish strong enough to get that number back to career norms. Good swap for both teams, I’d rather gamble on Heyward.

Andrew’s thoughts: Replacing Bryce Harper with Jason Heyward is neat.

I actually like Heyward to get his numbers back in line with his career norms, but I’ve always generally viewed him as a streaky, name value guy. I do like him as a buy low target.

Either way, at $50 he’s not likely keepable in 2017, if that even matters in early June, and We Talk Fantasy Sports had no real need for him in center where they’ve got Andrew McCutchen (though he could be useful in right where Michael Bourn, believe it or not, is starting). McHugh is alright. He’s struggled this year, but he projects better than league average.

Fair, uneventful deal.

Trade: Rocky Mtn Oysters | Senior Squids

Rocky Mtn Oysters sends: CF/RF Bryce Harper ($109)
Senior Squids sends: SP Zack Greinke ($78)

Andrew’s thoughts: It’s tough writing trade reviews sometimes because, as an owner, I occasionally have information and context to a trade or a player’s asking price behind closed doors that doesn’t really seem fair to publicize. That is true in this case. So I’ll be careful not to share how the information that I have influences my perspective of this trade. Let’s just say that I know what the asking price was for Bryce Harper, like, yesterday, and move on.

First of all, both these players are really good and quite valuable. I love Bryce and would give up essentially my entire team for him, $111 in 2017 be damned. I also love Greinke and at $78, he’s priced very well. He’s had a slow start to the season, but he truly is an ace of staff — and on the Oysters, joins Jake Arrieta and Max Scherzer in a horrifying trifecta of pitchers — that even at $80 next year doesn’t seem like a problem to keep.

I think my problem with this trade, as with Dusty’s first Bryce trade, is that pieces just seem to be lacking. The 1-for-1 is nice, simple, clean. And Bryce being traded three times suggests teams are scared of his salary. But I really don’t understand how you trade a transcendent, once in a lifetime talent twice and each time only get back a single pitcher. And you guys know how I feel about the value of pitchers. I just really feel like value is being left on the table.

I mean, Greinke is awesome and you could argue the top 8-10 pitchers or so make a greater difference to a team’s success than the top 3-4 hitters do. But how does Dusty not pry Dansby Swanson from the Squids here? How does he not get Hunter Renfroe and Carson Fulmer thrown in? How does he not get some draft pick conpensation? Is it that unreasonable to also get Mark Trumbo or Kyle Seager back? Something else?!

Truthfully, I don’t hate the deal for either side and both teams may come out feeling alright. I just think, as Dusty does pretty regularly, the haste to get a flashy deal done quickly got in the way of sapping the most possible value out of his asset. And who knows, a week or two from now if Dusty’s great-on-paper squad keeps underperforming, maybe he’ll turn around and start unloading Arrieta, Scherzer, and even Greinke and just reshuffle the deck that way. Though this is twice now that Bryce has been traded for the bare minimum, so I would hope our stable of owners here are savvy enough to recognize that there’s a pattern here. Just wait it out, and eventually you can buy guys from the Oysters for a price that suits you best.

I don’t mean to beat on Dusty (again). I love that he can unleash those three aces on his opposition, plus deploy Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey on weeks where those guys only start once per week. But even that, I think, leads to an interesting point: how much pitching is too much, even in a format where they’re super valuable? I mean, isn’t having those five starters, plus quality arms in Collin McHugh just a big opportunity cost problem? In other words, did Dusty’s roster need Harper’s offensive production more than it needed Greinke? I think it probably did.

To date, the Oysters have been the second worst offense in the league… with Harper. Dusty’s offense is now dramatically worse. I think another trade pretty much has to happen, and at what point are you chewing into values by making a thousand moves just to end up in roughly the same spot?

I don’t know. This deal is exciting and I love the rotation Dusty’s assembled, I just feel like Squids got off light here.

Jordan’s thoughts: Andrew just wrote so beautifully. I know RMO could have gotten more. I know that Squids wasn’t getting more. Another head scratcher. I just have to shake my head and move on. There’s no reason here why Squids would say no to getting Bryce. There’s no reason Dusty should only ask for Greinke for Bryce. None. There’s been plenty of lopsided deals, but even at $111, Bryce is a value keeper piece next year. Just crazy.

2015’s starter roulette round up

Continuing on to squeeze as much use..full?less? information from the Baseball Reference’s Play Index I wanted to answer this question. If you did have some choices from the free agent pool for the start you need to pick up, because you planned poorly for the bad luck that was inevitable, which match-up should you choose?

Great question! 2015 offered a nice spread of teams. If the pitcher you looked at picking up was facing off versus the Toronto Blue Jays, don’t!

17.16, All 162 starts taken against the Blue Jays line up last year averaged out to be poopy day. There is so many negative starts here. They include some names too. Poor Chris Tillman was basically a tee for the Blue Jays going negative four times. Rick Porcello, Garrett Richards, Michael Pineda, JA Happy, Taijuan Walker among a couple dozen others all had really bad days versus this lineup.

There were eleven teams though that gave opposing pitchers easy days. If you were looking for a pitcher who was facing off the Phillies or Padres? That was likely a better outcome. 28.8 and 28.2 respectively, were the average point totals for starts against those line ups.

White Sox, Brewers, Twins and Marlins all averaged 27 points per start against, and the Angels, Braves, Rays, Pirates and Cardinals round out the better than average start against group.

The most surprising team on this list for me was the Mariners coming in at 22.12 points per start against. Looking at their list a bit delivers some serious outliers. Jeremy Guthrie’s -51 makes an appearance here. Ross Detwiler, Collin McHugh, Eddie Butler, Jesse Chavez and Chris Tillman all went for more than negative 20 against the Mariners last year.

Last year you wanted to avoid the Jays of course, but also the Red Sox, Rangers, Yankees, Rockies (mostly in Coors), Mariners, Dodgers, Nationals (unless Harper was out), and Indians.

Looking ahead to next year, some of those lineups project to be better or worse, but there might be some data worth considering early on if you need a week two or three emergency start.

Avoid Joey Bautista and friends.

Average Points Per Start Vs Each Team

TOR 17.16
BOS 20.72
TEX 21.29
NYY 21.37
COL 21.97
SEA 22.12
LAD 22.25
WSN 22.51
CLE 22.88
HOU 23.39
BAL 23.52
SFG 23.60
DET 23.80
OAK 23.85
CHC 23.87
NYM 23.89
ARI 23.96
CIN 24.66
KCR 24.67
STL 25.39
PIT 25.69
TBR 25.73
ATL 26.55
LAA 26.56
CHW 27.05
MIL 27.25
MIN 27.39
MIA 27.49
SDP 28.20
PHI 28.80

Trade: Rocky Mtn Oysters | The Wilfred Brimley Fighting Diabeetuses

Rocky Mtn Oysters send: OF George Springer ($49), SP Anderson Espinoza, 2017 1st Round Pick
The Wilfred Brimley Fighting Diabeetuses send: SP Jake Arrieta ($84), 2017 5th Round Pick

Andrew’s thoughts: In my opinion, this is a big win for the Rocky Mtn Oysters.

For The Fighting Diabeetuses, the objective here was obviously to shed some starting pitcher salary — this is a team paying Jose Fernandez and Madison Bumgarner too — and so I get the logic. In George Springer, you get a young batter with a proven major league track record, room to get even better, and a palatable salary, all the while freeing up space.

The problem is that budget space right now is not really a thing. We can go over budget in season here, so WBFD effectively had a year to wiggle around and get set for 2017. To me, this is just too preemptive a move. I was somewhat in on Arrieta myself but still didn’t understand that aspect of it. This team is now way under budget and can probably keep the majority of the roster in tact next year, which is neat, but I’m not convinced that’s worth much. The offense is better today, sure. But I’m also not sure adding Springer changes it dramatically. “Better” is a relative term. I would’ve much rather held my three high paid pitchers and seen if they could carry me through the first several weeks of baseball.

Getting Anderson Espinoza and that pick are helpful, I suppose, but again, adding them doesn’t offset the wonky timing for me. I’d rather have Espinoza than my 15th best minor leaguer, but I’m not rushing to give up one of the 10 most valuable players in our league to get him.

For the Oysters, being able to pair Arrieta with Max Scherzer should provide a huge weekly advantage. The offense takes another hit and actually looks quite rough to me now, but there’s no reason someone won’t fork over a hitter for Luis Severino, Kenta Maeda, or Collin McHugh, guys that are now a whole lot more expendable. Of course, a savvy trade owner might look at his team, recognize Dusty’s need to flip one of those starters for hitting is greater than their own need to do the opposite, and gauge him a little on price.

Dusty’s team sits way over budget for 2017 now. He’s looking at having to shed $104 or so (remember, he bought himself $20 of auction budget), but that’s not a bridge he needs to cross today and his worst case scenario might just be dumping all but his best five or six guys, which might not even be such a bad thing.

Jordan’s thoughts: Right off the bat, this trade just confuses the hell out of me. According to my line up projection simulator, both teams were neck and neck in the bottom half of projections. Not a enviable place for anyone to be. Prior to the trade the Oysters were projected for roughly 569. points per week. The Diabeetuses were projected for 567.1 points per week. Bad Good enough to rank 11th and 12th respectively.

The trade for the Oysters looks pretty decent. They get the better player at a decent value. Anytime you can add another ace you have to do it. Springer does hurt the offense as Bailey stated above. I also agree with Bailey’s assessment that now Dusty has at least two solid pitching bullets to trade for hitting. Which if timed right, and a little luck sprinkled in, could be a huge positive swing.

All that being said, as it stands right now, Dusty did improve his weekly projected output to 572.3, but now ranks in the same 11th place compared to the entire league. But, for Dusty to take that jump into the next level he needs to make better use of his now stack of assets in the rotation. My simulator sees it as a waste, but I have yet to configure my simulator with the “Dusty factor” Although I’m not certain there’s an algorithm capable of figuring out Dusty.

Was the blood sugar low again for the Fighting Diabeetuses? Before jumping into the numbers, a qualitative look can say, well when you have Martinez, Bumgarner, and Fernandez, you can stand to lose Arrieta. That is mostly right. However, George Springer, while being a huge addition as the best projected hitter on this team in 2016, is not really enough to compensate the loss of Arrieta.

What the Diabeetuses are missing to make this deal alright, is starting pitching depth on the back end. Nate Karns has not won the job yet in Seattle, Roenis Elias will likely spend more time in the bullpen this season, and Tanner Roark was not a starter last year which means even though he should be a starter this year, his innings may be reduced.

All that said, my projection simulator now has the Diabeetuses suffering through 22 replacement starts. Nearly one a week. That’s too many, they now NEED another full time starting pitcher, probably two.

Springer does make the entire hitting core better. Springer slots into the CF position, flanked by Khris Davis and Stephen Piscotty. Jackie Bradley Jr now gets to back them all up nicely and fill in at utility when needed. That’s great. Hitting depth matters too and now they have it.

The cost was just too damn high. The Diabeetuses tumble down to the 16th projected line up in Dynasty Grinders. Dipping to 556 points per week was a huge hit to their total. It’s hard to fall in love with a trade like this. As a commissioner it is great to see the league ready to move big pieces and create some stir, but baseball is a long year and I think what we saw here on both ends was a overlooking of what depth really is.

I can’t help but think, what if McHugh and Rusney Castillo switched teams in this deal as well. Maybe something else in the deal has to happen to make that work out, but both teams would have benefited more from that switch. Perhaps both teams have future moves on the table ready to move up or down.

This trade as a whole, I have to call it a win for Dusty, slightly, his team does improve, having more aces is better than not, but he went from relying on Buxton to coming through to desperately depending on him. It could work out. For Josh, well I see why he did it. I just think the reasons may be misguided. If George Springer breaks out as a top 10 fantasy hitter, this clearly works out for him, but…